Sunday, August 31, 2014

Jumping Jellyfish!

After three hours of sleep, Daddy got right back up again and we got things started at KidPak.  You can see Josh there - both of us are pretty wiped out by this point, but it's a great feeling knowing all that work paid off:  the kids really enjoyed it.  Madison got to see the service twice, and Mr. Juan did a great job as the voice of the shark.  He had quite a bit of menace to the morning, threatening our main characters and driving the ongoing series onward.  Meanwhile, our message about Dagon and the Philistines was effective with that bottom line:  have no other gods before the one true God.

     His name was Dagon, and he was just a statue – and a weird one at that. He had a human head and arms, but a great big fish tale instead of legs. A long time ago, the Philistines created this statue because that was the image of their god. They had fallen for this fish tale for many years, but Dagon was about to fall himself when put in the presence of the one true God!
     You see, the Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant from the Israelites. The Ark, of course, was the presence of God that was carried with the Israelites wherever they went. Now, it was in the Philistines’ hands – who left it in Dagon’s Temple right next to the fish god.
     There’s only one God, and we can never have anything larger in our lives than the one true God – and these Philistines found that out the hard way. They marched into their temple the next day and something was fishy: Dagon had fallen over, flat on the ground before the Ark of the Covenant. You’d think the Philistines would have gotten the big picture then and there – every knee shall bow before God.
     Yet they propped up their poor little fish god and put him back in place. What kind of god are you serving if you have to help him around? But once Dagon, the Mermaid Man, was put back into place, the same thing happened all over again: the statue fell over before the presence of God – this time breaking off Dagon’s head and hands.
     The Philistines tried to send it elsewhere in their land, but curse after curse rained down upon them until one day they decided they’d had enough. They strapped the Ark to a cart with some cows and pushed it off away from their country. Funny, even the Philistine’s cows knew who the real God was. They took that Ark right back to the Israelites where it belonged.
     It should have been clear to the Philistines who the real God was – in fact, anything else is just fishy.

We stopped to pose for a picture in between services, and it was nice because Mommy got to stop as well. We still have one more character to add, but the sea turtle won't appear until next week.  Our videos were absolutely great this morning too.  Lots of work went into these - just as much as what went into the shark video.

Here's Daddy doing a bit of deep sea diving when he discovered a statue that could be of Dagon.  The two have a conversation about not having any other gods, which sort of explains why this one statue was chunked to the bottom of the sea.  The other video was an idea that Daddy and Josh came up with:

Daddy's character was obsessed with the Quaker Oats Man, almost treating him like a god.  That's when the Quaker Oats Man pops into the kitchen from out of nowhere - think of Powdered Toast Man there - and has a conversation with the two guys at the table.  Yes, there is no other god but the real one.  And just as the lesson is learned, the same portal that delivered the Quaker Oats Man opens - and out comes the Land O' Lakes Lady.  She tells him that the Jolly Green Giant is in danger, and from here, the two must go quickly!  This is all a set-up for an 'Avengers'-style team-up that we're pretty stoked about:  a superhero team made up of the Quaker Oats Man, Land O' Lakes Lady, Jolly Green Giant - and maybe a few others:  Uncle Ben, Aunt Jemima, Lucky the Leprechaun, and the Morton Salt Girl.  There's plenty to choose from, and they can do battle against the likes of the Pillsbury Doughboy!  All in the name of making a point, of course...!

We got home mid-afternoon, and everything was just peachy!  Seriously, we all had a great morning at KidPak, but it was time for a quick bite to eat, and then a pretty hefty nap for Daddy, making up time for last night.  Mommy needed a little rest as well, but we were all up late afternoon for a few minor tasks.  One thing was finishing up piano practice.  Madison did just that, which has been easy so far.  Still, she needed a tiny bit of motivation to complete the task, which is where that Minecraft calendar came in handy.  She is on Day Seven of the calendar, with just eighteen days to go there.

We did not get to a movie tonight, as Mommy was getting busy setting things up for Labor Day tomorrow.  The family is coming over, so we will want to have everything set up and cooked and ready to go.  Looking forward to that - for one thing, we'll have our rest.

Tonight we played a video game, but a new one that we have had a while, and simply not tried out yet:  Toy Story Mania.  Madison and Daddy really liked this one, playing in non-stop for a while, trying to hit as many targets as possible.  The game is basically a recreation of the ride down at Disney's Hollywood Studios.  The ride itself is really, really basic:  you just go from screen to screen, shooting at various targets with a Toy Story theme.  The difference between the game we have and the ride is that we're doing this one at home.  And there's no one-hour wait, or a race to get a Fast Pass.  Seriously, this is the most popular ride in that park - or at least it was when we were there.  So we basically have the ride in our house now, minus a few bells and whistles.  We got so many achievements today playing the game - it was a lot of fun.

But as you can imagine, we were all a bit tired.  We retired for the night early, and went through the routine of bedtime:  prayers, Bible, brushing teeth, checking for bugs, and reading another chapter from the latest Never Girls book.  Note to self:  stay away from Mist Horses.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Jump the Shark

Today we made a shark.  You'll see a picture tomorrow, but this beast was quite an enterprise to create.  It involved a lot of sculpting and sanding of styrofoam, and then a bit of foam applied with contact cement, lots of paint and lots of work.  We spent HOURS and HOURS on this one, essentially the entire day at the warehouse, until around three in the morning.  That's right:  three in the morning.  There were three of us working on these puppets, which were fun to create, but the wear-and-tear is there, and we're certainly glad we're moving on to something new soon.  We're glad to have tried it, but it is definitely time to take a rest!

Daddy and Madison woke up this morning and played some games together for a bit.  Daddy knew it was going to be a big day, so he and Madison made the best of our time together by hanging out, reading and playing games.  

Mommy and Madison were helpful for the service at KidPak too:  they were shopping for outfits and visiting Goodwill to see about props and costuming.  They had good fortune there, and didn't have any trouble getting what was needed.  So on to the grocery store then went next, shopping for food and items needed for our Labor Day holiday coming up.  The last few years, we've gone to the museum, but this year we'll spend some time with family at our house.  We can maybe use the pool, or just hang out here and eat lots of food.  The weather is supposed to be nice Monday, so we'll see about that.

The weather today was quite an adventure, certainly hot, hot, hot to begin with.  The humidity was such that you just knew there were storms coming, and come they did.  There we were in the warehouse, with the tin roof and large open doors - and the storms powered across the state, pounding us time after time.  We just kept working away, enjoying the cool breezes as the ground was drenched just a few feet away.  One of the guys wanted to hear the Georgia football game, which did not get rained out - although Clemson probably wished it did.  And so we worked late into the night. 

Meanwhile, Madison is already done with her classroom assignment online - the one that's due in two weeks.  She's been working ahead, and acing all the language and math problems she is presented with.  It is great to see her enthusiasm here - she's self-motivated to get it all done, and that is just fine with us.

So tomorrow the shark will present itself.  Daddy got home extremely late - or early depending on how you look at it.  But we've worked hard for the day, no question about it.  Hopefully it'll be a good one with this shark.

Which brings us to the title of this blog.  For those unfamiliar with the term, Jump the Shark is a phrase that signifies that one moment in an ongoing television series where things begin to go downhill in quality.  We've been at this in KidPak for ten years now, and of course we've had our highs and lows.  But as evidenced by our co-workers' passion, and the late nights, we are a long ways from jumping the shark at KidPak.  Especially with Madison right there in the mix now - what a blessing to see her in there, learning alongside the others.  For years, Mommy and Daddy gave our all to this ministry so that we could be a blessing to so many children, hundreds and hundreds of them, with creativity and lots of hard work.  And here we are now, with Madison there, and it is like things have come full circle.  If anything, we work harder now at making things the best they can be.  No jumping the shark here!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Mr. Pricklepants

With some of the other toys and stuffed animals under quarantine, it's time for the back-ups to step up, which is what Mr. Pricklepants has done in stirring fashion.  His acting chops have no doubt helped, but Mr. Pricklepants has accompanied Madison throughout the house this week, keeping her company. Despite the original prognosis, Madison has had a good week, as daily check-ups seem to be producing less and less.  However, we're still finding things here or there each morning and night, which is to be expected.  We just have to keep on checking, and of course reapply a shampoo in just a few days from now.  Until then, Mr. Pricklepants has been vigilant in keeping Madison's spirits up.  Earlier this week, we did see Mr. Pricklepants in a movie, "Toy Story of Terror," which is obviously something we'll be adding to our October playlist.  Great movie!

Madison didn't have any after school activities, but she did do a bit of piano and she did also bring home her classroom assignments that have been collected and sent home.  Here we see her learning in action: math skills are big.  She's got some things to learn with the apostrophe, which we were reviewing with her a bit after school.  Also, there's this business of the collective noun.  For some reason the class is really hammering this collective noun bit over and over again, which Madison had mastered from the first exercise.  Still, there are the assignments on the computer and on worksheets that she has to fill out, identifying collective nouns.

Which is such a weird, menacing word, isn't it?  Collective?  It reminds you of the Borg from "Star Trek Generation."  We haven't gotten to those episodes yet, but when you think of collective, you think of a hive or a communist nation or a big brother sort of thing.  Which brings me to this ministry we have at our church, reaching people from college age to somewhere in their thirties.  Nothing wrong with the ministry of course, but the name of the ministry is "The Collective." This does not make me think of anything to do with ministry.  It makes me think, "Prepare to be Assimilated!"

Or All Your Base Are Belong to Us.  Beware, because the collective nouns are coming.  You have no chance to survive make your time.  Main screen turn on.  Somebody set up us the bomb.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Eat our Dust, Miguel!

We had just enough time before bedtime to pull out this game that we borrowed from the school.  It's called "Money Bags," and it really does a good job of teaching the values of different coins, challenging kids (and grown-ups) to get the right change.  The challenge comes in arriving at a total without using dimes, or nickels, or quarters - it just depends on the spinner.  There's all sorts of plastic coins to distribute, and Madison played the role of banker tonight, a role she relished.  She was doling out coins all night, but didn't get the most money in tonight's game:  that honor went to Mommy, who racked up nearly three dollars thanks to a couple stops by the vault.

This board game was fun.  And educational.  It's actually a bit easier at this point than the "Let's Go Shopping" game we played earlier - we'll be playing this again soon, actually.  There were some things that were easy for Madison, and then a few moments that were slightly challenging, but not enough to cause any stress.  It's just the right level of difficulty for her right now, and again, it's all educational so there's a big win for the night already.

We are still examining the hair, still bathing and still nit-picking.  Madison was at school today, where she had a good day - although it sometimes is difficult actually getting her to talk about what she learned that day.  One thing we know she's getting started on is a new internet website that teaches concepts and runs through drills.  Just like last year's, this one motivates her with rankings and coins that can be traded in for games and so forth.  Here's the most recent ranking:

Eat our dust, Miguel!  Of course, we're kidding there.  Earlier, Miguel had the lead, and Madison is sort of competitive, and of course we had to change that.  The neat thing about this is that Madison was really quick with her assignment - she has no problem at all with placing hundreds, tens and ones.  Her only challenge comes when she goes too fast, but isn't that everyone's problem?  Haste makes waste.

Fifty days from now, we're at Disney World.  It just so happens that Daddy got online today to check in for our hotel.  Yes, we're checked in fifty days in advance.  I'm not sure why you would need to do this, but I was there already and figured why not?  Actually, another motivation of mine was to get in an early request to stay at the Toy Story wing of the All Star Resort.  As much as Daddy wants to stay at the Herbie side, Madison would love to see all the Toy Story stuff out there.  Hopefully that'll work out.

We also ordered the new wristbands, which are essentially keys to the doors and tickets for parks and reservations for restaurants. We don't need that much on these wristbands this time - in fact, one day we're going to SeaWorld.  But nevertheless, we're getting wristbands, ones that we can pick the colors for.  Madison and Mommy went with a red color, and Daddy went for green, for reasons that'll become apparent later.

We did our piano practice, figuring out one bit on our own.  Mrs. Pam sent a "how to" email later for all the parents, explaining that she forgot to explain this one.  Fortunately, Daddy somehow figured it out on his own.  I say this with pride, because I am usually not able to figure these out on my own!

There was a bit of gardening done today, and lightbulbs changed too.  And more laundry.  Ever since the news this week earlier, we've been doing lots of laundry.  Some toys are still under quarantine, but the first week is nearly over, right?

Oh, and we did some aeronautics today!  That's right - we got our paper airplane to soar incredibly off the back deck.  You should have seen this one graceful flight Madison launched - it was one of those gentle, airborne journeys that lasted eight or nine seconds, which is a long time when you consider paper airplanes.  We got the design from a book, carefully following the directions together and doing a lot of folding.  The earliest flight tests were unsuccessful, as the flaps in the back were apparently pulled downward too much, causing the plane to spiral downward quickly.  By pulling these in a more upward direction, the plane stayed airborne much longer, to our great satisfaction.  This one plane was launched at least ten times off the back deck, as Daddy was running up and down the steps to get it.  One time Madison did, but she had a stumble up the stairs, which wasn't cool.  This upset her - and Daddy of course.  We don't like boo-boos.  But right away she was distracted with the idea of launching the plane again, and that helped make her forget everything.

We made a call on Skype to Florida, talking to Ba-ba and Nana there.  Using our iPad, we can take the 'show on the road.'  Meaning, we can carry the iPad over to the piano, and there, Madison performed "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho" for her grandparents.  And then we carried the camera over to the computer, where the grandparents watched Madison take the ice bucket challenge.  We talked a pretty long time with them this afternoon, and all for free.  Technology is amazing.

Tonight as Madison was getting her hair checked once again, Daddy read to her.  This helped pass the time.  We're still reading the latest Never Girls book, which is something Madison is really enamored with.  These books have really got her attention, and this nightly ritual has been a highlight of each day.  Right now, one of the characters is riding on a mist horse, which at the moment we suspect isn't a good thing.  One thing you should always do is listen to Queen Clarion.

After Madison went to bed, Mommy and Daddy finally got around to watching a movie with Robin Williams in it, one we haven't actually seen yet called "August Rush."  As the month of August is nearly over with, there was a bit of pressure to see it this month.  It would be embarrassing to watch it in September now, wouldn't it?  Anyway, the movie was great, one we enjoyed.  We picked it up a few years ago and simply forgot we had it until recently.

So with smiles on our weary faces, we were off to bed.  Both Mommy and Daddy now are under the weather in our own little ways.  These fevers run their course and are gone - although they aren't as strong, they do last longer.  Not sure which I prefer, really.  Part of me just wants to get it over with, you know?  And of course, Mommy's troubles are always with her tummy.  We're not sure what she ate today, but at least things settled down by bedtime.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

All Clear

We can rejoice today, because Madison has been given the all-clear.  No more biohazard suits for us, or leaving Madison in a bubble in her room.  This morning we literally nit-picked, and then went in to see Nurse Sherry, who also nitpicked.  By the time we were done nitpicking, she was deemed worthy of school, which was a great relief for Madison.  But just as much for Mommy and Daddy, who are going slightly insanse with the cleansing process:  we sit there carefully examining strand after strand of hair, looking through magnifying glasses and spraying her hair with something we're told will kill the eggs as well.  The problem is finding all the eggs, and finding them before even one hatches.  And they start out small, so it is nearly impossible to see them to  begin with.  So we are not done looking yet.

A couple of tidbits today.  Firstly, Madison had a half-day.  All that effort to come in, and it was just a half-day.  But it was worth it to her.  She had a great day back at school.  And after school, Daddy came home so that we cold together go off to Doc Williams.  We each got an adjustment, and Madison was absolutely having a great time at the chiropractor's.  It was a nice ride over and back, where we all got to spend a little time together as a family.  And Madison always loves the chiropractor.  She just giggles and giggles and giggles.  And giggles.  She laughs so hard when there, I'm surprised nobody else says anything in adjacent rooms.  We have a great time!

Service was good tonight - we did a few fishing games that worked out well, and the message was a great one as well.  The cool news was this:  Daddy has a bigger office area now, a pretty nice new place with a fridge and a sink, and a big-screen television to review things... it's my own little office, and I cannot wait to decorate it with Mommy and Madison.

Madison spent time doing homework online today, and working on her spelling list too.  It is that time already, where we are working on new words each week.  We'll have to perfect that list tomorrow night when we practice together once more.

Until then, it's time for bed tonight.  Daddy is still sick - this is a sickness that sort of sticks with you. Fever and headaches, and a sore throat especially.  Hopefully we'll be a little better tomorrow.  This one stays with you longer.  It's not a dramatic sort of sickness, but it takes a while to get over.  Mommy had it last week, and thankfully Madison is doing just fine now.  And after one more brushing tonight, she's that much closer to an all-clear from those little bug monsters.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lousy Day

A little play on words with the title there.  If you haven't caught it yet, you will.

So today is another day at home.  Madison went to the nurse this morning and unfortunately, she had small eggs in her hair still and yet, this despite the huge efforts yesterday to remove them via special shampoo and endless combing with a magnifying glass.

One interesting first yesterday was this:  her first shower.  Yes, that's right.  Madison has never had a shower before.  Yesterday, we wanted to keep the shampoo in her hair longer (prescribed for about ten minutes), so we had her sit in an empty bathtub for a bit as Daddy read to her.  Then, it was time for Mommy to turn on the shower, so Daddy left and Madison had her first shower.  She was quite excited about this, calling it a 'Madison Waterfall.'

We still managed to do ballet last night too, which was nice.  It was day two, but we won't have ballet next Monday because it is Labor Day.  Madison is enjoying this class quite a bit, and although she was a little nervous last week, she dove right in there, ready to dance.

She danced today at piano class too.  There was a ballet number being played for the class, and she involuntarily started dancing a bit.  Practice was good this afternoon, and it's great that none of her extracurricular activities are being missed.  Piano went well, and Madison has done a great job with her piano homework, inspired in part by her Minecraft Piano Challenge.  But she is doing some classical music, or at least small portions of it.

We got the movie Toy Story of Terror today, and watched that before bed.  Oh, and there was a trip to the library too - we had gone to go get book number four of the Never Girls series.  We're starting out that book, as Daddy read chapter one tonight before bed.  We also read the Bible and prayed for a hedge of protection, and prayed that these annoying little bugs would all go away.  To help with that effort, we spent a LONG time before bed with a magnifying glass and that Kingdom Keepers flashlight, looking through all those strains of hair, one bit at a time.

When Madison was at the school nurse this morning, there was another girl that was being searched.  When we go back tomorrow, there'll be yet another one that she will see being looked at.  It is good to see other kids being searched through their hair, so that Madison sees that it isn't just her.

The weather is cool outside, as if the month of August has officially been tricked into thinking that it is really fall now.  It isn't, even though we watched a Halloween-themed movie tonight from Toy Story.  But some of the trees are looking like they want to start changing colors, if you can believe that.  Someone needs to shout it out - IT IS NOT FALL YET!

Daddy is typing this on a new keyboard, which may explain slight imperfections.  We got a keyboard and a case for the iPad, which is a handy little device here.  Now this iPad is all set up and ready to go with Madison to school - it's safe, and hopefully it can be useful for her.  Now all we need to do is get her back there.  After another bug check tomorrow, hopefully we'll be back on track.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Toy Story: Quarantine

JESSIE:  Where are we?  Where are we?

WOODY:  Calm down, we're going to be okay.

DINAH the DINOSAUR:  Not hardly.  We are in a plastic bag!

JESSIE:  Not a plastic bag!  We are going to get sold, I just know it!

WOODY:  Would everyone calm down?  It is really simple what happened...

BELLE the OWL:  Who did it?

WOODY:  Dad did it, okay?  But he did it for a good reason.  We will be just fine, if you'll listen...

JESSIE:  Just fine?  We are in a GARBAGE BAG!!

CHUCK the GROUNDHOG:  We are Goodwll bound for sure.

LOTSO:  Or Ebay.  I hope my strawberry scent stays with me, or I'll wind up just a doggy chew toy or something!

WOODY:  That is not going to happen, Lotso.  Would everyone just listen to me a minute?  We are in quarantine.

CHUCK:  I don't like the sound of that!

JESSIE:  What is that?

WOODY:  It isn't fun, but it happens from time to time.  There are those bugs at school, and the nurse thinks Madison may have them in her hair.

FAT LADYBUG:  That is terrible!  We must get to her and squash them like... well, bugs!  I'll do a flying suplex and show them a thing or two!

WOODY:  It is not like that, Ladybug.  Mom has washed Madison's hair with this special shampoo they have at the store.  And Dad took all the sheets off the bed, and the pillow cases, and all of us toys that were on the bed.

JESSIE:  Where's Buzz?

WOODY:  I'm sure he'll be here soon.  Maybe he is in another bag, with Lady and the Tramp.  Or the cats.

BELLE:  Or maybe he is at Goodwill!

BUZZ:  I'm out here, Jessie!

JESSIE:  Buzz!

BUZZ:  I just arrived from upstairs.  You are right now in the dining room quadrant.  All the lifeforms in this house appear to be in hibernation state.

LOTSO:  You mean everyone's asleep upstairs.

BUZZ:  Precisely, fruit-scented bear!  Apparently, the commander and his wife were notfied by Star Command about some sort of alien hybrid infestation at the educational center.  It spreads in hair, and items made of cloth.

FAT LADYBUG:  I get it.  That's why you're out there and we're in here.  YOU are made of plastic, and we're stuffed!

DINAH:  Some of us really stuffed.

FAT LADYBUG:  I heard that.

BUZZ:  I overheard Madison's mom saying that you would be in quarantine for two weeks.

JESSIE:  Two weeks?  What will we do all that time?  What will Madison do?

BUZZ:  Calm down, Jessie.  Madison can come and visit from time to time.  We just have to stay out of that bed for two weeks.  And no snuggling, Lotso!

LOTSO:  I have no idea what you're talking about.

WOODY:  Now wait a minute!  YOU get to stay in Madison's room, Buzz?

BUZZ:  Look, I don't like this anymore than you.  But we must make sure that Madison is safe.  I saw her mother and father with that brush... they spent over an hour going over all those strands of her hair, looking for that vile alien larva.  If I ever find the source planet of this evil scourge, by Neptar's Hammer I'll blast it with my lasers!

DINAH:  I hear you loud and clear, space ranger.  But perhaps you'll take comfort in the fact that for the next two weeks, any of those critters with us in this bag are going to slowly starve to death.

CHUCK:  Okay, too much information.  You are telling me that we will be sitting in here for two weeks with a bunch of dead bug carcasses?

DINAH:  Pretty much.

LOTSO:  Okay, that does it.  I'm out of here.

WOODY:  You can't.  We have to stay here.  For Madison.

JESSIE:  Can't we at least go check on her?

FAT LADYBUG:  I don't see why not.  As long as we don't jump in that bed with her, right?

JESSIE:  What do you say, Woody?

WOODY:  Well...

BELLE:  Come on, Woody.  Please?

WOODY:  Okay, fine.  I say we head on up those stairs, and make sure our little girl is okay.  But afterwards, we come right back and just wait.  Remember, we're doing this for Madison.

FAT LADYBUG:  For Madison.

BUZZ and JESSIE:  For Madison.

WOODY:  We'll make sure those critters are gone.  We're not messing around with them.  It won't be fun for us the next few weeks, but it's all for Madison.

ALL:  For Madison!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Unicorn Fish

It was another magical service this morning.  Madison and roughly 800 other kids got to see our service, one we called "Don't Get Lured In."  It was ultimately about temptation, and the story of Samson.  And as you can see above, our unicorn fish got completed and was ready to be introduced today.  The above shot is a posed one that includes the characters of today's part of the story - our fish are quite tempted to go explore the shipwreck, unaware of the big floating mines, and unaware of a shark lurking nearby.  Still, they are lured in by the promise of treasure and sparkly things, despite the fact that everyone has warned them of the dangers of going near the shipwreck.

Madison and all the other kids loved the morning, and for videos we decided to go old-school and simply show two videos that clearly demonstrated the idea of avoiding tempting situations.  One video clip featured this guy:

Watching Spongebob has been part of our 'research' for this series, a labor we've rather enjoyed, actually.  But the episode "Hooky" was just plain perfect to show the allure of temptation, and then the danger of it as well - getting hooked.  Of course, we didn't show the entire episode - we spliced two bits together, and it was just great.

The other scene we showed was from "Finding Nemo," where Dory and Marlin encounter a strange light in the dark deepness below.  It's another tempting sort of thing - and by the time the kids were done with the day, they got the message, we hope.  Madison gets to be in the service twice, and this morning we were so packed we had to pull out extra chairs.  Here's a brief synopsis Daddy wrote up for the booklet.

   A Christian doing the wrong thing is like a fish out of water: we never want to get hooked by sin. Yet sometimes we get tempted, don’t we?
     Samson was a mighty man of God, yet he hung around something he knew he shouldn’t have. Her name was Delilah, and she was nothing but trouble. She was just bait and Samson fell for her hook, line and sinker.
     He didn’t get into any trouble at first, but sin is like that. It hangs there like bait – and we’re tempted to nibble at it at first. Sometimes nothing happens immediately, so we nibble some more. And more! And that’s when we suddenly find ourselves like Samson – hooked and reeling!
     Samson didn’t listen to God. He listened to Delilah. When we don’t listen to God, we’re listening to others and what they think is best. But our peers don’t have all the answers. If a fish sees a whole bunch of fish underneath a pier where it is dark and shady, that doesn’t mean it is a good place to go. No, that’s where all the hooks are – so don’t give into pier pressure!
     As Christians, we were designed to go against the flow. God told the clown fish to hang out with the sea anemone, a creature that eats fish.  And yet it works out – the clown fish has protection.  Trust Him.  If God’s word tells us to do something, there’s a good reason for it.  If there’s a rising tide of temptation, act like a flying fish and rise above it all, trusting God in all things.
     We are designed us to swim free as fish in the ocean. So ask God for help to go against the flow, watch out for pier pressure, and by all means... don’t get lured in!

     It was mentioned earlier, but Daddy's been struggling with the sickness that started with Mommy and Madison.  Today it hit him hardest, unfortunately, although he plowed through service with a smile on his face.  And there was much to smile about - it was a good day.  But getting home, there was an unusual weakness and shakiness that suddenly took over.  He ate some food quickly, and then fell asleep quickly in bed for a long, long nap this afternoon.  This is one of the symptoms that Mommy had, a sleepiness and need for rest as the body heals itself.

     Madison was quiet, but she did do her piano practice again.  Got to fill out that Minecraft chart!  We had dinner late, and we played a few video games.  Daddy would have liked to do more, but he was just not that well right now.  Even as I type this, I'm still a bit under the weather.

     But we prayed before bedtime, and we read from our Bible.  Madison asks for this to be read first, and then we go on to other things like chapter books or whatnot.  After the Bible, because we had no Neverland book, Daddy made up a small story about some fish under the sea.  It's a nice time for the three of us in her bedroom, always the sweet part of the day that you don't wish to end.  But Madison does need to get enough sleep, so you tear yourselves away from her room with a sweet, "Goodnight, Princess."  At which point she shouts out two times (once for each of us), "I love you to infinity and beyond!"

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Minecraft Piano Challenge

Here he is, the guy we made this morning.  Madison and Daddy went back to Lowe's to construct this masterpiece, which concluded the summer's projects with more of a whimper than anything.  This one was amazingly easy to put together, and only took us ten minutes or so.  Still, it's all about the together time, the construction, and the patch of course.  Daddy gave Madison the hammer for much of this project, and even gave her the nails to drive in.  We bent several, and had to ask for some replacements, but that's all part of the learning process, right?

Afterwards, Daddy had to do some work with that unicorn fish we're constructing at the warehouse.  That, and a trip down to Sterling on the Lake, a residential community where we had all kinds of inflatables and fun set up.  We had plans to do a skit, but there was a miscommunication with the DJ.  Translation:  the DJ left way too early.  But it still was a great day in that community, as there was a big slip and slide set up, and inflatables, and buckets full of ice just waiting for those folks who hadn't done the ice bucket challenge yet.

Daddy went to the warehouse to do some painting after this.  We finished our unicorn fish, just as a huge storm was rolling in.  The weather was so hot earlier, so this storm was more than welcome, as it cooled everything off marvelously.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Madison and Mommy were having a splendid day.  They watched the rain come down in buckets, although they weren't ice buckets.  Madison did her piano practice today, this time with a renewed sense of purpose.  You see, she's been inspired to take the MINECRAFT PIANO CHALLENGE!

This is something Daddy made up to get her moving a little faster with piano practice.  We don't own the game Minecraft.  It's probably past its peak as far as popularity goes, but all the kids have been playing it on their personal devices and their game consoles.  Last year, many were dressed up as characters of Minecraft for Halloween, and there are countless references to the game everywhere in pop culture.  So, with that said, Daddy promised to get the game for Madison if she completes her piano homework as shown on this chart he created.  So once done with each practice, she sprints into the kitchen to mark off her next day.  It's kind of like a Minecraft Advent Calendar.

We finished the Never Girls book tonight at bedtime, which puts the pressure on Daddy to go get that next one from the library.  These are popular books too, as evidenced by the fact that the library's copies were all out.  We have a hold on it, which is a nice way of saying we have dibs on it next.  These books have been captivating for Madison, who soaks in every word and listens very carefully to the stories being told.  She could read these books on her own, I believe, but at this point it's just a fun thing to do each night together.  Story time is one of those things I'd rather not have go away.  Besides, Daddy is enjoying the stories as well, for a couple reasons.  One of course is that they are a fun adventure to share with Madison.  But the secondary reason is that he's got his eye on a series at KidPak for the future, one where we visit Neverland for two months.  We'll take KidPak to the second star to the right, and straight on 'til morning, with all sorts of wonderful lessons.  It may have been mentioned here before, but Madison helped conceive a few of these bottom lines, Daddy's favorite being, "Think of a happy thought."  This will probably take place in January, but that's how far in advance we have to plan sometimes, and already we're amassing the different sources we can go to in order to get inspired by Neverland.  I don't think we'll be visiting the Neverland Ranch, but there is quite a bit to watch and read:

1.  "Hook"
2.  "Jake and the Neverland Pirates," a season of episodes
3.  "The Never Girls," seven of those books
4.  "Tinkerbell" movies from Pixie Hollow, five of those movies
5.  Disney's "Peter Pan"
6.  "Return to Neverland"
7.  "Peter Pan" (2003)
8.  "Finding Neverland"
9.  "Peter and the Star Catchers," eight books
10.  "Neverland," a television mini-series we haven't seen yet.

Recently, we revisited "Peter and Star Catchers," and each night a bit of "The Never Girls."  But in the name of 'research,' I know we'll be back in Neverland quite a bit in the coming months.

"You know that place between sleep and awake, the place you can still remember dreaming?  That's where I'll always love you.  That's where I'll be waiting."  Tinkerbell

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fantasy Football Team Names

So the manly peer pressure of joining a football fantasy team is on, and this year Daddy is falling prey to it, as he wants to be a bit more socially acceptable.  Yeah, he's one of the guys now.  So what exactly is fantasy football.  At this point, he's not too sure.  It seems a little more involved than your standard football pool, which was something he was engaged in some time ago:  pick all the winners and losers each week, and see who guesses correctly.  In the past, Daddy used his expertise to pick the teams based on what their names were, and not actually based on their talent.  This strategy usually found him in the middle of the pack as far as winners and losers go - not the worst guesser, but not the best one either.  This was okay with me, although I do remember winning once.

So here we are, signing up for a fantasy football league thing, and already we're faced with the most complicated of questions:  What is your team name?  This took some time.  Daddy created helmets and team names, and it all came down to these final eight:

Believe it or not, there's a Minnesota team called the Narwhals.  I still made the helmet anyway, because narwhals are cool.  I love the Unstoppable Paramecium, because that oral groove looks more like a scowl.  The Zangiefs was a bit too geeky, and the Angry Gnomes was probably not quite aggressive enough.  I love the Football Helmets because it is so surreal - but ultimately Zombie Sharks won out because it has a bit of everything in it.  

So, that decided, I went on to the more complex task of getting players.  This is the point where you have to scratch your head and wonder, "How much time do these people have?"  Not the NFL players, mind you, but the football fantasy folks.  I seriously looked at this page, and then closed it out.  I know some names, and positions, but I'm not a coach or anything.

Still, I'll be back eventually.  I'm going to be manly, and hopefully pick players that aren't already injured or something.  Until then, Madison and Daddy are going out to pick some vegetables from our harvest:

Look, it's Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber!  These came from our garden today - don't they look great?  It's so awesome to actually harvest your own vegetables!

One wonderful thing that Mommy made with that cucumber is this:  a drink.  We had slices of cucumber in a container of water, along with some of the mint that Daddy picked from the garden.  Placed in water with some lemon slices, this made for a really refreshing drink!

Madison finished her testing today, again just assessment testing.  So there was no big deal there, really.  Meanwhile, Daddy was helping Mr. Josh with the creation of the puppets for KidPak.  We've still got a unicorn fish to make, who makes an appearance this Sunday, along with the other fish.

Tonight, we finished our Nanny McPhee marathon with a viewing of the sequel, which was also very good.  Madison enjoyed the synchronized swimming pigs.

We had school photos today.  And gym.  Normally, these two don't go together, particularly when gym takes place just before school photos.  Nevertheless, we parents dressed our children up as best we can, sending them off once more to the school with hopes that everything will be okay.  Hopefully we'll have some decent pictures when we see them again, rather than the post-gym pictures we're all dreading.  Surely they wouldn't do that, would they?  We'll see.

Tonight we read the last of our chapter book before bed, concluding another book of the Never Girls series.  We said our prayers and went to sleep for the night - Daddy is starting to feel the symptoms of whatever that bug is that's going around.  Sore throat, stuffy head, feverish... these are not a few of my favorite things.  It'll be a Nyquil night tonight, that's for sure.

But it was a decent day, and the good news is we can sleep in tomorrow.  So there's that.  And with that, we'll close this entry for the day - sweet dreams, and good luck with fantasy football!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Challenge accepted!

ALS is a serious disease, and until recently, the only reason that many people ever heard of it was due to the death of Lou Gehrig, a baseball player from the 30's.  But now, thanks to a brilliant marketing campaign, everyone knows what it is.  The concept was simple:  get challenged by someone else to dump ice water on your head, and then 'nominate' three others.

Daddy wasn't exactly keen on it until he understood the reasoning behind it all.  In fact, before creating our own video, he had Madison sit and watch a video of another Father-daughter team taking the challenge.  The dad's name was Kreg Palko, and he is suffering from ALS right now.  Although once an incredibly active surfer and mountain climber, he is currently paralyzed.  His daughter takes good care of him, and proudly dumped a bucket of ice water on her head.  But the video didn't stop there:  her father couldn't let everyone else take the challenge without doing it himself.  And so, his daughter poured the ice water on his head as well.  And Madison laughed.  We talked about the effects of this disease, and why it is so important to do what we can to help others discover a cure, and help others who have such crippling diseases.

And then we were up for the challenge.  We set up the iPad outside on the side of the house, and Daddy accepted the challenge - another pastor from our Gwinnett campus, Bryan Woodson, called me out after getting dunked himself.  After accepting the challenge, I pretended to hesitate about the decision - and that's the point that Mommy rushes in with a bucket and dumps it all over me!

Madison loved that, of course.  And it was really cold too - we added the ice moments ago.  Even though the weather was hot outside, that ice water was cold, cold, cold!

So Daddy then issued the challenge to his three people:  our friend at church Chris, and Mary Jo (who lives in South Carolina now), and also Aunt Shain.  And then in a surprise move, Daddy turns and challenges Madison, who puts her hands on her cheeks in surprise - and squeals!

And then she gets dunked too!  And yep, there was ice in that water too!  Madison laughed and screamed as it happened, and turned to the camera to issue her challenge:  "Hannah Berry, I challenge you to get dunked with ice water!"

We posted the video on the social networks and got a quick response.  Any video with Madison in it is going to get lots of smiles, and we were glad to do it.  But best of all, we were glad to continue to keep the ALS awareness campaign going.  The internet has been filled with horror lately, terrible news of unrest in Iraq, Ukraine, Israel, and even here in Missouri.  But it's been good to see so many people going along with this Ice Bucket Challenge.  The social networks are crammed with one video after another of people dumping water on themselves or each other.  Former President George W. Bush did it, he himself challenging former President Clinton.  The actors from "Guardians of the Galaxy" have done it.  Even candidates in all the Georgia state races have done it, they themselves challenged by news anchors on a television morning show, who themselves took the challenge on live television. Professional sports athletes have done it too - as well as quite a few of the people we know.  Everyone challenges someone else, and so on and so on and so on.  And as the fun spreads, so do the contributions and awareness.  What's not to like?

Today was a testing day for Madison, so the dumping of water was probably a nice stress relief.  Although she doesn't get too stressed about tests yet.  Daddy always got strangely stressed about assessment tests, even though you aren't supposed to know all the answers.  He wanted to get them right anyway.  It's like a Kobayashi Maru, where there are no winners!

Still Madison said she did well, although she didn't know everything.  She was okay with that too, so it must have been explained sufficiently.

We did our piano homework today, which didn't take as long.  That's a good thing, to start out nice and easy, right?  We're playing "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho" and other songs and chords this week.

At night, we watched "Nanny McPhee," which was fun to watch on the couch with Mommy and Madison.  And popcorn.  Always have to have popcorn.  Madison laughed at quite a bit, and we might be watching the sequel tomorrow night if all works out.  Lots to do for this weekend, but we're plugging away to make a big splash!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Pink Goatee

Daddy came home to visit for a bit - a tiny segment in an extremely long day.  And Madison was working on her latest project, a pink goatee.  She cut out the shape of a triangle, and then used two pieces of tape to fix it to her face.  ALl set, right?  No, also she wore the pink earmuffs on her head, mainly because this was a fashionable accessory (which went with the pink goatee).  She was quite proud of this look - insisting that Daddy take a picture of it.  Seriously, he would have anyway.  She looks more like a futuristic star pilot if you ask me, but she's sticking with the pink goatee story, so there it is.

Today was a big day at work, as it is Wednesday.  Madison hasn't started tennis yet - that will begin in September.  There's a little sense to this world after all:  classes starting in September.

It was a fun day for Madison as well, a full day at school leading up to her assessment tests tomorrow.  We did a little homework tonight, a reading assignment that requires answers. Another assignment is something that she generally does anyway:  reading from books.  She spends a lot of time reading from her various books she has, or the ones borrowed from the library.  We did not get to the piano homework yet, but we'll do that tomorrow I'm sure.

We got walloped in Hall County today, right at about the time Madison was getting off the school bus.  She and Mommy could hear the noise of a tremendous storm, and see the darkness just over the horizon - but thankfully didn't have to experience it.  Daddy, on the other hand, was right in the midst of it.  This was an energetic storm, with winds that blew down trees and knocked out power to the Wal-Mart and other places in Oakwood for a few hours.  Power crews were out working late into the night to restore things back.  Meanwhile in Forsyth County, not much happened.  There was a little rain, although nothing like the little monster that visited us in Gainesville.

Daddy is grateful that it was Hall County, and not in Forsyth County - just because of the timing.  I'd hate to see Mommy out there in the weather, when she's under the weather.  Waiting out for a bus to come by in a raging storm is something I would wish on no one.  As for Mommy, she's been struggling with fevers and chills - all the signs of a new school year.  She and Madison are sniffling and coughing and feeling the effects of a sickness that we'll just call "Back to School Fever."  As predictable as anything, as soon as she's back in school, there it is.  And there's Mommy, taking care of her and getting sick herself in the process.

Church tonight was a great event.  Daddy did a skit that he made up, "borrowing" jokes from the World Showcase Players at EPCOT Center.  But it worked out really well.  The goal was making something that we could showcase in a neighborhood this upcoming weekend, and I believe we accomplished just that.  As for the message, it was a new one that Daddy was thinking about called, "Don't Flounder."

DON'T FLOUNDER! Are you the type of Christian that blends in with the world? Hopefully not! Jesus wants us to be the light of the world, and certainly doesn't want us living like a bottom feeder. What are you feeding your eyes and ears? If your relationship with Jesus is floundering, maybe it's time turn things around!

It was a great night.  Best of all, Daddy got to see his family a little beforehand.  We took that picture above, and Daddy even got to read a chapter from "A Dandelion Wish" for Madison before leaving for church.  It's so good to get to go back, having spent a little time with family, pink goatees and all.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Let's Go Shopping

We did an educational board game tonight, one we borrowed from the school last week to help us with math and money.  We spent quite a bit of time on this game, but it was fun and it was of course a learning process for Madison.  The one thing we should have noted, however, was that the age bracket for the game was a little older than her current math skills.  With that in mind, we still set out to play the game, only with math problems that we made up on our own.

The game involves going to the mall with a shopping list, and one by one, getting each item at stores scattered throughout the mall.  You earn money for the items by correctly answering the math problems presented.

So the three of us went to the mall, and the questions commenced.  We had so much fun with them that I thought I'd write a few down here:

1.  The Lone Ranger went to the arcade at the mall.  Each game costs a quarter to play, and he has $2.00 in his pocket.  How many games can he play?

2.  Queen Elsa went to the Bazaar, because they had twelve rocks there that she thought were actually trolls.  When she got home, she realized only seven of them were trolls.  How many of them were just plain old rocks?

3.  Maleficent went to the ice cream shop to get her favorite ice cream, a mint flavor.  It costs $1.25.  How many quarters does she need to give the salesperson?

4.  The Incredibles went shopping at the mall, and left Jack-Jack at home.  The four of them had a great time, and wanted a smoothie.  Each smoothie cost $3.00, so how much would it cost for Violet, Dash, Elastigirl, and Mr. Incredible to all have a smoothie?

5.  Jack Sparrow had a shopping list.  He had to get a treasure chest for $15.00, a pirate patch for $3.00, a compass for $5.00, and a treasure map for $7.00.  How much does he need to spend to get all of that?

6.  Merida needed to fix her bow and arrow.  She took it to the repair shop at the mall.  It cost $23.00 to fix, and she handed the repair person $30.00.  How much change does she get back?

7.  Vanellope Von Schweetz asked the bakery for a cake that had seventeen layers!  They though she was kidding and made her one with only four layers.  When she got there, she said, NO!  I want seventeen layers!  How many more layers does the bakery have to add?

8.  Indiana Jones bought a bullwhip from the Bazaar.  It was supposed to be six feet long, but they made it eleven feet long.  How much do they have to cut off to make it six feet long?

9.  Apple Jack had 40 apples for sale, and sold 29 of them by day's end.  How many apples does she have left?

10.  WyldStyle wants to build a LEGO motorcycle that needs 35 pieces.  The Bazaar sells packs of LEGOS with 5 pieces in them each.  How many packs does she need to buy in order to build a motorcycle?

And so this went on.  The challenge became less about winning the game and more about Mommy and Daddy making up a creative question!

But it was fun in the end, and of course the important thing is that Madison was practicing some of her math skills. Some things she got right away, but others had her scribbling away on a pad as she heard the questions being asked.  Her little notepad was filled with calculations!

In the end, Mommy won the game, and Madison came in second place with Daddy trailing in at third.  It was a fun game though, one we might try a little later.  But there are a few other games we'll try out that we borrowed from the resource room at the school.  Updates and reviews on those games will follow!

So what else did we do today?  We started our next official season of piano classes, for one.  Right after school, we went over to piano to start another year.  There's the same piano assignment sheet with new songs, including "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho," which was fun to sing and talk about.  Madison will be playing that one soon, as well as another Hungarian Gypsy Song.  Which is called, appropriately enough, "Hungarian Gypsy Song."

It was good to see everyone in class.  Nearly everyone - I think we may have lost one.  But we gained a new student, who was too grown-up for the rest of the kids, I think.  He was a little reserved, while the other kids, I'm afraid to say, were a little hyper.  But that first week of school is like that.  Things will certainly settle down as the weeks go by.

School was good, and so was work.  Daddy is busy working towards the weekend, and working towards Wednesday.  Madison was working towards getting her latest homework done tonight, something she had absolutely no problem with.  There were placement graphs, and she handled it like a pro, no problem.  This Thursday and Friday, there will be assessment tests to determine the progress of the new year - we'll see how she does there.

We had about a half-hour before bed, so we decided to watch another "Under the Sea"-themed special, a DVD we just picked up from the library.  Princess Sophia was swimming with mermaids, and of course she ran into Ariel a few times while under the sea.  This was a fun little special, a nice short thing to watch before bedtime.  Madison enjoyed it very much, and went to bed happily afterwards.  We did our usual readings upstairs, sharing a Bible story (about Elizabeth and John), and then reading some more of "A Dandelion Wish."  We prayed again afterwards, praying for peace in the world and praying for good health for everyone.  Mommy's sore throat is getting better, although the sniffly noses still exist:  Mommy rubbed her chest with vapor rub, and we set up the vaporizer nearby the bed.

Which is a funny name when you think about it.  I had to look it up.  I mean, the purpose of it is to provide steam vapors to help with congestion.  But the word vaporizer makes me think of some sort of alien weaponry.  "Don't move or we'll vaporize you!"

Monday, August 18, 2014

Don't Get Lured In

We're still plugging away at our latest series, with this upcoming week dedicated to "not getting lured in."  That features the story of Samson and Delilah, which oddly enough was an opera that Mommy and Daddy attended some time ago.  That was a season where Mommy and Daddy attended several operas, from "La Boheme" to "Turandot."  Daddy had a tuxedo, and Mommy dressed up, and together we went down and enjoyed the stuffy atmosphere pretending to be something we're not for a night.  Seriously, we did enjoy the performances and the stage and the atmosphere.  I suspect though that it will be some time before Madison goes to the opera.

Still, this weekend's story promises to be good. We'll continue our story, where the fish in our tale are tempted to go to explore a spooky old shipwreck, completely surrounded by party balloons.

Of course, they aren't party balloons.  There's the "hook" of sin, which makes for a pretty appropriate metaphor.  Or allegory?  Here's the the homework assignment that Daddy made for this upcoming weekend, just for show:

We've kept up the homework idea, and to our great pleasure, many kids are filling these out week after week, and their parents are signing them to indicate that the memory verse is in fact getting memorized. Of course, it doesn't hurt that we're motivating them with the hope of getting a free prize from a drawing, tickets to the Georgia Aquarium.  But nevertheless, it's great to see the "partnering with parents" aspect of this in motion.

Today after school was ballet.  Again.  We returned to ballet class today, this time with a new class in a new room with a new teacher.  Madison was nervous to begin with, but with everything she's been nervous about lately, that all goes away once she walks in and sits next to another friend.  Immediately, she just about forgot that Daddy was even there, in fact.  She had a great time.

Daddy got to the school early and waited in line for pick-up, while doing so finishing a book he's been working on.  Madison was out just in time, and we were home earlier than expected in fact.  We didn't need to hurry to Gainesville to ballet, even having enough time to eat a dinner meal beforehand.  Daddy was hungry, so we ate some tacos for dinner!

After ballet, we stopped by Walmart to return something, and after that there was a bit of homework to do.  Madison now has nightly homework, although not that much.  She did some math problems, about fifty of them in three minutes.  She only missed three, and two were because of simple mistakes - she didn't write down the "1" when she meant to write "12" and in another case "13."  Easy mistakes to make when you're in a hurry.  Daddy was still quite impressed with her math skills.  Daddy can do it in three minutes, but it's not entirely something he wants to do in three minutes.  She took it as a challenge and off she went!

Following this, we did some more arithmetic:  in the garden.  Our tomatoes have been coming in strong lately, and we've made a near-daily habit of going down to pick the latest fresh ones off the vine.  When it comes to cherry tomatoes, we've had quite a crop down there!

We had about a half hour left before bedtime, so the choice was hers as for what to do.  We went back to the Clone Wars, believe it or not - the game, that is.  We haven't seen too many of those episodes yet, although that might take place later on as we get closer to the new movie and Star Wars Fever sets in.  Tonight, we were happy to simply run around as jedi and sith, making our way through a level on Naboo, trying to hold back some deadly virus.

After containing that outbreak, it was time for bed.  We didn't need any biohazard suits though.  Especially because we were back in Neverland for a bit.  We read from book number three of the series, "A Dandelion Wish," and also read from our Bible a story about Mary.  After prayers, it was time for bed, and I have to say it was just about time for bed for all of us.  Really tired tonight - that may be because of the big weekend.  Another reason:  we're all a little sniffly lately.  Madison and Mommy have runny noses and sore throats at the moment, which is basically a reminder:  school is back in session.  As soon as school starts, here comes the runny noses and sore throats.

So off to bed we go tonight, after a fairly routine day.  But with the family, it's a happy one!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Shadoobie, Shattered!

This was a lightning strike we saw tonight.  Just amazing, really - we were at the Gwinnett KidPak service when another storm came rolling through, feeding off the energy of an unusually hot day.  There were two services at the Gwinnett Campus tonight, one at four and one at six - both were special services, which took place after the two services we already had in the morning.  So that made four services total today - quite a stretch.  But the storm struck during the first one, and the wind was ferocious, torrents of rain dumping out from above and all the trees swaying back and forth, bending and twisting with the wrath of the storm.  The lightning and thunder were intense, but there's always that one ultra close crack of thunder that makes everyone jump.  And this one sure did.  It was so close to us, the lightning just punishing a tree right outside the church.  This poor tree is right there next to the road, in front of the church, and it was just split - large splinters scattered all over the ground around the tree.  Pretty impressive stuff - we took a look at the tree in between services.

This morning's service didn't feature any thunder or lightning, but it did have a lot of magic!

Here are just a few of the actors on the set, holding their puppets.  The set looked great, as do the costumes.  That's a jellyfish in between the two fish, and to the right is a seahorse costume.  The puppets were perfect for what we needed, and hopefully we'll have a few more before the end of the week.  Really, that second service was something special.  I always feel - and I do not exaggerate - that we have simply the best children's service there is, and today was no exception.  We always shoot for the moon, with elaborate plans that sometimes fall a little short, but never fail to inspire or make kids laugh.  Today was a special one - Daddy will always remember that second service, as everything just simply fell into place in a wonderful sort of way.  One note about the skit above is that Madison named the characters.  The purple queen is named Rosie, and the seahorse is named Louie.  Madison sat in the audience and saw the services two times today, not complaining at all.  She loves to go to church, and today's entire flow was a really good one that we're very proud of.

It was a long day though.  As mentioned earlier, there were four KidPak services.  Two were in Gainesville, and two were in Gwinnett.  Daddy took Mommy and Madison home, and together we had a quick lunch and a small nap even.  And then it was time for Daddy to head down to Gwinnett.  Cue the action music, because once again there was another storm.  Add to this the fact that Daddy had to drop by to pick up pastor's saxophone stand and get it to the church on time.  But that he did, and soon the service was off and running.

It was a long day away from Madison.  She had a good morning at church, with a double portion of KidPak.  And afterwards, there was a bit of "My Little Pony" to watch.  Soon homework will start requiring more time - and piano classes too.  But for now, the pony marathons can go on.

Madison went to bed before Daddy got home tonight, which is somewhat depressing.  And Mommy hasn't been feeling 100% either, which is equally unsettling.  Hopefully we'll get to a doctor and figure out this new symptom, all related to her GI track, as usual.  But at least we figured out the allergy part.  Now is something new, which hopefully God will give us wisdom to discern what to do next.

Until then, it's time to go bed.  Long day, but a memorable one!