Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Archipelago of Last Years

Tonight we had the last taco we'll have for the rest of the year.  Or that's at least what Madison said.  This was at the start of our evening, a nice quiet evening at the house.  We were ready for our private party tonight at the house - no extensive trips anywhere this year.  Still, we invited Nana and Ba-Ba to the house via Skype.  Wishing them a happy New Year, we talked for a bit, taking the cameras around to show each other all the Christmas decorations hanging up in our houses.

Afterwards, it was time to visit the Archipelago of Last Years, or at least see it on television:  together we watched "Rudolph's Shiny New Year" once again.  Once again Aeon the Terrible was terrorizing the Archipelago, the Sands of Time and Father Time's castle.  Fortunately, with a little faith and a tub of popcorn, the new year was saved again.

Earlier in the day, we were starting the DeSantafication Process, although in a very limited way.  Madison did quite a bit of piano practice today along with some reading, both part of her continued homework over the Christmas break.  As a reward for her hard work, she got another Monster High doll - Cleo De Nile.  This is one of eight donated by her cousin Hannah just prior to Christmas.  Rather than give these to Madison at Christmas, when they would be lost amongst the other toys, we decided to give these out just about weekly for doing things like reading assignments and the piano practices she has to do.  She was pretty excited about Cleo - Madison has been playing with her dolls beneath the tree, all inside the mansion that Ye-Ye constructed for them.

Daddy did go into work today for a bit, printing out some papercraft for the weekend.  You'll be seeing that soon, some items for the display case at KidPak.  We were looking for something related to Vikings, and this morning we found some items online that could work out.  We'll see how they turn out, but it seems as if the next few days we'll be putting some stuff together, including a copy of the Stave Church in Norway.

Tonight was a struggle to make it to midnight - but the three of us did!  We popped in a few movies, like the "Claymation Christmas" special, and we also watched "Annie" from a few years ago.  Madison liked that one, taking note of the songs we borrowed for our production at the church, "Holly."  And so it came to pass that we arrived at around 11:30 pm, with just a half-hour left to go in the year.  We made our way upstairs to the antenna television, and watched the chaos and noise of Times Square on our television sets.  There was an advertisement for "Cinderella," conveniently close to midnight - and then there it was:  the timer counting down less than a minute.  It came as a surprise, but then that's the way the year has gone by.  We're surprised 2014 is gone - it went by so fast!  If we didn't have this daily blog entry, we might not know what we did each day!

Mommy and Daddy kissed at midnight - and we kissed Madison too.  This year will be Mommy and Daddy's fifteenth anniversary.  And it will hold many other joyous surprises too, hopefully for you as well.  Happy New Year!

Day Trip

This is such a great, lazy week.  But in a good way.  We work so hard to get here, and suddenly we're stopping with all the motion of the season.  With all the work, the play practices, the wrapping, the shopping, the running around.

This morning, we got a phone call from the hospital about Mommy's recent tests:  no trouble.  Still, there's something there, so we'll continue this pursuit into 2015.  Fortunately, if that's the way you want to look at it, we're building up a pretty extensive list of things that are not wrong with Mommy.  That's the good news.

Today we made a little trip out to Cumming.  One of Mommy's presents was a gift card to Texas Roadhouse, so we were off and running to check it out.  While in the neighborhood, we went to Goodwill, where we picked up a few things:  some clothing for Mommy, a few new Barbie movies for Madison, and a few records for Daddy.  Madison now has every Barbie movie on DVD, just about.  This was a post Christmas surprise, too good to pass up, as these are generally around $15 a piece elsewhere.  That's the nature of consignment shops.  Daddy found a record of Steven Wright's, going back to the 80's:  "I have a Pony."  He's always been one of my favorite comedians.  So many one-liners:

In my house there's this light switch that doesn't do anything. Every so often I would flick it on and off just to check. Yesterday, I got a call from a woman in Germany. She said, "Cut it out."

We went to another consignment shop after that, one Mommy has a lot of credit at.  She was able to get some ballerina things for Madison, who was enjoying running around looking at toys and costumes.  We got a free book there, another Jan Brett one to add to the collection.

And then it was time to head to the new Texas Roadhouse.  This one is in Cumming, and not our usual destination.  Still, the food was good as always.  As were the peanuts.  Madison loves the peanuts.

And just like that, we drove home for the night.  We got to bed earlier tonight, although we played some games - including another board game.  Madison is still doing her practices, and Mommy was doing a bit of research on the internet.  Some of it is genealogy.  Other bits are things for Madison, like swim lessons.  Madison wants to make it her goal to swim this year, something Mommy and Daddy are concerned about as well.  We'll probably be posting some swim lesson news here soon, actually, as we do some specialized courses on getting Madison to stay afloat.  If she can do it, we've promised to reward her with a trip to Typhoon Lagoon.  Daddy would love to do something like that, although the sun might be a bit much for Mommy.  We'll have to do a bit of research about all that to get the most of our day.  That's getting ahead of ourselves:  first we have to learn to swim!

Tonight, there were plenty of fireworks outside.  These were in preparation, I suppose, for the New Year's Eve night coming up.  The thing about these is that they were launched from just down the street, pretty much next door to us in the street.  We could actually see them from our window, looking upwards and outward from our spot on the couch.  It was a nice show, all from the comfort of home.

We went to bed early again, this time after some games and movies.  It was a nice day, a cooler one, and a rather uneventful day.  Nothing wrong with that though!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Frozen Board Games

It was a board game sort of day, as we were taking all of our board games for a test drive.  We started the day out with "Sorry," and there was "Frozen Scrabble" as well.  And there was this other "Frozen" game, a variation of the Chutes and Ladders sort, which seems a bit easier, actually.  Chutes and Ladders is a game that has the potential to go on and on forever.  Seriously, because of the random nature of the spinner, you could conceivably be playing that game forever.  I'm guessing there is a family in Indiana still spinning that spinner, and desperately just trying to end one game of Chutes and Ladders.  But the spinner is relentless, and inevitably they find that massive slide which propels them down, down, down to the beginning again where they face even more slide guardians to keep them there.  Oh, sure:  there are ladders.  But the ladders don't have the power of the chutes - not even close. Just knowing there is a chute within six spaces... it dominates your thinking and fills you with absolute dread.  And as if reading your mind, the spinner obliges and fulfills your worst fears by landing you exactly on that space you most fear.  And so, a half hour later, you are still sitting there wondering how such a simple game could keep you in this merry-go-round of doom so long!

But I digress.  This newer version isn't quite as long.

We're not done with the "Frozen" themed games, by the way.  No sir, we've got one more.  This last one is a great marketing move by Disney.  It's a pop-up game, one that stands alone - or you can attach it to other Disney themed pop-up games as well.  We happen to have another one that fits, and this one is themed after the movie "Tangled."  But there are actually two other board games that fit on to these as well, so you could have this massive four-game adventure, all tied together.  The rules with the cards get a little fuzzy when you go from one board game to the next, but the basic concept of traveling from space to space is still there, all helped out by the fact that you're passing by a pop-up version of the tower from "Tangled," or Disney's castle.

We've been using our stickers that we got for Christmas too.  Madison got a lot of stickers.  She's placing them on new landscapes, telling stories.  For example, she drew out a big castle on an 8X10 sheet of paper.  Then she put a sticker of Cinderella in the front - on one side.  On the other side of the castle are the other Disney Princesses, wishing her well.  "Have fun," they're telling her in word bubbles.  She's also made some under-the-sea scenes as well.

We're still listening to Christmas music here - we're stubborn that way.  Actually, that doesn't stop until after the New Year.  The lights go on every night and day for the tree, and outside decorations.  We notice a lot of people in the neighborhood feel the same way.  You spend so much time setting it all up - why take it down so quickly?  Besides, we can't take ours down so quickly.  It's a huge enterprise, one we're a bit reluctant to get started with.

We read together on the couch today too.  Madison has her assignment over the break, but she'd be reading anyway.  Daddy got her some books on the iPad, and some other books from the library as well.  We have to return those soon.  Daddy got some books from Mommy for Christmas, one new one by Garrison Keillor.  I think it is a compilation of sorts, but I won't know yet until I start reading that one.  The other book is an older one by Terry Pratchett, a gem too.  I have not read "Reaper Man" yet, but it is a hard cover book with the jacket still intact.  It's older art work, and it is in great condition.  Daddy loves these hard cover books, and has the goal of collecting all of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series in hard cover.  So, Madison and Daddy - and Mommy too - spent some time reading today as well.

Madison has three songs to play on the piano.  Over and over.  But that's what practice is all about.  To compound things a bit further, if Daddy has any hope of keeping up, he has to practice too.  Three songs.  Over and over.  But at least we're both learning, and getting better and better.  Madison is nearly caught up with all her assignments there, so she'll walk into piano practice a bit caught up.  She'll feel better and more comfortable there.

She did a "Frozen" puzzle today too.  Yes, we have a few of those too.  We have several puzzles now, new additions from Christmas.  Daddy got Mommy some Thomas Kinkade Disney puzzles, some of the larger sorts.  These, if big enough, can be glued together - and we're thinking about actually framing them when completed.  It can be like hanging a Thomas Kinkade painting on your wall, without having to pay all that for them!  We'll see how that turns out - it's an interesting idea.

There was a bit of Disney Infinity 2.0, but there was also a bit of cleaning up too.  And a bit of organizing some of the loot under the tree.  It was a nice day spent together, and although we didn't do that much outside, we got a lot accomplished in spending time together.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Third Annual Golden Cat Awards

This morning we hosted the 3rd Annual Golden Cat Awards at KidPak, something we do the last Sunday of each year now.  It's a review of the different videos we've done over the last year, where we sort of do an imitation of the Academy Awards.  Daddy wore his tux, and his co-hosts Camille and Clint dressed up as well for the occasion.  Together, we reviewed clips from just about all the videos we made over the past year, and picked favorites.  The ceremony is named after a small trophy of a cat, a golden cat.  Sadly, we don't actually hand these out.  But the logo for the ceremony is great, and things went very well this morning.  Madison went to both services, so she knew who all the winners would be in the second service.  Still, she laughed with all the others as we highlighted some pretty fun videos - I can't believe we did all that much in a year.  We say that each year, because we keep adding more and more new ideas and fun.  The Best New Series went to "Under the Sea," and the best video of all went to "Tribes:  Wildfire."  We knew that would happen going in, as both won unanimously.

After church, it was decided that we should go to Cracker Barrel.  It was the perfectly dreary day for such a trip, with overcast skies and frequent rain.  That fireplace roared inside the restaurant, and the three of us had to wait just a little bit in the store, before going in to get our share of that comfort food.  Mommy had three gift cards for $25 each, so we certainly didn't break the bank with this visit.  In fact, she was able to get some clothing there - this may be the place she gets most of her new clothing from.  We ate, we shopped, and still had credit leftover on one card - so we'll be back, obviously.

We made our way next to the movies, where we saw "Into the Woods," which had me worried for a bit, with Madison with us.  I didn't do enough research ahead of time to make sure it was safe.  She survived just fine, although there are sad parts in it that clearly affected her.  They affected us too - the movie was somewhat of a downer, actually.  And there was a lot of singing.  Which is fine, but on the whole we weren't actually overwhelmed by this one.  In fact, that's three movies in a row that Mommy and Daddy were looking forward to - only to walk away scratching our heads a bit.

It was dark when we went home - the movie was longer too.  We did a bit of Disney Infinity 2.0, but not much.  Everyone was a bit tired, and Mommy has yet another doctor's appointment early tomorrow.  So off to bed we went, snug and warm in our beds.  Before bedtime, Daddy told a story to Madison, a made-up one.  This one had a much happier ending.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Monster Highs and Lows

We set up for service tomorrow, our last KidPak of the year.  All three of us came into the office today to join three others, all of us together putting together the Third Annual Golden Cat Awards, our yearly look back on the KPTV videos from the past year.  We were there probably five or so hours, cleaning up a bit and just generally getting things straightened out after Christmas.  It was a good day for this sort of thing, and it was good to see everyone once more.

Tonight, we watched "Maleficent" again, which was just about our last movie from Christmas (other than "Condorman").  And then it was time for bed, pretty much.  We didn't stay up too late tonight, as we're all getting up earlier tomorrow.  We're getting used to sleeping in each morning, although each morning Madison crawls into bed with us for a bit, squeezing in between and occasionally turning sideways.  Daddy always gets the feet in those instances, and slowly over time, he is pushed to the edge where he somehow sleeps like a cliff dweller.

Calendars were filled out today - there were lots of dates and things to transfer from 2014 to 2015.  Daddy has a personal planner too, which is kind of handy actually.

Meanwhile, Madison was under the Christmas tree, playing with the Monster High dolls she got.  Also, she spent a lot of time playing Disney Infinity 2.0 with Daddy, using Drax and Gamora.  The game has some pretty funny combinations.  I mean, there's Groot riding in Vanellope Von Schweet's candy car in  a land themed by "Planes: Fire and Rescue."  Lots of fun, and lots of new levels to do - these will probably take all year, really.  And she does all this while wearing a costume or two - Madison got a few for Christmas, and each one includes a wig as well.  Madison has been blonde for most of the week.  When asked if she wants to dye her hair blonde, she said "no thank you."  Probably a wise choice.

The weather outside is sunny again, and not at all like winter.  The forecast for this winter sounded pretty dire, with ice and snow - but we'll have to wait and see about that.  Right now, it's just wet and cool.  Lots of dreary, and overcast, and just the right sort of weather to make you long for spring.

Or at least long for a trip to Hawaii...

Friday, December 26, 2014

Road to Knowhere

So here we are on Boxing Day once more, December 26th.  This quote above frequently sums up the day, when everyone is not quite ready to let go of Christmas - at least not for another month or so, right?  Today is one of Daddy's favorite days of all, where there's no work at all, and all play!  Madison, Mommy and Daddy got to play with our new toys today.  

Madison and Daddy went to Knowhere, which is actually the location of some of the events in "Guardians of the Galaxy," and most of the Disney Infinity 2.0 game itself.  Madison's favorite character is Gamora, of course.  I'd like to say we did something productive with this day - but in fact, we literally spent the entire day playing this one game together.  We did a few other things too.  Like eat.  And play with new Monster High dolls, or move presents around.  But the day was largely a day to just STOP, and relax amongst the piles of loot from Christmas.  Daddy got some books and audio books to listen to, Mommy got a new magazine subscription, and Madison got all kinds of craft and coloring books - this is the kind of day we had. 

Sure, we did a bit of piano practice in there.  And Daddy went to get more wood for the fireplace - and milk.  But that was about it today.  And that's just fine with everybody!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

The pitter-patter of feet down the hall let us know that Christmas was at hand!  And it came in a big way this morning, as Madison whispered in Mommy's ears - while in bed:  "Santa left us a whole lot of things!"

He certainly did!  We went downstairs and right away Madison noticed the milk was gone, as were some of the Christmas cookies we made.  Also, she noted outside where pieces of the carrots on the front lawn.  Santa had come, and left us some presents as well!

We snapped a few pictures this morning, but stopped when Nana and Ba-Ba called from the beach at Florida.  They called on Skype, so we could see the beach from here - but more importantly, they could sit and watch Madison open presents as well!  Daddy served as a camera director, and it was somewhat like having them there with us this morning.  So one by one, Madison opened her presents - and got just about everything on her list she wrote to Santa a few months ago.  She has a good memory about that list, and noted that the things she did not get Santa was good enough to replace with bigger and larger things.  Which is in fact what happened.  Madison got some Monster High dolls first thing this morning, but then she got some Disney Infinity 2.0 characters, lots of candy, board games, and a lot of "Frozen" things.  Along those lines, Mommy got a "Frozen" themed egg slicer.

Daddy made that one up, actually, redesigning the packaging and making it into a joke product.  But it still an egg slicer, of course.  It's just that this year, everything is related to "Frozen," from Scrabble to snow cone makers to lipstick and other items not actually seen in the movie.  Madison was not complaining in the slightest.  

Mommy also got a new broom - one just like the brooms they used in Beijing when we went in 2008.  It's a simple bit of straw tied together at one end, but the look of the thing is unusual enough that we'd never seen one before.  Furthermore, Daddy practically had to go down to Atlanta to get it.  However, the item itself was only $3.00, so it was quite a surprise there.  If they knew how much I wanted one, they'd have charged more - it's a sentimental souvenir.  On a practical level, it'll be useful for the back deck.  Mommy also needed a new toaster for her gluten-free items.  We can't have cross-contamination, so she's got herself a new toaster now.  Daddy got "Guardians of the Galaxy" which we watched later that night - and another movie gem that Daddy has always wanted to see:  "Condorman."  Yep, it's probably not that good, but nevertheless, Daddy has always wanted to see it.  I think it is something from childhood, perhaps.  Along those lines, another gift for Mommy was a wealth of Crunchie bars - these are from England, quite hard to come by around here.  That makes them more wanted though!

Anyway, the Christmas music was playing and the wrapping paper was everywhere in a glorious mess.  We were quite content this morning, sitting in the great room as the sun came out to reveal itself for the first time in a few days.  The tree looks so nice there, and everything was finally so relaxing - we were quite content to sit there in each other's company for a few hours this morning, checking out the gifts we'd given each other.  Madison, of course, got the most.  She had a few gifts under the tree upstairs, some "Frozen" coloring books and craft kits.  Santa left her some movies too, including "Mr. Peabody and Sherman," which we watched later that night.  We somehow squeezed in two movies tonight, although Madison wasn't awake for the second one.

Early this afternoon, we went over to Nana and Ye-Ye's house, which was very nice as always.  Before heading there, Mommy baked her special Christmas cake.  It is a birthday cake for Jesus, as today is in fact his birthday.  It's a sweet thing to do, a reminder to all of us why we celebrate this day in the first place.  That can get lost in the excitement of Christmas, and Mommy does a great job of slowing things down enough so we all remember the real reason for the season.

In addition to the cake, there was a huge meal at Nana and Ye-Ye's house, and GGMa brought the big feast from White County.  We had everyone there this time, which made for quite a crowd - but it was a happy occasion.  Madison got overwhelmed by a project that Ye-Ye has been working on this entire month:  a mansion for her Monster High dolls.  It has two floors, a bridge and an extension, and a lot of furniture as well.  Up until this point, she has about six of these dolls - but that number is about to increase as she does her piano practice throughout the year.  Don't tell her that, but Hannah has donated all her dolls to Madison - and she'll be earning them one at a time as the weeks go by upcoming.  She'll also be earning some more Disney Infinity 2.0 stuff, but that will stretch on probably until the summer.

We did our traditional white elephant exchange, where everyone got different gag gifts.  The creepy clown made a comeback for his third visit, but so did the movie "The Christmas Shoes," which got passed around like a virus.  We came home with a dancing Easter bunny that just doesn't stop singing.  Yes, he'll be back in a few months.  That much is certain.

We stayed at their house for a few hours, talking and eating and opening presents.  There were lots of presents for the kids, but also a few surprises for the grown-ups as well.  We left as it was starting to get dark, heading home with our treasures after wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.  We'll see each other together in a week or so, on New Year's Day.  But parting on this day is indeed sweet sorrow.

We got home, and movies awaited.  We just wanted to shut down at this point, sitting on the couch under blankets with a fire in the fireplace, watching some of our new movies.  And that we did, until we were ready to turn in for the night.  It was another merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Christmas Eve, 2014.  Today was a flurry of activity, as most Christmas Eves tend to be.  No flurries outside though.  Despite the precipitation, it's not cold enough for snow at the moment.

Today wasn't quite as stressful as it could have been though, thanks to a bit of planning ahead.  This morning, we woke up without an alarm clock, and got busy with preparing gifts and baked goods.  Daddy still had a bit of work to do, so he dropped in the office for a few hours, but beyond that, it was all preparation for tonight - or tomorrow morning.

Tonight we went to church together at about 5:00, and the place was absolutely packed.  Madison held her candle high for the candlelight service, along with the thousands of others that attended tonight.  It was a big service with a full orchestra, and plenty of traditional Christmas songs.

Madison is excited.  So are we - tomorrow should be a wonderful day.  Today's weather should clear up tomorrow - it's been rather dreary the past few days, overcast and rainy.  Tonight, we braved the elements afterwards, and went to Nana and Ye-Ye's house, as we always do each Christmas Eve.  Everyone was there, and we exchanged gifts as well.  We had a few Christmas movies on, listened to Christmas movies, and just enjoyed each other's company as well. We also enjoyed some tasty food and desserts that Nana and Ye-Ye prepared.  It was a perfectly lovely evening.  We checked on the goat too, by the way.  Nobody burned him down this year, so that's a bonus!

Madison sprinkled raindeer mix out on the front yard, and left cookies for Santa by the fireplace, along with some milk - and carrots for the reindeer too.  We check the NORAD flightpath of Santa.  They were tracking him at Namibia earlier, and it appeared as if he were heading to North America rather soon.  NORAD is pretty good about tracking Santa each year!

We said our prayers, and Daddy even had time to read "The Night Before Christmas."  We didn't get to do as many things this year, but there was still a lot of fun.  Next year, hopefully we'll get to finally do a few things on our "Christmas To Do" list, but we can look back on this season with a bright smile about "Holly" and a few other events as well.  Also, we can be happy in tomorrow, that Madison is no longer feeling sick.  Nor are Mommy and Daddy!

As for now, it's time for bed. Santa is on his way, and we need to be in bed as soon as possible, with sugar plums dancing in our heads.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Time to Fly

This morning, our elf left us a little note - he had to hurry off to go help Santa get everything ready.  It might be the weather outside (frightful), but he left us a day sooner than I thought he would.  Still, he left a nice message on a Scrabble game - and he even got Madison a new Scrabble game.  This one has a "Frozen" theme, believe it or not.  Yes, it is a "Frozen" Scrabble, pretty much proof that they'll slap the label "Frozen" on just about anything.  And sure enough, Madison wanted to play it right away.  She and Mommy had a quick game this morning before doing anything else.  Well, that's not true - Mommy had to have tea first.  Here's the note that Jingle left before heading north:

"You've been so good while I was here
it fills my heart with Christmas cheer!
But now it's time to leave again
and go tell Santa how good you've been!
Since you can spell - yes, oh-so-swift,
I'll leave you with this spelling gift!
So thanks for having me a spell.
See you next time! Love, Jingle Bell."

He wasn't quite as mischievous as in previous years - in fact a bit more mellow.  I think that next year will be pretty dramatic though.  Yes, that's a bit of foreshadowing there!

Today Daddy did a bit of work at the office, while Madison and Mommy set up the bakery.  Yep, as soon as Daddy got home, we were off and running with a production line, making special and unique Christmas cookies.  Seriously, no shortcuts here.  We decorated each one with time and fancy, and we did quite a few of them too.  Mommy kept rolling out the dough and cutting the shapes, while Daddy and Madison carefully crafted each cookie on the table.  We even got to sample a few!

We had some Christmas movies playing, like "Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas," and the Johnny Bravo Christmas special too.  But much of our attention was on those cookies shaped like candy canes, stars, and Christmas trees.  We decorated and baked late into the night, and when we were done, we were absolutely done.  No more this year, thank you very much.  These took a lot of time to do, but they were fun to make.  Madison is getting more and more creative - we've posted that before.  But we had all kinds of new ideas to try out with our decorations, and we had fun doing it together.

So two more sleeps to go, and we're almost done with our checklist!  Tomorrow's a big day, so it was off to sleep for us, no doubt with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Origami Santa

As Madison has been feeling under the weather, it appears as if our elf has come up with the perfect prescription.  "Lots of coughing, I can tell that Madison's not feeling well.  You can color these this afternoon, and I hope that you get better soon!"

Daddy was out and about today, the only chance he had to go shopping.  It was an amazing day of journeying through a whole lot of traffic and drizzling rain.  Lots of shopping malls and obscure shops down in Norcross.  But, the shopping is done for the year - at least most of it.  Now comes some of the wrapping.  We'll squeeze that in soon - at least we have time for that sort of thing between now and Christmas.

Madison spent much of the day watching movies and staying under the covers.  She's getting better, but she certainly had something that's going on.  She did have her flu shot, so we're sort of thinking that helped out in some ways.  We think!

Tonight, we watched "Elf" with some popcorn again.  Everyone is a bit tired from all the running about, but it's all good.  We'll be relaxing a bit more in just a few days, and somehow missing some of this busy running around.

Here's one thing that Madison and Daddy have been working on today - something new for Madison.  It's origami!  Daddy folded one like you see above, based on the instructions in a booklet our elf left us.  Madison has been making a star, and the two of us have gotten interested in trying it all out.  It's the first time for both of us, as neither has ever attempted origami before. But the theme is fun, and so is the challenge.  You can't just sit down and fold one like a paper airplane.  These things take a lot of time, and because of that in the end they have some more value.

So three more sleeps until Christmas, and still plenty to do.  It's time to go to sleep - and dream...

Sunday, December 21, 2014

4 More Sleeps!

Jingle was up this morning with a little gift for Madison, a Hello Kitty message board.  On the board was written "Only '4' more sleeps 'till Christmas!!!"  That's right, it's almost here - and we haven't really had a chance to absorb the moment yet.  No moment's peace, where you sit down and sigh and have that little Christmas song in your head as you look at lights or whatever.  Sure, there have been a few traditions along the way, from "The Gift" to a quick ride around the neighborhood.  But we missed out on quite a few other traditions this year, and didn't get an opportunity to do anything drastically new.  Nevertheless, it certainly hasn't been a terrible Christmas season.  It's just a busy one, with play practices and the writing of this book, now hopefully complete.

We were a bit tired after church, but we did get one of these together - check it out!

You are looking at one of the most intense gingerbread men there is.  He's SO excited about Christmas.  Either that, or he's SO OBSESSED with YOU.  Either way, it's slightly unsettling.  He sits nearby the entrance of the house, sort of staring visitors down a bit.  Visitors usually blink first.

As for the house, that is a join effort between the three of us.  It was a kit, of course.  But nevertheless, it turned out pretty well, with Madison doing quite a bit more work on it this year.  We love how much she's expressing herself creatively.  Additionally, there weren't any huge construction problems along the way - we stuck to the blueprints, found some extra candy from her personal stash, and finished this rather nicely.  It's a pretty decent ginger bread house!  The thing stayed up pretty well, and is still standing strong as this is being typed.

Church this morning was the final message of our series dedicated to the Nativity set.  We placed the baby Jesus there, and suddenly we have a large and complete Nativity set on stage.  Large is putting it mildly.  The thing is very big with all the pieces in place.  But the point of course was made, as we were celebrating the birthday of Jesus.  We also did a bit of decorating with a game called "Deck the Volunteers."  Of course, we didn't punch them.  We put a star on their heads, and made them into Christmas trees - different teams were tasked with decorating each tree in the quickest amount of time.  It was great fun!

We got home, and did our ginger bread houses.  But we also did quite a bit of Christmas movie binge-watching.  We had a fire in the fireplace, the perfect thing for this kind of day - grey and dreary.  The three of us snuggled on the couch, shared some popcorn, and did a tiny bit of resting.

Only four more sleeps until Christmas.  It might be more wet than white, but Christmas is still a welcome sight!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Frozen Message

Here's what Madison saw this morning - yes, we've kept that snow out for the last few days.  The elf has certainly made good use of it!

These are pretty nice gifts from Jingle.  He's really stepped up his game a bit, all things considered.  It's probably because Madison has been so good this year!

Today was a day to prepare for one more service before Christmas.  That we did, and we did some shopping as well.  And some wrapping.  And some proofing for the new series coming up in January.  Speaking of which, here's the message for Valentine's Day, one that goes with our theme from the "Northern Lights."  It is about a movie from that frozen land, a movie you might know:


     Everyone knows about Anna and Elsa by now.  The movie “Frozen” is a story about talking snowmen, giant ice castles, and an adventurous journey across the frozen wilderness.  But cut to the icy heart of this movie, and you’ll find a moving story that shows us the true meaning of love.  As Anna discovers, it isn’t always what you think it might be.  
     By the end of this movie, you can’t help but say it:  let it go.  One thing we see Anna do time and again is this:  forgive.  Love is forgiveness.  Anna could have held a grudge, but kept on loving her sister regardless of all that happened, and regardless of everyone else’s opinions.  And that’s the way we should live too – forgiving, and not holding on to bitterness.
     And she never gives up, either.  The trolls sang, “Throw a little love their way.”  And that’s what we should do too, because love is constant. Anna went after her sister, climbing a mountain in the snow, and would not give up on Elsa.  Sure, someone else in your life may be a fixer upper, but as Christians, we need to keep pouring out our love, and never giving up.
     Finally, we all learn by the end of the movie that love is sacrifice.  Some people are worth melting for.  Sometimes we need to give up something to help others:  our time, our effort, or our pride.  Anna gave up all of these things, and was even willing to give up her life for her sister.  Of course, Jesus showed us all that no one has a greater love, as he went to the cross for us all.
     Like the character Hans, sometimes we miss out on what love really is.  But once we see Anna and Elsa, there is no doubt:  love is forgiveness, love is constant, and love is sacrifice. 

Page Twenty-Four

“You have made yourselves pure by obeying the truth. So you have an honest and true love for each other. So love one another deeply, from your hearts.” 1 Peter 1:22 NIrV

     “Suppose I speak in the languages of human beings or of angels. If I don’t have love, I am only a loud gong or a noisy cymbal.  Suppose I have the gift of prophecy. Suppose I can understand all the secret things of God and know everything about him. And suppose I have enough faith to move mountains. If I don’t have love, I am nothing at all.  Suppose I give everything I have to poor people. And suppose I give myself over to a difficult life so I can brag. If I don’t have love, I get nothing at all.
     Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not want what belongs to others. It does not brag. It is not proud.  It does not dishonor other people. It does not look out for its own interests. It does not easily become angry. It does not keep track of other people’s wrongs.  Love is not happy with evil. But it is full of joy when the truth is spoken.  It always protects. It always trusts. It always hopes. It never gives up.”

1 Corinthians 13:1-7 NIrV

Page Twenty-Five

1.  Let it _____.  Love is forgiveness.  Anna could have held a grudge, but kept on loving her sister regardless.  And that’s the way we should live too – forgiving, and not holding on to bitterness.
“Be kind and tender to one another. Forgive one another, just as God forgave you because of what Christ has done.” Ephesians 4:32 NIrV
a.  grow           b. go                c. snow

2.  Throw a little _______ their way.  Love is constant. Anna went after her sister, climbing a mountain in the snow, and would not give up on Elsa.  Sure, someone else may be a fixer upper, but as Christians, we need to keep pouring out our love, and never giving up. 
It (love) always protects. It always trusts. It always hopes. It never gives up.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 NIrV
a.  love            b. snowman    c. peace

3.         Some people are worth ________ for.  Love is sacrifice.  Sometimes we need to give up something to help others:  our time, our effort, or our pride.  Anna gave up all of these things, and was even willing to give up her life for her sister.
"No one has greater love than the one who gives their life for their friends.” John 15:13 NIrV
a.  trying        b. reindeer     c. melting

Page Twenty-Six

Memory Verse:
“Dear friends, let us love one another, because love comes from God.” 1 John 4:7 NIrV

Friday, December 19, 2014

Return to the Museum

So Madison had a scavenger hunt this morning, on one of the simplest and most fun ideas so far.  She had this simple rhyme to launch her off on a expedition throughout the house, finding ten candy canes in different places, like hanging on a tree, on a doorknob, in a houseplant, in a stocking, or on the straw goat.  By the way, the goat has not burned yet - we check on that daily.

Today was pajama day and hat day for Madison at school.  And it was a party day of sorts - the kids got to watch "The Polar Express" for the squillionth time, and had lots of candy canes to take home.  Something else to take home:  lots of kids were out sick today.  Hopefully Madison won't bear the brunt of that, but she's already sniffling, we note.  We'll be watching that closely, of course.

Tonight we went to see a movie when Daddy got home - we went back to the museum:

We got the big tub of popcorn and sat in the back as always, and enjoyed the flick.  Madison liked it - she likes Octavius' and Jedediah's characters.  You can see them above, perched in Attila the Hun's hat.  Or, okay, maybe you can't.

The movie was okay, certainly the least favorite of the three.  It had it's moments, but the last half hour was such a somber affair, certainly we consider Robin Williams.  He was Mr. December for a while there, always the lead in some imaginative flick that came out before Christmas.  This is the last one with him in it, and that was somewhat sad to see.  But on a whole, this was quite a step down from the other two movies, which we enjoyed a lot.  It was good to see the characters together one last time, but Mommy and Daddy agree that we wish it had a bit more of the spark the first two had.

Again, Madison enjoyed it.  And she enjoyed doing a tiny bit of shopping with us afterwards - we were out to get some supplies for KidPak.  Tomorrow is a big day with a volunteer appreciation party, one with a Christmas theme.  Lots to prepare there.  Again, it'll be Monday before we really slow down.  REALLY looking forward to that!

Tonight, we read a few more books - a Madeline Christmas, and one Christmas story with Paddington Bear.  Daddy's been averaging about three Christmas books per night, short picture books really.  Madison and Daddy enjoy reading these together on the couch before bedtime.  She's sniffling a lot, and starting to run a bit of a fever already though.  We'll keep tabs on that tomorrow - she might be staying home...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Rudolph the Red Nosed Elf

Here comes Rudolph... or wait a minute.  That's not Rudolph.  But he's still a welcome visitor each morning at our house, this time pulling a tiny sled with a special gift inside.  Madison has been getting these small inexpensive gifts each morning, each one a booklet or craft that goes along with the season. We may be doing more with these booklets soon enough, like making Santa origami or coloring in more sheets - that will be next week when Daddy can hopefully take a breather from all this writing.  As of now though, today was spent writing, writing, and writing. We wrote six messages today, and have one more for tomorrow - a very taxing enterprise to say the least.  Along the way, we watched a movie again - one that was supposed to be a Christmas present.  But this movie has Vikings in it, and therefore goes with our series a bit.  That said, we're doing what we call a movie message, one based on last summer's "How to Train Your Dragon 2."

We enjoyed the movie, although not as much as the last one.  I might have written precisely this when describing the movie last summer.  Madison got home from school, and right away we were popping popcorn and going straight to it.  Daddy was doing a bit of "research," sprawled out on the couch with Mommy and Madison, enjoying the snuggle time on an overcast day.

As for the writing, that continued afterwards, and very much beforehand.  It was a day of lots and lots of writing, including this writing here.  The deadline is tomorrow, so we'll be mostly done with the busy part of this season by then.  Afterwards, we can hopefully have some quiet time together, making origami, watching movies, and resting in front of the fire.  Until then, here's the latest message, one based on "How to Train Your Dragon 2."  And one I haven't proofed yet...!

How to Train Your Dragon 2”

     The dragons are back!  In “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” the incredible story of a young Viking named Hiccup continues.  He knows how to train a dragon by now, but the big thing he must learn in this new adventure is how to be a leader. 
      Early on he hears it:  his father has chosen him to be the leader of their island.  But the problem is this:  Hiccup doesn’t want to.  And what happens next sets our story in motion with amazing discoveries, heartbreaking tragedies, unforgettable triumphs, and yes, lots of dragons.  And through it all, Hiccup learns as we do what it takes to be a true leader.
     It is a story we should pay close attention to.  Like Hiccup, you may not realize this, but we are each called to lead!  You are a joint heir with Christ, a leader chosen by God Himself.  It’s a big responsibility!  He wants you to lead others to Him, and you do that through your words and your actions.
     Unfortunately, Hiccup’s actions aren’t perfect.  For example, he ignores his parents’ warnings about danger.  And this leads to something terrible.  The lesson he learns the hard way is this:  listen to your elders. Those who ignore the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them.  Listen to your parents, your teachers and those God has put in authority – their good advice is meant to keep you from harm.
     By the end of the story, he learns this and more.  The biggest lesson is this:  that we lead with love.  You can lead anyone anywhere if you aren’t leading with love.  The best way to set a good example is by showing loyalty and love.  You certainly can’t do everything right, but as Hiccup points out, you can only try.
     The Vikings in this story know how to train a dragon.  But by the end, they – and all of us – know how to fly high and be everything we are called to be.

Page Two
“How to Train Your Dragon 2”

“But God chose you to be his people. You are royal priests. You are a holy nation. You are God’s special treasure. You are all these things so that you can give him praise. God brought you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9 NIrV

“Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves.  Speak up for the rights of all those who are poor.  Speak up and judge fairly.
 Speak up for the rights of those who are poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9 NIrV

“We may be small in numbers, but we stand for something bigger than anything the world can pin against us.  We are the voice of peace, and bit by bit, we will change this world.  You see, we have something they don’t.” – Hiccup

Page Three

1.  You are a _________!  As a Christian, you are a joint heir with Christ, a leader chosen by God Himself.  Whether you realize it or not, it’s a big responsibility!  He wants you to lead others to Him through our words and our actions.
“The Spirit himself joins with our spirits. Together they tell us that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:16 NIrV
a.  Snotlout    b. warrior                   c. heir

2.  Listen to your __________.  Those who ignore the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them.  Listen to your parents, your teachers and those God has put in authority – their good advice is meant to keep you from harm.
“Trust in your leaders. Put yourselves under their authority. Do this, because they keep watch over you. They know they are accountable to God for everything they do. Do this, so that their work will be a joy. If you make their work a heavy load, it won’t do you any good.” Hebrews 13:17 NIrV
a.  dreams      b. elders         c. dragons

3.         Lead with ____________.  You can lead anyone anywhere if you aren’t leading with love.  The best way to set a good example is by showing loyalty, and love.
"Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young. Set an example for the believers in what you say and in how you live. Also set an example in how you love and in what you believe. Show the believers how to be pure.” 1 Timothy 4:12 NIrV
a.  leadership                         b. love             c. force

Page Four

Memory Verse:
“But God chose you to be his people. You are royal priests. You are a holy nation. You are God’s special treasure. You are all these things so that you can give him praise. God brought you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9 NIrV