Saturday, February 28, 2015

Jolly Holiday

We started out a bit busy this morning with two different activities - first the usual trip by Lowe's to build something together.  This morning's trip started with us getting our monster truck kit, although we didn't have time to actually build it yet.  We picked it up, and just as important, we picked up the patch that shows our completion of the project.  Don't worry - Madison won't get the patch until she builds the monster truck.  In a few weeks there is yet another monster truck to build, and there is actually one you can order from Lowe's online, so we might do that too - and have ourselves an armada of monster trucks.  Then we can have races.  We can put pathetic wooden cars in the way as obstacles, only to watch them crushed, crumbled and chomped by the oversized wheels of monster truck awesomeness!  But I am getting ahead of myself a bit.

This morning's big activity was the Mary Poppins camp, where she goes to practice ballet.  This was a two-hour event, starting with the picture you see above.  There were crafts and of course a dance routine to run through.  All the parents as usual jockey for positions in this small room, and watch the tiny dancers attempt to remember this one dance routine they just learned less than an hour ago.  All set to the music of "Mary Poppins."  It's adorable, of course.  And it's fun - Madison enjoys these camps, including the Nutcracker-themed one she attended last November.

Afterwards, we went to work - and stayed there a while.  We were setting up for one more service of Northern Lights, the one that will wrap things up.  We finished with our ongoing drama, our serial.  But there was still a bit to do to set things up for videos, a spotlight skit, and of course the message.

The message is about the light of the world, which we posted here previously.  It starts with the Northern Lights, and goes on from there.  I really like the concept of God being 'the Father of Heavenly Lights,' a reference in James that we start with.  We sort of show some examples of the Northern Lights, and of course shift over to a discussion about being the light of the world, shining out in darkness.

Once upon a time, Daddy saw the aurora borealis.  I had no idea what I was looking at, but sure enough, that's what it was.  We were in South Dakota, of all places.  We saw it in the  middle of the night, an explosion of silent color streaking across the sky in waves of green and blue and white.  We had no idea what we were looking at, because this is the sort of thing you only are supposed to see in Alaska, right?  But there it was, going on and on - it was almost like a dream.  If not for the fact that I had a good friend with me, I would have thought it was a dream.  Sure enough, we were seeing the northern lights.  It is something so beautiful, and I hope some day Madison will get to see it.

But of course not today.  Can you believe when we got home, our Viking snowman was still standing tall?  The weather was chilly just enough to preserve our icy snowman, helped out of course by the fact that the shade of the house keeps him out of the sun.  He should melt tomorrow or the next day, but there is literally no snow left in our neighborhood except for this mighty snowman we've assembled a few days ago.  Madison posed for a picture with the snowman for good measure - a picture taken a few days after he was first built.  We love Viky!

Tonight we started a new theme:  Hawaii.  Madison wanted to watch "Lilo and Stitch" once again, and so we did.  But we had to have all the stuffed Stitch dolls downstairs.  And Madison had to be wearing flower leis and a grass skirt.  It was just like the old days - she doesn't remember the urge to do the hula when the Hawaiian music starts.  But we all love this movie quite a bit.  There are three other movies to watch - and a few episodes of the television show. She's anxious to get those going as well, but that might have to wait until tomorrow.

Speaking of which, we have to get some rest for tonight.  Tomorrow is a big day!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Ladybug Girl

This morning, Ladybug Girl woke up and got ready for her big day at school.  Mommy put together this simply amazing costume for Madison, pretty much matching everything exactly with the title character of the Ladybug Girl books.  Madison did a few assignments based on this book - there are several in the series, but she chose "Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy."  This one Daddy had to go and find at a bookstore, as all the libraries had this one checked out.  But he did find it, and Madison was greatly relieved - she was pretty stressed that I couldn't find it initially.  But that's what Daddy is for, going off on scavenger hunts for some pretty random items sometimes.  

So we're back to normal today, with the snow off the roads.  Our snowman hasn't even been fazed by the fact that all the other snow in the neighborhood has essentially melted.  Viky is convinced that he likes it in front of our house, and even into tonight was proudly standing there, our snow century with a Viking hat on.  

Madison had a great day at school, and Daddy had a big day of progress at church, where we finally nailed down those lingering issues with our upcoming Easter production.  This one has been more of a struggle to put together, as there are essentially three writers that have to sort of agree on a good general direction.  Three writers in retrospect might be too many, but Daddy is proud to be a part of the process, and proud to have a few solid ideas inserted in this latest script.

There have been a few big items today, one a sad note of passing, and another an interesting meme that has taken over the internet.  It's all about a dress.

Some people see a gold and white striped dress above, and others see a black and blue striped dress.  For the record, the first time we saw this, Madison, Mommy and Daddy all saw a gold and white striped dress.  Yet when Daddy went back to see it, the dress is blue and black.  It is an interesting visual thing, because one person is looking at the picture and sees something so dramatically different than the next.  Madison and Mommy have seen nothing more than gold and white.  And they think anyone who says otherwise is pulling a trick on all the others!

The other big event was the passing of Leonard Nimoy today.  This is a big deal, obviously one bigger for Mommy and Daddy, who are big fans of the original Star Trek cast.  Daddy used to be an amazingly big Trekkie - I love the dynamic of the "big three:"  the doctor, the first officer and the captain.  McCoy, Spock and Kirk.  Their relationship evolved in such a way over time, and deep into the movies.  The interplay with these three was fun, or to quote Spock, "fascinating."  Of course, everyone points to "Star Trek II" as the ultimate movie for fans of the series.  But Daddy loved all the movies, even "Star Trek V," which has some wonderful moments at the beginning - the three of these iconic characters out camping in the wilderness, and eating "marsh melons."

Spock is one of the greatest sci-fi characters ever, and despite the fact that we haven't seen him as much lately, there's still a sense of loss here.  He was a big part of my growing up.  In the weeks to come, I'm sure we'll all be going back to watch that movie series again to relive those moments growing up, to visit with our Vulcan friend just one more time.


Thursday, February 26, 2015


Here's our snowman from today.  Iceman is more like it.  We didn't get much in the way of snow last night - you can see by mid-morning the level of snow in the background there.  It wouldn't roll so well to begin with, so Daddy used the snow shovel to make a big pile of ice/snow chunks, from which we made a ball.  And then we rolled that ball around, which collected mass as it went.  That seemed to do the trick, but the end result is this solid mass of ice that may remain standing a few days while all around the neighborhood, other snowmen melt away.  It helps that this one spends so much time in the shade.  Madison named him "Viky," which is a nickname you would never give a real Viking.  But he seems friendly enough.  After all, you can see him with that sled, so the guy knows how to have a good time, right?

About that sled!  Madison wrote a note to Santa this morning and put it in the fireplace.  Yes, that old trick.  It was a request for a sled for the snow.  The note burned, sending flakes and ashes up the chimney, and surely there wouldn't be a present coming to us anytime soon, right?  We all went upstairs to get changed into our 'playing-in-the-snow gear,' and when we returned to the great room downstairs, we saw a new sled by the fireplace!

Suspiciously, the back door was open wide, suggesting that whoever it is that left the thing there came in from out back.  Or somewhere.  How does Santa do that?

As you can imagine, we did a whole lot of test runs with that sled.  It works just fine.  Madison went down the hill a lot, the one beside our house on our property there.  The snow was covered in a layer of thin ice, which made it even slicker.  The snow didn't go away, but rather remained as is as she passed over it time and again.  Perfect sledding weather, actually!

Yes, there were plenty of thrown snowballs as well.  It was a perfectly lovely morning in the snow, one that passed all too briefly.  We were ready to come in at the end, cold and wet and ready for that fireplace.  We did get to talk to Nana and Ba-Ba before we came in, carrying around our iPad about, using Skype to show them the snowy landscape.  They even got to see Madison sled down the hill, and also got to see our snowman.

But we did have to come in to warm up.  It'll get warmer this afternoon, but there's nothing like a fireplace or a hot bath.  Madison got both of those, and soon, we were off and running with homework and piano work.  There was still a lot of online work to do for the school, so she did a bit of that, including an assignment where she had to make up an indoor game with cards and dice or something.  We spent a while doing just that, creating a game called "Six Shooter," which we tried out a few rounds.  It might work out as a real game, although we probably still need to test it out a bit more.

The evening ended with the turtles.  Madison has not watched a "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle" movie yet, and honestly, there's only one that she can watch a present.  That one is called "TMNT," and it's the one we watched tonight before going to bed.  It was great to introduce her to this cultural experience!  She's known about the turtles, of course.  She even plays a video game with them in it.  BUT, she's never seen them elsewhere.  So this was kind of a big deal:  her first turtle movie.  As you could imagine, Michelangelo is her favorite.  That is Daddy's favorite too, currently, although he started out with Raphael as the favorite.  Anyway, we were saying "Cowabunga," and headed up to bed afterwards - tomorrow is school again!  Yes, it's been rare these past few weeks!  We even almost forgot to set the alarm!

Anyway, it was a wonderful day really.  We didn't get anywhere near the snow we were expecting, so that in a way was disappointing.  But in retrospect, we got enough.  We got enough to throw snowballs, go sledding, and build a snowman named "Viky."  And really, that's all the snow you need!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I Am Your Density

One of our homework assignments was a fun little exercise that demonstrated the concept of density.  That's one of those words that gets confusing with the concept of weight, but we trudged through it nonetheless with a great little science experiment - here's the description that Madison wrote, showing what she did - and what happened!

First, we put two drops of dye into the glass. Then, we added the oil. Finally, we dropped an ice cube in the glass, and watched. The ice cube floated in the middle of the glass. When it was melting, drops of water came down to the bottom. This is because the water is more dense than the oil.


Today was the big day, a day when a snow storm of epic proportions would pour down wrath from the heavens, punishing us with tons of snow that would change our timid landscape to something you typically see in the Buffalo area.  So all the schools were cancelled today, every single one.  They were all cancelled last night with a sense of foreboding doom.  it was coming, and when that happened, heaven help those stuck on the roads!

We went to the office this morning anyway, and as it turned out, Madison could have went to school today.  The snow didn't begin to rear its ugly head until around 3:00 or 4:00.  And of course, it wasn't ugly in the slightest.  It did have a bit of menace to it, of course, for the past twenty-four hours we were presented with the direst of warnings.  Yet, the way it played out for us locally, things covered the ground just enough... and then the snow stopped.  Elsewhere, the snow was more intense.  West and north of here, there are five inches or more.  Here, we saw the same gap in the clouds that occasionally presents itself, dumping very little precipitation upon us at all.

But it was still pretty enough coming down, and it did provide for another night together - no church this evening.  We stayed up a little later, watching a movie and doing a tiny bit of homework of course.  It was nice watching the snow fall down - it looks a little dense in places, so it really is a good idea to stay off the roads this evening.  And yes, we'll be looking forward to heading outside to have some fun in the snow tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


So all the talk is of this upcoming snowstorm, which is nature's way of saying, "No, but seriously."  The last two threats of winter weather have been absolute duds - and yet we're still calling off school occasionally, just in case.  The ease that Forsyth County called off some of the later days last week was interesting, which makes me believe they wanted to try their online school lessons.  These have been easy for Madison, although we have to trudge through with her, becoming essentially a teacher and cheerleader to get things done.  The teacher part is for the questions she has about grammar or science or math.  The cheerleader is that extra push to actually finish the assignment.

Tomorrow, we'll do the online school thing again.  Tomorrow, school is cancelled.  The situation is supposed to be like a year ago, when so many cars got stuck on various freeways because of snow and ice.  We'll find out, but the entire state is treating this situation as if Godzilla were coming.  Governmental figures are acting all serious, while most people who don't have to hide behind the political faces are giddy with excitement at the prospect of building a snowman in their front yard.  I fall into that latter category.  I don't mind setting up for church on Wednesday night, actually.  We missed one last week because of snow, so I think we're good there.  Everyone got their night off, and now it's time to get back to work.  But the forecast says otherwise, and it appears as if we'll be staying home tomorrow night too.  With that in mind, Daddy got 18X15 pieces of wood for the fireplace, just in case the power goes out.  Mommy did a lot of shopping today too - after Madison and Daddy went to piano, we met Mommy at Aldi's and helped her load things up.

Madison is going to a place called "Get Air" for Winter Wonderland.  That's the fun day that Mrs. Pam sets up for her piano students, the day she's been giving out clues for the last few weeks.  This place has a lot of trampolines and obstacle courses, so it looks like it will be fun for Madison and her friends.  That's actually coming up soon, so I'll post some pictures of the place when I have a chance.

Tonight we had Easter production practice.  This was pretty much a first meeting for the cast.  We announced a few parts, but we're still struggling a bit with the development of the script.  Not quite there yet, and it weighs heavily on me right now.  Easter is about a month away.

And then there was Agent Carter's finale tonight.  That was a great show, one that will probably continue next year - but this one ended in a big way.  The surprise appearance of a super villain at the end just added to the awesome factor.

So tomorrow we'll find out about the snow.  This seems to be for real this time, but despite all the preparations for Godzilla, I think on the whole we're all still in that general belief system that most Georgia sports teams have when thinking their team might win the championship:  "I'll believe it when I see it!"

Monday, February 23, 2015

Beware the Homophones!

In honor of our recent viewing of "Kung Fu Panda," Daddy made this homework sheet for Madison so she could learn some homophones, and how to spell them as well.  We also did a fun crossword puzzle too - neither of these took that much time, and were fun to show her when she got home.  It was a Monday today, and a chance to go back to school if only for a short space.  It appears as if we'll be missing some school this week though.

We did not miss ballet.  Daddy took Madison to ballet - she was quite happy to show Mommy all of her moves she's been practicing leading up to the Spring Recital.

One thing I have not touched on in this blog is this amazing reading streak she is on lately.  Madison is obsessed with these "Weirder School" books.  We went to the library and borrowed four of them today, and got a free one from a consignment shop in Cumming.  She literally has all ten stacked up on the kitchen table now.  These are chapter books, with more words than she's ever read before in books.  And she can't put them down.  She is reading about one of them per day, for example finishing one in the car today on the way to ballet.  We have ourselves a reader, and it is amazing.  She'll sit there and read and get so caught up in reading that she'll miss time playing video games or something like that.  And she won't really mind that much.  Of course, she loves playing video games.  But that's just it - these books have got her so hooked.  It's crazy!

She has a presentation on a book she's read this upcoming Friday.  Students are asked to dress up as the character in their book.  Madison has chosen Ladybug Girl, so Mommy and Daddy were scouring a few places today in search of costume materials.  We found this consignment shop that had ladybug boots, and a red shirt - and a red tutu.  That's all we need, really!  Mommy will work on the wings at home, but the costume should look great when put together.  Stay tuned for that!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

"The Big and Giant Olaf"

Madison is starting her own new comic book, one called "The Big and Giant Olaf."  She's drawing the pictures of the Big and Giant Olaf, and by the time she'll be done with the thing, I'm sure he'll have many interesting adventures.  As you can see above, Madison met the Big and Giant Olaf, along with Queen Elsa once more.  This is probably the last weekend we'll see Elsa - at church, that is.  We concluded our ongoing drama, and had a great message as well about rowing together, and setting sail for adventure with faith.  It had a Viking explorer sort of vibe to it, which was fun!

Okay, so who was inside that Big and Giant Olaf costume?  You guessed correctly if you said it was Daddy.  I was a hot and sweaty mess in there, shuffling around and nearly immobile, waving my hands around nearly blindly and constantly struggling to keep the head in place.  Forget moving it side to side, or even up and down.  At present, Daddy's neck is sore - I had that costume on for a few hours today!

Why did I have it on a few hours?  Because there was a huge line of kids wanting to have their photo taken with Elsa and Olaf.  It was a HUGE deal.  Daddy got lots of hugs today, almost as many as Elsa did.  The younger kids were of course incredibly precious.  They were blown away at Elsa's presence, and not really put off by the fact that Olaf was a big bigger than he seemed on television.

It was a great morning.  We had a couple hundred pictures to go through, which we did, putting them all online for the parents and children.  And the service went very well also, a conclusion to our awesome series.  The kids have absolutely loved it.

We got home a little later today, which was a place of fried chicken.  This is something new, believe it or not.  Mommy made fried chicken using ground up Rice Checks and other gluten-free ingredients.  The end result was something perfect - just perfect.  Now Mommy can enjoy fried chicken with us!

We had some speech homework to do, practicing the letter "r" a few times like a good pirate.  And we   are also signed up to make a monster truck this weekend coming up.  This led us on a search of current monster trucks, and a revelation about just how many there are, and the entire world of competition they are involved in.  Seriously, we sat there for an hour looking and laughing at all the monster trucks.  I think our favorite might be El Diablo.  It has this huge face on the back, with a tongue sticking way out.

It was cold outside, and the rumor is snow this week.  We'll wait and see on that one.  But until then, we're still in Chinese New Year mode:  we watched "Kung Fu Panda" tonight.  It was almost as if it was the first time for Madison, who was laughing at a lot of the slapstick along the way.  It has just been a while since we've seen it.  The movie's soundtrack is familiar to Madison too, particularly that one tune called "Panda Po."  It's the soundtrack to her slideshow of our adoption journey, forever tied to our history with Madison now.

In any event, it was a good day.  We went to bed early, ready to tackle a new week this week.  It's going to be an interesting one, now that we've seen the forecast.  Stay tuned...!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ten Years after "Mulan"

No snow.  Not even ice.  We were in a warning zone, which is an upgraded position from a watch zone.  Which means it is pretty likely.

So either the snowplows came and got rid of every trace of frozen precipitation before we woke up... or nothing happened.  It has to be frustrating to be a meteorologist in Atlanta lately.  You have all this expensive equipment, coupled with years of training and experience.  And ultimately, people who are out there in the weather probably know more about what's going on than you do.

Fortunately, spring is on the way.  Meteorologists can have joy in this, because we won't be guessing anymore about where that line is that the temperature will be below freezing.  It'll be warmer everywhere!  But the other reason is that they have the training and equipment to know exactly where these terrible spring storms pop up, how fast they are moving, and where they are going.  It's a moment of redemption for weather forecasters, because we trust them with our lives at that point, all of us glued collectively to our television sets and computers.

But not this morning.  No, we had all that turned off.  Because this morning, we went to ballet.  But there wasn't any ballet this morning.  We had an error on the calendar, and mistakenly headed out to the Mary Poppins Ballet Camp.  Which is next week.

Oops.  So that's how Madison came to spend the day at work with Daddy.  We were doing a bit with the Marriage Conference, and fortunately there was some free food left over for both of us.  Daddy got the music and the special effects for tomorrow set up.  YES, there are special effects!  Queen Elsa will wave her arms and POOF!  There will be a geyser of blue steam shooting up from behind a stone wall we've had set up from week one.  It should be impressive.  Also impressive:  we got the Olaf costume this afternoon.  It is HUGE.  Madison put it on, and of course her head barely peeks out the top of the midsection.

It looks pretty funny!  She had fun with some of the other kids stranded there, while meanwhile outside the weather was warming up.  It actually got around forty degrees today, which is downright balmy when you consider what we've been through the last week or so.

We got home later, and had some homemade pizza for dinner - and after that, had just enough time to watch the next movie in our Chinese New Year festival:  "Mulan II."

Madison didn't watch these last year, so it's almost as if she's watching them for the first time in some ways.  She's forgotten a lot of the parts of these movies, so it's been fun rewatching them.  Of course, in this movie you want to strangle Mushu.  And clobber the ancestors a bit too.  But the other portions of the movie are pretty fun, and make for an enjoyable experience.  Madison laughed a lot throughout, and is suddenly on a Mulan kick, wanting that costume again.  We've always liked "Mulan."  It is actually the first Disney movie that Mommy and Daddy went to see in the theater together.  That was strangely prophetic!  We honestly had no idea whatsoever when seeing that movie that we ourselves would in fact be trekking all the way over to China to meet Madison, pretty much exactly ten years later.  We had just started dating - and could you imagine, "Okay, picture this:  you just met this girl, but in ten years you'll be married and going to China to adopt a little girl."

The movie came out on June 10th, 1998.  We didn't see it on opening day, but maybe a week later.  Which puts us pretty close to being exactly ten years later.  We went to China to meet Madison in June of 2008, including a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland.

I actually hadn't really thought of this before, so it's kind of a neat little trivia moment there!

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Bread and Milk Cartel

Tonight it is supposed to snow.  Actually, it's supposed to be snowing right now.  But it's not.  I mean, not in the way that was advertised.  In fact, it's pretty much exactly like things were on Monday-Tuesday, when things went exactly in the way they were not advertised.  In that case, just a trace of ice.  And of course, we were covered in it.  That was a few days ago.  With tonight, we're supposed to get 1-3 inches of snow, starting at 1pm, and then 4pm.  Nothing on the ground.  Either that, or the snow plows are coming through really quickly.

Not to say that driving conditions are not hazardous out there.  There has been a light snow and sleet falling on and off.  And there have been some accidents and places where there is black ice.  Daddy drove home a little later than he should have, because of the ONE Marriage Conference that is going on at the church this week.  Many people came to the event, couples in love and anxious to hear about the five or so languages of love.  It was a great conference, but there was such a funny feeling of faith there, as if to say God will keep everyone from harm, and we will in fact enjoy every moment of this conference despite the doom and gloom forecasts for the night.  Here they are, hundreds of couples having the time of their lives inside.  Meanwhile, outside, there were cars turning over in Forsyth County because of black ice, and every social network in the area warning people to stay off the roads.  How would these couples get back to their hotels or homes? Drive, of course.  And by gum, they'll leave as late as they want to!

And as far as I know, they all made it back just fine.  Our friend Josh had trouble getting home again.  Last year, he had an accident.  He lives in Habersham County, much further north.  This year, he said he was slipping and sliding on the way home, when he was nearly there.  But he made it safely, so that's good to hear.

Anyway, it was odd - that's all I'm saying.  It reminded me of the Titanic, where all these revelers are dressed up for a nice party, completely oblivious to any danger, and meanwhile there's this big ice berg out there.  Of course, nothing sunk tonight, so that was good.

Madison and Mommy had an easy time getting to and from Speech Therapy this afternoon.  The weather hadn't shifted yet by that point, so all was well and everyone got back safely.  Madison is working very hard on her letter "R."  She was practicing on the way home, and even when Daddy arrived home.  It was a funny call from Mommy that prompted Daddy to get out of Dodge.  That means, scram!  Get home quickly, because the weather is getting colder.  He got home in time to wish Madison a goodnight.  We said our prayers, and prayed for all those Titanic passengers back at the church.  Who once again were covered in grace, rather than ice.  Everyone had a great time at this conference, and made it home just fine.  Faith indeed!

So what happened with this forecast?  Again, the pendulum is swinging in the direction of being overly cautious and warning everyone to death about things.  So we are all braced for something epic that could potentially happen.  That sometimes doesn't, hence the term "potentially."

This is all because of last year's Snow Jam.  You can't be too careful... that is, until everyone gets sick of getting false alarms.  Then it is time to ignore the false alarms, because who wants to hear someone crying wolf all the time, when the wolf doesn't come?  And even those doing the false alarms start toning the conversation down a bit so they don't feel sheepish.  Who wants to get everyone running to the grocery store in a panic for milk and bread, for no apparent reason?  My conspiracy theory on this is that there is a bread and milk cartel out there, secretly fueling all this talk of snow.  They make a fortune every single time a meteorologist cries out in terror about a potential significant winter weather advisory.  So somehow they are involved, right?

Anyway, Daddy was busy with the ONE Marriage Conference today - that, and a bit of writing.  We're finishing up the "Northern Lights" drama this weekend.  This is partly because one of the Vikings can't make it next week, the guy who plays Gardar.  But I just feel it is time to end the drama, even though we have one more week still left of the series.  We'll do something else that final week, a sort of celebration of what I think is one of the best series we've ever done.

Until then, here's our script.  There's a surprise coming on Sunday, one that we are very blessed to have - hopefully a new costume that we are free to borrow, one related to "Frozen."  Stay tuned for that one!

We'll see what the weather is like in the morning, whether the weather is clear... or "Frozen."

KidPak Adventures:  Northern Lights
Better Together



NARRATOR:  "The Vikings had never seen a storm like that – it came from out of nowhere!  Yet now it has ended just as suddenly! As the sun begins to heat things up once more, the Vikings are emerging from their shelter …with sinister purpose!”

VLAD:  “No running off this time, monk.”

CRESCENDO:  “What on earth do you hope to accomplish with all of this?”

GARDAR:  (moves to STAGE RIGHT) “We’re going to kidnap the queen, and use her powers, of course.”

CRESCENDO:  “To make snow cones for everyone?”

GARDAR:  “Ivar said she could make an army of snow monsters, and shoot out dozens of sharp spears of ice at a time.”

CRESCENDO:  “And then she’ll make snow cones for everyone?”

GARDAR stares at CRESCENDO a moment.  And then turns abruptly to the others.

IVAR:  “Father, what can you possibly hope to accomplish with this?”

GARDAR steps forward dramatically towards CENTER STAGE

GARDAR:  “Power.  With this sort of power, we can make anyone do whatever we ask. We can have all the riches in the world!”

GARDAR looks around, consumed with passion for power.

CRESCENDO:  “And then make snow cones?”

GARDAR gives a stern look to CRESCENDO, who scurries over to STAGE RIGHT. 

IVAR:  “Look, all this is well and good – but I don’t think this is the way to go.  You don’t lead with fear, Father.  You lead …with love.”

GARDAR:  “What?  You are no Viking!  I do not like what I’m about to do, but it must be done:  I cannot allow any more defiance to my orders!”

IVAR shrinks back to STAGE RIGHT, where CRESCENDO is.

IVAR:  “But father!”


GARDAR:  “Vlad.  Do what you must.”

With much menace, VLAD slowly and deliberately approaches IVAR at STAGE RIGHT, who appears fearful.  And yet, after a moment, VLAD breaks.

VLAD:  “I cannot.”

GARDAR gasps.

VLAD:  “The boy is right.”

GARDAR:  “What?”

TORNY moves to STAGE RIGHT as she speaks.

TORNY:  “We have learned something here, something from these monks.  And what you’re suggesting is not the way.”

GARDAR looks around in disbelief, alone at STAGE LEFT.

GARDAR:  “So this is how it is.  Betrayed by my own.  Well I’ll show you how to be a Viking!”

INCALZANDO rushes in STAGE RIGHT, standing behind well at CENTER STAGE.

INCALZANDO:  “Wait!  You don’t have to do this!”

GARDAR: “Says who?”


ELSA:  “Enough.”

INCALZANDO:  “Says the Queen.  I brought her here.”

GARDAR steps towards ELSA

INCALZANDO:  “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

GARDAR marches towards ELSA again.

ELSA:  “I said enough!”

ELSA extends her hands towards GARDAR, who steps over a GEYSER LIGHT hidden behind well.


GARDAR falls back, hands covering eyes, making his way to STAGE LEFT.

ELSA:  “Stay away!”

IVAR rushes to GARDAR at STAGE LEFT.  GARDAR is shivering on the ground, as ELSA calmly walks towards him.

ELSA:  “My power flurries through the air onto the ground.  I never knew what I was capable of.”

IVAR:  “Your highness.  Don’t do this.”

ELSA:  (staring down GARDAR) “And what power do you have to stop me?”

GARDAR:  (shivering) “Are ..are you here to vanquish me?”

ELSA:  “No.”

VIKINGS look confused.

ELSA:  “I’m here to ask you to join me.”

TORNY:  “Join you?”
ELSA:  “Stay within our kingdom.  Change your ways from thievery, to members of my royal guard.”

VLAD:  “I don’t know if we can do that.”

ELSA:  “You’ll be paid handsomely.”

VLAD:  “Okay, we can do that.”

IVAR:  “But we’re Vikings.  The scourge of the North Seas!”

INCALZANDO:  “And God can give you a new identity.  When you arrived here on our shores in your long boats, you rowed as one. You used your strengths in unity.  And now you can do that again, for a more noble cause!”

TORNY:  “This… is new.  I’ve never been anything but a Viking before.”

CRESCENDO:  “You can move with faith.  No one knew what was beyond the great seas – in fact, some thought the world was flat, one you could fall right off of.  Yet nearly 500 years before the Columbus set foot in the new world, the Vikings were there.  We can’t see what is beyond the horizon, but with faith, we can move together, and discover the new world that lies waiting for us.”

ELSA:  (to TORNY)  “Are you ready?”

TORNY:  “Do I get to keep my horned hat?”

ELSA nods.

TORNY:  “Then yes.”

ELSA:  “And what of you, Gardar the Fierce?  We can use your talents to keep our royal guards on their toes.”

INCALZANDO:  “Come to church with us.  Hear of God’s wonderful love for you!”

GARDAR rises slowly. 

GARDAR:  “We Vikings are masters of navigation.  We traveled so far using something called a ‘sunstone.’  We followed the sun, because it led us to victory.  But today, I believe we will follow a different Son:  this Jesus you have spoken of.”

GARDAR and IVAR share a warm moment. 

INCALZANDO:  “He will not lead you astray!”

ELSA:  “Then it is settled!  You will all come to my palace at once.  I will introduce you to my sister!”

IVAR:  “Does she want to meet real Vikings again?”

ELSA:  “No… she just wants her shoes back.”

VIKINGS laugh at this.

VLAD:  “So the gates are open once more, huh?”

ELSA:  “We are never closing them again.”

ELSA leads VIKINGS and MONKS off STAGE LEFT as NARRATOR concludes.

NARRATOR: “True to history, the Vikings did change their ways, becoming a powerful force that spread the gospel further than ever before.  And as our friends go back to the castle, remember that adventure awaits you as well when you follow the Son.  Remember this, and the other remarkable lessons learned …in the land of the Northern Lights!”  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Year of the Sheep

It is the Chinese New Year today, and as you can see from our annual card, it's the Year of the Sheep.  We didn't have much time this week due to weather and just a general busy schedule, but we did have this photo from Christmas that seemed to fit the theme very nicely.  So we made our card from that old photo, and posted it on social media sites to wish a happy new year to our friends.  Only afterwards did we remember Lambchop, the puppet we have upstairs.  Now there's a classic character!  We might be seeing more of Lambchop this week, just because Sherry Lewis is awesome.

We do have some Chinese New Year gifts for Madison, but there's one or two more to get, so we'll probably give these to her one morning coming up.  We'll post pictures of that.  We'll also post pictures of the nice Chinese New Year display Mommy put up in the kitchen.  Some of the items we got in China a few years ago, and other items we've picked up along the way.

We wished each other a happy new year, no doubt terribly pronouncing "Gung Hay Fat Choy." That's how you say "Happy New Year" in Chinese.  Madison centered on that "Fat" part, which suddenly makes the phrase hilarious.  And even more so when she blurts it out from another room, almost like something you say after stubbing your toe.

It was a nice day, and another day off for Madison.  I have no idea why.  The trees are still covered with ice, but the roads are perfectly safe at this point.  At least they are around here.  Daddy went to work yesterday, and got to survey the damage quite a bit.  Trees are out of the way for the most part, and the roads are safe.  The only thing extreme about today was the temperature:  it never made it out of the twenties.  It was brutally cold this morning, eleven degrees.  Plus the windchill factor made it seem like zero.  When the temperature gets that low, it doesn't really matter what the number is anymore.  You just run for your life to the nearest interior.

Which, in my case, was the local doctor's office.  It was time for Daddy's annual physical.  This went well, although there are some pills that I need to start taking for cholesterol and blood pressure.  These are part of life now, the result of being born into a family with this sort of history.  I think I can blame the Irish side of the family, although you never know.

Madison had a lot of homework today, which is funny because she hasn't been in school for a week now.  Today was an online schoolwork sort of day, where she did a lot of homework on her school's websites.  We watched movies about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and afterwards Madison wrote about the two.  We did some math, and some other online assignments as well.  It actually took a while to get all of this done, but Madison did well.  Additionally, everything seemed to be working for the most part.  There was an outage at one point, where her teacher was telling us to save everything.  But it somehow didn't affect us, and we were able to get our assignments done quickly, and only once.

Tonight we went back to "Mulan."  It's the Chinese New Year, after all.  We watched this movie with some popcorn and a roaring fire in the fireplace, and a few blankets too.  It's so nice and cozy - and these movies always bring back memories of happy times in a land far, far away.  Some day we will return to China, but that will be later when Madison is older.  We'll have to save up for that one!  But it will be worth it to take her to the place of her birth.  She has no memories of it at this point, and coincidentally, we just found some photos of her orphanage online this week. These are pictures we've never seen before, and this one in particular struck a chord:

One of the very first pictures we saw of Madison was of her on these stairs.  This new perspective gave us all sorts of memories, taking us back to early 2008 when there were so many questions.  We have most of them answered by now, but we still have that same joy with us.  It was the Year of the Rat, which doesn't sound as auspicious as other animals.  Madison's birth year is the Year of the Dog, which has a more noble feel to it.  Just before Madison, we saw the years of the Rooster, Dog and Pig - each of these as we were joining other families with children from China.  They were always asking us when we were going to be meeting our daughter, and our only response was, "Soon!"  We had no idea!  The wait was two-and-a-half years, and I'm sure some were beginning to wonder.  I know we ourselves were beginning to wonder a bit.  But God is in control, and as soon as Mommy was healthy enough, there was the call to go to China.  In the Year of the Rat.

We took Madison to the Year of the Ox celebration the first Chinese New Year we were with her, and she had this adorable outfit on, playing with the dancing dragon they had there.  The other Chinese New Year celebrations are shown here - we've gone through Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake and Horse last year.  We'll visit the Monkey again next year, and then things will start to get pretty sentimental.  We'll look back on those visits to the Chinese New Year celebrations that we attended, the ones where Madison was only a dream.  We'll think back on those times, so full of hope and questions.  And here we are, twelve years later, with so many happy memories in between.

Happy New Year.  Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ice Ice Baby

As the temperature has not lifted above freezing, the ice has remained exactly where it was last put.  Which was on all the trees and buildings.  Icicles remain precisely in place, although the trees that were in the roads have been moved for the most part.  A simple commute to church - which you can see in the photo I took above - is a minor sampling of a tour of destruction.  Trees are down all over.  Some are huge, one in particular slammed down like a toll booth gate just before Browns Bridge.  Branches decorate the sides of the road, each one still covered with the glittering ice.

And it is absolutely frigid too.  There's a wind that packs a frozen punch, pushing you indoors as soon as possible.  Daddy toured the church grounds, and there are a few trees we lost, one falling in the road around the back.  Another tree looks like it will snap at any moment, unless something is done soon.  This ice storm has certainly taken its toll.

Believe it or not, it snowed today.  This was not forecast at all, but there was a blinding white snowstorm that struck at home where Madison was - she didn't have school again today.  It also came to Gainesville, the closest thing we've had to a whiteout in Georgia.  Daddy was a part of one a few years ago in Buffalo, which of course is much more severe.  But this one was surprising.  And the snow kept falling too, which was alarming in a way because nobody was expecting this.  As a precautionary measure, church closed tonight just in case the roads became too dangerous to drive.  Daddy went home early and safely, and we were blessed to spend some more time together there.  Madison didn't go to tennis today, completing her three-day sweep of missing just about everything.  But she did have fun making red envelopes for her classmates for the Chinese New Year upcoming.  She got chocolate coins, and placed them into red envelopes, enough for all her classmates and teachers.  She's a sweet girl!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


We are in fact trapped here.  Many roads are blocked, and a lot of them are main roads that take you here or there.  We sound as if we live in a lumberjack community, with chainsaws sounding off all over the land.  The ice is beautiful, a sea of glass that is simply indescribably beautiful.  Nevertheless, I'll attempt to do it:  the trees are made of ice, or at least appear that way.  The smaller branches are not visible due to the excess of an icy coating - the end result is what appears to be a carefully crafted tree made entirely of glass.  Multiply this times the thousands of trees that are around us, at least the ones still standing.  Many are leaning over, burdened by the tremendous weight.  The wind blows, and the forest sparkles, a million shimmering points of light as each branch sways in the wind.

The best time is sunrise or sunset, when the trees glow with colors orange, yellow and red.  Driving along the road and looking at all the trees, it appears as silver garland, the kind that drapes a Christmas tree.  Only it covers every single tree.

The ice that falls to the road shatters, the roads appear as if they are covered in broken glass from an accident involving a truck carrying mirrors.

It goes without saying that there was much closed today, including school for Madison.  The roads in general were safe, believe it or not.  The ice didn't make it to the roads, mainly because it is currently resting on all the trees.

We didn't make it to piano class either, although Mrs. Pam sent by email our latest homework assignment - and clue.  That was important to Madison.  She had to know the latest clue for Winter Wonderland, which was given to her over the email.  So far we have balls, ladders, tightrope and bouncing.  This all makes me think of a circus, but we're still hesitant to guess with absolute certainty.  We'll find out soon enough!

Meanwhile, we stay here at the house.  Nana and Ye-Ye are fine, despite the fact that they have no power.  Neither do many of our friends, so we count it a blessing that we in fact do have power.  What we did with that power wasn't exactly admirable though:  we spent a lot of time playing video games, or watching movies.  We did have a pretty epic game of Monopoly today.  This went on for a long time, well over an hour.  It is the one we got two years ago with the theme of "Brave."  As with most games of Monopoly, this one had no end.  Daddy was at one point trying to lose, but still fate kept everyone in there and balanced:  it was Mommy, Daddy and Madison.  She was learning a lot of math with this game, paying rent, collecting rent and making change.  She also held one of the utilities (Fire Falls), which required a payment of four times whatever was rolled on the dice.  Suddenly, Madison had to know her multiplication tables with the number four, in order to collect the right amount of money.  In the end, she was obsessed with getting castles - that's this game's version of a hotel.  She had three of them on her properties right in front of the Free Parking square.  We called it "Madison's Death Zone," and yet we all kept surviving to make it to "Go," and start all over.

In the end, Madison had fun.  Of course she won, with Mommy coming in a close second.  Daddy was in third, but he owned the Circle of Stones and the Ancient Ruins (this game's version of Boardwalk and Park Place).  So everyone pretty much won in their own way, and a good time was had by all.  It did get a little old after an hour or so, I have to be honest.  Monopoly is a game of patience!

We got the popcorn ready afterwards, and sat down at the couch.  The fire was perfect in the fireplace, and the atmosphere just right.  Tonight's feature was "Rise of the Guardians."  We picked this just so we could see Jack Frost again.  Although it appears as if he's in our neck of the woods once more!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Potentially Significant Possible Winter Weather Event Advisory

We had a potentially significant possible winter weather event, which was certainly full of potential.  The forecast switched this weekend to show our county getting basically rain, or possibly a trace of ice on bridges and overpasses.  It was President's Day, which meant that Madison was home from school anyway - and this may have been a good thing.  It may have also been a good thing that there was no ballet because of this holiday.  The reason became apparent when Daddy went out on the front porch to take a photo or two of the frozen ice on the trees around us.  And promptly started slipping all over the place.  If it was only 4:00 or so, and I was slipping on the front porch of my house, then surely this must be happening a lot more around here.  And sure enough, it was.  Suddenly, frantic forecasters were adjusting their warning zones - the frigid temperatures had slipped further southward than anticipated, and several counties were ambushed with an ice storm like nothing we've seen in years.

This won't necessarily go down in history as the the biggest, but it may be one of the most destructive we've had.  The problem with this storm was not the roads, but rather the trees.  They just couldn't take it.  Thousands and thousands were without power last night, including Ye-Ye and Nana.  Our power went out once, but came back on.  Still, it frequently flickered.  We each had our flashlights at the ready, along with candles.  It turned out our neighborhood was spared the massive power outages that would go on.  To let you know how bad these power outages are - as of this writing (three days later), Nana and Ye-Ye finally got their power (and heat) back three days later.

The sounds were all around us in the neighborhood:  the cracking of trees that just couldn't take the additional burden of ice.  In our back yard, ginormous pine trees weighted down sort of bent our way, their trunks now looking like the neck of an ancient sauropod shifting this way and that.  The cracking and falling sounds that came from the darkness later on would be the thing that we'd remember from this point on.  You have no idea what fell or where, or how close.  Would it hit the house?  Would it hit a power line?

It turns out we lost a lot of trees in the night.  The neighborhood park lost several, and throughout our neighborhood you could see all kinds of branches that just couldn't take the added weight.

We were able to watch a movie tonight.  Madison wanted to watch "Brave" again, so we went there once more (only losing power once).  We talked to Nana and Ye-Ye, who were doing fine so long as they had a fire in the fireplace.  And we were pretty thankful tonight.  All throughout the evening, the reports came in on social media networks about the extensive damage in Forsyth and Dawson counties.  Hall County too.  A lot of prayers were going up tonight for protection from these falling trees.

Anna and Elsa

This morning we finally arrived at our much-anticipated service dedicated to the movie "Frozen."  It is the weekend of Valentine's Day, so we were dedicated the service to the concept of love.  And of course, the movie "Frozen" covers the real definition of love, making it the perfect thing to talk about.  We've had Elsa and Anna here at various parts of the series, but today we had both of them, and it was a pretty epic service.  We had them doing the song, "For the First Time in Forever," and of course there was a sing-a-long with for "Let It Go."  And a big moment for us was our meet-and-greet with Elsa and Anna after service.  We set up a little maze like you have at Disney, and sure enough, we filled it.  Lots and lots of kids were lining up - with lots of adults - all wanting a photo with Elsa and Anna.  We had a special backdrop made back in October, and have been reusing it this series in the lobby, definitely getting our money's worth.  Madison spent a LOT of time with Anna and Elsa today, helping move their elaborate dresses across the carpet, or just playing hide-and-seek.  

Madison even brought her Disney autograph book.  These girls are so good with the kids - we've been to Disney to meet all sorts of characters, and these girls are just as good.  And they really look the part too!  It's difficult to recreate on a limited budget and limited timeframe an experience identical to one that you'd find at Disney - believe me, we've been going to Disney for years.  But in this case, I truly believe we nailed it.  We posted hundreds of photos online, and the kids were just overwhelmed.  The looks on some of these little girls' faces were precious, either speechless or full of questions or just running forward to give huge hugs.  Or, as Olaf likes to say, warm hugs.  

After church, we went to Nana and Ye-Ye's house for a bit for a nice big gluten-free dinner.  There was all kinds of good things to eat, and a roaring fire in the fireplace.  We sat on the couch and talked for a bit, and in Madison's case, had an epic game of Concentration with Nana.  There were some Valentine's Day gifts too, more Monster High stuff for Madison to add to her collection.  It was restful and quiet, and with full tummies on a Sunday afternoon, you can just imagine we were ready for a nice nap there!

When we got home, we were pretty close to ready to go to bed.  We didn't have school to worry about tomorrow, so we did put in a movie and a fire in the fireplace.  There is a potential significant possible winter weather advisory in place for tomorrow, so we're all pretty curious about how things will play out.  But at least we're getting sleep tonight - no getting up early tomorrow!  We watched "Muppets:  Most Wanted" tonight, all wrapped up in blankets in front of the fire - it was a nice evening together as a family, and not long afterwards, we were all asleep inn bed.  After a few more checks of the forecast, of course.  Things could go either way tomorrow, so we'll just have to wait and see!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day 2015

The wind is blowing hard tonight as this is typed, although the temperature hasn't made that extreme dip that has been foretold.  The winter weather is on the way, or at least that's what prognosticators are prognosticating:  a winter storm on Monday into Tuesday night.  We'll see what comes, but we took precautionary actions this afternoon by moving our Monday plans today.  And those plans were fairly complicated:  we wanted to go see a movie.  We had a free coupon to our favorite theater here in Cumming, and it expires Monday.  But with the storm supposedly rolling in, we played it safe and went to see said movie today.  What was that movie, you ask?

"Spongebob:  Sponge Out of Water" was actually a surprisingly fun movie.  Some of the later episodes of the Spongebob series had lost their direction a bit, but this movie was actually pretty enjoyable for all three of us.  Madison was laughing out loud at a few parts, and Daddy was too, actually.  It starts a little slow, but there are some gags midway that keep coming at you - the end result is a really fun movie that moves along quickly, and of course makes you happy to see Spongebob and company being fun again.

This is the sort of thing you do on Valentine's Day.  Yeah, there are other movies out this weekend.  But that's not the way we roll.  No sir, when it's Valentine's Day, the movie you need to go see has to have Spongebob in it.  That bit of advice there is free, by the way.

Yes, it was Valentine's Day.  And the morning started out early enough, with a special scavenger hunt for Madison.  She found Aladdin in her room when she awoke - the Disney Infinity version.  He had a Valentine's Day that he wanted to deliver to Jasmine.  Only... where was Jasmine?  Madison followed clues throughout the house, meeting Cupid from Monster High first, and then Stitch, and even Venom along the way.  And what better way to say 'Happy Valentine's Day' then with the gift of Venom?  Anyway, Madison did find his way to Jasmine - and now she is a part of our collection as well.  Also added to our temporary collection:  ring pops and conversation hearts.  Oh, conversation hearts!  I forgot how good some of these taste.  Madison and Daddy nearly ate an entire bag of these today!  We brought them along to the movie theater as a snack, and just about brought back an empty bag!

We gave Mommy a craft that Madison made last week at Home Depot - and put into it three Crunchy bars.  We also got her some Valentine's Day cards.  But we weren't done with the craft-making yet:  this morning, we also went to Lowe's to make a Valentine's Day craft there.  It was a picture holder, and it was fairly simple to put together.  We went to the office after that, Madison and Daddy, and there we made the pictures to put in the holder.  It made for a nice little Valentine's Day gift!

Yeah, we spent more time at the office today. There was still some things to set up for tomorrow, which is looking like it will be a fantastic day.  But we have to make it through tonight first:  Madison is busy using some of the Valentine's Day activity books we gave her this morning, more 'stained glass window' crafts in there as well.  And when she's not doing that, she's glued to one of those Weird School books.  It is such a strange addiction.  On one hand, you don't know what to think.  On the other, she's reading and reading.  Seriously, we're going over to the grandparents' house tomorrow, and all she'll need to do is bring a book and she'll be happy with it.  She's like Belle!

The wind is sure howling out there - it's supposed to be pretty chilly tomorrow.  We'll finish up some crafts here, and likely turn in early.  It's been a fun Valentine's Day!