Monday, June 30, 2014

Another Gotcha Day

This morning we started off right away - we were supposed to have slept late, but none of us really did.  We were up and ready to go rather early, so there we were downstairs, Mommy and Daddy getting out all the photo CDs from our trip to China.  We first sat on the couch, where Daddy read to her the journal entry for our day in China, June 30th, 2008.  That was the day we first met Madison - she wanted us to read this one entry especially, and so we did together.  Then, we showed her pictures from our trip to China.  We were able to put them on the big television screen (rather than the computer), so we never really left the great room at all for all of this.  It was a nice and sweet moment - we've been receiving all kinds of congratulations from our friends, especially those across the country who also adopted on this very day.  We have a common bond, a common date:  June 30th, 2008.  Daddy and Mommy shared pictures of all the others, and there was a lot of chatter, especially the kind where we all wonder where the time went.

We had a nice breakfast, courtesy of Mom - and then it was time to read more books for the reading program.  Madison has ready 56 books so far, and some of them have been larger in wordcount.  We're pretty happy there.  She also played the piano a bit more - her "Moondreamer" is getting really good.

We decided to return to the library some time today, so therefore we found ourselves watching a video about Annie Oakley together, one that had to be returned today.  Madison was learning about her at the end of the school year, so we picked up this video.  It was one of those deals where Daddy and Mommy would be doing a bit of work while Madison watched that video - however we all got sucked in.  What a fascinating person she was!

We did get around to moving a lot of stuff towards the basement, as we try to clean up more and prepare for everyone's arrival this Friday.  On the 4th of July we'll be hosting, so we're trying to get things straightened up at least a little bit.

But the big plan for the day was to go and see a movie.  Finally, we saw "How to Train Your Dragon 2," which had an early afternoon start time.  It was a good movie - the three of us sat in the back and downed a whole lot of popcorn, and channeled our inner Vikings.  Daddy should have worn his Viking hat in there.  The theater, by the way, was crowded.  I thought it should be, based on the fact that this is the only animated movie in theaters right now.  For some reason, this movie hasn't been making as much as it should - despite the fact that it is a really good movie.  It's not as good as the first, but any movie about Vikings already has a head start as far as I'm concerned.

It poured rain outside.  Atlanta actually got pounded today, but we got our deluge too.  Once again, we don't have to water our garden.  Madison is getting spoiled in that regard.  We left the movie and went over to Lowe's though, picking up some more vegetables for the garden, and an azalea for the front.  The ground should be nice and soft for planting these when we get to it hopefully tomorrow.

Madison was thirsty because of the popcorn, so we continued our refill onslaught - we're easily over $100 in free drinks by now.   Seriously, I've probably said this before, but when it comes to the Sodapalooza thing, we're probably their "worse case scenario."

And then it was time for the library.  We returned out books, and picked up as slew of new ones, and a few new videos as well.  Madison immediately started to read some books, and as we got home it was already time for dinner.  Mommy had corn on the cob, hot dogs, and baked beans - typical summer fare.  But that's okay with us, right?  We loved all of it!

Daddy signed up Madison for the next bit at Lowe's online.  You have to do that quickly because they sell out.  We're building something to do with the movie "Turbo."  Here's the part where we realize that none of us have seen "Turbo," and it is on Netflix.  Mommy has been pretty exhausted lately, so we decided to watch yet another Dreamworks movie.  We sat down and watched the story of a snail that wants to race in the Indianapolis 500.  How did this rise to the top to a point where they gave it the green light?  It wasn't that bad of a movie, but certain ideas were sort of "more of the same."  Still, Madison enjoyed it.  We didn't dislike it, but I'm not going out to go get a copy right away either.  One interesting note about this movie was the theme of snails last summer.  This movie and "Epic" featured animated snails.  Oh, and "Monsters University" featured a monster that moved like a snail, used as a running joke.  It was a weird theme for the summer.  One year it is penguins.  One year it is China.  One year it is archers.  Last year:  snails.

So how do you top movie night with an animated snail?  Of course with a game of Cootie!  We got to the kitchen table and set ourselves up for a major bug war.  Daddy won the first skirmish, building a Cootie of his own.  However the rules were set up early that we were to build two Cootie bugs each:  and in that way, Madison won the Cootie War.

Tonight at bedtime, we prayed together, thanking God for six years (and counting) of such wonderful blessing with family.  She's growing up.  This year more than any, I can see behaviors and characteristics that surprise me in the way that I realize she's getting older and behaving older.  Of course, part of me wishes she could stay young, playing with her ponies all the time with us.  Which only renews my efforts to make every moment count.  We are indeed truly blessed.  Happy Gotcha Day, Madison.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Madison's Camera

Madison had some fun with old paper dolls this afternoon - so much so that she brought out her camera and started snapping pictures of her creations.  These were Mommy's paper dolls, and Madison was so proud of these creations that we now have a photo gallery of all the dolls in their appropriate clothing, thanks to our fashion photographer, Madison.

Daddy downloaded a lot of the photographs from this camera, not having done this in a long time.  This was that old camera that she's had for a few years now - quite a durable little thing.  It doesn't take the best pictures, but perhaps that's the charm of it.  This camera had well over a hundred photos on it, some going back over a year ago.  Daddy will collect them all on one disc so that Madison can review her photography.  But at the same time, I picked out a few that were on this camera that you can look at as well:

I have no idea why I like this picture so much.  The emotion of it, the one pony looking up, searching for hope, while the other remains downcast or even resigned to whatever fate lies before them.  Or, it could be something more optimistic, a candid moment of the ponies caught just before going out for a huge performance.  Either way, the swirl of colors suggests some impressionistic painting, a mood captured at the right moment.

Madison captured Daddy, El Gaucho, in an unusual portrait here.  He's in a sombrero, holding a stuffed animal in a sombrero.  We're not entirely sure what this means, but Madison did a good job holding the camera still!

Ah, yes.  This is photojournalism at its finest!  In a moment of whimsy, Madison has captured Mommy's lighter side.  The blur and the angle suggest a fun night with family and friends, Mommy's expression - and the humorous prop - bringing a happy energy to this photograph.

In case you're wondering, Ned's yo-yo is still around.  Madison can do some tricks with it now, actually.  Which means that she's technically better than me with a yo-yo.  Looking at the picture above, you can see that this isn't much.

I'm not sure when this was taken.  There are two grandmothers in this picture.  Again, the blur helps create a mood, and in this case it is a pleasant one, as Nana has stopped for a moment to look into the camera.  Just that one eye sort of stares back at you, saying more with one photo than several paragraphs could ever.  Good job, Madison!

And as you can see here, the camera was turned on Madison a few times.  In this case, she wanted to dress up in a few costumes to pose for pictures.  Daddy snapped this one here - and the one below, where she's showing off her new unicorn bicycle helmet.

I wasn't making up the bit about the bicycle helmet.  We found this at Goodwill while we were shopping for other things for the Summer Xtreme vidoes.  This helmet was too good to pass up.  Madison took to it right away, randomly wearing a bicycle helmet around the house, simply because it made her feel that much more like a unicorn.

We're not sure about this photo.  Clearly, Mommy or Daddy took it.  But why?  These are the sorts of questions that Madison's photography calls to mind!  Seriously, we're not quite sure what this is about.  Maybe she thinks she has a beard like Santa?  Or perhaps she's injured her mouth somehow?  We don't think it is a serious thing, as she seems to have a squint in her eye that suggests there's something comical going on.  Ah, the questions this photograph creates - it's almost as intriguing as the Mona Lisa!

Anyway, today was a day for church of course.  That was in the morning, when we finally wrapped up our Tribes series.  Everyone's ready to say goodbye to that one - although we're still not quite ready for the next series, "Get Wild."  It involves animals, and Daddy's still trying to wrangle them up.  And make a booklet.

Each night this week, we've been doing something neat:  we've been reading from the adoption journal that Daddy wrote in as we were making our way through China in 2008.  Today was June 29th, so that was the day before Gotcha Day.  It's been a slow build, and Madison has been hooked on our reading it to her each night before bed.  We've been remembering together, and reliving the past - sweet memories flooding back into our minds about tiny details long forgotten.  Or... at least forgotten since the last time we opened this book.  There's such a value in journaling things, as so many pleasant memories are triggered by mere words that you yourself wrote down.

One more day until Gotcha Day.  That was six years ago now.  We tucked Madison in, and found ourselves following suit - we've all been a bit tired lately.  Full weeks with adventure and activity, all leading to a smile on our faces as we climb underneath the covers.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Hurling Sheep

We would discover late that this little craft is in fact relevant to the movie "How to Train Your Dragon 2," but for the time being, it was just fun hurling sheep through the air towards their target.  Part of me wonders how PETA would react to such a craft!  We went to Lowe's this morning, where Madison and Daddy put together one of the easier crafts to assemble.  This was a sheep hurling game, which seemed odd at the time of making it.  But again, it makes sense when you see the movie.  Sort of.  In the movie they actually drop the sheep into nets, each one carried by a dragon in flight.  Here, we sort of use a see-saw to hurl the sheep in the air towards their destination.

This craft had Madison back in power with her hammer and nails.  The last craft looks awesome - the dragon is pretty neat, currently poised on top of one of Madison's dressers, overlooking the room.  But the nails and limbs and pieces were all delicate and tiny.  This craft, however, featured real nails, and a box shape, which is easy to turn over to your daughter. She found the right nails, lined things up and hammered away this morning.  Daddy helped a little - and made only one mistake.  Fortunately, Madison caught it - that's right, she figured out something that Daddy didn't.  And so with teamwork, the two of us made our sheep hurling game.

Daddy didn't take a picture at Lowe's, but instead did one afterwards at home after we just arrived.  Madison still proudly had her apron on - the bottom of this thing is lined with patches of all the different projects she's worked on in the past at Lowe's.  There has to be about twelve or thirteen of these things by now.

We tried the game out a bit, where Madison finally got the hang of getting the sheep to their destination, rather than some far off destination across the room.  It's a fun little thing, but the real fun for the two of us, I suspect, is actually making it, and of course getting a patch!

Today was a work day for Daddy, who spent a lot of time writing messages, cleaning up, and working on future projects.  We're starting a new series next weekend, and there are new messages for August to write as well.  Lots to do, but there's no weariness in doing any of this.  Older, but the engine is still running quite fine when it comes to doing new messages - it's the thing I'm best at.

Meanwhile, Madison was playing piano, reading, and drawing a little too.  Also, she was helping Mommy plant outside, and clean out her room a bit upstairs - that in itself is a huge project.  Mommy was feeling a little ill this morning, but that straightened itself out thankfully.  Daddy got home a little late, so we played some games tonight when he got home, specifically "The Lego Movie" video game. Amazingly, we're getting close to finishing this one - at a much faster pace than the other LEGO games.  Part of this is Madison's effort during the day today, or yesterday - I don't know which.  She got a lot of stuff accomplished while I was away, to the point where I came in to play and was completely surprised that there wasn't as much left to do!

And so another day is in the books.  Daddy was at work, but we did spend a little time together in the morning, and fortunately Mommy is feeling better as well.  We're all a bit tired tonight, and should get a good rest before tomorrow's services.  So goodnight, farewell, and happy hurling sheep!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Art Galleries and Mini-Golf

Here's Madison and just one of her artistic endeavors on display at today's art gallery presentation.  Daddy and the other parents entered the rooms for each grade, and there on display were all the different pieces of art created during the week, hanging up all throughout the room.

As you can see here, the theme seemed to be a little less "art as science," and more "Under the Sea," which is kind of interesting, isn't it?  Of course, "Under the Sea" is technically marine biology, which is a long ways to go when calling a theme "art as science."  But we're not complaining one bit - Madison had a great time with this theme, creating the squid-like things above, aquariums and lots of fish.  Here's her teacher, and her t-shirt, two words that sound pretty similar when you say them fast together.  Go ahead.  Try it.

It was the last day of art camp, and it was a good one.  As for the theme, that seems to be OUR theme lately, doesn't it?  We decided upon this "Under the Sea" theme upcoming and it just so happens that this is the theme for art camp.  Yes, we're watching the rest of "The Little Mermaid" trilogy this weekend, and probably "Finding Nemo" as well.  And as a bonus, Daddy wants us all to get together to watch "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," the Disney version.  That'll be a fun adventure!

Speaking of adventures, tonight we went to The Oaks, a miniature golf place nearby the church.  Amazingly, we haven't been there yet.  But we'll be going again, and probably soon.  It's all in the shade, and the course is designed very well on this sloped area with waterfalls and a running stream.  The "lodge" at the top that overlooks the course is nice, complete with a porch and rocking chairs.  Here's Madison and Mommy on the porch as we wait for others to arrive.

Who are the others?  That would be Ye-Ye, Nana, Hannah and Aunt Shain, of course.  They arrived as well for a nice night on the links.  Speaking of "links," here we are holding some colored fabric together - this is a project for Hannah at church.

I honestly have no idea what that is about right now.  We just did it and moved on.  But it made for a nice picture.  Just don't ask me what's up with the colored fabric pieces, okay?

Moving on, which is what we did:  There was a threat of rain throughout the day - in fact it did rain a lot over in Forsyth County where live.  I am not exaggerating in the slightest here:  lately, Forsyth County's is like Monster Island, or some other place you can't see as you get closer to it.  Coming from Hall County all week long, you cross that bridge over Lake Lanier, and instantly you're in a cloud, and with pouring rain.  Hall County dry.  Forsyth County soaked.  And the cloud is there, seemingly trapped and afraid to cross over the lake to the Hall County side.  I can't explain it, but it's been like that for days now.  The end result is a rather damp week for us at home, and the bright side to Madison is that God is watering the tomato plants for us.  So good news there, right?

So as much as it rained today, we were afraid tonight's festivities would be cancelled.  But... they weren't.   To golf, or not to golf - that was the question.  And the answer was yes!

Madison did remarkably well.  Sure, there are challenging holes.  But the overall concept of hitting the golf ball is right there with her.  Gone are the days where you mix the sport of hockey with golf, sort of scooting it along to the proper destination.  No, now Madison lines up her golf club and taps the ball in - or tries to hit it harder for longer distances.  Which, I might add, is the one weakness of this course.  If a ball goes off course, so to speak, it's going for a little ride down the hill.  Or, in this case below, down a stream.

Actually, this stream is part of the course.  You actually hit the ball into the stream, and it goes across some grating and winds up on another portion of green below.  Ye-Ye didn't do so well on this particular hole, but was stellar for the back eight, frequently hitting the ball in the hole in two or less hits.  Daddy did well too, but it's not all about the final score of course.  Lately, Daddy has been inclined not to keep score as we used to.  It used to be a competitive thing, even mini-golf.  And sure, you want to do your best.  But with keeping up the score, we tend to miss moments like these:

And that's what it's all about - time together, having fun.  Which we did!  And to celebrate the end, we all got ourselves some ice cream from the "lodge" at the top, taking that to the rocking chairs outside, overlooking the course and talking some more about everything that's been going on lately.

It was a fun time, and we did get home later than bedtime for Madison.  So off to bed she went.  Off to bed we went.  Everyone was tired tonight, for some reason, so we hit the sack a little early - ready for another new and exciting day tomorrow.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Diving Back In

Tonight we were back at the pool - the weather was overcast, and in fact sprinkling a bit at first.  But lo, we were going in that pool!  Unless there was thunder or something.  But there wasn't - there was only a good time at the pool this afternoon.  One reason was that Ye-Ye, Nana, Aunt Shain and Hannah were on hand to jump in as well.  The water was warm, despite the cloudy skies, so it was actually warmer in the pool than out.  But Madison loves to swim, no matter who it is, and had to be convinced it was time to come out of the pool - fortunately the lifeguard was needing to take a break at that moment.  This made for a convenient escape.

Madison is learning to swim still, and Ye-Ye was giving her challenges, and training her in a way.  Her learning in the water continues - I don't think it will be long before she's learned to swim.  Until then, she's staying close to all of us, and for today, safe with a life vest on.

Earlier in the day was art camp, continued - but can you believe it is almost over with?  Tomorrow, we'll visit the art gallery to see our children's material on display.  Madison worked with water coloring again today, and tissue paper, and her t-shirt too - plus the time she spent free drawing.  She enjoys art - it's a shame the camp is over with by tomorrow.  But art never ends, and she can keep drawing all she wants when she gets home.

Tonight, there was more reading to be done.  Madison knocked off a few more books for her reading program, as Daddy finished off the last of the Kingdom Keepers books.  One of the other things that Daddy has been doing today is working on messages for KidPak's upcoming animal-themed series.  We've been trying to coordinate with a certain animal handler in the area, and just as we remember from 2009, the communication is horrible.  But at the last minute, I think something will work out where we'll have animals on stage in July.

One animal that we'll have for a weekday will be a chihuahua.  Daddy knows someone at church with a chihuahua named Scrappy.  The dog's name is Scrappy.  Not the person with a chihuahua.

Anyway, Scrappy was last seen on this blog about two years ago, believe it or not.  He was in a shopping cart joust, which you can safely say is something you don't see every day.  But now, he'll be on stage - Daddy is wanting a different animal on stage every service, so this will be perfect for an upcoming Wednesday.  But what sort of message would go with a chihuahua?  What kind of Biblical message could you present?

Glad you asked!

Here is a message I just dreamed up that involves chihuahuas, and bits and quotes from the movie "Beverly Hills Chihuahua."  It's simple, but it's also kind of fun...

“I, Chihuahua!”

     Hold on to your tacos, because you’re about to come face to face with the mightiest of animals.  Well… okay, so it’s just a chihuahua.  But what a mighty creature, a scrappy warrior ready for anything! There’s a lot of confidence in a Chihuahua – they’re Mexi-can, not Mexi-can’t!
      But there’s more we can learn from the chihuahua.  Do you remember those words a chihuahua once spoke, “Yo quiero?”  In Spanish, that means, “I want.”  So what do you want?  We all want stuff.  But the Bible is pretty clear about the thing we should want the most: “But put God’s kingdom first. Do what he wants you to do. Then all of those things will also be given to you.” Don’t focus on getting all those toys that everyone else is wanting.  All that can be just a distraction, to keep God from your corazón.  That’s your heart.
     In the movie “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” these mighty dogs call out with passion, “No mas!”  Simply put, that means ”no more!”  Life is not about living a pampered lifestyle – it’s about finding God’s calling, and following His will to your destiny!  We must put those things behind us – don’t you know who you are?  God has made us all new creations!  When anyone reminds you of your past, you remind them of your future: “I know the plans I have for you,” announces the Lord. “I want you to enjoy success. I do not plan to harm you. I will give you hope for the years to come.”
     One thing about these chihuahuas:  they’re tiny, but mighty!  And you?  Your heritage is a brave and valiant.  As Christians, we are not timid – we are fearless!  Remember, you may be small in stature, but you serve a great big God.
     “Finally, let the Lord make you strong. Depend on His mighty power.”  Chase after God and fulfill your destiny.  Look back at your past and shout out, “No mas!” 
     I, Chihuahua!

I have not yet received all of those things. I have not yet been made perfect. But I move on to take hold of what Christ Jesus took hold of me for. Brothers and sisters, I don’t consider that I have taken hold of it yet. But here is the one thing I do. I forget what is behind me. I push hard toward what is ahead of me.  I move on toward the goal to win the prize. God has appointed me to win it. The heavenly prize is Christ Jesus himself.”

Philippians 3:12-14 NIrV

1.     Yo quiero ______________.  “Yo quiero” means “I want.”  So what do you want?  We all want stuff.  But the Bible is pretty clear about the thing we should want the most:
“But put God’s kingdom first. Do what he wants you to do. Then all of those things will also be given to you.” Matthew 6:33 NIrV
a.  God’s Kingdom             b. Taco Bell             c. Taco Tuesday

2.     No ________!  We must put those things behind us – don’t you know who you are?  God has made us all new creations!  “No mas” means “no more!”  When anyone reminds you of your past, you remind them of your future:
“I know the plans I have for you,” announces the Lord. “I want you to enjoy success. I do not plan to harm you. I will give you hope for the years to come.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIrV
a.  habla             b. mas             c. cantar

3.     Tiny, but ____________!  Your heritage is a brave and valiant.  As Christians, we are not timid – we are fearless!  Remember, you may be small in stature, but you serve a great big God.
“Finally, let the Lord make you strong. Depend on His mighty power.” Ephesians 6:10 NIrV
a.  divided             b. delicious             c. mighty

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Giant Floating Cats in Space

I have no idea what's up with the cats in space.  It's a meme, I think.  So I made up one myself, using a cat and space and a spaceship.  Now I'm hip.  Not really, but I did this primarily to illustrate an unusual current trend, and an advertising theme for the upcoming Forward Conference next year.  I am not making this up.

Madison made art today too - it was day three of art camp, which featured some work making a "pond" and populating that pond.  Art Camp has been fun for Madison, and we're looking forward to seeing some of her works at the week.

Meanwhile, Daddy is at work, getting things ready for tonight and this weekend, and beyond.  July is a month we'll be hopefully having some animals on stage.  It's a series called "Get Wild," one that we haven't done since Madison was two years old.

It should be fun, and it's giving us time to set up for the bigger series in August that we're more excited about than anything:  "Under the Sea."  That's coming up, but for the next few weeks we're getting wild with monkeys on stage, more alpacas, exotic birds, and possibly some snakes.  Yikes!

Tonight Madison went to bed earlier, as she's been getting up earlier each day this week.  It's almost like preparation for that school year when it comes around again - but that doesn't mean we have to like it so much!  Setting up that alarm is tough!  Of course, we sort of say that all tongue-in-cheek.

But that does explain why it's pretty much bedtime right now for Daddy - time to go off and go to sleep and dream... of giant floating cats in space...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Artist

Here's madison at art camp with the other first graders.  As you can see, she's really enjoying her time there - Daddy snuck this photo this afternoon.  She's been doing a lot of "Under the Sea" stuff this week and using all kinds of mediums to express herself.  Which generally turn out a lot better than this. And she's having fun at camp too, so odds are good that we'll be doing an art camp each year.  It'll be a pleasure to see how her skills improve over the years, coupled with her active imagination.

She gets dropped off each morning at 9:00, and picked up at 2:00 from the car line.  This is the point where we both head home, dropping by the gas station first to pick up some more free slushy.  Or slurpy.  Whatever you want to call it, it's delicious.  Madison and Daddy nearly finish the thing before getting home.

Of course, Daddy turns around and has to go back to work.  This is a bummer, because he really wants to stay at home with the family.  But we are getting a lot done at the office this week, between setting things up for our new series and keeping things alive for the existing one.  Oh, and a little thing called the Forward Conference this weekend.  Yeah, that's happening.  Although it doesn't affect us severely as it used to, we'll see that shift in the coming years as Madison gets older.  Of course, that can wait.

Madison continues doing math, reading books too.  And Daddy's reading books at the same time as well.  Tonight the three of us sat together in the master bedroom on the bed reading different books, this nice pleasant quiet time together.  Almost like snuggling, but with some sort of intellectual side.  Of course, Madison is not reading any literary masterpiece:  she had Eloise books with her.  And Daddy wasn't reading anything of significance either.  Unless you count the Kingdom Keepers as significant.  Not long ago, Mommy got Daddy the last book in Disney's Kingdom Keepers series, book number seven.  She even got it signed by Ridley Pearson, and got a small official keychain light that actually is mentioned in the book.  The thing has come in handy recently, once during a big power outage at the church.  This is a rabbit trail, but we work in a place with no windows, deep underground - and no emergency lights.  When the power goes off, we all sit there feeling our way out towards the exit the best we can.  We can be in there, and have no idea that there's terrifying weather outside either.  The only indication is the blinking of power, and a phone call from outside the building warning us to stay safe.  Ultimately, this is the safest place to be in the church for many of the reasons listed above.  We're up against a wall of dirt down one floor without any windows.

Which makes my little Kingdom Keepers flashlight handy.  This book series has been going on for a few years - I'm guessing seven.  It just so happens that when the Kingdom Keepers went on the Disney Cruise, we did too.  The timing was perfect - the sixth book had a cruise theme too, and we went on another.  This last book takes place in Disneyland, which I haven't been to in years.  Maybe we can make the trip, huh?

Anyway, it's a good book - and although it is advertised as the last in the series, it ends in such a way that clearly the adventure continues.  So it doesn't have that one hundred percent sense of closure about it, which is by design - of course folks will want to go out and get the next set of spin-off books.

Yes, Daddy reads books for younger kids.  But I'm a kid at heart, okay?  The last few books have been historical, so I've been in the mood for some lighter reading.  Next up, Terry Pratchett's latest - although I probably have to wait to receive that as a gift (hint, hint!).

So we sat and read together for a bit, and then it was time to sleep pretty much.  Mommy stayed in bed, as Daddy and Madison drug themselves down the hall for the closing ceremonies down there:  Madison brushes her teeth, drinks her Silk (like she has since we've had her), we say our prayers and go to sleep.  Sleep - sounds good right now!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Art Camp 2014

Camp-a-palooza continued this morning with a trip to the Quinlan Arts Center for a new art camp that has a science theme to it, as you can see above by their logo.  The morning started as it did last year with a brief parent orientation, which also translated for an opportunity to come inside and explore the gallery with Madison.  On the walls were some great scenic photography, and a room of paintings of various subjects - and another hallway filled with some quirky work that the three of us enjoyed tremendously.  We enjoyed seeing those rooms.  The main gallery, however, was another matter, as it was filled with abstract painting after abstract painting with vague names.  We'd look at one and scratch our heads, and then see the title, "Dawn of a New Day" or something like that.  But I'm being dead serious when I tell you it looked like a Wal-Mart imploded.  Here, judge for yourself:

I'm not mentioning the name of the artist, but I'm not the biggest fan of abstract work to begin with.  There's some I get, understand and appreciate.  But a lot of it puzzles me, apparently!  I wonder if Madison will be doing any abstract works this week?

We left her at the Arts Center, and made our way to the chiropractor for our check-up.  Missing was Madison for this visit - we'll keep that one a secret from her for now, shall we?  She really does love going to the chiropractor.  But we signed her up for art camp after scheduling the visit, so we decided to go onward with the alignments.  Speaking of which, since Saturday, Daddy has has a sloshy feeling inside his ears.  It happened after going over the mountains near Toccoa, when his ears popped.  And then, it's as if the water from the swimming pool some time ago finally became dislodged or something - I had no idea it was even in there.  And it's annoying!  So Sunday we were trying the tricks everyone recommended, such as:

1.  Pouring more water into the ear, to break the seal.
2.  Pouring alcohol in the ear.  Not beer though.  Unless you want to sing that old Hank Williams' song, "There's a Beer in my Ear."
3.  Ear suction thingies.  We had that rubber ball with a suction thing at one side.

Today, we tried more aggressive treatment at the chiropractor.  I am not making this up:  after the back alignment, I had one genuine "ear adjustment."  This basically involves grabbing the patient's ear, and tugging it off.  Fortunately, it has been glued on pretty good, so Doc Williams couldn't add another ear to his private collection.  There was all kinds of cracking and so forth, and the general promise that things would work themselves out soon enough.  And for added insurance, there was one more thing done:  he assigned his assistant to the job of attacking my ear with a large vibrating thing for a few minutes.

So that's five attempts so far.  Are we finished with the ear therapy yet?  No sir!  After visiting Cracker Barrel with Mommy on a date, we went to one of those generic nutrition shops nearby, and got some ear candles.  Ever hear of those things?  This was a big event this afternoon, with Mommy and Madison attending to Daddy, the patient.  They had him on the floor, laying on his side - and then they stuck this ear candle through a paper plate and into his ear canal.  Then they lit the candle, which started to work like a vacuum cleaner, sucking any gunk that was left out of my ear.

At this moment, I'm not entirely sure if all is clear or not - my ears have been attacked so much today that I'm giving it another day.  At least I don't feel like my ears are in a shoebox anymore.

ANYWAY, as mentioned above, Madison did come home.  Daddy picked her up from art camp, and she had a swell time.  She did some water color painting, and painted a shark and some fishes and a really big crab.  We do not know if this was Sebastian or not.  Madison also learned about some artists today, and ran around outside for some fun.  She likes camp a lot, so this will be a great week for her.

When we got home, it was bath time, and reading time - she read five books today, to add to the list.  She's now over halfway through her reading program, with only thirty-something books left to go.  She sat on the couch with these books, reading them one by one to Mommy, who enjoys hearing her read.  Another thing Madison did was play some piano - not much though.  Daddy has to get with Mrs. Pam about the rest of her playing assignment, and see how to do it!  Until then, Madison is getting better and better with this one piece of music that she's playing over and over again - it's called "Moon Dreamer," and it's tough.  But she's been doing it again and again and again and again!

We finished the story mode of "The Lego Movie" game later, and then there was dinner - sloppy joes!  And after that, it was movie time together.  In light of some recent news - and the upcoming series we have at KidPak - we watched the first of of the Little Mermaid movies, actually the prequel to begin with.  This ties to something that's coming up, hopefully it will come to pass!

Sunday, June 22, 2014


So the gangster tribe was back this morning at KidPak, reminding everyone to "fug-get-about-it!"  That's the theme of Manasseh, forgetting your past, forgetting your limitations, and even sometimes forgetting your own strengths.  One great benefit for Madison (and the cast):  more cannoli!  The gangsters, as you can see above, were thrilled to be invited to join the rest of the tribes.  And this year, Madison got to see them on stage:

KidPak JR is with us in the big auditorium, so Madison is transitioning with her grade into our group now, placing even more importance on each service, if that were possible.  We always strive for the ultimate in excellence, and now for Daddy that's going overboard.

SPEAKING of which, we had yet another really interesting confirmation about doing an "Under the Sea" series today.  The plan is to do that for the kids in August and September - it was pushed back a month because we didn't think we could pull it all together by July.  It turns out there are two events during those two months that go well with our series:  Shark Week and the release of "Dolphin Tale 2."  But even bigger news is that we could have somewhat of a famous Disney celebrity dropping by KidPak.  The girl gangster in the top picture, happens to know somebody that has to do with Disney and "Under the Sea," and let's just say that might be something interesting coming up here soon.  Keep an eye on that one!

We got home later as always - lately we've been helping KidPak Español set up a bit, although today's set up was significantly less.  So we got home... and took a nap.  When we woke up, we were not terribly productive - unless you count moving up levels in "The LEGO Movie" game as productive.  Madison and I are nearly done with the story mode, but as with most LEGO games, that's only 37% completed or so.  The adventure goes on.  And on, actually, because we watched "The LEGO Movie" with Mommy tonight, just one more time.  We had popcorn and so forth, and redid the Movie Bash with our own Home Movie Bash.  That's what Madison called it.  Basically, the other night, Mommy had an allergic reaction to SOMETHING with gluten in it, which spoiled the evening for her - and then some.  So tonight, we sat together and recreated the events, sitting and resting on the couch before going to bed early.  And a whole lot of tickle fights.  Yes, there tickle fights.  Mommy started them, in my defense.  She attacked Madison, and it was soon all-out war.  The fighting started with small skirmishes in the living room, and escalated into full scale conflict all the way up to the higher elevations - her room.  Peace treaties were signed after extensive negotiations, and tonight there is finally quiet in the house - the Tickle War is experiencing a cease fire.

Tonight, Daddy whipped together a double-decker couch made out of LEGO parts.  It's pretty simple, but it fits four, and is currently sitting on the kitchen table for Madison when she gets up tomorrow.  That'll be a fun surprise - she's excited about that double decker couch.  All the kids were on Friday night - if they were to make a double decker couch kit, I would snatch it up pretty quickly.  As is, I'll probably be out looking for the parts to make it as accurate to the original that I can.  It's that important!

Tonight we had an early bedtime, which is good:  Madison (and all of us) get up earlier tomorrow for Art Camp.  It has a science theme, and it has us going back to the Quinlan Art Center for the first time since last year.  Madison had a fantastic time last year, so she's excited about the opportunity again this year.  It'll be another great summer camp for her!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Georgia Guidestones

Daddy sort of went "old school" with a trip to a Roadside America sort of place, a location he's never been before:  the Georgia Guidestones.  Here are a few photos of the Guidestones, along with his buddies, still crazy after all these years.

Here they are, the Georgia Guidestones.
Be not a cancer.  Or a mild cough.
Look closely.

Your guide for the Guidestones.
Look through this hole on the Summer Solstice and ... cheer up, pal.
Behold!  The power of the Guidestones!
Typical tourist shot.
Typical tourist shot, for us.
We call him "Big Long Extended Arm Guy Alan"

This is the sort of thing we used to do all the time, going to Roadside America sort of places together like Trees of Mystery, Wall Drug, South of the Border, or the House on the Rock.  Today was a birthday party for one of our friends, and it just so happened that the Georgia Guidestones are roughly fifteen minutes from his house.  How come we haven't been here yet?

The Georgia Guidestones:  Majestic.  Forbidding.  Aloof.

This past Christmas, Mommy got Daddy a book filled with conspiracy theories and so forth.  It was a fun read, and there was a chapter dedicated to the Guidestones inside - the mystery being who put them up and why.  Only a few people know, and they aren't sharing the information, which only adds to the intrigue.  Is it a cult-like organization?  Is it a single visionary sort of guy with a lot of money to spend? Is it a huge practical joke?

Well, we've already messed that one up.

The first "commandment" on the stones adds a bit of menace about keeping the population below 500,000,000.  This has freaked a few people out - these stones are seen by some as a new world order kind of thing.  Which is something new world order people in high places would do, of course:  place giant stones like this in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason.

One theory is that when these were built, there was a fear of nuclear war, and these stones would be useful in "guiding" a new civilization that rises up from the ashes.  These simple words in all languages are words to guide a new group of presumably humans as they try to reshape the world. *


The Georgia Guidestones were a fairly big investment.  I mean, look at the size of those stones.  And much is made of where they are placed, and how they can tell the summer solstice, which in a huge moment of irony, was today.  We had no idea when we visited that this was a big deal.  This place had about five or six other cars full of people there, some of them very impressed with what they saw.  A little too impressed, actually.  But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, although all I could see was four large slabs with a bunch of writing on each one.  In all seriousness, I enjoyed our visit to Carhenge much more - although this may be because of the extensive drive to get there.  An obscure Roadside America attraction is not appreciated by the people who live around it so much.  Or perhaps it is that the Georgia Guidestones are a bit on the preachy side, whereas Carhenge speaks to all of us in so many ways without sounding so condescending or creepy.

We found a typo.

Regardless, it was an interesting diversion.  Madison did not come along for this one.  She stayed at the house with Mommy, where the two spent a good part of the morning planting a garden.  We have tomatoes and peppers again, and room for something else.  One interesting thing was the tomato plant that was already growing in the garden before we planted anything - it was a holdover from last year, evidence of the power of planting a seed.  We didn't intentionally plant it, but somehow through our traumatic winter, this seed survived and has grown into quite a healthy looking plant.

Madison's other diversion is the Barbie movie "The Princess and the Popstar."  Madison and Daddy sat and watched this together - Madison has seen it a few times since receiving it for her birthday.  The creator of the Guidestones would be very disappointed to hear that I found this video much more entertaining.  Plus, as a bonus, there are practical rules for living contained inside this movie.

Honestly - it would be much more refreshing to see a monument with these words from "The Princess and the Popstar" engraved on it in huge letters:


If I were rich, I'd anonymously hire some sculptor to make nineteen foot slabs, and have that quote engraved in eight or nine languages.  Not being a cancer on this earth is pretty obvious - let's give those surviving folks something valuable to go by in the post-apocalyptic age!


*  Here are the ten guiding principles engraved in all those languages on the Georgia Guidestones.  

Okay, we've covered this one above.  We're about six billion people over the mark currently, but balancing with nature is a fairly decent idea.  Kind of common sense, but I guess there are a few people that need it pointed out again.  If only we can drag them to this stone and make them read it.

So in case you didn't get the first "commandment," here we go again about guiding reproduction wisely (see "keeping population below 500,000,000").  Isn't this redundant?  Obviously the creator of this monument thinks there are too many people around.  Maybe it was just a few neighbors that kept having loud parties at night.  Anyway, one profound clue here is this:  they want to improve fitness.  Clearly, this person was/is probably a fitness instructor.  That explains the improving fitness part, anyway.  

As opposed to a dead new language?  What does that even mean?  Maybe it makes better sense when you read it in Chinese.  Or Hebrew.  Or Swahili.  Seriously, it's written in Swahili, just in case somebody who speaks Swahili is in the area - probably picking up firecrackers in South Carolina - and happens upon these large slabs in the middle of nowhere.  I can see them now, looking along the side of the road, thinking to themselves, "Hiyo ni nini?  Mtu lazima wamekuwa kuchoka!"

Because you never know who will be dropping by North Georgia to read this.
Basically, this is translated as saying, "Use common sense with everything."  But common sense is something you don't get from reading a large stone standing in the middle of nowhere.  In fact, some could argue that everything about the Georgia Guidestones missed out on the "tempered reason" bit.

Just in case there were some people that were thinking, "Hey, I think we'll set up some unfair laws and unjust courts."  This might as well be covered in rule four, right?  I guess it all has to be said.

Because the U.N. has been such an effective role model.

And here we were thinking petty laws and useless officials were a good idea.  Thank goodness somebody went through the effort to inscribe this in stone as a reminder!  See rule #4.  Just what is a petty law, anyway?  Is there another stone somewhere that lists some petty laws?  I mean, we just need a bit of clarification - are we talking about grand theft auto?  Or genocide (in order to keep the population below 500,000,000?).

Testing to see if they in fact will fall over like dominoes.

Well, duh?  I'm curious how this list came about.  Were there a few more rules on the list that got bumped off so we could round it off at an even ten?  I'd hate to see the rule that this one bumped off.  Can you imagine the brainstorming session that created this?  Maybe it was some guy sitting by himself at a Waffle House, scribbling some thoughts down on a note pad and saying to himself, "This is great stuff!  I ought to share this with everybody!"

Got the first part, but the "seeking harmony with the infinite" bit is a little vague.  Can you be a bit more specific?  All I can think of is Buzz Lightyear - "To Infinity and beyond!"

Not being a cancer again is fairly obvious, but perhaps some folks need to be reminded about that one.  And I'm convinced the sculptor was told engrave "leave room for nature" only once, and messed up.  Again, we're already in perpetual balance with nature (rule #1), so I think this is somewhat redundant, right?  At least we finish strong with the "Be not a cancer."  Sure, it's obvious.  But there's a bit of poetry about it at least.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Ballet Camp 2014

Here's our little ballerina again at the end of Ballet Camp.  The last fifteen minutes of the three hour session ended with a mini-recital that the parents could enjoy too.  Madison is posing, as are all the other ballerinas - Daddy just caught this pose right in the middle of the performance and it was pretty cute!  The big finale was them dancing to "Everything is Awesome," which makes for a nice theme of the day of course - later on in the evening was the Summer Movie Bash, where we'd watch "The LEGO Movie" at KidPak.

But let's talk about the dancing first:  Madison did really good!  There were a lot of older kids in the group, but Madison kept up with them very well.  Lately, she's been into doing group dances, and keeping up with the rest of the dancing crew.  She loves doing it, and it showed.  Despite the challenge in front of her, she was pretty fearless, doing her best to dance with the rest.  We were pretty impressed!  Way to go, Madison!

And next, we were at Summer Movie Bash.  Of course, there was dinner at Chick-Fil-A first - and then Dairy Queen for some Dilly Bars.  And after that... Summer Movie Bash, where everything was awesome!

It was a fun night - we've been holding off on watching the movie since the release date on Tuesday.  We did see it in February, of course, but it's been a while.  All the kids really loved it, and of course Madison did too.  You can see her munching on popcorn and snacks with everyone else - they had a great night!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Reading Program 2014

Great Going Madison!  The difference this year is that she's reading all these books entirely on her own.  We're pretty proud of her - above is just a few of the books that are recorded on the library's website that keeps track of her progress.  She's not quite halfway there, but summer isn't halfway over yet, and there were a couple of really busy weeks for her so far.  But she gets home and gets to reading right away.  And she does some math exercises too - we're doing larger math problems now, ones where you have double or triple digit numbers that involve "borrowing," which was always a bit of a hassle for me as a kid.  I thought math was cool, but hated when you had to borrow.  I have no idea why.  But Madison seems to be getting the concept a bit - it's a new thing, and Mommy and Daddy are being teachers with it, trying to explain it to her carefully.

We're trying to keep her busy with everything but video games - saving that as a reward of sorts.  Ballet Camp takes up a three hours a day right now - she's learning to do a bit of jazz dancing this week, which is also entirely new.  She's doing well though, and dancing to the theme song from "The Lego Movie," ironically enough.  I say ironically, because the day she'll be performing this is also the day of our movie bash, where we'll be watching that movie at KidPak.  It'll be a theme for the day!

And it's a theme of the week, really.  Tonight we left Cloud Cuckoo Land in the "The Lego Movie" game, opening a few new characters along the way.  Madison is really enjoying this game a lot.  We saved this for last, and it was late so we decided to forgo the movie in favor of just some solid gaming.  She really likes doing this, of course.

Daddy and Mommy had the day off in a way, although Mommy spent quite a bit of it with chores around the house.  It can be a big deal cleaning up after us.  In fact, this may be one of the new "big things" with Madison:  her playroom was a disaster.  It was the worst that we've ever seen it, a complete mess.  You couldn't walk in a single part of the room.  Along with Madison, we spent a solid hour and half trying to pick up the mess - and we still didn't completely finish.  We're considering what to do with that room.  I think the amount of things she's been given over the years has started to get overwhelming, so we're going to go through a process of figuring out what to do with it all.  A small purge is coming, as there's stuff there that she's clearly outgrown.  The blessing is that we know some parents with children that we could recycle this stuff to.

We did try to go to the pool today.  Nana and Ye-Ye even came over and met at the pool, but there was a rumble of thunder in the air that stayed around for over an hour.  It was distant enough not to be an immediate threat, but the lifeguard was playing it safe - so we instead went over to the playground.  It was cool outside, and Madison loved going down the slide and climbing around.  As an added bonus, she met a friend from school who happened to be having a picnic with her parents' softball team.  So it all worked out, as Daddy and Ye-Ye and Nana sat and talked for a bit at a nearby picnic table.

It wasn't necessarily a monumental day, but we did squeeze a lot in there, now that we look at it after the fact.  Daddy even got some reading in for a bit this afternoon, and we also got to sit together for some tea, which is becoming a pleasant addiction of late.  Tomorrow is looking to be a bigger day, of course.  Lots going on there - and in the weeks to come!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Roller Coasters and more

Today was a huge work day for Daddy, as each Wednesday typically is.  The show goes on for Madison though, who continued her work at ballet camp.  The funny thing at the beginning of the week was that we were sort of poking fun at a mom wanting her daughter to be "stretched and challenged" by this ballet camp - she was worried that this would just be some sort of fun week for little ballerinas.  Here's the humor:  Madison is being stretched and challenged.  I don't know if that other little girl is, but Madison certainly is doing all sorts of new things that she's never done before.  And doing all these things with older and more experienced girls is a pretty good thing, actually.  To begin with, I was a little worried actually.  Here's little Madison amongst a sea of taller, older girls.  But she seems to be holding her own.  In some ways, she seems like a mascot to a few, a younger friend that you feel obliged to look after.  But in other ways, there she is all alone and center stage, doing that jazzy thing with her shoulders, the thing she just learned two days ago.  She's a joy to watch - which is something we can see for the last few minutes of each session.  The door stays open, and all the parents crowd around that entrance to get a peek of their child, attempting the new choreography.

So we're looking ahead a bit.  Of course, it has been noted here that we're doing art camp next week - that much is certain and solid.  The other plan is to go in July to Florida.  This visit we may try Sea World out, as Madison likes dolphins quite a bit.  She'll see a lot of other sea creatures there as well - all new experiences, which of course sounds good.  Hopefully she'll learn a bit while there.  They do have some pretty nifty roller coasters there, possibly the biggest ones she's ever seen so far - up until now, the only ones she's seen are at Disney.  The coasters at Islands of Adventures and Sea World and Busch Gardens are quite impressive - Daddy has ridden on all of them (except this new Manta one at Sea World).  I love all of them.  I'm somewhat of a roller coaster aficionado.  My current favorite is "The Hulk" at Islands of Adventure, although the wooden one at Busch Gardens is amazing - it's called "Gwazi."  The "Dueling Dragons" gets you a little dizzy because you don't have a much of a view as you're tossed around - although it's unforgettable looking downward to see another roller coaster spiraling a corkscrew with you on a separate track.  Busch Gardens grows roller coasters.  It's a weird mix of wild animals and roller coasters everywhere.  There are honestly too many roller coasters in that park - they just keep adding more and more.  But we keep going back to test them all out.  Some day, Daddy will make the trip up to Ohio's Cedar Point, where the most epic roller coasters of all are.  And speaking of which, there's a new one at Disney that just opened this month, the Seven Dwarves Mine Train.  We ordered a special pin from Disney Movie Rewards for that, a pin that commemorates the grand opening of this new ride at the Magic Kingdom.  We may see that in October.  We may see a big line for it too - it just depends on what Madison wants to do then.  She may or may not be into the roller coaster thing, depending on the Shamu Express experience.  But if she likes it, maybe we'll even be heading over to Thunder Mountain.  Who can forget riding that, or Space Mountain for the first time?  the thrill of something new and just absolutely stunning the senses.  Space Mountain is one of the ultimate experiences - such a simple concept, and yet so amazing.

It took Daddy a long time to get on a roller coaster - but I remember riding the Mind Bender over and over again at Atlanta's Six Flags, and it was like Christmas.  I couldn't wait to do it over and over again.  And then there are the wooden roller coasters - The Scream Machine, and Daddy's favorite there:  the Georgia Cyclone.  Call me old fashioned, but I like that one.  Of course, there's a zillion roller coasters at Six Flags now.  There's not much else there for Madison though, which is why we haven't been there yet.  Eventually we'll get there.

How funny that I get really dizzy on the spinning rides, and especially those indoor theaters that have implied motion.  Those get me sick, except for Star Tours, which I'm thankful for.  But roller coasters are no problem.  Madison tried her first roller coaster this year at LegoLand Florida, and wasn't a big fan of it.  From what I see, there's a kid roller coaster there at SeaWorld called the Shamu Express - we'll probably try that one out, and a few other kids rides.  But the main purpose of our visit will be to see the wildlife, particularly the seals and the orcas.  And the penguins and dolphins.  After our recent aquarium visit, it appears she's into penguins a bit.  She got this pink penguin doll - Daddy bought that for her, and it's been in bed with her each night.

One aspect of the Sea World visit will be added insight as we go forward with a new series at KidPak, called "Going Overboard."  Or some title like that.  It could be "Under the Sea."  Still going back and forth on that, but it will have a underwater theme, somewhat like our Fish Tales series from a few years ago.  One message will be dedicated to sharks, and we'll time it with Discovery Channel's "Shark Week."  Also, we'll do a "Dolphin Tale" message, and time that with the release weekend of the new sequel movie, "Dolphin Tale 2."  Somewhere in this series will be a whole lot of under water movie watching:  you can guarantee we'll be seeing the "The Little Mermaid" trilogy again, and "Finding Nemo."  And probably "Shark Tale" again, although that is not one of my favorites.  But we'll certainly be watching some Spongebob in there.  Seasons one and two are near-essential viewing, and will be epic Father-daughter time.  How can you beat the "F.U.N." episode?  And seriously, that episode with the fishing hooks is a great one to show the power and danger of temptation.

But all that is the future.  As for today, it was work for Daddy.  Madison did math on her computer again, and some more reading for the reading program.  Her Inspector Gadget is slowly growing more pieces, soon to be fully assembled by the end of the summer.  She'll just look over and suddenly realize he has a new part.

She was up when Daddy got home.  That makes for a late night, but she wanted to wait to go to bed until Daddy got back home.  Unfortunately, it was a late night at church, and so she was up pretty late.  It's summer though, and we don't have to set the alarm in the morning.  Which is pretty awesome.  That's one reason to love summertime.  But we're just getting started - there's lots to love about summer, and it sounds like there's lots to come.