Saturday, May 31, 2014

Madison and the Temple of Doom

Here's Madison on our stage today - we're still working on the upcoming Summer Xtreme.  Those stone ruins are all styrofoam, of course.  When asked to do a pose on stage, this was her best effort.  I love the hand going up, as if she's a fashion model in the Temple of Doom.

Here's another picture of Madison helping with the balloons.  She's done quite a bit of work helping us set up, and we're awfully proud of her.  This is pretty much all there is to write about lately - just more Summer Xtreme set-up.  Mommy is getting the costumes together, while Madison is working on balloons, sorting things and having a good time.  Here's another mini-message, a devotional entry related to our upcoming Wildfire theme:

     Are you a Fire Starter? Many times throughout the Old Testament, the people of Israel had lost that warm relationship with God.  They had other gods to worship, and other things to do that weren’t pleasing God at all.  
     Today, things aren’t so hot either.  We have new idols – television, video games, music, and more.  Anything that takes up more of your time – anything that takes you away from God – can be an idol.  These things can be okay on their own, but be careful how much time you spend with them.
     The people of Israel weren’t careful, and things were getting pretty chilly. Fortunately, there was a fire starter on the way.  His name was Elijah, and he was about to light things up and change the world.
     If you want a fire like that, it took three things:  sacrifice, kindling, and a spark.  The sacrifice was there on the fire, but behind the scenes, Elijah had been sacrificing for quite some time with fasting and prayer.  He was preparing the environment, getting ready to set a blaze!
     The kindling was beyond simple dry wood though.  Can you believe Elijah added water of all things? That sort of kindling takes a whole lot of faith, doesn’t it?  But that’s just what we need:  faith is the kindling that gets God’s attention, and gets things ready to catch fire.
     The final step was the spark.  Can you imagine the boldness Elijah had, challenging all those priests on Mt. Carmel, and putting his life on the line?  The spark of wildfire started that day:  Elijah’s boldness stoked things up when he told the people to choose this day who they would serve.  Soon, news of his amazing story blazed a path all over Israel.  
     Elijah got a fire roaring in Israel, no doubt.  But you can be too, with sacrifice, faith and boldness.  Just like Elijah, you can be a fire starter!

     Madison has been out of school for a week now, and here we are officially in Summer break.  Of course, it's not officially summer yet.  But Spring Xtreme just doesn't have that same sound to it, now does it?

     Anyway, it's a busy few days we have left.  But it's neat to be working together as a family towards this big goal.  We're all in it together, helping set up a great weekend for a lot of kids!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Little Helper

Madison came in to help today - here she is, assisting us all with setting up for the big week at KidPak. She's pulling stickers off of wrist bands:  each one says "Made in China," ironically enough.  She did much more than this today, helping with balloons, papers, bags for students and more.  She was quite happy to do so, while Mommy and Daddy did their part as well.  It was a long day - one with all sorts of work towards our summer camp.  Of course, it's so much more than a summer camp.  It's Summer Xtreme.  The theme is Wildfire, which Daddy wrote up a little something about here:

     The wildfire started long ago – can you see the shepherds spreading out over the hills through the starry night, each with a message burning in their hearts? The brilliant spark started in Bethlehem, where the shepherds first ran with the flame, carrying the message of light to everyone they could.
    Some time ago, Jesus told us in the Great Commission to spread His light all over the world. Indeed, after those shepherds were telling others about Him, the next generation was spreading the Word as well.
    Through the years, the fire of God’s Word has been spreading like wildfire, pushed forward by a mighty wind first mentioned in Acts, chapter 2.  It’s like a fire shut up in your bones – will you share God’s fiery passion for His people?
     In the book of Exodus, God appeared to Moses as a burning bush, and His message was clear:  go save His people.  Thousands of years later, His message still remains the same.  He wants you to go and set His people free.  He wants you to be a flamethrower.  He wants you to spread the wildfire!

So we're up late working, editing videos, writing scripts, creating images, working on musical arrangements, decorating, piling up supplies, and all sorts of general paperwork and writing.  It's a big event, one that gets us working late into the night each year.  Madison remembers it last year, and of course is looking forward to it this year.  She knows what we're doing each day, and is looking forward to the aquarium and the swimming of course.

But she has a good time every day, actually.  She's having fun sorting stuff here, and although she'd rather be swimming, you can tell by her countenance that she's enjoying herself.  She's a happy little helper!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

How to Draw Elsa

So part of Madison's summer will also be her continued practice with the pencil.  Today Daddy put together this collection of step-by-step images into one larger image, all so I could print it and share it with Madison - who wanted to try drawing it right away.  She was concerned with the hair at first, explaining how much there was.  But Daddy was apparently helpful when he told her to take it like her music, where it's just one note at a time.  In this case, it's one line at a time.  When she looked at it that way, suddenly things became a little easier.  She actually did pretty well for her first attempt.

She's reading and reading and reading, too.  Lots of books are under her belt already, for the summer reading program.  Despite the busy schedule for Mommy and Daddy, Madison is managing to squeeze in a lot of activity in a forward direction.  Sure, there are also the times where she sits back on the couch and uses her Kindle to play games.  But she's earned a break this week, and will be back to a more rigorous schedule next week - that's for sure.

We did do a little more filming this morning, and more of the same with a deranged fireman hosing everyone down.  But after that, it was time for plenty of chores - grocery shopping, and a car tag to deal with as well.  And an emissions test, of course.  There was a little worry about that one.

This morning the power was out at the church, which made for an interesting exploration in the KidPak area, which is mainly underground and the office area and auditorium windowless.  It was pitch black, with no visibility at all.  Daddy used a small flashlight to navigate around and look for props, but the whole experience was somewhat like a POV horror movie.  Not that we watch that sort of thing!

So Madison and Daddy finished our run with Lego Lord of the Rings this afternoon.  It was started way back last year some time, but we came back to it for one purpose:  to finish the quest.  And it wasn't necessarily about getting the ring into Mt. Doom.  It was more about getting that blacksmith as a playable character.  Which... we did.  Yay, us!  We also visited Disney Infinity some more, checking out a new Maleficent-themed toy box.  That movie comes out Friday, and we might be going out to see it soon, as it is one of the few movies we can all see together as a family (despite the apparently darker tones).  Madison is old enough though, and I think she'll enjoy it.

We all went to bed early tonight - everyone was a bit tired.  Lots more work to do towards Summer Xtreme - and in just a week, it will nearly be over again.  That'll be nice, won't it?  But Madison will enjoy the week quite a bit, so hopefully we'll be able to be there alongside with her - not staying up as late as we usually have to in order to make it all come together.  We'll see, but for now, things seem to be going well.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Shining Time

This was the door we found in our neighborhood.  We wrote a skit last week, envisioning our wacky fireman coming through a door and just destroying it.  But then we were thinking, where are we going to get a door - and can we put that in the budget, and how will everyone feel about buying a door just to destroy it.  Still, we wrote it in there thinking, "you never know!"

So it came to pass that as we were leaving the neighborhood, we happened upon ... you guessed it... a door.  Someone was throwing out their door.  God is good.  I've never seen someone throw out a door before, and just as Mommy and Daddy were driving by, Mommy spotted it and yelled out, "DOOR!"

We got the door.  And we shot the video where the fireman busts through with an axe to come in and save a family from a fire.  Of course, there is no fire - as our fireman is overdoing it.  He winds up destroying everything else as well, from the television to the DVD player to the lamp to the valuable ceramic vase.  Most of it wasn't valuable at all - we got some defective stuff from Goodwill.

Still, afterwards, it was hard to resist taking a photo through the crack in the door, holding the axe.  Daddy has never actually seen this movie, but this pose got a lot of people laughing when we sent it out.

Later on, our fireman rampage continued on a basketball court when one player complimented another by saying, "You're on fire."  Big mistake.

Madison and Mommy continued housework today, and other chores as well.  It is the week leading up to Summer Xtreme, so it's tougher to schedule things out.  But we're excited about the events at the library, and the reading program of course.  Can you believe that Madison has signed up and has seven or eight books already recorded online.  She's well on her way to meeting her goal of 75 books this summer.  The difference this year is that she's doing all the reading on her own, reading the books to Mommy and Daddy.  Who are both very impressed.

Speaking of which, Madison is doing well with math.  She's did about 25 simple math problems in three minutes.  These problems are ones she'll face in 2nd grade, where by the end of the first quarter, she's supposed to have 30 done in three minutes.  She's already pretty close to that target.  Throughout the summer, we'll repeat the testing and see if she can make that goal, and further, before the start of the school year.

Mommy is doing an excellent job moving that all forward.  Of course, Daddy is off doing preparing - but it's really fun stuff.  Diving ten feet under in a pool to retrieve wrapping paper bits and clean the pool, watching Chris use a sledgehammer on a 32 inch television, using a computer screen to deflect an onslaught of water, watching another friend get doused with a full Gatoraid container... it's the kind of stuff you always see the week before Summer Xtreme.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Spatula City

We started filming today, and yes, that's why Daddy is holding a mondo-sized spatula.  This was purchased at Spatula City (we sell spatulas, and that's all).  What better way to say "I love you," than with the gift of a spatula?

This was one of two videos that was shot today, which featured the grill ultimately being thrown into a swimming pool - along with a child and a whole lot of Christmas presents.  Also, we filmed a video at the warehouse today, where there was this nice office setting - complete with all the typical office furniture and computers and so forth.  And it was all pretty much destroyed, hosed down and completely doused (along with the employees there).  It's part of a "fire prevention" skit, where a character goes overboard to make sure everyone stays safe, at least in his eyes.

Here's Madison afterwards, when Kellan and Chris came over to visit.  Madison was pretty surprised by the big old spatula.  She was here showing off her growing butterflies.  Those are those things you put in water - they start out small, and grow in size over the course of the day.  Chris is seen here, marveling at their tremendous size.

She spent the day helping Mommy paint the front porch, weeding a bit, and of course the usual round of piano and other assignments.  But it was quite the leisurely day for her.  We're thinking that's okay until next week kicks in!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Up Periscope!

It was Memorial Day, and so the logical thing for us to do was this:  make a periscope!  This was somewhat of a later project, sort of a spontaneous idea.  Daddy found this periscope kit a while back, holding on to it for a few months now.

We did a little of the "hot dog and potato salad" thing today, as we did in fact have those for dinner.  But the rest of the day was a bit of a wash, really.  We had a few chores to do, and there is still a lot to do towards Summer Xtreme.  There was a lot of planning, phone calls and what-not, all in preparation for a bit of filming tomorrow.

But there was also a lot of relaxing done.  We sat and watched "Spy Kids 2," which Madison saw for the first time.  She's enjoying the adventures of Carmen and Juni, and Mommy and Daddy have been enjoying the movies too - lots of cameos and references to things Mommy and Daddy remember growing up, in this movie, namely Ray Harryhausen.

We played another board game, as that's been our thing lately - revisiting all our board games, one at a time.  Today's feature:  "Trouble."  This has a Stitch theme to it, as all the characters sneak around Experiment 626, trying to get home safely.

We're all a bit tired lately.  We went to bed early tonight, completely worn out by the weekend.  We need to get this rest now, as later on it will be harder to come by.  As for Memorial Day itself, the concept is not lost on Madison, who understands what the day is all about.  She learned a bit of that yesterday, how freedom isn't free.  She'll give you speech about how soldiers gave everything so that we can be free.  It's good head knowledge, which for now will suffice.  Eventually, there's a moment where the reality of it all sinks in, the reality of sacrifice.

We wrote a skit for Summer Xtreme today - one I think will be pretty good for it all.  Also, we've been writing some rather destructive bits too, which will probably be chronicled here as we film them this week.  All is coming together rather well there, but there is quite a bit of stress this week before hand.  Also there's a bit of adventure doing new things.  We'll see how it all comes together.  Madison will be a pirate this year, and she's really looking forward to that.

Speaking of which, this is summer.  No more school for Madison, who is getting to stay up late this week.  She's sleeping in, and generally a lot slower paced right now.  We've got daily activities planned for her, with piano and reading and writing as well.  But it's nothing like the school season, where there's always something going on.  This is like hitting the breaks suddenly, and everyone flying forward in the car - it's a surprise.  What?  Nothing to go to?  What's going on?

We'll take it easy this week, as Daddy is doing quite a bit of planning and Mommy is keeping busy.  But once Summer Xtreme is over with, we'll get together a fun routine for the summer with even more fun planned.  Until then, it's back to work - back to getting Summer Xtreme together...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Goodbye, Karen

"Life is made up of meetings and partings.  That is the way of it."
- Kermit the Frog

This morning we said goodbye to a dear friend in the ministry, our talented friend Karen.  She is moving to Ashville, but has been with us at KidPak nearly as long as Madison has.  It's a good move for her though, as she's getting a job she's certain is the direction she's supposed to go in.  We're happy for her, but bittersweet about it all, of course.

The morning was quite a bit of that sort of sentiment - Mommy prepared cupcakes and other dessert items, and we sat around talking about this, that, or the other.  Daddy made a slide show set to music, showing pictures of all the different performances Karen has been involved in over the last few years, from Gladiators to Juicy Fruit to lion tamers to gangsters to kung fu artists.  Actually, that list can go on and on, as she's been with us long enough to have a whole lot of different characters under her belt.  Daddy's favorite with her was the Medieval doughnut lady, who is obsessed with doughnuts that are being offered by the king of the land.

We stayed for a bit, helping with KidPak Español a bit - and eating a tasty bit of their food.  One great thing about the Hispanic ministry is the unique food you get to try out.  Today had this pulled chicken on bread with garlic and onions - it was delicious.  But Daddy definitely needed a breath mint afterwards.

We got home, and there was the usual bit of work:  piano for one.  Madison is still keeping that up, despite not having weekly classes.  Daddy is wanting to hear her do one song well, so she's been practicing "Moon Dreamer" over and over again.  It's a very challenging song for a beginner like us.  I say "us" because Daddy is trying to play it as well.  Yes, Madison actually plays it better right now.

Another thing we did involved spelling and writing.  Mommy is wanting Madison to keep a journal of sorts, where she writes what she does each day.  It can be brief, obviously!

One more thing in the educational department:  we signed up for the summer reading program once more.  Madison's goal is 75 books.  She's already gotten four or five done by this point, so maybe we should have upped the goal.  But 75 books is nothing to slouch at - she's reading these slowly, and out loud, clearly wanting to do as much reading as possible this summer.  That's great news for everyone - we'll have to go to the library soon, to pick up some new books!

Daddy took a nap today.  As mentioned yesterday, he went to bed at around 4:30 am this morning, all in preparation for today.  The wedding threw us off a bit with timing, but was well worth it, of course.  When Daddy woke up, he fulfilled a promise:  Chutes and Ladders.  Madison has been waiting three days to play this board game, and so tonight we got in about three rounds of the epic board game.  This can be one of the most frustrating games there is, to be frank.  I am notoriously not lucky with rolling dice or spinning spinners.  In fact, that might be my mutant power.  There are those who have the mutant gift of luck, like Domino and Longshot.  But not Daddy.  His power is unlucky.  Anyway, did you ever stop to think that this game could actually take longer than a game of Monopoly?  Put someone like me with a bad spinning history together with another poor no-luck sort, and the game can go on forever!  Up the board, slowly, slowly, slowly.  Down the chute.  Up the board, slowly, slowly, slowly.  Down the chute.  Sometimes you just want it to end!

Fortunately, Madison found a way through.  She won all three times, and Daddy was free to suggest doing something else.  How about a movie?  Sure, why don't we start a special movie trilogy:  SPY KIDS!

So we plugged in "Spy Kids," which everyone enjoyed quite a bit.  It's been a long time since we've seen it, but we had the popcorn and all was well for a bit, as we went on another spy adventure together.  Tomorrow, we'll try "Spy Kids 2," because this one was such a hit with Madison.

We went to bed earlier tonight, just because we're wanting to keep bedtime within reason.  It's summer, of course.  We don't have to get up early tomorrow at all.  But still, you can't stay up all night, right?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Madison Attends a Wedding

Madison attended her first wedding today, the marriage of Joey and Jordan Stone - and as you can see above, it was quite the thrilling experience for her.  She learned the basic routines of a wedding - the traditions that we have and the things we do, for whatever reasons.  Here she is above with the bride during the reception afterwards, who was kind and gracious, and right in the middle of a most beautiful wedding.

It was a perfect day for a wedding - especially one that is outdoors.  We drove up to White County once again, actually less than ten miles from where Daddy lived growing up.  Here she is with Mr. Josh, who attended - along with all the other friends from KidPak, really.  As Joey and Jordan are a huge part of KidPak, it was essentially a KidPak wedding.  We were honored and thankful to come.

Mommy dressed up Madison so nicely too.  Here she is waiting before the ceremony, looking behind her to see when the bride would come down.  As the wedding took place, Daddy explained each thing in hushed tones to her in the back:  here are the vows, and there is the ring, and there's the big moment when they say "I do."  Madison was very much into it.  And as mentioned earlier, it was such a scenic place.  Take a look at the tree swing they had nearby:

Madison and Mommy enjoyed posing there, as it was a perfect day for pictures, and it was a really nice spot.  A storm was brewing nearby, but it never crossed our path.  It did, however, create a nice breeze to cool everyone off.  The wedding took place in the cool shade, nearby the line of trees, and nobody felt overheated at all.  Madison kept going back to that swing though:

We know the bride's father from some time ago, and remember his love for all things rustic.  The reception took place in a barn, and there were bottles of coke and sodas for everyone.  There were some unique and delicious appetizers, and the meal was really good.  We had some roast beef - and Madison tried that for the first time.  It was prepared just right, and she actually enjoyed it enough to try some more.  Here she is, posing in front of the barn - there's always time for a new pose:

We took a lot of pictures today.  It was a perfect day for pictures, and we took many of friends, and of course a lot of Madison took.  The lighting was just right, and she looked quite lovely, and the scenery was too good to pass up.  Here she is, back on the swing, just to prove my point:

As we said, it was a "teachable moment" for Madison, as we showed her the ins and outs of a wedding.   One of those traditions, which seems to be getting out of hand, is the decorating of the bride and groom's car:

In the "good old days," they'd just hang some cans on the bumper and write "JUST MARRIED" somewhere on the back.  That of course did not happen with Mommy and Daddy's car, which was turned into a piñata.  And this car was attacked as well - with Madison's help.  Here she is, drawing hearts on the front windshield!

As you can see, she was there to see Jordan and Joey get to their car:  she thought it was hilarious!  Meanwhile, Joey is trying to figure out how long it will take to actually get in the car and drive off.  But this seems to be the new trend in weddings, I guess!

Hey here's another first for Madison:  line dancing!

It's the Cupid Shuffle.  Madison was hesitant, and nervous to join the dancing.  Fortunately, a friend invited her in.  Madison was pretty scared to begin with, but soon she was jumping in the next time there was a line dance, as you can see above.  There she is with all the big kids, watching carefully and following along.  It was really fun to watch!

We took so many good pictures today - it was one of those days.  The wedding was a really nice one, and as we told Jordan and Joey, it was the first one that Madison had ever seen.  She of course knows about weddings from all different sources:  books, movies, televisions shows.  But this was her first, and it was a really nice one.  She could have stayed a lot longer, actually, and as we waved goodbye to the happy couple driving off, she just wanted to go back to the swing, actually!

The reception was nice - at one point you can see above that Madison and Daddy were spending time texting with their butter pads.  We felt kind of left out by all the other texters at the table, so we grabbed the butter pads and had our own conversation:

MADISON: "How are you doing?"

DADDY:  "Fine.  And you?"

MADISON: "Fine.  Where are you?"

DADDY:  "At the wedding.  Where are you?"

MADISON:  "I'm at the wedding too!"

DADDY: "No way!"

It was a lot of fun.  But at one point in the reception, she did get sad.  A realization hit her:  she told us that she would have a boyfriend someday, and she would have to get married and move away.  She was in tears as she said this, hugging both of us.  Daddy was quick to point out that when she gets married, it just means that we'll not be saying goodbye, but instead welcoming someone new into our family.  This seemed to make her feel better - but the truth is that Daddy and Mommy feel the same way!  It's a bittersweet moment, the father-daughter dance.  Thankfully, they didn't play the song "Cinderella" when that happened!  Not that it is a bad song, but it certainly gets the waterworks going. 

The rest of our day was busy, believe it or not.  We had a great deal of work to do towards KidPak and Summer Xtreme.  The guys at the wedding left there to head back to the office, Daddy included.  It would be an extremely late night - four in the morning, to be precise.

Madison did piano today, and some of her speech practice as well.  Also, she did some of her other homework, with writing and so forth.  We'll keep that going, or at least attempt to.  One great thing is the amount of options we have with educational events this summer:  the library has plenty of interesting things to take Madison to.  And the art camp this year has a science theme to it.  We're challenging ourselves to keep Madison busy this summer - although we'll all be very busy these next two weeks.  It's the season of Summer Xtreme.  Madison is looking forward to it quite a bit - and Daddy is looking forward to that Saturday right after it is all over with!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Before School

Each morning before 1st grade, the routine has been fairly simple:  get up, get dressed, brush your teeth and so on.  Go downstairs, eat breakfast, and then it's just about time to get going to school.  But before school, we have to do two things before piling into the car:  prayers and the photo on the porch.  Each morning, we'd tromp outside (with one exception), and snap a photograph of Madison in front of the house.

Today was that last photograph.  It was the last day of first grade.  Just after snapping the photo (and prayers, and taking Madison to school), we put together the above slide-show.  "The End" seems to be a theme of the day, but more on that in a bit.  The slide show above was meant to sort of show her growth, and you can kind of see that over the year.  But more than that, you can see her character each day - she posed herself each morning, not content to just stand there and smile.

It was a bittersweet day for her.  Again, there were tears.  I think it was one of those things that was sort of communicable:  like a virus spreading.  One would get sad about missing friends and teachers, and then the next would.  And then another.  And then there were some tears.  And then there were more tears.  Let's just say that Madison cried a bit today, but wasn't alone.  The bus driver said it was a rough drive!

Daddy was overjoyed to see summer - it's such a contrast, isn't it?  Some kids just love school.  Madison is one:  she enjoys going to learn and see friends.  Her grades were fantastic, by the way.  She got very good scores on her report card - we have such grace over our lives right now.  All is well.  Thanks be to God!

We're keeping up the education throughout the summer, of course.  As recorded here, we have her in various summer camps of course.  And there are programs we've signed her up for with the library too. But there are also homework assignments, and continued speech therapy programs (there's one we just downloaded on the Kindle).  And yes, there's piano practice that continues - and don't forget that we hope to have her swimming by summer's end.  So there's plenty to do!

We used the "Monk" theme song on that video above, mainly because today's the day we finally reached the last episodes of that show - Mommy and Daddy have been binge-watching that show ever since September, when we saw an episode at Nana and Ba-Ba's house in Florida.  "Binge-watching" is a fairly new phenomena:  it used to be that in order to see an entire series on television, you actually had to be at a certain place and a certain time each week throughout a season.  If you missed an episode, you possibly could catch it on reruns.  But in today's world, you can watch not just an entire season, but an entire run of a television series.  This show ran for eight years, and we watched all eight years of shows, somewhat of a routine for us, throughout the year.  It's sort of depressing when you get to the end though - whatever will we watch next?  That's the sore point of binge watching, at least if the show is no longer broadcasting new episodes.

That's just Mom and Dad though.  Madison isn't old enough to watch that.  We did watch "Inspector Gadget" with her though!  Daddy is going to be giving out those happy meal pieces of Inspector Gadget soon enough, one by one as Madison completes her piano practice.  She enjoyed the movie - we always thought it was fun.  Especially the "Minions Anonymous" bit, and the evil Inspector Gadget too.

We're still working hard towards Summer Xtreme.  Tomorrow will be busy though - we've got a wedding to attend to.  The neat thing about that is it is Madison's first wedding.  She's invited as well, so we'll be sure to dress her up and take lots of pictures!

As for today, it was an end of things again in another big way:  one of our cast members at KidPak is moving to Ashville.  We'll no doubt take pictures of Madison with her this weekend, but Karen will be greatly missed, an extremely talented lady.

It was a full day today for everyone, but there's nothing wrong with that.  And on the plus side:  we don't have to set the alarm for tomorrow morning!  That's one "ending" we're not upset about in the least!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

First Grade Awards!

Here's Madison with some of her end-of-the-year awards - one of which being a candy bar.  We went to the First Grade Party today, where parents could visit in the classroom and spend time at an ice cream party, and watch the kids receive a few awards in a few areas.  One of the award ceremonies was the "Candy Bar Awards," where Madison's teacher found characteristics in her students, and tied them to the names of candy bars.  Because of Madison's musical abilities, she was awarded a Symphony candy bar, which is extra big!  But the other awards were the ones that got to Daddy the most:  he was so proud when she was given a few awards for excellence with math and spelling.  We worked hard with her all year on both, Mommy and Daddy doing drills with spelling each morning, and with math throughout the year as well.  She stayed on the advanced spelling list for most of the year, and she finished her goals with math as well.  We are so very proud of her!

The other award was similar to the Candy Bar Award, where her teacher celebrated certain characteristics of each of her students.  Madison was awarded for her nature of getting involved and doing things with everyone, rather than staying with a select group.

We went home after this, and Madison stayed in school for a bit until we picked her up again later.  Josh was with us, and we all spent a good part of the afternoon writing material for Summer Xtreme.  It was pretty productive, but there is still so much to do for the big week - less than two weeks away.

We can rest on some accomplishments today though - particularly those really nice awards!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tennis the Menace

Today we ended our year of tennis lessons with one final class.  Mrs. Faye has been helpful, and the growth we've seen in Madison's ability has been huge.  Today we worked on the backhand some more, then forehand, and then "the spike."  The class has been great for Madison, something very enjoyable and yet at the same time so beneficial.  Of course her skills are growing - but additionally, there's quite a bit of running around going on as well.  The class is a small size, about five children or six, each getting a turn to try a return, or sometimes a serve, and sometimes a bit of a volley.  Today Madison had a decent volley - these have been getting longer and longer as the year goes on.  We'll keep going down to the court during the summer months, of course.  Plus, we'll see Mrs. Faye later on at a tennis camp - this will be at an actual court though.  There are tennis courts at a nearby high school, where Madison will be visiting for a week.

However our tennis courts are really nice.  And we've got everything we need - lots of tennis balls, the racket, and an entire summer filled with nights to fill.  Will we swim?  How about tennis?  The weather cools down at night hopefully enough to go out and enjoy the courts and the pool.

Today was Madison's last Wednesday of 1st grade.  It's been a pirate-themed week, one where the class actually followed a treasure map around the back of the school.  I'm guessing that our teacher had a lot of wrapping up to do, so the theme of the week is that everyone is "stuck on a pirate ship."  The end result is a ship of pirates, ready to mutiny by week's end.  Arrr!

Tonight Daddy had a service to attend, host, and have fun with the kids.  It was a simple service tonight, as we're spending quite a bit of time in planning our upcoming Summer Xtreme.  To that extent, Daddy is exhausted already.  And stressed about certain things - but trying not to worry too much.  The day after Summer Xtreme will be a glorious one, as always:  regardless of the outcome, we will no longer carry that heavy burden.

Madison, ironically, will be a pirate that week.  Yes, that's her tribe - the tribe of the pirates.  First grade are pirates this year, where she was a Viking last week with the other kindergartners.  So the piracy them keeps on rolling, doesn't it?

Speaking of which, we only have five episodes of "Monk" left to watch.  That's escapism there!  For about forty minutes, Daddy gets to think about something else, other than Summer Xtreme.  We pray that all the work and stress pay off for the children.  Our stake in it is bigger this year than it has ever been, as Madison is right there in first grade, anxious to see and do all there is planned for that week.  May it be unforgettable - in the best possible way!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Water Music

Today was Madison's last day with piano class.  Yes, there was actual playing of the piano, believe it or not.  But it was a "water day" as well, where the students got to go outside and have fun with some water in the sun - all with well-crafted games that teach, or reenforce some musical concepts.  There was only a little bit of water, and a sprinkler that kids were supposed to run through quickly, and only once.  But with Madison, somehow that went on and on a bit!  Yes, she was soaked by the end of the class!  But she had a lot of fun, a great time to end the season of piano classes.  We'll meet up again when the new school year starts, but until then, there's a bit of homework to do.  We're at such an advanced stage that Daddy is determined to make that homework happen.  As we're out of Power Discs - only one left, still unpurchased somewhere out there - he's come up with a new idea:  Inspector Gadget pieces.

Okay, this one takes a bit of explaining.  Some time ago in coordination with the "Inspector Gadget" movie that was coming out, McDonald's released this epic-sized Inspector Gadget doll - but in eight or nine pieces.  The trick was, you had to go back each week and pick up a happy meal, and then get an arm, a leg, the head, the torso, and more.  For some reason, Aunt Shain and Daddy were obsessed with getting every single piece.  We were sick of hamburgers by the end of it, but both of us were victorious, with a complete Inspector Gadget doll.

Fast forward to now, where Daddy found the doll downstairs.  Some of the battery-powered components aren't working at the moment - but at least one of them is.  And all the pieces still fit together, and there he is.  So I'll have other incentives to finish piano practice - I know it isn't a big deal to get an Inspector Gadget leg.  But it will be somewhat of a fun gimmick throughout the summer, along with watching the movie, of course.

Speaking of which, Madison really wanted to watch a pirate movie today.  This pirate-themed week at school is bringing out that inner pirate in her, so we walked down to the basement to look through the pirate movies we have.  Now Daddy didn't think some of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies would be viewer friendly for our young daughter (she's seen the first one only).  But when she saw the "Muppets Treasure Island," that's all she needed to see on the shelf.  We popped that movie in, and set sail for adventure.  With popcorn.

Meanwhile, Daddy has been working on Summer Xtreme, while keeping KidPak afloat with regular service details.  We're still doing our tribe series, which for some reason I seem to keep posting here on - might as well continue, right?  Tomorrow is the tribe of Asher, and a message called "Blessed."


     The name Asher means blessed, and some of the Tribe members were indeed blessed and highly favored.  For example, some time ago, there was a member of the Tribe of Asher who loved God very much.  Her name was Anna.  This remarkable woman showed us the right way to live:  staying in church, praying and worshipping.  God would see to it that she was rewarded, for all of this woman’s life was spent devoted to Him, serving God in the Temple.
     She was a famous member of this Tribe of blessing, but unfortunately Asher was not always a Tribe that did the right thing.  In fact, years before, things were pretty bleak.  For a time, they did not drive out the sin in their land, as God asked them to.  The end result was predictable:  They found themselves spending time with idol worshippers, and spending time with sin.  But one fateful day, that came to a head at Mt. Carmel, deep in the territory of Asher.  There was a prophet named Elijah who made a stand, asking the people who they would follow.  And for many, that answer became God.
     For Anna, there was never any question about who she would follow – ever.   For all of us, Anna is a picture of perseverance.  So many give up because the path we choose can be hard, or we become tempted to go elsewhere.  Indeed, some may have thought Anna was wasting her time.  But picture that day she saw the Light of the World, face to face.  If she were around today, she would tell us this simple message:  Don’t miss Jesus.
     The Tribe of Asher was blessed – but so are we, just as long as we stay in church, keep the sin out, and persevere until the end.

Monday, May 19, 2014

School Birthday Party

Madison's birthday is in the summer, which means she gets to basically pick another birthday during the school year. Although this isn't a huge party with gifts, it is still a day to acknowledge that yes, she does in fact have a birthday like all the other students do.  Her cousin has the same situation - there's a celebration sometime in May, before the school year lets out.  We chose today, basically because this week is essentially a week-long party at school, and we were fairly sure we weren't interrupting much.

Actually, we came at around lunch time, when we could sneak in some cupcakes for her entire class.  Madison had a thrill passing out cupcakes to everyone in her class, one at a time.  Other classes were quoted as saying, "Hey, no fair!"

But that's how Madison's class rolls!  Actually there were other kids with birthdays in the summer too - or perhaps legitimately on this day.  Regardless, their classes got cupcakes from their loving parents as well.  There were lots of cupcakes being passed around, and Madison got to eat her lunch once more on stage above all the common folk!

This image above represents one of Madison's favorite jokes lately.  She's big into knock-knock jokes, although there isn't necessarily a punchline at the end of each joke.  In fact, if there's something that makes sense at the end of the joke, or something that makes it technically "a joke," then that'd make sense.  But what defines a joke anyway?  If it makes you laugh, then it is a joke, right?  Most of the time, Madison's answers are so abstract, they crack us up.

She got home from school, the last Monday of 1st grade.  I'd like to say we did a whole lot this afternoon, but in fact we didn't do too much due to quite a bit of fatigue from the weekend's events.  Madison is in the middle of a week of piracy - that's the theme of her class.  They're stuck on a ship together, doing various things together each day.  Today, everyone brought in a favorite board game.  Tomorrow, everyone brings in a book and a stuffed animal.  Ah, to be in that atmosphere, the final week of first grade.  It was such an exciting time.  Madison's teacher talked with us briefly, talking about the energy in the air, how she has to keep reminding the students there is still technically one week to go!

The weather outside today was gorgeous - sunny and beautiful, after the morning fog lifted.  Only one more day of relentless phone calls from primary candidates too - at least until the run-off season picks up.  Tomorrow is election day, and there are a lot of names on the ballot this year.  The school superintendent race alone has somewhere around fifteen candidates.  Daddy finally broke down and did the research on each of them running, as I'd feel guilty walking into a polling room, picking names based on the way they sound.  In fact, there were a few candidates we were leaning towards that we are now leaning against, due to a bit of research.  Mailers help, believe it or not - that at least introduces the candidate to our home, and at least identifies position stances.  As this is a primary, most of those positions are the same, so this is the tougher of elections, as we're looking for differences and nuances and even religious affiliation.  Yes, we go there.  And then we go vote, which we'll do tomorrow.  There are plenty of names on the ballot, and after well over an hour or two of researching online, we're ready to walk into the polling place.

And we're ready for all these phone calls to end!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

An Undivided Heart

Today is the day of the big ballet recital.  Of course, before doing that, we had to do a little operating.  This morning, we looked at the state of the heart with a modified skit I posted yesterday.  It was a chance for us to wear scrubs and look like doctors.  Like the Muppet skit, we would be the last place you'd want to go if you were sick!  this morning was dedicated to Zebulon, the latest Tribe in our series.

An Undivided Heart

     The Tribe of Zebulun had a heart for God. Their very name means “to dwell with,” and history shows that they were a people that invited God to dwell in their hearts.

In fact, the Bible says they served God with an undivided heart, following King David with devoted service. Not every Tribe was on board with this idea, but Zebulun was completely committed to serving.    
     Service is just one way to show our heart for God. We show our hearts when we help others, especially those leaders at church who have a call on their lives. You see, the Tribe of Zebulun recognized that King David was a man of God, and didn’t hold back: they used their skill to support him, and showed their undivided heart.
     And that’s just part of this Tribe’s good record. Years earlier, they heard the call of the Prophetess Deborah, who needed a lot of help saving Israel. Not many Tribes were interested in showing up though. But Zebulun didn’t think of themselves at all, and even outnumbered, they bravely went to battle, following God’s commands.
     With all these victories, you’d think there’d be some pride involved. But when God is dwelling in your heart, there’s also humility. Many years afterwards, Israel was deep in sin – and its King Hezekiah wanted to restore the heart of Israel, and welcome God’s presence back into their lives. Much of the people mocked him for it, but the Tribe of Zebulun remained faithful, humbling themselves before God.
     Will you humble yourself? Will you allow God to dwell within your heart? Ask yourself these questions: Where is your heart? Where is your service? And where is your humility? If you answer as the Tribe of Zebulun did, then you will be blessed and highly favored. No question about it: God will be extremely pleased with your undivided heart. 

Madison learned about this one Tribe this morning, and of course had her usual fun with the different cast members, running around and chasing each other.  Immediately after service though, it was time to get home and get ready:  the recital was later, which means make-up and hair and costuming and preparing... Daddy stayed at church to do a bit, while Madison and Mommy went home to get ready for a big performance!

The ballet recital started at 5:30, although Mommy and Daddy arrived much earlier than that.  Madison met her classmates in "the Black room," while Daddy snuck over to get some roses for Madison, to hand her after the performance.  She passed by them earlier, and told Daddy, "You can get those for me if you want to."  It was sort of a statement/question - she really wanted some roses.  Of course, Daddy got her a bouquet of three roses.

Mommy, Aunt Shain and Hannah showed up to the performance - and since Daddy was there ultra early with Mommy, we were able to save some front row seats in the balcony, in our usual spot to the left.  The great thing is that Madison was performing stage right, which meant she was right in front of us.

The ballet was very nice - this is a screen capture from the DVD that was made of it.  It was well put together, moving along smoothly, and balancing the younger children's performances with the older ones as well.  Though it was longer, it never got to a point where you wished it was all over.  The younger kids were adorable, and the older ones were quite talented.

When Madison came out halfway through the program, it was just perfect.  This year, there was no person in front of the stage doing the different actions so that all the little ballerinas would copy them.  This year, Madison memorized her performance, just as the others did on stage.  It was very nice - and at the very end, just before she was dancing off stage, she noticed us up in the balcony - and smiled in a very big way, waving!  We weren't able to take pictures at the event, but I did get a screen capture from the DVD:

Afterwards, we met Madison downstairs, and the six of us walked outside where it was still slightly chilly, but the girls wanted to pose for a picture together.  And we wanted to take a photo of Madison with her roses, in front of the fountain there at Pearce Auditorium.  It is one of our favorite pictures right now:

We went home after this, and it took a while to get the make-up off, and the hair washed.  It was a late night, but it was a sweet one.  We knew we had just experienced one of those happy memories that can't ever wash away.  And we're glad of it.  Our little girl was beautiful tonight - all of the little ballerinas were.