Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Block Party

We had a LEGO Block Party tonight - for our upcoming race segment of the LEGO series, we'l be featuring an RV vs. an ice cream truck vs. a jeep carrying a trailer with a few jet-skits on it.  Rather than illustrate these, the simplest thing to do was go out and buy them, and put them together.  Ultimately, this saved us a lot of time, and as you can see above, it was a bit of fun putting all the vehicles together.  As an added bonus, we'll be putting these vehicles in the LEGO-themed display case for the next series.  Kids will see them on the screen, and out in the lobby before and after the services.

It was a fun night.  To kick off our "25 Days of Halloween," Josh, Madison, Mommy and Daddy sat and watched "Toy Story of Terror," something Josh hadn't seen yet.  This is a great entry in the Toy Story saga, lots of fun for this time of year.  Next up, probably Thursday, we're watching "Chicken Little," which goes with our theme as well.  It's been a while since we've seen that one, and Madison requested it for our movie night.

Of course, it isn't October yet - but as you can see below, we're ready!

Mommy found Boo-Berry, Count Chocula, and Frankenberry for us to to have each morning.  This is an age-old tradition now, but we're not alone in it.  We posted this picture to the social network, and got a whole lot of 'likes' on it.  Everyone loves these cereals, and it isn't really October unless you have them!

We have piano today, but this time, Mommy came along to watch and see.  Madison did exceptional today, maybe because Mommy was there... I don't know.  All I know is that Madison's fingers were moving quickly up and down the keyboard, particularly at one point where everyone was just learning how to play a certain scale with both hands.  Madison had no problem at all.

So it was a good day today.  We've got a LONG ways to go for our series launch, but today we had fun doing some setting up.  Who doesn't love playing with LEGO bricks?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Flags of the World

This is a collage that Madison made with Pic Collage, a program on her iPad.  What's really great is that we can save all of these and put them in iPhoto, or post them here on her blog.  She has several that she's made, this one being the most recent.  It's a collection of names, flags, and lipstick.  And hearts, french fries, candy, and ponies.  In other words, it's all good.

Today was ballet, which was enjoyable for Madison as always.  Daddy spent a little time reading in the car outside - the weather is such that you don't really have to turn the car on for air conditioning.  Sitting in the shade, things are just right.  By week's end, it is supposed to dip even cooler - which makes sense because it IS October, right?

We got home and finished our piano practice, which Madison is doing well with.  She was actually doing just fine on her own, really.  Without Daddy's help!  I am suddenly hoping that I can still be a part of piano practice for a little longer, as I'm sort of wanting to learn myself lately.  Soon, she'll be excelling at a faster rate of learning than Daddy - so I'd better practice to keep up!

We read some more tonight before bed, about baking and fairies.  Dulcie is in fact helping Mia bake, but we're still not quite sure how that's going to turn out.  Madison also got a bath tonight.  We don't usually record every bath, but this is generally a time-consuming activity.  Madison likes taking a bath, singing to herself and playing with the bath toys she has.  Downstairs you can hear her up there, singing and splashing and generally having a good time.  Why don't we adults do that?

Good news on the tennis front:  we're back at the 4:00 tennis slot on Wednesday nights.  This past month, the 5:00 time was a tougher one to get to.  So we'll be back for that one, having a swinging time!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Chinese Sleeping Beauty

We had a big surprise for Madison this afternoon after church, a visit to a play at Brenau to see "Sleeping Beauty."  But this was a version with a twist - it took place in China.  This was actually a surprise to Mommy and Daddy too - we thought we had purchased tickets to a standard interpretation of the story.  But we heard on Friday that this had this theme to it, and we weren't complaining at all!  We told Madison this morning before church, and she was quite excited to see the play.  We even got the same seats we always get - here they are below, "our seats!"

Madison is ready to watch the production.  You can see her and Mommy checking out the Chinese set. Madison likes the waterfall over there, but the whole thing is really quite nice, including the tree with blossoms over there on stage left.

As for the production itself, we all enjoyed it a lot.  The performances were great, and as you can see here the costumes were splendid.  We sat on the front row of the balcony, and Madison never lost her focus.  She was completely into it.

And she was into what took place after:  ice cream and a meet & greet.  This was the primary reason why we chose to come today, so Madison could meet up with the characters afterwards.  Last year, we did this with the "Alice in Wonderland" characters, and there was time to see all the characters this year as well.  Madison took a program around and had each and every one sign their autograph, just like last year.  And she posed with each one as well, as you can see from some of the pictures above.

And yes, there was ice cream!

Anyway, this was a very pleasant diversion for us, all part of a busy Sunday.  We start things off on Sunday with church, and this morning's service was dedicated to the Pearl of Great Price.  It went very well, as Daddy opened up a whole bunch of oysters for kids on stage, each one containing a pearl or two.  We shared our message as we did so, one that we'll share here below.  Madison and all the other kids had a great morning at KidPak!

“The Pearl of Great Price”

     Deep into the ocean the pearl divers plunge, looking for just the right treasure:  the perfect pearl.  It’s something that has been done for centuries – even Jesus spoke of a pearl at one point, a pearl of great price.
     Pearls are beautiful to look at, but did you know that they are made because of something irritating inside?  It is an annoying bit of sand caught in the oyster, which is covered year after year by layer after layer of white calcium carbonate.  Over time, that becomes the beautiful pearl, a treasure in the ocean. But remember:  it all started out with an irritant.
     In life, we have a lot of irritants we need to endure, don’t we? When things happen that you don’t want or understand, remember the pearl.  Trust God to use your circumstance, and turn that irritation into something wonderful.  Turn the test into a testimony, trial into triumph, and the tragedy into a trophy of grace.
     How do we do that?  Jesus told us how in many ways, even bringing up pearls again.  He told us not to throw them before pigs.  This makes sense, of course.  Why would you want something so beautiful thrown into the mud with a bunch of pigs?  But consider this:  a pearl gets its color, luster – and value – from the water it is growing in.  It needs to stay in the right environment, otherwise it will lose its luster.
     Of course, the same can be said for us.  Don’t spend time in the wrong environment, as it can drag you down.  Pearls don't belong in the mud, and you don't belong where God doesn't want you.
     When Jesus spoke of pearls, He told us, “The kingdom of heaven is like a trader who was looking for fine pearls.  He found one that was very valuable. So he went away and sold everything he had. And he bought that pearl.”
     Jesus compared salvation, and the Kingdom of Heaven, to a pearl of great price.  It is something worth chasing and giving up everything to have.  In the very next sentence, he spoke of good fish, and bad fish.  In you life, use your time wisely:  don’t be a bad fish that is only thrown away, but instead be something good and useful to the Lord.  In other words, seek the Pearl of Great price.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Build and Grow

Here is Madison with Sylvana.  I think that's her name, anyway.  This young lady has been the one Madison meets each time we go to Lowe's to do a project.  She knows Madison by name, and Madison always runs up to her to say "hi," or occasionally give her a hug.  Over the past year, we haven't missed a building project at Lowe's, and each time she's been there, making a comment about Madison never missing one of these appointments.  Today was Sylvana's last time with the Build and Grow program, as she's leaving her job here to go do something else.  Madison said she would miss her, and was her typical sweet self.  As you can see above, today's project was a fire truck, which was actually one of the more complicated projects - it had about ten steps or so, before all the stickers.  But Madison does better and better with these things each time she tries them.  She found the right-sized nails, plugged them in the right holes, lined up the right parts, and hammered it all together mostly by herself.  Daddy was there more as an advisor, but Madison was doing pretty well on her own.  And having finished once more, she got her patch from Sylvana for the last time, another addition to the apron she wears.  That thing is nearly full!

So today was all about work and setting up for tomorrow.  We're filming things and editing and putting together the audio and sound.  And doing a lot of cleaning up as well.  Madison came to work with Daddy, along with Mommy as well. We spent a lot of energy getting things straightened up at KidPak today, largely a clean-up sort of day.  And there's so much more to do.  Next week is going to be tremendous, as we set up for a new series and get ready to dispose of the old one.

Madison played with some friends in the recreation room today, running around and screaming a bit.  Plus, there was a bit of using the iPad, and a bit of using the Kindle, and a bit of watching movies.  October is just around the corner, and just in time, Madison is watching a series that has been out a while, "Monster High."

How do we describe this?  It's sort of like Lisa Frank meets Bratz meets "The Munsters."  At high school.  Daddy commented on how long one of the movies was, and Madison's response was, "Still, I liked it."  Okay then, so this is here to stay for a bit.  "Monster High" has been around a few years, but of course it is something we haven't gotten into yet, but as it is nearly October, we'll probably cycle through a few episodes.  I think this was all spawned by some recent happy meal toys with the "Monster High" theme.  Madison actually got two in one box recently, two bracelets with the logo on it.  She also has something from last week, so she's starting a small collection.  Anyway, that's the theme going on there - she doesn't have a favorite character yet, but we'll keep you updated!

Okay, back to work.  Tomorrow's going to be a big day!

Friday, September 26, 2014


We spent a good part of the day today preparing for tonight's event, something called KPM.  It was a chance to invite the entire family to KidPak, so the moms and dads could see what we do a bit more.  The night was a success, despite a few hitches here or there.  One parent came up later and was simply blown away, wanting us to do it more so that the entire family could come together.  That may happen - it was easy to put together, as most of the service details were things we've done before.  And that's just it:  there wasn't anything extra special about tonight, other than an extra skit that Daddy threw in there.  The videos, the puppetry and the other portions of the service were all things that we had done before, shown before, all part of a standard KidPak service.  If parents only knew all we went through each week!

So that was a big part of the day for us, as the event took place at 7pm.  We were moving chairs, getting cupcakes and coffee, and that sort of thing.  Daddy was also proofing the final booklet for the Master Builders series coming up.  Yes, that's just a week away, and we're scrambling a bit to meet that deadline as well.

This is a Madison kaleidoscope.  I can't believe I spelled kaleidoscope correctly on the first try.  Anyway, our new iPad has this feature, so we were using it a bit to take funny pictures of ourselves.  This one isn't necessarily funny, but it is kind of neat to look at.  This is for those who never get tired of seeing Madison's smile!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Shana Tova

Happy New Year!  Those apples we just picked off the tree came in handy today, as we honored a really old tradition of serving apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah.  And, as you can see above, we also had the shofar out to blow, announcing to the neighborhood that it is time for the new year to begin.  Madison blew that from the back deck, once she got some pointers from Mommy and Daddy. At first, she was inclined to use it like a massive kazoo, but once we got the whole brass instrument technique explained, she was blowing out a bunch of short blasts off the back deck.  Daddy has a little more experience, so he was showing her how it ws done, with this long blast that just had to sound crazy in this neighborhood!

This iPad is wonderful - we then looked up a great, short video about Rosh Hashanah, one that explained what the day was all about, but in a kid-friendly way.  That way Daddy could understand it too.

Having done all that, it was time for a snack!  Those apple slices in honey were absolutely delicious.  That's just one apple, by the way, a huge Jonagold apple we picked this past Sunday.  The three of us dipped our apples in the honey and tasted the sweet goodness!  The apples are sweet, and the honey is sweet - it all symbolizes our wish for an extra sweet year.

We had school today.  Madison knows her spelling words already, and she is getting better with her math skills.  She's not quite at fifty correct problems in under three minutes, but she's close.  And certainly ahead of the rubrik there.  Art class had her doing more work decorating a panda bear.  I'm not clear on what this panda bear is going to look like.  Most are black and white, but I have a feeling there may be some wondrous variety to this one.

We did our usual piano work, and we also threw in a trip to the library:  the purpose was picking up "A Pinch of Magic," the latest Never Girls book.  We might be all caught up with this one when we are done, which means we'll be looking for something else to read.  We read chapter one before bed tonight, which still captures Madison's attention very well.  Mommy's attention too - she wants to know Never Girls updates from time to time.  At the beginning of this book, it appears as if one of Mia's more impulsive friends has gotten her into a bit of trouble, in a baking contest without a clue how to bake.  We'll have to see where the fairies from Pixie Hollow fit in with this one.  My guess is that Dulcie the baking talent fairy is going to help come to the rescue, but we'll see as each night goes by.

Daddy finally finished the messages of the LEGO series today, which actually begin two Sundays from now.  These messages will span a two-month time, ending the weekend after Thanksgiving, so Daddy was under a bit of pressure to do more, and do it quickly.  We're still Under the Sea at KidPak, but we're certainly heading towards an end point.  Two months seems like a good time to say goodbye to a series.  Once this one started, I didn't want it to end because it was so magical and there was so much to talk about.  Right about now, I'm ready to say goodbye.  We still have a fantastic Sunday dedicated to the Pearl of Great Price this upcoming weekend, and last weekend was all about Winter the dolphin, and how we overcome and inspire.  So each weekend has been full of great things to talk about.  But in our hearts we're ready to try something new.  And that's going to take a lot of work next week.  Who am I kidding?  It has taken a lot of work THIS week, as each day Daddy has been scrambling to finish up all these LEGO-themed messages.

Anyway, the point is, we're off and running with this new year - we've got a lot of great things planned at KidPak.  Madison is going to see the best stuff as we move forward this year, and beyond. Shana Tova!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

James Oglethorpe

It was a work day, but Daddy did get to sneak home for a bit to spend some time with Madison. She was busy with some homework, and the visit was a surprise. Madison was writing a bit about James Oglethorpe this week, and during these lessons, I learned something very interesting: Oglethorpe is a very weird name.

Okay, beyond that, he's the guy who came up with the idea to colonize Georgia. That's kind of important.  Here, he is illustrated reacting to the news that he just saved a lot of money on car insurance.    His expression seems to say, "Really?"

Anyway, he was a general and a relatively important guy.  He oversaw Georgia for a bit too, working with Mary Musgrove, who we also learned about recently. Interestingly enough, he didn't want slavery in Georgia, and while he was in charge, there wasn't any slavery here.  That's right:  no slaves in Georgia to begin with.

It wasn't exactly for the purest of reasons: he feared that the slaves would flee their masters, and run down to the Spanish colony of Florida, where they'd simply add to that army, making it big enough to fight Georgia. 

This would be the beginning of the "World's Largest Cocktail Party," a rivalry between the two states that stands to this day. Spaniards and English Colonists met halfway between the two states for a massive tailgating party before the actual skirmishes. Right there at that spot, they were entertained by a band called the Florida Georgia Line. And so from that moment on, the boundary between these states was called the Florida Georgia Line. The Florida team was a bit tired, that is until they were given Gatoraid. And so from that moment on, they became the Florida Gators. The Georgia team was just named after a bulldog. I have no idea why.

And similarly, nobody knows who won the first skirmishes. But that's not the point. The point is that we didn't have slavery in Georgia, and so Florida did not have much of an army. And Georgia maintained its no slavery policy for many years, that is until Mr. Oglethorpe went back to England to deal with Scotland. I believe his reasons had something to do with chasing wisps, and cursed bears. And while there, perhaps helping people decide if they would vote for Scottish independence or not. At gunpoint.

So he left, and as he did, Georgia did not have slavery. And then it did. What happened? Here's the answer, after again very careful study: they waited for Mr. Oglethorpe to leave. All this time, South Carolina did have slavery, and they were right there next to Georgia. So Georgia started to hang around with the wrong crowd. Georgia was a bit lonely as the furthest south colony, and so one day when it was invited to a party with North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina, the peer pressure was on. The lesson here is to watch which states you hang around with, because some are very poor influences. A good example of this these days would be New Jersey. Don't hang around New Jersey. Just trust me on that one.

On a more serious note, Madison is doing really well in school.  I can't say I'm surprised, as every parent of course thinks the best of his or her child.  But at the same time, I believe all parents are surprised when their children suddenly begin to spout out facts and statements that seem well beyond their years.  It's just her growing up.  Her classwork and homework are well done, well written, and well thought-out.  Her mistakes are few, and the amount of work we're seeing at home is tremendous.  We're very pleased with this aspect of her growth.  The speech area would be the only Achille's heel at the moment, but we're attacking even that as we write here, doing our research on nearby therapists that can help.

Tonight, Madison stayed home from church.  We have to get up early, but she would have enjoyed our service dedicated to the marine life rescue programs around the world.  Here's a bit of a synopsis, but as you can imagine we showed footage from the new movie, and an amazing interview on set with Bethany Hamilton.  It was a great night, and of course, much more accurate than the description of James Oglethorpe above!

Dr. Clay Haskett tells his team to listen to one voice only. Then he instructs each person to do their assigned task as they race against time to rescue a lost dolphin.

That is pretty similar to what we do at church, right? We each have our calling, and we listen to one voice as we race against time, working together to save those people that are lost.

Rescue. Rehab. Release. It's exciting and rewarding work! We are very much like a marine life rescue center: The church rescues, and then the church helps rehabilitate and restores. And then finally, the church releases those that overcome so that they themselves can find others to rescue.
God has given us all a job to do, and time is running short. You know of some that need rescuing right now. So let's get busy bringing Hope! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hidden Mickey

Madison finished her Minecraft calendar, that motivational tool we were using to get her to finish her piano practices.  In anticipation of this big moment, Daddy had already downloaded the game itself on the X-box, so all she had to do was turn it on.  So tonight, we finally caught up with the rest of the world, popping in this hugely successful game and seeing what it was all about.  

We were completely lost for a bit.  Have to admit, I'm still lost on probably a few important things.  But we made ourselves a pretty big shelter finally, and just before dark too.  In the game, you have to build a shelter for protection, otherwise these creepy square things will come after you.  And, your shelter needs to be well-lit, otherwise there'll be creepy things inside with you too.  We figured this out the hard way, but currently we have a well-crafted cave home, built in the side of the mountain.  It has skylights, windows, lots of torches, and two secret passages to other places on top of the hill, and on the other side of the hill.  This may not sound like a big deal to you Minecraft professionals, but to us it is a vast accomplishment!

It is pretty creepy to sit there in your house at night, and by chance you look outside your window and see something staring at you.  He wants to get you, but he can't get in.  So he just sits there, staring, and waiting.  

Today was music day, and we played our pianos and did a bit of ice skating around the classroom on paper plates, because that's how we roll at piano class.  We'll be taking this iPad with us to the next class though, so it can record some of the tunes we're practicing, so we can play it back at home to hear how it is supposed to sound.  These kids all know each other well now, having played piano together for three years.  Each has about the same level of talent and ability, so it works well for them to go through all of this together.  Hopefully, Madison will hold on to all of this, and carry a bit of that piano ability throughout her life.  Daddy is trying to learn at the same time - hopefully, it will stay with him as well!

Today was also Taco Tuesday!

Ah, the effect of "The LEGO Movie" on our lives.  But wait?  What's this?  Do I see a Hidden Mickey on Madison's plate?  Madison spotted this bit of taco sauce in the shape of Mickey's head, and that was that:  she wanted a picture of it.  So here it is, a Hidden Mickey out of Taco Sauce, posted on the internet for all the world to see.  THIS is what the internet was designed for!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The End of Summer

It's the last day of summer, so we went to the dentist.  That's not what you would normally do to kick off the official end of summer, of course.  But it did need to be done.  And by the way, Mommy and Daddy have a clean bill of health with their teeth at least.  We'll see the dentist again, probably in March.  Probably the last day of winter, too.

Much has been made about the benchmarks that indicate the end of summer.  To us, it's been over since Labor Day.  To hear that today was actually the last day of summer is kind of a surprise - you mean we're still in summer?  But yet it hasn't really felt like fall until this week either.  We've been in a seasonal limbo lately, but this week the temperature is supposed to dive a bit to remind us that yes, in fact, summer is now officially over.  And here we begin:  it is the start of the season we love the most, with so much going on in October, November and December.  January hits us and we're all depressed it is over with so quickly.  But here, right now in September, this is where we should pause to take it all in - life is about to get really fun!  Already, we've seen apples.  But soon we'll see scarecrows and pumpkins and fairs and leaves and costumes.  And then there's everything with Christmas.  The summer months were fun, but there's something more magical about the autumn season.  So here we are on the precipice of another fall, ready to race through it once again.  We're really looking forward to it.  YOLO is the expression being used the last few years, meaning "you only live once."  We get to do this fall thing once a year though, and it never gets old.  How can it be that this season where everything goes to slumber can be such a refreshing time for us?  Not sure, but we'll take it.

So today was ballet practice for Madison.  She enjoyed it very much.  And while she was enjoying it very much, Daddy was talking to a woman once more just outside the hall.  It was a mother of one of the little girls dancing inside, and this mother has cancer.  We spoke at church yesterday about using the thing that you've overcome in order to inspire others going through that same thing.  And here we are, doing just that.  Today was the second time Daddy has been trying to uplift this woman's spirits.  But it just so happens that there is another ballet mom who goes to our church as well.  And she also survived cancer.  So the two of us ganged up on this sick mother.  Not really, but the two of us were on either side of this sick mother, encouraging and letting her know that she can make it.  We'll pray for her, and keep her in our thoughts.  And we'll keep encouraging her, as God put her in our lives for a reason - we'll do our best to help her through this.

Madison is getting a surprise soon.  Mommy and Daddy were on our way back from the dentist, and we went to a thrift shop to trade in some of Madison's older costumes and clothing.  In exchange for this, we get credit for the store, for other items.  It's a popular store in Cumming, with lots of fall items and costuming - one thing we saw was a Little Mermaid costume.  Yes, we now have that.  We know that this will be the perfect costume for Madison when we return to SeaWorld next month.  Yes, that's yet another thing to look forward to.  We'll probably share the costume with her later this week as a reward - she'll be pretty excited about that one.  She loves, loves, loves new costumes.

Tonight, we did our piano practice and wrapped that up.  Only one day left on the Minecraft Calendar.  We also played Disney Universe a bit, an old game now.  Madison has been wanting to play this game a few times recently.  It may be so that she can beat Daddy up a lot.

She went to bed tonight after another visit to Neverland, and of course a passage from the Bible.  Mommy and Daddy watched "The Winter Soldier" again, and now we're all caught up for "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." tomorrow night.  And that pretty much sums up the end of summer for us.  It was a good summer though, looking back.  Lots of camps and fun, so don't get me wrong.  It's just that here is where the real fun begins!

Sunday, September 21, 2014


This morning started as all Sunday mornings start for us:  at church.  Today's Under the Sea theme was the next-to-last message of the series, which just illustrates further how fast all these go by.  This has easily been one of my favorite things we've ever done.  It has been daring, different, and so amazingly creative.  This morning, we took a slight break, showing clips from the movie "Dolphin Tale" and using that to show how kids can overcome, and inspire.  Just like Winter the Dolphin.  Because it had that theme to it, you can imagine that Madison really liked the service.

After church, we headed west - to Ellijay!

Jonagold is a cultivar of apple which was developed in 1953 in New York, a cross between the crisp Golden Delicious and the blush-crimson Jonathan.

Here's Madison in Ellijay, on our annual trip to the apple orchards to go apple picking.  Daddy remembers going to upstate New York for apple picking, so we're blessed to continue the tradition here, making about an hour drive to the west, and upwards in elevation.

The obligatory hay ride.  Actually, it's a nice hay ride up the dirt road a bit to our destination, an apple orchard resting on the side of a mountain.  We go to the Red Apple Barn, which is on the western side of Ellijay, so it is a bit further of a drive for us.  But it isn't quite the amusement park the other orchards have become.  This month there are so many people driving through Ellijay, all lined up to do some apple picking, or just go for a drive through the mountains.  Or, milk a cow.

Okay, so not a real cow.  Up against the railing like this, you could say this cow was lean beef.  If it falls over, it will be ground beef.  Anyway, we like the Red Apple Barn because of the hay ride up there, and the variety of apples to try out.  We had some Jonagold apples this time around, and Daddy has determined that this is his favorite type of apple.  It only took a few decades to come to this decision, but these things do take time.  We had a lot of fun wandering through the orchard, hundreds of trees, trying all kinds of different apples.  Madison was sampling more this year than ever before.

We had one bag with us, and slowly but surely, we filled it up.  Daddy was carrying the bag for a bit, that is until Madison offered to help:

Quite a haul - and quite a day!  We went back to the barn afterwards, riding our hay ride back to towards our car and away from the orchard.  There at the barn was a place to get apple cinnamon doughnuts, and apple cider - part of the fee for the whole experience.  On a deck overlooking a field below, we sat in rocking chairs as the sun was starting to retire for the day.  The weather was so remarkably pleasant today, everything just right for the picking.  We couldn't have picked a better day to go, in fact!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Present from Elastigirl

Look what we got in the mail today!  Disney does it right, and although this is just the briefest of our trips to the parks, they still sent us our wristbands in this nice box, and with our names beneath each one.  Daddy chose the green one to go with his costume, and Madison chose red like her Mommy.  They look nice, and of course these are used as keys to the parks and to the doors, and to a few other things like the Fastpass.  The other thing they unlock is something on Disney Infinity, which is a pretty neat hidden feature.  By waving one of these wristbands over the Disney Infinity pad, you can unlock some sort of new background a props for the worlds you design.

This was a nice thing to open up at the end of the day.  We spent some time at work today, typing up messages and getting things together for service tomorrow and beyond.  Time is zipping by, and that deadline to have all the messages for the next series is looming.

Madison did piano practice today, and reading practice as well.  And speech too - this is one area she's been paying a bit more attention to.  We're trying to be more diligent in this, getting her to do more exercises each day.  We've been looking online for resources, for apps to help in getting this one last stronghold defeated.  Madison will be speaking fluently and clearly very soon, but it will take a bit of effort for all of us.

Tonight we read from Neverland again - the Never Girls have officially met the Lost Boys, which I think would be an amazing rock band name.  We watered the garden a bit, and got ourselves a pretty big harvest of cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes.  We also met a ginormous spider, who has now taken up residence in front of the house, hanging between the garage and front porch.  She has built this ginormous web, and let's just say that Daddy met her the hard way.  Madison thought it was hysterical.  There is something utterly horrific about walking along, and coming face to face with a spider that big, dangling in front of you, legs flailing.  Both you and the spider are in full panic mode, as your arms do some sort of kung fu directed at all the rope-like webbing now stuck to your body.  The spider is merely trying to climb away from this large human who appears to be doing some sort of weird, jerky interpretive dance, with accompanying sounds:  "Oh!  Gross!  Get it off!  Yuck!  Oh!"

It is a seasonal thing.  Daddy will let the spider stay there, but everyone has been warned, including you.  Watch where you walk in that little zone, because there is a spider hanging there that's roughly the size of your face!  We'll have to come up with a name for her.  Knowing Madison, it will either be Rosie, Lilly, or her new go-to name, "Jamie Lynne."  I think that's the name of a friend at school, and such a nice name that she's named other friends in the house that same name, like our alien LEGO creature.   That's the perfect name for an alien, isn't it?  Jamie Lynne.


ARMY GENERAL:  "What should we call you?"


Friday, September 19, 2014

Color Run

Lots to talk about today, starting with the Color Run at the school.  Madison earned this with the other kids who raised a certain amount of money for the Fund Run this past Wednesday, which of course was a sponsored marathon for kids.  They raised money for the school by doing laps on the track.  But today, they just had to do one lap, and all the while there were parents along the way with containers of paint that they squirted on the kids.

Madison took a couple direct hits along the journey, and as you can see she had goggles on to protect her eyes.  It was a fun time, all the way up until the end, when the kids tossed a bit of paint in the air, scattering it to the wind, directly over their heads.  And, of course it was messy!

Later on, we engaged in what is now becoming a timeless tradition:  the sacred honoring of Talk Like a Pirate Day.  It was in fact the big day, September 19th.  And yes, we did talk like pirates, quite a bit.  Arrrr!

We didn't have time for a pirate movie tonight, but we did do something better.  We organized the crew once more, assembled costumes, and went on a journey for treasure!

Here is just a small part of our crew - I think we had well over twenty pirates on the journey with us.  We couldn't fit all in once vehicle, of course, so we got in a bunch of SUVs and formed an armada, a treasure fleet!  And our destination?

Krispy Kreme!  We had the most pirates we've ever had for this sort of endeavor, each one dressed up fully in pirate garb to get the most revered of treasures!

Doughnuts.  Here the kids are, checking out the process that makes the doughnuts.  But these are kids, and they are pirate kids.  So therefore, they aren't interested in any processes right now.  All they want is doughnuts!

Here's Madison with her treasure, her box of Krispy Kreme bounty.  And of course, you can see her here talking like a pirate:  "Arrrrrr!"  There were so many of us, we had no room inside to sit together.  So we found our way outside to the grass in front of the store.

It was a perfect evening for this sort of thing, as the sun was going down and the weather was just perfect.  And the doughnuts were good too.  Daddy and Madison only had one, actually.  To us, it wasn't all about going to devour a bunch of free doughnuts - it was about dressing a pirate and going on an adventure.  And judging by all the other pirates around us, it appears a lot of rogues were thinking the same thing.  We filmed a bit tonight, as Josh came along to video our crew:  again, there were at least twenty of us or more.  We'll make the footage work with something for our KidPak service next weekend, but until then, it was just fun hanging out together.  Dressed as pirates.

So what did Madison and Daddy do with the twenty-two doughnuts remaining?  We brought them by the church, where there was a woman's conference going on.  Earlier, we promised Officer Monica that we'd bring some of our booty back to share.  It was a nice surprise to see us pour in with doughnuts for all the workers and police officers there that night.  Madison was quite generous with her portion of the treasure!

And so, Talk Like a Pirate Day came to an end.  We did have a bit of story time tonight, but Daddy went old school by making up the story himself:  it was a story of all the pirates we know, on a journey of their own to get free doughnuts.  Madison, Angelica, Davy Jones, Metalbeard, Jack Sparrow, Hector Barbossa and more were on a journey to Krispy Kreme to get something of great price, something they had to sell all their possessions to have.  It was like a pearl of great price, and all had given everything in order to commission the expedition.  And so they arrive at Krispy Kreme, and discover that despite all they've given - the doughnuts were free!  And even better, all that which they've given up - was returned back to them by the manager of the store.  And even better, they are told to follow a dotted line that now crosses the floor of the store.  It appears like a dotted line you follow on a treasure map, so they follow it and find that towards the back of the Krispy Kreme is a door. It isn't any ordinary door, though.  It's a door to a pirate heaven, an island paradise filled with buried treasures, targets for shooting cannons, pirate forts, hooks and peg legs, and talking parrots and monkeys.  It is a pirate heaven, one they can visit at any time.  But especially on Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A New Hope

Madison earned it with her computer work, so today we went to see "Dolphin Tale 2" at the movies.  And even though Winter didn't do any work at all, she was brought along to see the show.  Madison has a stuffed Winter, who has been with her a lot lately.  The two sat together at the theater, along with a big tub of popcorn, and together we watched the movie.

Madison really liked it.  Mommy and Daddy did too, particularly for the educational value.  The purpose and process of rehabilitating and releasing marine life is really covered in this movie.  There were plenty of shots underwater of dolphins swimming about, and it was good to see all the actors return for this one.  The first movie was clearly better, but this was an enjoyable experience for us, and we're of course happy to support the whole concept of marine life rescue.  Madison wants to go back to Clearwater now, and right in the middle of the movie, she let us know that she wants to touch a dolphin.  You read it here first.

The rest of the day was school, which was fun for Madison.  She knows all her spelling words this week without any problems, and is miles ahead of everyone else on the Scoot Pad.  We had time for the speech homework tonight, where we were making up goofy sentences - and we had time to read from the Never Girls book. It appears as if we are meeting the Lost Boys, but we'll see how that goes as we turn the pages tomorrow night.

Daddy wrote another message or two today, each with a LEGO theme flavor.  One message was actually started while watching Madison play tennis yesterday.  Daddy had the iPad with him, and was typing away his thoughts.  Another message will hopefully be about LEGO Batman. It's for the end of October, so that might all work out with the series.

More in a bit on the day.  Right now, it's time to get some shut-eye!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Return Serve

Daddy got to come along to tennis practice today, and what a thrill.  You can see Madison above, returning yet another serve.  She won that part of the day, returning more balls over the net than any of the others, boys included.  She's getting better and better each day, she says.  And best of all, she really enjoys this sort of thing.  It won't be long before we'll be struggling to keep up with her!

The problem with tennis lessons would be the time.  Right now, there just weren't enough participants to justify the 4:00 time, so we're there with the 5:00 time.  It is so close to church time that I'm cutting it close to get back on time.  But we did make it, and tonight was a good night at KidPak.

Madison did some other atheltic activities today:  it was the Fund Run.  Today in order to raise money, kids were sponsored to do laps around the track behind the school.  Madison said she did ten laps today, which was quite a bit.  Yes, that's probably a whole lot more than Daddy could run at the moment.  Not that our event was this big - or maybe it was - but there was a blimp flying over the school today.  Madison had never seen a blimp before, so this was kind of a big deal for the kids.

So the rest of the day was school, and homework, and an early night's rest.  Daddy has been working on our LEGO messages for the next week, which are coming along at a quicker pace now.  We've been reading Madison's LEGO magazines, watching LEGO movies, and reading LEGO books.  And yes, there were a couple visits to LEGOLAND this year - I think we've had a lot of fun with the research phase.  We've got some great ideas for this series, ideas I'll be sharing soon when Under the Sea is drawing to a close.

We also came up with our January-February series this week.  Mommy came up with the title, and Daddy thought up the premise.  The series will be called, "Northern Lights," and will take place in Norway, probaby.  This covers all kinds of good stuff, from Vikings to Queen Elsa to trolls to "How to Train Your Dragon."  Daddy has one message called "Berserker" that he's been sitting on a while, and of course the set will be a snowy wonderland.  This should be good stuff.  Daddy has had these Viking ideas - several three-point messages - already outlined at least seven or eight years ago.  They've been sitting there, waiting for the right moment, and that may be upon us now.

It was a good day, but as are most Wednesdays, there isn't enough time spent with Madison.  She had a great time running around, but that will probably pale in comparison to the event in a few days, the Color Run.  Daddy and Mommy will be on hand at the school to witness that one!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Barrette Star

Madison is quite proud of this barrette star she made.  She wanted Daddy to snap a picture of it this morning, so here it is:  evidence of artistic expression, a creation made from the medium of barrettes.  What does it mean, or symbolize, you ask?  What is the artist trying to express here?  Perhaps it is merely an asterisk, that in itself a symbol that says there's more to what your looking at, if you just look further.  Or it could just be a bunch of barrettes in the shape of a star.

Today was Taco Tuesday!  So we had tacos, of course.  But we also watched "The LEGO Movie" again, this time for a bit of research.  We love this movie - there are so many great lines in it, and there was a lot of inspiration drawn from it for the new series.  Just watching it we got some great quotes, but some interesting insights that will appear in the weeks to come with our new series.

We had piano practice, and here we are at F major.  This is a tricky little scale with the right hand, as you only use four of your fingers when moving up and down the scale.  And one of those of course is ti flat, the black key.  The challenge is playing it with your left hand and right hand, going up and down the scale at the same time while your hands are doing different things.  This is a lot more complicated than rubbing your belly while patting your head at the same time!

This is just the sort of thing a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent could do, of course.  Yes, we're continuing our binge-watching of season one.  Madison definitely can't watch it yet, but Mommy and Daddy have been sort of addicted once more after Madison goes to bed - tonight we saw the episode that introduces the official lanyards.  In case you want one, here it is:

Madison got her killer whale today - this was a project she did just before the start of school.  It was from a party where the invited guests could paint their own projects, and then of course these projects were fired up in the kiln.  The whole process afterwards takes a few days, and we were just getting around to receiving the end result.  Madison did really well with that orca.  This was just after returning from SeaWorld, so she was inspired to do a little under-the-sea theme with her artwork.  It came out nice.

So we're off to bed tonight - tomorrow will be a much busier day it appears, leading up to an even busier weekend.  But we're all well for the most part, though just a bit sleepy at times.  Madison has a few more targets for her online reward system, one of them being a new app for her iPad.  Can you believe she's earning these points so fast that she's crossing these rewards off one by one?  She's relentless!

Monday, September 15, 2014


Ballet was today, and although Daddy was geared up to go outside and wait in the car, reading a bit, he instead was introduced by Madison to another parent waiting.  The girls went in to dance, and Daddy just sat there listening to an hour and a half.  This woman had cancer, the second woman to strike up a conversation about the same topic while waiting for our little ballerinas inside.  The last lady had cancer too.  Both situations were bleak, or at least the individuals were resigned to their fate.  Daddy's job seems to be encouragement, and as much as he could prescribe.  Mommy survived - Mommy made it through, and so can you.  Don't give up - you're tired and weary from the medication, but that's just the medication that has you like that.  Give it time and you'll fight back.  You just need something to focus on and live for, like that little girl in side dancing for you.  We'll pray for these precious ladies.  It helps that we know yet another Mommy who survived - her kids dance at the same time Madison does.  This woman goes to church with us, and we've been interacting about diet changes and all those adjustments that needed to be made after the fact.  We're part of a family of survivors, having battled something pretty serious.  Mommy is a champion, despite it all.  She looked that evil in the eye and overcame it, and Madison was her prize at the end, the thing she focused on instead.  Daddy was happy to be along for the ride, supporting her every step of the way.  I remember watching every movie Abbott and Costello starred in, an epic marathon we watched at Longstreet Clinic.  We had our headphones on, the two of us, while the chemotherapy was pouring through her body.  She was weak, but we were with her.  And Madison would be on the way soon.

We got home and Daddy had a surprise for Madison:  the latest Never Girls book.  We're on number six now.  Daddy snuck out to get it from the library, returning the previous one.  We're really moving along on this story now - Madison listens to Daddy read nearly every night.

Another thing she listens to are the epic stories in the car on the way to and from ballet.  Today featured the continued adventures of Flower Girl (that's Madison) and her friend Iceman, who worked together to rescue the rest of the X-Men.  Madison likes the X-Men, almost as much as Daddy does.  They had to go to Egypt to rescue their friends from the inside of a pyramid that was filled with traps and peril.  Of course, they succeeded.

Madison earned a trip to the movies when we got home.  Her rewards system set up online, she practiced a whole lot of math, learning about yards and a little bit of algebra as well.  A + A + A + A = B?  Really?  Already?  She knows it though, all in the name of redeeming that next reward, which in this case is a trip to see "Dolphin Tale 2" later this week.

So today we're doing a bit of writing.  Sometimes on our Wednesday night services, we get a bit abstract with the skits, which is fun in an unpredictable sort of way.  Talking about Jesus calming the storm, we have kids up on stage as apostles and a storm simulated on the water.  There's your tie-in to the under-the-sea theme.  Anyway, one of the guys that hangs around the apostles is Angus.  He's fictitious, of course.  But we like this guy - he's Scottish, and generally has flies buzzing around him as he hops around.  Here he is with a few other Bible characters:

The funny thing is that we keep sneeking him into skits.  As I wrap up for the day, here is his latest cameo appearance for us, Under the Sea.

KidPak Adventures:  Under the Sea
Rough Seas

CUE TRACK:  6 Rufus

JOEY:  “Before going on with the message, I thought I’d share a bit of the Bible with you.  It’s an amazing story you’ll find in Mark, chapter four – and Mr. Narrator, I think you know this one, right?”

NARRATOR: “ Of course I do!”

JOEY:  “That’s great – then let’s tell our audience an amazing story, probably in a way they haven’t heard before.”

NARRATOR:  “As any story should, this story begins with Jesus.”


NARRATOR:  “He was with his apostles.  First there was Matthew.”


NARRATOR:  “And then there was Peter.”


NARRATOR: “ And finally, there was Angus.”


NARRATOR:  “Okay, Angus wasn’t exactly an apostle.  But he liked to hang around Jesus, and my friends, there’s nothing wrong with that!”

NARRATOR:  “Except that maybe it would be great if Angus bathed once and a while.  Anyway, they all jumped on a boat because Jesus told them to go to a distant shore.  So they hopped in a boat together.”

CAST ‘hops’ on steps in center stage.

NARRATOR:  “It was a lovely day for a boat ride, and so relaxing that Jesus felt it was a great idea to take a little nap.  And so he rested his head on a cushion on the boat, and fell asleep, resting peacefully in the back.”

JESUS falls asleep.

NARRATOR: “And that’s when the apostles saw something.  It was something altogether awful, something horrifically horrific!”


CUE TRACK:  7 Incantation

NARRATOR:  “They saw Bubble Guppies!  And they screamed in terror!”

CAST (except JESUS) screams in horror.

JOEY interrupts story.

JOEY: “It was not Bubble Guppies, Mr. Narrator.”


NARRATOR: “It wasn’t?  Oh.  Sorry.  Then take that accursed image off the screen!”


NARRATOR:  “Sorry folks.  That just might give me nightmares.  No, this is in fact what they saw that inspired so much fear.”

CUE TRACK:  8 The Baron Dies and Lives Again


NARRATOR:  “It was Ray the Shark!  And the apostles – and Angus – screamed in utter horror!”

APOSTLES scream.

JOEY:  “NO.  It wasn’t that, Mr. Narrator.  Don’t you know the story?  It’s in Mark, chapter four.”


NARRATOR: “Oh, that story.  Well, go away shark.  Sorry.”

SHARK:  “Aw, man!”


NARRATOR: “ What they saw in fact was worse than Bubble Guppies and a big shark put together.  It was… I can’t say it.”

JOEY: “ Say it!”

NARRATOR:  “Fine.  It was… a storm!”

CUE TRACK:  9 The Kraken (at 3:01.5)




NARRATOR: “A great windstorm arose!  The boat was rocking back and forth in the storm.  Rock back and forth, apostles!”

APOSTLES rock back and forth.

NARRATOR:  “For those about to rock, I salute you!  Come on, Apostles!  Rock on!”

APOSTLES rock back and forth.

NARRATOR:  “Rock like you mean it!”

APOSTLES rock back and forth like they mean it.

NARRATOR: “The weather started getting rough.  The tiny ship was tossed.  If it wasn’t for the courage of the fearless crew, that poor ship would be lost!  But still the waves came – and everyone got wet!”

BACKSTAGE comes out with water guns, and randomly sprays audience a moment, and then fires off a few shots at APOSTLES and even JOEY.  Then flees backstage.

NARRATOR: “I told you.  Everyone got wet.  It got so bad, and yet when they saw Jesus, they realized he was sleeping.  What’s up with that?  Let’s wake Jesus up, KidPak.  On the count of three, everyone yell out, ‘WAKE UP, JESUS!’”

NARRATOR: “One… two… three!”

AUDIENCE:  “Wake up, Jesus!”

JESUS wakes up calmly, stretching and so forth.

NARRATOR:  “The apostles – and Angus – were filled with dread.  They waved their arms at Jesus and said, ‘Don’t you care if we drown?’”

JESUS rises slowly.

NARRATOR: “And that’s when Jesus got up, and simply said these words.”

JESUS:  “Peace!  Be still!”

CUE TRACK:  10 Winter’s a News Story


NARRATOR:  “And that’s when there was a great calm.  The apostles turned to each other and scratched their heads in wonderment.  What sort of man is this that can calm the seas?”

NARRATOR:  “The answer is simple. It’s the same one that can give you peace that passes all understanding.  So have faith, and trust Him, and you will find your rest – and your peace.”

NARRATOR:  “The end.”

JOEY:  “Let’s give our cast a round of applause as they exit!”