Saturday, January 31, 2015

Berserker

Today didn't go so well.  It was simply put one of the worst days for Mommy, the ugliest day she's had in years.  This, we suspect is due to the anesthesia, which has a wicked effect on her gastrointestinal system.  Them's fancy words - it all adds up to an awful day for Mommy.  She was on pain medication nearly the entire day, and quite miserable.

Madison was playing nurse for Mommy while this was happening.  One precious moment had Madison hop in the tub with Mommy.  The two were in the bathtub together, talking and soaking in the hot water.

Daddy, meanwhile, was busy at work.  We're gearing up for another big day tomorrow, but simultaneously we're clearing out a lot of stuff around the office, and generally cleaning things up.  Drastic changes are going on all around, including Daddy's new office, which looks just dandy.

One thing that Daddy got done today was the new message for tomorrow, one he'll be speaking to the kids about.  I generally script these things out, this for future reference.  But this is a message that we conceived ten years ago!  We were in Florida, brainstorming possible messages for a Viking series when we came up with this one - and here we are, ten years later watching it all fall into place.  Pretty neat stuff there.

Of course, the thing is, it's not the best day today.  Mommy's condition is just plain ugly.  We got the good news this past week, so that's given us a positive outlook.  A REALLY positive outlook.  So you can imagine that this is just a sort of retribution for such great news.  One last-ditch effort to keep us down.  And it isn't going to work, because Mommy cannot and will not stay down.  That said, here's the script for the message for tomorrow, one called "Berserker."


Berserker

Host:  "Hey there!  Today we're talking about being unstoppable, and moving forward.  And the big question on everyone's mind is simply this:  are we going to move forward with this weather?  Anyone tired of cold weather?  Seriously, who's ready for spring?"

Let audience answer.

HOST:  "There are a few people who know for sure what the next few weeks are going to be like, but if you really want to know what's going on, you HAVE to go see the Groundhog."

CUE SLIDE:  GROUNDHOG DAY

HOST:  "Now tomorrow is Groundhog Day, and everyone is heading off to see the little guy.  But I thought we'd check with Mrs. Groundhog today, and see if we can get a sneak peek at the next six weeks worth of weather."

HOST goes towards stone wall, and looks downward behind it.

HOST:  "Oh, I see she's taking a little bit of a nap.  Let's see if we can wake her up.  On the count of three, let's scream 'Wake up, groundhog!'  One... two... three!"

Let audience call out.

MRS. GROUNDHOG pops up from behind wall.

MRS. GROUNDHOG:  "Wha?  Wha?"

HOST:  "Sorry for the crazy way of waking you up there - and thanks for being with us!"

MRS. GROUNDHOG:  "No problem at all!  Glad to be here."

HOST:  "Big day for your husband tomorrow, isn't it?"

MRS. GROUNDHOG:  "Yes, it sure is.  He's in his hole now, training and getting ready.  Tomorrow, all these reporters will be swarming his hole, and all those fans, and everyone has that one big question on their mind.  Will there be six weeks of winter, or is spring on the way?"

HOST:  "Yes, yes.  Any chance we can get an early answer?"

MRS. GROUNDHOG:  "You know I can't tell you that!"

HOST:  "Look, I have to be honest.  I believe the groundhog usually gets it right.  But last year..."

MRS. GROUNDHOG:  "Oh, don't remind me.  We had those two epic snowstorms RIGHT AFTER the groundhog said spring was on it's way."

HOST:  "How do you recover from a bad call like that?"

MRS. GROUNDHOG:  "First of all, he's still more accurate than those weathermen you see on television, okay?"

HOST:  "Right.  Right."

MRS. GROUNDHOG:  "But beyond that, he does what he always does.  He goes online and plays video games for hours with Cupid and the Easter Bunny.  And he eats bags and bags of cheese puffs.  But I told him to stop feeling sorry for himself, because we all get knocked down from time to time, right?"

HOST:  "Of course."

MRS. GROUNDHOG:  "So that's what he did.  He got up and decided that from this point on, nothing is going to keep him down.  And that's why you'll find him tomorrow boldly telling everyone the way it is."

HOST:  "It sounds like you were just telling us the way it is."

MRS. GROUNDHOG:  "Well, I guess I did, didn't I?"

HOST:  "Indeed!  Well Mrs. Groundhog, I know you've got a busy day planned - so thanks for being with us!"

MRS. GROUNDHOG:  "It was my pleasure!"

HOST:  "See you later, Mrs. Groundhog!"

MRS. GROUNDHOG:  "Bye!"

MRS. GROUNDHOG drops behind stone wall, out of sight.

HOST:  "Well there you have it.  Don't let a little setback keep you from moving forward.  Of course, our Viking series here is charging forward, and today it's doing just that in a crazy way.  In fact, you could say we are going berserk!"

HOST:  "Nowadays when you hear that word, you think of people going crazy when they get mad, or some of those shoppers on Black Friday trying to get there early for a big deal.  The doors open, and they go berserk!"

CUE SLIDE:  BLACK FRIDAY

HOST:  "The word started out with the Vikings, believe it or not.  There were different types of warriors in a Viking army.  There were archers and there were those good with a sword or axe.  And then there were the berserkers.  These guys were crazy.  They worked themselves up into a frenzy, and were like a firecracker just waiting to be pointed at something.  And heaven help anyone in their way!"

HOST:  "I was trying to think of something to show you exactly what I'm talking about, and I think I found it with a great movie from last year, 'The LEGO Movie.'  There is this character that is all sweet and nice, but something gets her all stirred up, and the next thing you know... she's going berserk.  Let me show you what I'm talking about!"

CUE CLIP:  UNIKITTY GOES BERSERK

(During clip, Groundhog Puppeteer can escape)

HOST:  "Turn to your neighbor and say, 'Don't mess with Unikitty.'

Let audience respond.

HOST:  "My daughter and I have been playing "The LEGO Movie" video game, and one thing she likes to do is play as Unikitty - and then get her all crazy mad.  It doesn't matter what the odds are, someone like that is just fearless!"

HOST:  "In our Bibles, you can read about a man like this.  His name was Paul.  He set sail to conquer people's hearts with God's message, and he was utterly fearless.  And like a berserker, no matter how many hits the guy took - he just kept coming at you."

CUE SLIDE:  VIKING

HOST:  "When we were doing research for this series, we watched this old movie called 'The Vikings.'  And in it, they showed exactly what these Vikings use to believe.  They actually thought that if they died fighting, there was a place for them in Valhalla - that was what they called heaven."

HOST:  "Eventually, they learned this was wrong.  Many came to believe in Jesus, and many of them read about Paul.  And while doing that, I'm sure they were impressed - he was like a berserker to them!  Listen to this crazy thing Paul wrote:"

CUE SLIDE:  "PHILIPPIANS 1:21"

HOST:  "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.'  And that just happens to be our first point.  Take a look!"

CUE SLIDE:  TO DIE IS GAIN

HOST:  "To die is gain.  These Vikings knew about being fearless and facing death.  So they had to love what Paul was saying here.  But this doesn't mean you are literally going to die every day at school.  What it means is this:  doing those things you don't want to do sometimes over things you'd rather be doing.  For example, we all just left a fast.  How many of you would rather eat a hot fudge sundae over spending time reading the Bible?"

CUE SLIDE:  BIBLE versus SUNDAE

HOST:  "Or how about this one.  How many of you would rather pray than go sit and play some video games?"

CUE SLIDE:  "PRAY versus VIDEO GAMES"

HOST:  "Or what about this one.  How many of you would rather be nice to that shy kid versus hanging with your friends and talking about people behind their back?"

HOST:  "Every day we face choices like this.  And let's be honest.  It's easier to want to eat ice cream, play video games, and do all the things the popular kids at school do.  And that's why God wants us to kill all those desires.  There is nothing wrong with ice cream or many video games.  But we all need to make time for those right things in our lives.  And sometimes that involves killing that need to constantly be in front of the television - or whatever.  But to die is gain.  Everyone turn to your neighbor and say, 'to die is gain.'"

Let audience respond.

HOST:  "When you have this thought in your mind, you become unstoppable!  Viking Berserkers were crazy.  And you know something, the world thinks YOU are crazy too. I mean, how else can you explain a Christian acting happy when the world seems to be falling apart all around?"

HOST:  "Not that long ago, my wife was diagnosed with cancer.  It had been in her body for who knows how long - probably over a year.  And nobody knew about it until it was nearly too late.  For me and her, it was time for battle.  We had nothing to lose."

HOST:  "To this day, I remember setting up the praise music in that hospital music, having the anointing oil handy, praying with believers here always.  I remember Rex from the band - he came to the hospital actually dressed as a pirate.  No joke!"

HOST:  "Around the world, Christians are in these types of battles and worse.  And still, they are happy.  What's the secret?  Let's look to see what Paul did."

CUE SLIDE:  "ACTS 26:2"

HOST:  "I think myself happy.'  Paul said this when he was on trial for his life.  He was falsely accused, beaten and thrown into prison.  If anyone had a reason to complain in my eyes, it was Paul.  And yet here he is, thinking himself happy.  This brings me to the next point."

CUE SLIDE:  "Keep charging forward."

HOST:  "Keep charging forward.  This is what Paul did.  He turned that bad situation into a chance to make the devil pay.  Paul was always on the attack!  He kept getting hit, but he was unstoppable.  He is on trial, and he starts using that as an opportunity to tell others about Jesus.  And the king is stunned.  He asks Paul, 'Are you trying to convert me in such a short time?'  And Paul's response sums up our message for the day.  Paul tells him, 'It doesn't matter if it is a short time or a long time, king.'  Because Paul was crazy that way.  He was not going to be stopped.  And that king knew it - he was about to let Paul go.  But Paul said, NOPE!  Send me to Rome, where I can talk to Emperor!  This guy kept charging forward."

HOST:  "And that's what we need to do.  Sure, we'll take the hits.  But we cannot give up.  Don't stop, don't retreat, and don't give up.  How many Seattle Seahawks fans do we have out there?"

Let audience answer.

HOST:  "They were down 19 to 7, with just 2:09 left in the game. That meant they had to score twice in less than two minutes.  And they'd only scored ONCE the entire game so far.  They didn't give up, and now they're in the Super Bowl today."

HOST:  "You may not be heading for the Super Bowl, but God has great things for you. And that's why you have to get up no matter what gets thrown at you.  You are not a wimp.  You are a warrior.  Enough of this self pity.  It's time to get up and get back there on the attack."

HOST:  "Back to the story about my wife a moment.  Have you ever been in a rubber band war?  Here at the office, we used to have them all the time.  People would launch rubber bands at me."

HOST holds up a rubber band or two.

HOST:  "This is the attack of the enemy.  Some rubber bands are bigger, and others are smaller.  But they all sting when they hit, don't they?  That's life.  Sickness?  Whack!  No money?  Whack!  Tough time at school?  Whack!  Sometimes you just keep taking the hits.  And here's where that fighting unstoppable spirit kicks in.  God wants you take all those hits..."

HOST reaches down behind stone wall to pick up a huge rubber band ball.

HOST:  "And make a monster testimony out it.  This is the one my wife has been working on all this time.  That devil keeps launching bad news at her.  Keep it coming, buddy.  Because you're just giving her more ammunition, and she's about to take you down!

HOST puts down rubber band ball.

HOST:  "One final thing about the berserker.  Remember Unikitty?  She was acting crazy - like she wasn't in control of herself.  And that brings us to our final point."

CUE SLIDE:  LOSE YOURSELF

HOST:  "Lose yourself.  Trust God.  This world can seem pretty bleak sometimes.  Just reading the news sometimes can make you want to give up and find a hole to hide in, alongside that groundhog.  But remember this scripture here."

CUE SLIDE:  PSALM 55:22

HOST:  "Turn your worries over to the Lord.  He will keep you going.  He will never let godly people be shaken."

HOST:  "Let's just end this message here with this point - God is in charge.  Say it with me.  God is in charge."

Let audience respond

HOST:  "Nothing surprises Him.  When bad news comes, God isn't up there looking down nudging His angels saying, 'Holy cow, did you see that?'  If something looks bleak or dark in your life, you've got to remember that God is there right with you, and He has a happy ending for all of us.  And Jesus has been through it all here on earth, so He knows how you're feeling.  He knows when you're hurting, and I'm here to tell you that there IS a happy ending.  God is watching you right now.'

HOST:  "And here's where we get that berserker spirit.  Has anyone been knocked down by something in life?  Is there anyone out there that feels like their whole life has been shaken?  If that's you, raise your hand high."

HOST raises his hand.

HOST:  "That's me too.  But we're warriors, aren't we.  We've been hit, but right now, let's all rise.  Get up on your feet and shake it off."

HOST:  "That's good!  God is nudging His angels and saying, 'Holy cow, did you see that?'  Because you are going to win, and you know it.  Everyone knows it.  It's just a matter of time.  Don't stop, don't retreat, and don't give up.  Like a berserker, God has made you unstoppable."

HOST:  "Let us pray."



Friday, January 30, 2015

Iron Fist


Madison's latest reward for piano and homework was a visit from Iron Fist.  First, we had to find him.  Where would a guy like Iron Fist hang out?  Let's think about his name a moment... Iron Fist.  Well, there's a clue.  Madison found him in the laundry room in a cabinet there, where the iron was.  Many people think he's called Iron Fist because of his fighting style.  This couldn't be farther from the truth.  He's actually called this because of his ability to quickly remove wrinkles from just about any fabric.  Note that his yellow bandana is perfectly pressed, and his green costume immaculately wrinkle-free.  This is the legacy of Iron Fist, the most famous iron-wielding character in the Marvel Universe.  You now have no excuse:  you know exactly who Thor takes his red cape to after a battle in the rain and elements.  And Dr. Strange visits frequently with his cape as well.  But Iron Fist is not exclusive to heroes only.  No, there is villainy afoot when Dr. Doom gazes upon his cape after it was not hung up correctly last night.  And Magneto is a frequent customer in the battle against ugly wrinkles.  So wrinkles beware!  Your days are numbered, and you should fear the awesome power of Iron Fist!

Clearly, I do not know much about this Marvel character, or his surprise entry in the Disney Infinity world.  But that's the fun of the Marvel Universe, discovering new characters and their back stories.  Tonight, we made our own backstories for Iron Fist, as he and Spider-man battled evil in New York.  There's something therapeutic about swinging from building to building as Spiderman, exploring the big city as you sling web after web.  I haven't looked backwards lately, but surely the city is a huge mess by now, with webs everywhere.  I'm sure the mayor has a team of people with those long extendable brushes to clean up all the webs each time Spider-man comes through.  Battling evil has a price, and we don't want our city to look dusty and covered with webs!

Today was Friday, the last one of January.  Yes, the month is nearly gone, and already we're racing forward to a new one.  January was cold, as it usually is.  It was also a bit on the dull side, frankly.  We'll have to do something about that.  Maybe we can add some new holidays.  Maybe Iron Fist Day.

Anyway, we spent the day at work.  Mommy took Madison to speech therapy for session number two. Madison still enjoys that, and the two got stuck in traffic on the way home, but that's going to be a regular occurrence with the timing of her appointment each week.  No worries, as Daddy gets home roughly at the same time anyway.  It all works out.

Madison has done really well on her spelling test, a perfect score there.  Also, a perfect score on her math drill, where she got all fifty done and done correctly in under three minutes.  She's ahead of the game there, and doing just fine.  We get her homework back each week, so it's neat to see her doing so well with various assignments.  Her spelling is getting better and better, and her math is great too.  She'll be doing something new next week with multiplication - that will challenge her, surely.

Daddy remembers starting on multiplication.  It's a daunting thing to remember all that to begin with, but now it is second nature.  Okay, mostly second nature.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Schatzki Ring

Here's the email I sent out to everyone this morning, thanking them for their prayers.

Literally the last time we left this very building, we were in shock - Zena had cancer.  That was nine years ago.  

The parallels are eerie this year.  These pretty bad symptoms started in October (same as 2006), there were a lot of missed diagnoses (same as 2006), finally in late January we go to Dr. Clark who checks out the inner plumbing (same as 2006).  

This time, however, the results are MUCH different.  Here's what we've learned:  we have three red streaks - an big irritation - inside the stomach.  He took biopsies, and we'll find out what it is and deal with it.  He made it sound simple.

ALSO, Dr. Clark discovered a Schatzki Ring.  This may sound like a Polish Crime Syndicate, but is in fact a bit of callus that has formed inside her esophagus that built upon itself until it made a ring around the esophagus, making it more narrow.  The good doctor was able to cut away at that this morning, and we'll see the rest of the ring fall away in the coming days.  This was partly responsible for some of the symptoms. 

The other symptoms will hopefully be diagnosed when the biopsy results come back in a few days.  We'll go from there, but everything seems quite a bit more upbeat this time around.  I'll be honest, I was pretty overwhelmed with joy.  The context is that the last time I saw this doctor in this very room, things were pretty bleak.  So we're feeling quite a bit of joy now.

And Zena's feeling quite a bit of drowsiness now.  But good news all around, and thank you so much for your prayers!


Obviously some good news to start the day!  I do want to add - only because I don't think I haven't done it on this blog yet:  Zena's doctors were Lewis and Clark.  And yes, they did exploratory surgery.

Mommy spent much of the day resting, but we're all in good spirits here.  The future is much brighter!  Madison came home from school today, and the rest of the afternoon was a bit of a whirlwind.  We did have quite a bit of homework to do, which was surprising.  She had a math word problem to do, as well as some spelling assignments.  She is spelling words like "successful" and "believable" on her test tomorrow, and these are words that many adults have trouble with.  In fact, I'd say if we were all forced to write without spellchecker programs to cover ourselves, the world would be in some serious grammatical problems.  There would be word crimes everywhere!

Speaking of which, Mommy did something nice for Daddy - on June 20th, he has a ticket to go see Weird Al with his friend Alan from high school.  But this is not any ordinary ticket.  This is a "Mandatory Czar Experience."  Basically, Daddy gets to meet Weird Al this summer.  And sit in the fourth row.  And get a complete set of Weird Al Trading cards (over 125 cards in all!).  There's a personally autographed Mandatory Tour Poster.  There's another Weird Al merchandise gift too, but I'm not entirely sure what that is.  ANYWAY, I'm going.  I'm not going to say how much this cost, but it's one of those once-in-a-lifetime sorts of deals, and Mommy was saying "Why not?"

So apparently we'll be watching "The Weird Al Show" through its entire run with Madison, and I'll see if I can get Weird Al to say some sort of greeting to her (that I can record) from the show.  We'll see how that works out.

Moving on:  can you believe that January is almost over with?  Yes, Madison would say it is believable.  Tomorrow is our second speech therapy session in Alpharetta, but Daddy won't be at that one.  Duty calls!  The work schedule is about to get a little more crowded in the upcoming weeks.  But we'll still make time for each other.  The good news is that in the coming weeks, Mommy is going to be just find.  And that's just fine with us!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Esophagogastroduodenoscopy

That is a real word, and the terminology for the procedure Mommy is going through tomorrow morning (after Madison is away at school).  Could you have come up with possibly a shorter word?  Why on earth would you come up with a word like this for a fairly common procedure?  OBVIOUSLY, the staff there doesn't use this word - they stick with the abbreviation EGD.  Or do they?

*******

DOCTOR:  "I think we need to order an esophagogastroduodenoscopy for our patient."

NURSE:  "A EGD?"

DOCTOR:  "No, an esophagogastroduodenoscopy."

NURSE:  "Is this esophagogastroduodenoscopy the same morning as the other esophagogastroduodenoscopies?"

DOCTOR: "Yes.  But the difference between this esophagogastroduodenoscopy and the other esophagogastroduodenoscopies is that this esophagogastroduodenoscopy is going to be first thing in the morning."

NURSE:  "Got it.  So before the other esophagogastroduodenoscopies, we'll get this esophagogastroduodenoscopy taken care of, our first esophagogastroduodenoscopy of the day."

DOCTOR: "Exactly."

NURSE:  "The other nurse suggested we do a panendoscopy instead."

DOCTOR:  "Nonsense.  That doesn't have enough syllables.  Let's stick with an upper esophagogastroduodenoscopy."

NURSE 2:  "Doctor!  Sorry to interrupt, but we have a patient in room twenty-seven that is requesting an oesophagogastroduodenoscopy!"

DOCTOR:  "See?  That's what I'm talking about.  Get that man an oesophagogastroduodenoscopy, and then we'll squeeze in a few more oesophagogastroduodenoscopies, and call it a day."

*******

Anyway, there is a bit of worry about all this.  In 2006, we had symptoms that we could not find a diagnosis for.  In 2006, these went on for months.  In 2006, that was the very last time we set foot in this doctor's office for a procedure to "check out the plumbing."  And in 2006, it was stage 3c cancer.  So there is a note of worry.  Although Madison's prayers tonight were sweet:  no more hurting for Mommy, she asked.  That's what Daddy wants too.  We all want the gastrointestinal pains to be over with, once and for all.  It's been nine years, and Mommy is surely through with all of this.

Moving on, tonight was church, and it went well.  Daddy moved into his new office, officially, so much of the day was spent moving and cleaning, cleaning and moving.  The fish puppets we made a few months ago will have a new home in there, and that makes me pretty happy - they won't be stuck in the warehouse, doomed to the ravages of time, and wear and tear.

Madison, meanwhile, had school and tennis.  Tennis went well by all accounts, those accounts coming from Mommy.  The two of them had a great time as always. The weather is cold, and slightly breezy - but at least the sun was out today.  In that respect, it was actually a nice day somewhat.  At the same time, the Northeast is covered in snow today - they got quite a bit the last few days.  Not quite record levels, but there was enough to bring things to a halt.  Now it's time for all of us in Georgia to make fun of those in Massachusetts for their inability to deal with a little snow!

Mommy used to live near Boston, of course.  Everyone would be out of school on a day like that.  But again, that won't happen so much here - we've got online classes and homework now.  So no matter what, there's plenty to do.  AFTER going for rides on sleds and building snowmen.  The great thing about these built-in snow days is that we won't have to extend things into our time off on vacation weeks or even worse, Summer Break!

So tonight we go to bed early, as we're heading in early tomorrow.  It'll be a good day - we'll pray again in the morning.  The procedure is promised to be pretty quick.  In fact, it just might be done faster than one can say esophagogastroduodenoscopy!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Oglethorpe and Thrasher

The school library got some turtles this week, two of them.  And the school's website there is a contest to see who can come up with the best names for the turtles.  The names have to be tied to Georgia somehow - that's the only rule.  So with that said, Madison and Daddy came up with a few names - maybe one or two will win.

1.  Oglethorpe and Thrasher
2.  Jimmy and Peanut
3.  Peaches and Coosaponakeesa
4.  Cherokee Rose and Nathan Deal

After a brief discussion, Madison settled with the names Peanut and Thrasher.  Although Daddy really likes the name Oglethorpe for a turtle.  "Oglethorpe and Thrasher" sounds like an 80's show with two private investigators that are polar opposites in their crime-fighting styles, and yet they somehow put aside their differences to get the job done.  And they're turtles.

The reason for going online was another opinion piece that Madison had to write.  This time, she was writing about why she thinks we shouldn't come to school in the summer.  Daddy's reasoning was a little more simplistic:  "It's a dumb idea."  Fortunately, we worked past that sort of prejudice, and started working towards a more fact-based rationale:  "It's a really dumb idea."  Okay, I'm kidding.  Madison suggested in her argument against school in the summer that students could use that time - as she does - to attend various camps, and learn more than she could learn at school in the areas of ballet, art camps, swimming camps, tennis camps and more.  Another reason for not going to school in the summer is the ability to see new places on family vacations.  Madison was very well-reasoned with her opinion.

Our reward for getting all her homework done today:  Mouse Trap.  This is not your parents' "Mouse Trap."  No, this is a new and updated version, with solid parts that stick to the board and don't mess around.  Growing up, Mommy and Daddy remember Mouse Trap as this game where you carefully assembled all these delicate pieces all over a board, and when the time came, maybe - just maybe - the whole contraption would work, and you'd catch yourself a mouse.  This game was made by people with similar memories, and evidently they decided to put all chance of this NOT working to rest.  This will catch mice, one hundred percent guaranteed.  Yet somehow, the game isn't as fun as we remember it in the past?  That may be nostalgia kicking in, but this game was a little more pre-school, and a little less complicated, as if we used to be doing a science project or something.  Still, there was no mistaking Madison's enjoyment of the game.  She liked her first round of Mouse Trap so much that she wanted to play another four games afterwards.  Yes, we had ourselves a little Mouse Trap marathon!

Rube Goldberg would be very proud.

Today was also piano class, where the second hint for Winter Wonderland was dropped.  This new place we're heading to involves balls of some sort.  It also involves ladders.  Those are our two hints:  balls and ladders.

The students are perplexed!  But they're also learning.  We are moving forward with our new booklet in this class, and the chords and playing is getting more and more complex.  This is a make-it or break-it time for Daddy, who desperately needs to catch up.  It is safe to say that Madison plays slightly better than he for the time being.  But that's because she's been practicing so much lately!

On the way home, Daddy took Madison to Chick-Fil-A.  This was mainly because we had one of those calendar cards that gives you something free from Chick-Fil-A once a month.  This month's selection:  a grilled chicken sandwich.  Quite yummy, actually!  Madison enjoyed her food there as well, along with a few liters of ketchup.  Or should I say gallons?

We still read at night, we still pray and we still do all of the routines we normally do, by the way.  Everyone is noticing Madison's hair.  It's still long - and it is hard to believe we've already cut ten inches off of it!  We haven't sent in the hair yet, but it is in an envelope, ready to go off to donate.  That's always something nice to do for a good cause.

So we went to bed after reading about Moses, after praying for Mommy and everyone else who was sick this past week.  And after praying for all those people in the path of this massive snowstorm in the Northeast.  It's a "historic and destructive" blizzard, so massive that they have to use quotation marks for words like "historic and destructive."

It looks like they'll need help up there.  Better call in Oglethorpe and Thrasher!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Catapult

Once again, we arrive at National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day.  Indeed, we took time this afternoon to appreciate it.  And then... we moved on with our lives, because we had this major cold snap today.  This weekend's rain had collected on the canopy a bit outside, and this afternoon, Daddy was pressing the underside of the canopy to push the water up and off.  And yet... it wasn't water.  It was solid ice.  Large curved scimitars of ice were there to grab, if only the handles weren't so cold!

Madison had ballet today, a class where she's beginning to learn her routines for the upcoming spring recital.  In the meantime, Daddy was writing in the car and reading a book.  And playing on a handheld device.  The class is an hour and fifteen minutes, so you have to fill your time somehow!

We had pizza today, the first of the year actually.  The absence of pizza is due to the fast - so now you can imagine we'll be having pizza with a vengeance.  The news is that Pizza Hut has a gluten-free pizza.  This is difficult to comprehend though, as Mommy can't do any cross contamination at all.  So it's pointless if you cook a gluten loaded pizza in the oven, and then cook a gluten-free one in the same oven immediately afterwards.  Unless that is not what they do, then there's no point in trying it out.  We'll have to investigate, but this could be something better if we're able to eat that.

One fun thing we constructed this afternoon was a catapult.  This wasn't terribly involved in the construction aspect, certainly when compared with our recent Lowe's crafts.  But the payoff was fun, as we've now given Madison her first weapon of choice.  Mommy quickly noticed the potential for damage in the house, and wisely gave us a bag of old marshmallows to use.  Madison's enthusiasm was amazing, as we loaded up each marshmallow and… whoosh!


The force of this tiny catapult was pretty strong, especially when we used four thick rubber bands to add the tension.  Madison was shooting from the couch, through the dining area and past the kitchen into the small hallway near the garage.  We quickly determined that on a day with better weather, when we have stale bread or something, we can launch it off the back deck for fun.  Madison decided that this most certainly must happen.

Whoosh!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Peachoids and Pants

Today was the end of the fast, and the beginning of chocolate!  For weeks, this snowman lollipop thing was taunting us in the pantry.  Let's just say he isn't taunting anymore!

In church this morning, we had a special service where we prayed for all the kids - it was a "Miracle Prayer Service," the annual service to conclude our twenty-one day fast.  This morning, they finally announced a new church building in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  So now there are four Free Chapel churches.  We've helped out a lot at Gwinnett, and haven't been to the OC location yet.  The Spartanburg location is a little over two hours away, just up the road from here.  I can't tell you a single thing to do in that area, other than drive by.  No doubt we'll be heading up there soon, so I suppose there'll be more to learn about in the region as the days go by.  Presently, the only thing I know about is Gaffney's big peach.  That's a little further up the road, right next to the interstate.  Each time we made the long trip up north - or the long trip down here, we'd pass by the big peach.  And all of us would look out our windows at the glorious huge majestic sphere.


Or rather, it's sort of a sphere.  It's actually called a Peachoid.  Or rather, it is the Peachoid.  It is 135 feet tall and holds a million gallons, and looms over the horizon as you drive along the highway.  There is a certain humor about this structure that I'm not going to dive into here, but recently the thing has been featured on a major television show and suddenly everyone knows about the Peachoid.  Now that we have a small reason to head up in that direction, you can assume we'll have a picture of Madison in front of the Peachoid.  That will be only the start though - I cannot wait to introduce her to the crazier side of American tourism.  We've seen it all, from Wall Drug to the House on the Rock to South of the Border.   Great stuff!

After church, Madison and Daddy assembled Cloud Cuckoo Land, which launched an afternoon in a serious LEGO direction, where we played with the toys for a bit, and then played the "The LEGO Movie" video game on a quest for pants.  This is a bonus thing to find on each level, and so we're quite dedicated to finding all the pants in the game.  For one, each pair of pants gives the wearer a unique ability or characteristic.  Secondly, we'll finally have the answer to the age-old question, "Where's My Pants?"  We added to the LEGO character collection today in a serious way today, with Emmet and Wyldstyle - but also this one here:



Unikitty is back in style, pretty much the only character that Madison played as in the game.  And she'll have a big part in the message that Daddy is preaching this upcoming Sunday.  Tied to the Vikings, the theme is berserker, and there is this scene in "The LEGO Movie" where Unikitty pretty much berserk.  It'll be fun to share with everyone.

Meanwhile, the Northeast is bracing for a blizzard.  No snow here, of course.  But we're wet. And cold.  That's just perfectly lovely, isn't it?  That's my sarcastic voice there.  In all things, it could be worse, of course.

It's been a good weekend.  Daddy is amazingly stressed about the Easter play, something he's been working on this weekend quite a bit.  He's given himself a self-imposed deadline of this weekend to finish the script, but it is coming along nicely thus far.  The stress comes from the weight of importance.  It's a big message.  With God's help, we'll have it done right.  We can't do it without Him!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hair cut


She did it again!  Madison was ready to donate her hair, and cut it back several inches.  We measured the distance to cut, and together came up with the big decision:  Mommy scaled back ten inches of hair from Madison's head.


She's been wanting to do this for a few weeks, and tonight after her bath it was just a good time to make the cut.  Mommy has been looking into a new place to donate her hair, and has found just the right charity.  We'll send the locks off this week, along with some photos of the big event.  Madison is proud to be able to help, of course.  But she's also proud of her new look.

Very windy day today.  Daddy started out with a charity trip of his own, up to Cleveland to help clean a mother's home up.  It took several guys - and one wife - to make a significant dent in the piles of garbage all over the house.  The backstory is a family abusing the house somewhat, all this while the mother was in the hospital battling the flu and cancer.  She comes back on Monday, and we wanted to have her walk into a cleaner house.  The family that caused the mess is gone, but they left a terrible mess of evidence of their presence.  Some things we were able to recycle though:  Madison got a few DVDs out of the trip, although that's not the reason Daddy went up there.

There was also work today, setting up for tomorrow and printing handouts and so forth.  And also typing up a script for the upcoming Easter drama.  This is why the blog has been in catch-up mode lately, where we've been going back to fill in dates from a few days ago.  Just so much to do lately!

Madison had a slower day today though.  She was spending her time with the Monster High dolls, and doing a bit of help with Mommy, cleaning up her playroom.  The place is getting reorganized, and it is starting to look pretty good.  Mommy has taken the last few days to accomplish this, and finally there's room to maneuver in there a bit better.  Thumbs up - it was a big day for doing a lot of cleaning out!

Friday, January 23, 2015

For Narnia!

It was a bitter cold rain, the kind that doesn't have any good reason to be rain.  All logic and laws of this earth dictate that this sort of rain should not be rain, but in fact be snow and/or ice.  But it resisted all of that today, and flew in your face wet and bitter.  The winds were strong, so strong our canopy on the back deck began to dismantle itself a bit.  Fortunately Daddy was out there with a wrench, sort of rigging the thing to stay the course and make it through the driving wind.

It was the kind of grey, cold day that insisted upon a fire in the fireplace.  Answering that call was easy - we had something roaring in the fireplace all afternoon and night.  It is just a great visual, and does provide limited warmth for fingers and toes.  And other parts too!

Madison was at school today, and Daddy was at work.  Mommy was busy at home, dealing with the avalanche we call "post Christmas."  What to do with all this stuff?  And what to do with the stuff that is being displaced by all the new stuff?  These deep philosophical questions were answered bluntly by Mommy, who has made an "outbox" in our room.  Things are coming along nicely in the house, although this sort of weather sort of drives you to a blanket and a couch a little quicker.

We've been writing towards Easter - not sure if that will turn out, or how at this moment.  So many questions that it is starting to be a serious source of stress.  For this reason, Daddy is craving chocolate.  Which, unfortunately, we are all fasting right now.  So video games will have to do for the time being.

Madison and Daddy escaped the Kyln tonight, the latest Disney Infinity game where you place any Marvel character available inside the infamous space prison, and then attempt to escape past guards and marauding Frost Giants.  Madison makes short work of them, because she likes the Hulk quite a bit.  Daddy does the exploring, looking for the hidden items that enhance characters.  We make a great team, and yes, we escaped with relative ease.

Madison has not been to Narnia before, so tonight, that's where we went.  Through the wardrobe.  We saw "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" this evening with a big tub of popcorn, and Madison liked the movie very much.  So much so, that she's wanting to watch "Prince Caspian" next, followed by "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader."  The last movie, of course, is a little off course from the book.  But it's still a fun movie for the family.  Sadly, it appears as if that movie series has run it's course.  At least until the next time.  We were hoping for "The Horse and His Boy," but that one might have to wait a while.  On a story-telling level, I don't see how they could ever do "The Last Battle," so I never expected them to make it that far.  Still, we're glad they made at least three.  Making "Prince Caspian" into a movie is certainly something you wouldn't expect.  But they did well with it, as we will soon see once more when we have another popcorn night.

This was most of the day, save for one major, major event - a visit to our new speech therapists:


Although it was in Alpharetta, it was actually only about a half-hour drive for us from the house.  This was good news, as we're aiming to squeeze weekly sessions in every Friday afternoon.  The bad news is that Mommy and Madison will likely be caught in the 400 traffic on the way home.  But not so much as they would of course if they were down at Milton Drive or Mansell.  This is far up enough 400 that they won't have as much of the stop-and-go.


All that said, today's visit went well.  Above is the place we went to - although this picture was taken on a much brighter, sunnier day.  Madison saw the number of the place right away, before Mommy and Daddy.  We parked right there in front of this door, and just to the left is the entrance to the office.


Madison met Courtney, her new speech therapist here in the office.  This is the waiting area, and for roughly forty minutes or so, she and Courtney went to the back for a bit of an interview.  The interview went both ways:  Madison was asking relevant questions too, such as "Who is your favorite, Elsa or Anna?"  The two talked enough for Courtney to get an assessment, although the next meeting next Friday will probably be a time to develop a further strategy.  Regardless, Madison enjoyed it all very much, particularly the play rooms.  She was ready to run and play in the new rooms, and do a bit of exploring in the others.  She actually wasn't ready to leave yet when all was said and done!

So things went well.  We're comfortable with this place - we got a tour ourselves, and met a few of the employees.  We think some one-on-one focus will help with Madison's speech patterns, obviously tied in with some homework assignments of our own during the week.  This is hopefully something we can conquer this year, in fact something we're fasting for.  As of this very visit today, our hopes and faith are high for a good year for Madison in this area.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Howleen

This morning when Madison woke up, she brushed her teeth and got dressed, as per her usual routine.  And then she went downstairs... and squealed!  Upon the kitchen table was Howleen, a doll from Monster High.  Howleen was resting upon a rented copy of "Freaky Fusion" from the library, a movie that Madison was wanting to watch.  The combination of the two of them was tantamount to a Christmas morning sort of moment, as she was quite surprised!  She did, however, do all her homework the night before and worked very hard on her piano.  So she earned this special little prize, which was quite fun to see her get.

Tonight, she was watching the movie of course.  That couldn't wait, nor could any of the extra little specials included on the DVD.  She had to wait until she was done with this afternoon's homework though.  One problem was a bit amazing for a second grader, at least by my reckoning.  Sometimes we parents think things are too far advanced, and then there are those Common Core moments where we think the education system is wasting everyone's time.  This was a little of both, a complex math word problem that together we wrote out as (20 - 13) / 2.  That's a twenty cm piece of string with thirteen cm cut from it, can you divide that piece in two equal pieces?  The question was worded in such a way that the pronoun didn't exactly indicate which piece.  We just assumed it was not the thirteen inch piece.  Either way, it was a nifty little math problem for a second grader.  Once we figured out what we were supposed to do, we were off an running, actually grabbing a strip of paper and measuring out 20 cm on it.

Along those lines, weren't we all supposed to be on this metric system by now?  Either be on it or not, folks.  Yeah, it would have made sense to have something like that to begin with.  But we haven't moved to it yet, and I'm not sure why.  I'm older and therefore more accustomed to feet, pounds, miles and gallons.  It would be pretty tough for me to start adjusting now, but I get the fact that the metric system is easier and we could be more universal.  So why haven't we moved there yet?  Because now Madison is learning feet and meters, and this just seems to be a good opportunity for us all to make the big plunge.  There must be some anti-metric system feeling out there.  It's not American!

Speaking of doing things the American way, we ordered Girl Scout Cookies today from our cousin Hannah.  We got four boxes on the way, two with thin mints (yes!), and two with gluten-free cookies.  Yep, there are Girl Scout cookies that Mommy can eat now!

We did a lot today around the house, changing lightbulbs, carrying stuff downstairs to the basement, going to the bank - oh, and getting copies of Madison's speech therapy history.  We used the copier at the church today to make copies to give at our new appointment tomorrow.  It'll be a big day when we all go down together to see this new place, and hopefully give it a shot.

And speaking of giving things a shot, Madison is liking the Marvel character Hawkeye lately.  We've got him to level 20, where he's just about as powerful as Iron Man.  Which isn't exactly right, but it's still fun to play.  She just likes the guy a lot, and he usually has to be in made-up stories, along with Black Widow.  She sees the two as a couple, which is a fun little romantic story she's cooking up in her mind.

And speaking of romantic stories, after Madison went to bed, Mommy and Daddy watched Bob Hope's "The Great Lover," which wasn't bad.  We brought the tiny DVD player up to bed, and watched it there like we used to watch movies some time ago.  When Mommy was battling cancer, we'd watch movies in bed quite a bit.  We set up this little DVD player on a pillow, and the two of us watched literally every single Abbott and Costello movie in existence.  To this day, we have them all in all their glory.  Those two aren't around anymore, but if they were, I'd thank those guys for helping us get through a tough time.

It wasn't a tough time tonight.  We watched the movie in bed just for fun, and soon, we were off to sleep.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

All of it?

Daddy was on the phone with Madison about an hour before church started, and simply told her that if she got one day's worth of her piano assignments done, he'd have something special for her in the morning:  "Freaky Fusion."  This is one of the latest Monster High DVDs, something I picked up from the library this morning.  I had to go that way in order to drop a whole lot of material off.  And while there, I picked up this and another movie with the Monster High gang - I had reserved both of them online.

So I got home tonight, and Madison was asleep by that point.  And on the table was her piano assignment checklist for the entire week.  And she had done it all, along with a note that read, "I DID EVERYTHING!"

Daddy checked with Mommy, and sure enough:  she did it all.  This isn't necessarily the recommended route for the best learning, but you have to admire her spirit.  The little bonus rewards we have planned for her each week are really motivating her to get finished as soon as possible.  Sometimes it is tough, but the thought of another doll, or Disney Infinity figure, or even a game in the near future - these are things that inspire her to get through the tougher learning moments.

Tonight was tennis practice again over at Forsyth.  As one of the older veterans, she helps out the younger kids as they start to learn the ropes.  She even serves as a bit of a wrangler for the teacher, although she herself is learning new things each week.  The teacher has to be flexible, starting with the really inexperienced and then changing gears to help Madison improve her game.  Mommy says she is doing well, and thankfully all of this is indoors.  Although the weather today was pretty nice - a slight warming trend, which is of course ahead of some pretty cold weather around the corner here.

Mommy's world-famous chili was the course for the day for the guys.  Lance had come over, and we all had fast-friendly chili to eat, which we both had two servings of.  Mommy makes this fast easier, always creative with special ideas that get around the no meats and sweets aspect of things.

We were back at the office throwing stuff at Josh after this.  We were doing some more of our filming today, which always leads you in paths you don't expect from week to week.  One upcoming project involves us doing another "Lord of the Rings" style video.  Very excited about that one.

But tonight was church, which meant Daddy was away from Madison and Mommy for a bit.  He got home later, and he and Mommy sat together and talked for a bit before heading to bed.  Wednesdays are longer days, and sometimes you just come home and want to go to bed.  Madison was already there, snoring away.  Daddy sneaks in from time to time, along with Mommy - the two of us fix up Madison in her bed, as we sometimes find her above the blankets, sideways, or hanging off somewhere.  It's a good thing Mommy and Daddy don't sleep like that anymore.  Or, at least it would be funny if we did!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Squid Pizza

Madison's homework assignment today was to write an opinion piece. Which, as far as I know, is her first opinion piece she's ever written.  The topic she was asked to write about?  Her favorite kind of pizza.  Here is her masterpiece:

I think that pepperoni pizza is the best pizza. My mother and father also like pepperoni pizza. When my parents were with me in China, they saw squid pizza!  My opinion is that squid pizza is gross! Yuk!  We think that pepperoni pizza tastes much better than squid pizza.

And there you go.  The truth is that squid pizza might in fact be good if given a chance.  While we were over there to meet Madison, we saw that as a topping for pizza.  This was a new one.  We've all heard someone say, "Hold the anchovies."  But I've never heard anyone say, "Hold the squid."

Yummy!
Today we had piano, and we were done with "Showtime Rag," which was a fairly difficult piece to play with both hands.  There is this new gypsy-sounding piece, which actually isn't a gypsy song.  It's something Jewish in three-quarter time.  Daddy was reminded of a gypsy piece when all the kids were given tambourines in order to play out the three-quarter time rhythm.  The piece progressively got faster and faster, until of course the kids could not keep up, and instead chose to break down into laughter!

On the way home, Madison asked for the same thing she's been asking for each ride home with Daddy:  a story about Flower Girl from the Future.  Flower Girl is one of the X-Men.  Apparently, somewhere along the line, she came from the future along with Bishop, the time traveling X-Man from the future.  I can't exactly remember where Flower Girl first appeared in Madison's mind, but she's been solidly there for the last year.  To the point that just about every make-up story involves her helping all the other X-men doing something dramatic.  Today's mission:  rescuing the Easter Bunny.  Magneto had an egg gun, and the Easter Bunny was locked away in a tower.  And the X-Men saved Easter.  And that's probably all you need to know!

Homework was quick, and dinner was another wonderful salad.   Afterwards, there was barely enough time for some Disney Infinity 2.0, where we actually completed the story mode already for "The Avengers."  This, thanks to special guests Nova and Rocket Raccoon.  Who we had to choose because this ginormous ice monster from Jรถtenheim had whooped up on the entire rest of the team.  Leave it to a raccoon with a laser gun to do all the work.

In the end, we were in bed once again.  That's usually how it works each night.  We read about Essau making peace with his brother Jacob, who expected a similar whooping as described above (minus the large ice creature).  We said our prayers, at which point Mommy and Daddy snuck down the hall to watch some television in bed.  We hadn't done that in a while.  There was a repeat on television tonight, the episode of "Agent Carter" that they just showed last week.  SO, we watched a gem of a movie Daddy found at Goodwill this week:  "A Simple Twist of Fate."  It's based on "Silas Marner," a book Daddy had to read in high school.  And here's where we talk about being forced to read classic novels that you don't appreciate, and in some cases never will (like squid pizza).  Eventually, I did grow to like the story of "Silas Marner" quite a bit, unlike "The Grapes of Wrath."

Anyway, that's one I read in high school.  And years later, I appreciated it.  And we appreciated this movie tonight too - it's a neat little movie that I haven't seen available anywhere in quite some time.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sea of Ketchup

Can you fast and go to Cracker Barrell?  Apparently yes.  Today was MLK Day, or at least the observation of it.  This is why we had Madison with us for the day, and why we spent a good deal of time in Cumming.  We were there initially for the chiropractor's visit, which as always is hilarious.  Madison's laughter is so loud as she's getting her adjustment, and the two of them have such a good time together.  Mommy and Daddy are a little less ticklish, but it's still a good thing to go and do.

The routine is in place - we've been going for years now.  There's the waiting area with the same books and that one toy with the differently colored beads that follow painted wires from point a to point b.  Even though she's done this over and over again, here we are in the waiting room, and here Madison is doing it once again.  Then it's off to the waiting room, where we listen to light music from the 80's.  From the sound of things, Phil Collins Day has moved to today (I think it is actually in February.  And yes, there is a Phil Collins Day).  And then Madison hides.  This is what she does all the time.  At night, she hides in the bedroom, jumping out to "scare" Daddy as he walks in.  She hides in the morning, every morning, as Daddy comes down the stairs into the kitchen.  "Where's Madison?" I ask.  And she jumps out and yells, "Boo!"  And Daddy does his little scream as if to say, "Oh, you got me!"

So Dr. Williams comes in, and sure enough, we all play the game.  "Where's Madison?" he asks, and we tell him while winking that she's not here today.  And then she jumps out from underneath a table, yelling "Boo!"

And that's when the real fun begins!  Madison seems to have a wrestling match with Doc Williams, and of course there's the sound of "popcorn" and bad jokes along the way.  She has a great time!

Afterwards, we decided to pop in to Goodwill for a bit, where Mommy found a couple great items, even one larger piece of furniture.  One is a larger set of stand-up wall panels that you can put your own designs into.  This will come in handy for the one room, which we're aspiring to theme out with a bit of China thrown into things.  The intent is to use our wall hangings, and perhaps give the room an Asian flair.

Daddy found a few games and one movie in particular, "A Simple Twist of Fate," which we'll hopefully watch soon.  It's an old gem, a movie based on "Silas Marner" that Daddy remembers as being pretty good.  Although it's been a few years since he's seen it.

To round off our trip, we went to Cracker Barrel next.  Yep, we're fasting, and there we are.  But Daddy got some good vegetarian options, and Madison kept pouring on the ketchup.  She uses it on just about anything you can imagine.  Nothing is too sacred for ketchup.  She uses up so much ketchup in our house that we put it up there with our emergency list of things to get.  In case of icy weather:  buy bread, milk and ketchup.  Of course, Daddy doesn't do milk anymore.  And Mommy can't have bread.  So while everyone else is battling it out for milk and bread, we'll be fine.  Just so long as there's enough ketchup.

Mommy did some shopping in the store there, and once again, Madison and Daddy found ourselves engaged in a classic match of checkers over there by the fireplace.  You know the set, the one that is every Cracker Barrel right there by the fireplace?  We sat there and had ourselves a game while Mommy actually found some clothing she was happy with.  It's funny, but of all the stores there are, she seriously finds the most things she likes to wear... at Cracker Barrel.  This is why Daddy got her a few gift cards to Cracker Barrel, so that she could buy food and go find some nice clothing.  Go figure!

So what did we do about MLK Day?  We've made that video and did a bit of research before about Martin Luther King.  Madison wrote a paper about him this year, which was good to see.  Daddy remembers writing about him when I was younger as well.  This was probably less than ten years after his death, which was probably so fresh.  Racism is still alive and well in this country though - there is a story out of Minnesota today about an adopted girl being mocked for her skin color.  The dad stood up for her wonderfully, calling out the offenders and defending her daughter in an amazing way.  Racism is there, especially it seems for those of darker skin color.  But at the same time, it doesn't seem to be as bad as it was, or as bad as some make it out to be.  This may simply be because our family doesn't encounter people who have racist feelings that often.  Or that racism just doesn't make any sense.  Recent news developments in Missouri and New York have really taken our country backwards a bit, and both cases are different.  But the end results are that people are blaming each other, yelling at each other, and making the case that we may never move on as a country from this issue.  And that may be true, because it takes forgiveness to get there.  That's a tough place to be, but maybe some day there will be another man like MLK to come along and show us all the way to a better path of unity.

I'll be honest:  we didn't do much to honor MLK on this day, but it has been a topic of conversation this week.  Madison and Daddy spent the afternoon playing Disney Infinity a little, where Madison played as Nick Fury.  We got him to level 20, and just love him to death.  To Madison, he's as cool as Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor.  There's no judgement about skin color at all from her, no matter if your skin is black, white, or in Gamora's case, green.