Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Production Values

Here's Madison in the car, ready to go.  And that's what we did today:  go, go, go!

The flurry of activity is increasing - today was our first dress rehearsal (there's another on Thursday), so we got all geared up and ready to tackle a long, long night at the church.  Madison was up past midnight again - a rare thing, but she was there because Mommy and Daddy had to stay to help with all the costuming and props and so forth. 

Of course, there was also piano this afternoon - this afternoon we were racing from here to there to there and back here again.  Next week is spring break, and a well-deserved time out for all of us.  But right now, we just have to keep moving forward, sewing, gathering, coordinating, writing, and so forth.

Madison had a great night, as always making new friends and running around with old friends up and down the hallways.  You think to yourself she's going to the church and there's not much to do, but then that's so not true.  There are playgrounds, indoor and out.  There are long hallways and lots of places for hide-and-seek.  And as of right now, there's an impressive set upstairs in the sanctuary.  We'll post pictures of that later.  Tonight, there was a lot of action in the choir room, as Madison and her friends were doing a bit of choreography - and a bit of singing as well.  She's sort of just figuring it all out, happy to be there.  And she is.  Earlier, she was quite hesitant about performing in front of all those people.  But being with friends who are all going out there, she feels more comfortable.

Anyway, it's a busy day and we're all quite tired.  Easter is coming soon, and we'll be done with the production and egg hunts and baskets.  Then we'll have time to stop and relax.  But not quite yet!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hoppy Hollow

Several Easters ago - before we met Madison for the first time - we played a joke on Ye-Ye.  These sorts of jokes date back to "way back when," as we've been pulling small pranks on each other around the holidays for years.  For example, the Valentine's Day frog that sings that menacing "Just One Kiss" song while it sits there, shaking.  We sneak that into the house, and put it under a pillow on their bed.  Or the unopened "Gone with the Wind" VHS that keeps getting wrapped, and given at Christmas - because it never got watched to begin with.

Put "Hoppy Hollow" in this category.  We were at the dollar store or some place like that when we passed by Hoppy Hollow.  It was a ginormous collection of tiny porcelain rabbits in a porcelain rabbit community.

We note that online, there's one person trying to sell this entire collection for $400.  Another dealer spins this as a precious tradition we'll want to enjoy year after year.  In fact, here's just part a description of Hoppy Hollow I found online:

Guaranteed to be something here for every little bunny. These collectibles are hand painted porcelain and from the Hoppy Hollow line. Numerous Hoppy Hollow egg homes and accessories make this collection a tradition that you and your family will enjoy for years to come. Children will delight as you spin your own tale of the adventures in Bunny Hollow.

So anyway, it was so awful we had to get it.  Seriously, there are cute bunnies everywhere with a a bunny flower shop, a bunny eggery, a bunny bakery, a bunny school, a bunny church.  There are tiny porcelain flowers and bushes and bunny-shaped topiaries.  There's a bunny bridge, a bunny train, and a bunny hot air balloon.  Everything is themed with carrots and eggs and flowers and pastel and glitter and ... it is overwhelming.

So we bought it.  No, we didn't pay $400, as I just saw online.  These were at the DOLLAR STORE.  I think we paid $20 max for this empire, because believe it or not, they were even marked down.  We got a small country of bunnies, bunny buildings and bunny accessories for under $20, and set the thing up at Ye-Ye's house while he was away.

He likes to set up his nativity set each year, because it is tasteful and appropriate.  Hoppy Hollow... is not.

So we had a lot of laughs about it. Again, the investment wasn't much.  So it came to pass that last year when we were setting up for the yard sale, Ye-Ye and Nana were putting up Hoppy Hollow for sale.  And that sparked a thought in Mommy.  Why not set it up for Madison next Easter?

And so we did.  It's currently on her dresser, and she will be absolutely surprised when she sees all this bunny stuff.  She has no idea we even have this, so it should be pretty over-the-top when she first sees it.  And I think she'll actually like it.  Not for the reasons that Mommy and Daddy do - we laugh at the gaudiness and pastels and 'hand-painted ceramic craftsmanship.'  But Madison will actually really appreciate it, because she's at that stage in life where things can be sweet and cute.  And perhaps there's a lesson deep in there about growing up and becoming hardened to the sight of unicorns, puppies, and rainbow-colored sprinkles.  And in a sense, Mommy and Daddy haven't completely lost that sense of wonder about things.  We were actually putting this set out with a sense of joy, which of course is what the designers - and that clever verbiage above - intended all along.  And that is just one great thing about having a child:  getting to be one again.

Tonight we had more Easter production.  And ballet.  We're very occupied with sewing, painting, and so forth.  The set is looking great on the main stage, and the actors all know their lines, largely.  Madison will be suited up tomorrow night for a dress rehearsal, one I'll take pictures for.  We've got all kinds of things going on, including planning for the family Easter this upcoming weekend.  But first, we have to get through this production.  It starts this Friday, Good Friday.  The countdown is on!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Textbook Armadillo

Of all the animal fighting styles:  Mantis, Tiger, Monkey, Viper, and even Crane - this new one seems to be getting the biggest laughs.  It's the armadillo fighting stance, and Robbie here seems to be doing a textbook version of it!

It was a fun morning at KidPak as always, as we continued our series "Kung Pow!"  Madison and the other kids laughed, and then learned about the virtue of self-control.  We had an illustration with Samson and Delilah, and of course a dubbed Kung Fu video as well.  There was so much to the service this morning, and did we mention it was Palm Sunday?

Daddy reaffirmed that much at night, as just before bed we read the Palm Sunday story in the Bible.  Madison has a few books dedicated to this season, so it was nice to open those up and read the Biblical background to the week.  The Easter bunnies are fun, but we must never lose focus on this reason for the most important week of the year.

Daddy did have to go back to set up lights for practice, and they are just now starting to get the new set up for our huge production:  "For God So Loved."

It'll be big.  There will be aerialists, and special music performances.  In the midst of that a story that Daddy helped conceive, one with Peter as the narrator.  He spends a lot of time talking to a boy, who we come to learn is Timothy.  There are a few other gems in there, things that are different from the standard passion play.  The message is not watered down though - but there is a lot of humanity surrounding the events.  The soldiers aren't all bad, nor are all the Pharisees.  Nicodemus is there, and if it weren't for him, there wouldn't even be the line, "for God so loved…"  And a Roman commander bows to Jesus, recognizing His authority, and ability to heal his servant.  Simultaneously, we see a different presentation of the scene at the Garden of Gathsemane, where there was initially a bit of combat - Peter actually cut someone's ear off.  But Jesus says, "I am He," and everyone drops.  Do we really think the soldiers were expecting that?  Rather than have them take Him away, the point is made: Jesus gave himself.  That's the point of the whole thing:  "For God so Loved."  It's possible that Nicodemus was there in the shadows of the garden - why not?  Other Pharisees were there.  And as he watches Jesus get carried away, perhaps he finally understands what John 3:16 is all about.  And as our focus goes to Peter and his failures, we see our humanity, and how much we need that grace.  There is no "Arise My Love" song this time around, but instead a poignant scene where Peter reunites with his Master.  Even after betrayal and death, Jesus is still serving others - cooking of all things, fish.  Peter would become a fisher of men, and walk in the grace and forgiveness that we can walk in as well.  Peter went to work after his betrayal.  He tried the church thing, and it didn't quite work out.  So he went fishing.  But Jesus came to him, standing there at the shoreline, calling out to him.  And in this production, we'll have Jesus calling out to all of those in the congregation that visit on Easter and Christmas.  Perhaps they've tried the church thing, and it didn't work out.  Well, here's Jesus at the edge of the stage.  And He's calling out to you once more.  Will you be like Peter?  He dove in the deep, and couldn't get to Jesus fast enough.  That's where he found mercy and forgiveness.  And that's where he found purpose once more.  Hopefully this weekend, we'll see others follow Peter's example.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

More Play Practice

One week from today is our play.  We had practices today, and setting up for service at KidPak as well.  That said, Madison has been with us quite a bit, making a new home here at the KidPak office, or somewhere down the hall at the church - nearby the prop room, where Mommy spends her time with costumes and things necessary for the production.

Which starts in one week.  We're completely focused on getting this accomplished, and during this time, we're wanting to make sure Madison is okay of course.  Although she doesn't need too much prompting from us.  First of all, there are plenty of other kids stranded here by play practice.  And adults too - she loves playing with all the staff members here, and they enjoy having her around as well.    Madison is also really into finishing these books from the "Weird School" series.  This is the latest one she's been reading, one we found at the library:

There are so many of these books in this series.  Daddy just makes a run to the library from time to time, and a grateful Madison gets four new books to read, ones she whizzes through in no time whatsoever.  She's so driven to finish some books in one day - she brags about it afterwards.  These are chapter books too, ones with as many as thirteen chapters to them.  More words than pictures, and all of the sudden we've discovered our daughter really loves to read.  That's why Daddy is more than happy to head to the library to supply her with more!

In today's practice, Madison is learning a dance to the song "He Knows My Name," which is a nice, fast-paced song that all the kids get excited about.  Madison has been singing it quite a bit lately, really wanting to get her part right.

And so there's Saturday.  Quite a bit of time invested in our new production, but it will be worth it, especially for those who need to hear its incredible message.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Master of Disguise

Here's a photo of Madison - or is it?  After speech therapy, she became a maser of disguise!  These plastic glasses, mustaches and noses have been around a long time, and people still love to wear them.  I wonder if there is a patent on this particular threesome.  Somewhere along the line, someone thought up an idea to make a completely unrealistic disguise like this, and soon after everyone was wanting one.  Daddy is secretly right now wishing he had one to put on, so nobody would know who he is.  Madison and Daddy can walk into a mall or something, completely nonchalant, and nobody would look our way.  Yes, that's just another one of those two people with the big noses and mustaches.  Nothing to see there.  They aren't spies or private investigators at all!

Of all the things for Madison to want from a treasure chest!  Either there wasn't that much in there, or she's tired of getting all the other frilly girl things - like rings, necklaces, and fake cellphones. 

This treasure chest was in her speech therapy class.  She was rewarded for her recent visit, and her progress.  That meant she got to go to the treasure chest, which is the most sacred of places in dentist offices, piano classes, doctor's offices, and now speech therapy.  A bounty of plastic heaven awaits those with fortune good enough to open these magical portals to unlimited fast-food toys or themed party favors!

Madison got her report card today.  This was the third of four, which means we're almost done with second grade.  That prospect in itself is downright scary.  Nobody has figured a way to stop time yet, and this is unfortunate!

Her report card was stellar.  She had many places where she is above average, and we're quite impressed with her.  Unfortunately, we couldn't reward her with a gift or something for the good report card.  Fortunately, Winter the dolphin interceded!  Daddy told Madison that Winter had something for her - but it isn't from Mommy or Daddy.  It's from Winter.

She went upstairs to her stuffed animal dolphins, and there it was:  "Dolphin Tale 2."  This was a great joy for her to see, as evidenced by the small squeal we heard all the way downstairs.

So it goes without saying that tonight's movie of choice was "Dolphin Tale 2."  Madison had all the dolphin friends lined up on the couch, ready to watch the movie with us.  Again, it's a good movie for showing the ins and outs of the process of rescue, rehabilitation and release.  Madison enjoyed it again, and was happy to see Hope and Winter once more.  For good measure, we went to the live cam from Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and saw Winter once again.  We do that from time to time, just to check in.  But Madison DOES want to go back soon.  We may do that, although not this spring.  More on that later.

So, today was a nice day.  In one week, we start the run of our Easter Production.  It will be an intensive process this week, assembling and coordinating and hopefully spending a little time sleeping.  But it will be worth it in the end, hopefully. 


Stamps.  We occasionally collect them, and today was the perfect opportunity to pull a few out and share with Madison.  She is older now, and appreciated going through the collection some.  Back in the 70's and 80's, Daddy's grandfather collected them a bit, so I've in turn inherited a few.  But then on top of that, we pick up a few a year just for the collecting aspect of it.  For example, the Chinese New Year stamps each year.  And sometimes there are Disney ones, or Star Wars ones - or whatever.  We showed Madison the state stamps, the official state bird and state flower stamps, and then the ones that had the secret codes on them.  If you don't remember that, there was a time where there were hidden images or messages on the stamps made by the Postal Service.  In order to see them, you had to purchase a special decoder that you look through.  We actually have that decoder still, so Madison was looking through it in order to see things like Thomas Jefferson's signature, or chains wrapped around Houdini's stamp.  It was a nice little teachable moment, and it all started out with a homework essay that she had to write.

Tonight, Madison first had to design her own stamp.  Go figure:  it was a picture of Elsa.  Yeah, that was fairly obvious, wasn't it?  Anyway, she had to write about where the letter was going and why, and a few other things.  In this case, Madison wrote as if she were the stamp herself.  She was going on an envelope that had a birthday card in it for Anna.  The card was going to Arendelle, of course.  And Madison added at the end, if the weather was cold there... the cold never bothered her anyway.

We were on a fabric dash all day today, as we're in one of those dramatic races against time to get a lot of costumes created for the kids involved in the Easter Production.  Madison is a little nervous about being in this one, so she might not actually be IN the production this time around.  But we'll all be around the production quite a bit the next several days.  Cannot wait until the day after Easter, as bad as that sounds.  We'll all have this heavy burden off our shoulders, and of course hopefully we'll be off somewhere that's warm and has the sound of ocean waves.  

Tonight, Daddy went to the Men's Meeting at church, where there were slam dunk competitions and weight-lifting contests.  Sadly, there was no Star Wars trivia, yodeling contests, or armpit noise games.  No, this was all about manliness!  Seriously, it was a fun night, and I'm glad I went.  I did miss the family though.  Madison was working on her spelling a bit tonight at home, which didn't require too much effort.  

She was not forlorn in the slightest.  That's one of her words:  forlorn.  Who actually uses that word in a sentence anymore?  Sure, there are the over educated folks that like to throw it around in social media posts to show how much more educated they are than the rest of us.  But seriously, "forlorn?"  I know exactly what the word means, of course.  I usually use it in a sarcastic sort of way, because it is so over-the-top.  Example:  "When I heard Bonanza was about to end, I was forlorn to come back with the rest of the cast one more season."

Okay, if you don't get the Lorne Greene reference, then don't worry about it.  But usually I use it sarcastically like this:  "When we discovered the taquitos at the gas station were not ready, we left the place with a forlorn look in our eyes."

See?  It's only use for me is with exaggeration.  Because when you use it to describe someone that actually HAS a forlorn look, the word just sounds too over-the-top - even if it actually fits the situation. 

The point is, who uses this word anymore?  Or more to the point, what SECOND GRADER uses this word anymore?  "The rain dampened the children's spirits, canceling their chance to go out to the playground, a forlorn look upon each student's face."

Fortunately, Madison can spell it easily.  But I'm sorry, but if you use this word in everyday conversation, I can't take you seriously.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Go away, Periwinkle!

Wow.  One house on our neighborhood went up for sale yesterday… and is already under contract.  The market is definitely improving.  The new houses being constructed in our neighborhood are fueling a bit of the rise in values for our house too, which isn't a bad thing at all.  We were blessed and highly favored to be here a few years ago, at the tail end of things.  And now here we are, enjoying this wonderful neighborhood.  And watching it all bloom too - the flowers are all over the place.  Madison is noticing daffodils - and other blooms - and remarking about the beauty of the green that is just beginning to appear on the trees.

Today was a big day for progress towards the Easter production. And there was church tonight - a lesson on obedience continued.  This series has been a great one.  We have some wonderful volunteers that help make KidPak a ton of fun.

Unfortunately, Madison could not go to tennis tonight.  This is due to the one-car situation we currently have.  Daddy was just too busy elsewhere, and we had to pass on tennis tonight.  But I'll make it up to her:  the weather will be warmer, and we have our own tennis courts to visit.  There'll be plenty of opportunities to go play.

Although… it's not warm right now.  It's rainy.  And cold.  And it is supposed to get colder by the weekend, actually below freezing again.  That Periwinkle is just not wanting to leave so quickly - she's the fairy that is responsible for the frost on the grass.  Daddy suggested swatting her, or at least using an effective spray.  Madison's reply:  "NO!"

We are doing all kinds of neat things for Summer Xtreme, by the way.  Lots of planning there, including the storyboards for our upcoming "Tribes" cartoon.  It will be fantastic.  Daddy is playing the part of the cowboy once again, but this time as a 3D composite.  It's a whole new level, one we're excited to be doing again for a third time.

Storyboards are funny things - they just sort of sketch out the story quickly.  They run together, and aren't meant to be works of art on their own.  They're just really, really quick sketches.  And yet, they have their own fun appeal in their fast-paced nature.  Here's a screen capture of the cowboy character, a drawing that Josh whipped out in less than a few seconds.  In this shot, the Cowboy is is alerting others to a dangerous situation approaching from behind.

Of course, he's always in a good mood.  And this is because the reality is that the "dangerous situation" isn't all that it seems.  So planning on Summer Xtreme continues, as it will be here before you know it.  Madison is a Gladiator this year, and this is the end of her year at second grade.  Time sure does fly!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

For Science!

What a busy night we had - but lots of fun!  We had piano class as always, and that's what started the festivities, really.  The theme for this year's music recital is PIRATES, which of course is right up our alley.  We've already got costumes, props, and basic weaponry to help out with.  The only thing we no longer have here is a full-fledged pirate ship.  But maybe we can get one of those for later.  Needless to say, all the kids are excited about the prospects of playing a few sea shanties, and throwing in an occasional "Arrr!"

One new thing that Mrs. Pam is having the kids do is something nice for others.  Each student had a homework assignment to do something nice for someone else - or observe someone doing something nice.  These were all shared at the end of class, where each child would put a pebble into a large vase. Slowly, that vase will fill up over the following weeks.  It's a nice activity.  Madison shared about how she helped a new friend learn to skate this past weekend.  And she gave another child a quarter to play games at the Skate Country arcade area.

After piano, we went over to the school for a lot of things.  A lot of things.  Let's start with the Book Fair.  Did you know that Madison won the "Dress up like a Book Character" contest the other day at school?  She had the best costume in her class, one that the principal actually picked as best.  So Ladybug Girl won the day, and one of Madison's prizes was a $5.00 gift card to the Book Fair.  This was money well-spent.  Mommy and Daddy had given her some money already, so she walked in there, already a big spender!  She got a Monster High book - of course - and another smaller book dedicated to the Disney cartoon short, "Frozen Fever."  With her remaining dollar, she opted for an eraser in the shape of a cell phone.  Now she can pretend to be obvious to the entire world as she texts her friends on their eraser cell phones!

Another thing tonight was the art gallery!  Yes, it is that time of year again, where the students' works are on display in the gymnasium.  All are nicely framed, and available for a small fee, which of course is money raised for the school itself.  Yes, we got Madison's painting right away.  She did a very nice drawing of a lion, and used water colors to make it look very nice.  We've hung up the previous two artworks that Madison has done, and this one will no doubt make its way to one of our walls at home.

But we weren't through yet.  No, there was a lot of other things tonight - it was a curriculum night, which meant all kinds of learning activities.  Tonight's theme was science.  Lots of science.  We sat first of all in the cafeteria as always, munching on free pizza and drinking sweet tea.  But after that, it was off to stations set up at various classrooms to see different simple science experiments.

Our first destination involved lights, using the camera to capture the pathways of light (glowsticks swung around in circles by the kids).  After this, we went over to build some bugs that balance, and some that make noises when swung around violently.

We played with bubbles and dry ice, and built small rockets out of old film canisters.  There was colored slime, and a place to build your own hovercraft out of CDs, clay, film canisters and a balloon.  There were experiments with static electricity, and a place to test out inertia with a "miniature roller coaster."

All in all, a very full night!  Madison walked home with all kinds of fun experiments, and it is safe to say there was a bit of learning tonight as well.

But we got home later, as you can imagine.  Which meant, it was time to go to bed right away, pretty much.  That we did.  All of us, actually.  Can you believe it is just a week until Easter?  There are a lot of practices coming up soon, and a lot of work still to be done.  Tonight was a great break from all of that, and a chance to have fun at the school.  Busy… but fun!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Eye Jelly

So today Daddy finally had his eye exam.  This goes back a ways - these things have to be scheduled a long time in advance.  The basic fact is that Daddy is not as spry and youthful as he used to be, at least when it comes to these eyes.  I have prided myself on 20/20 vision for a long time, and in many respects I essentially still have that.  However, there were these daily headaches that were concerning.  And an occasional relaxing of the vision with a bit of accompanied blurriness.

So with great trepidation, Daddy went to an eye doctor today to experience what squillions of others have before me:  the eye exam.  This is that big thing you look through as the doctor calls out numbers and asks if your can see well through this lens or that.  Over time we determined... not that much.  Apparently, I was "cheating."  This is a way of saying that my eyes still focus just fine.  The problem is that I don't let them relax from time to time.

So he made them relax.  This was a new experience for me.  But you're probably familiar with it.  Anyway, he dropped this liquid into each eye - first checking for glaucoma.  No signs of that.  Then there was this other liquid, and that stuff was trippy.  That adjective there is perfect to describe what happened to my vision afterwards.  But the immediate effects were these:  complete and utter lack of focus.  Crazy!

Then he puts the glasses on, and sure enough there is focus again.  The problem is that I evidently use my eyes.  And all this time I was thinking that was a good thing.  I've heard strategies about exercising your eyes, just like you do any other muscle.  But that sort of flies in the face of what this doctor was advising.  No, instead we try not to strain our eyes instead.  Or what, I asked?  There wasn't exactly a clear answer.  You could say it was all a bit fuzzy after that.  Literally.

I think for giggles the doctor's assistant was showing me pictures of my eyeball after this eye-relaxing liquid was poured onto my eyeballs.  He's pointing out this or that, explaining about this spot here or that.  And all I can see is this:

It looked like Mars.  I told him as much, but he just laughed, and continued the analysis.  I mean, he knew I couldn't see anything - so why's he pointing stuff out?  Anyway, there was a bad spot there due to blood pressure, and a whole lot of 'eye jelly.'  This is a good thing, the eye jelly.  It sounds like something one of the characters from Halloween Town would sell in "Nightmare Before Christmas."

He would call it 'eye jelly,' and not vitreous.  Vitreous is a great word though.  I don't anticipate using it in a sentence in my life, ever.  I'm content to call it 'eye jelly' because that's more fun.

The bottom line is that I'm using glasses to read now.  I can read without them, but there is apparently a doomsday clock in my brain that is assigned to my eyeballs.  It is just a matter of time until I will need glasses, and I might as well get used to them now.  What a fatalistic approach!  But that's life, and evidently pretty standard for someone of my age.  So there it is.

So here's where the trippy part comes.  I drove home.  I had to wear shades, and was still unable to focus.  Additionally, the colors in the entire world were absolutely vibrant and just crazy colorful.  There's this scene in "Brother Bear" where the character first sees nature through the eyes of a bear, and everything is all super colorful.  And that was me.  Except the bear part.  So for four hours, I was looking around, unable to contain myself about the colors of the world around me.  Is this what heaven is like?  It was crazy.  And then, four hours later, it was gone!

Anyway, that's the adventure at the eye doctor.  Which is pretty routine, actually.  But it's a first for Daddy, so there it is.

Moving on, today was Monday.  So therefore there was ballet.  Madison is finishing these books at an amazing pace, one after another.  She is a voracious reader.  Yes, I used another great adjective there - and this is another one that absolutely fits.  She reads in the car, on the couch, at the dinner table, upstairs while getting her hair done, and anywhere else she possibly can.  It's like a fever with these Weird School books:  we just have to ride it out.  Fortunately, there are a LOT of these books in this series.  Just when I thought we were done with the series, Madison pointed out that there are a lot more than the fifteen or so that I was initially thinking.  And she just keeps knocking them out, one book at a time.

She doesn't need reading glasses.  Then again, neither do I at the moment.  But it's just a matter of time for all of us, or so I hear.

Or... at least so I hear for now.  Not too much longer before that goes too!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Jacket On, Jacket Off

Another Sunday, and another part of "Kung Pow" is all finished.  This time, we were treated by a visit from Hot Rod, a sensei with a bit of swagger.  The message was on obedience, which Madison got entirely, certainly after two services at KidPak.  She is like many other kids with volunteer parents:  she attends two services each Sunday.  That's a double portion!  Seriously, it's okay.  She enjoys the service, from the skits to the videos to the worship and message.  Daddy and Mommy are especially happy about the worship encounter she has each week, getting a lot of exposure to praise and worship in a service.  Maybe some day she'll want to play keyboard or something in that direction.  We'll see.  Presently, she has several good role models, including the folks you see in the picture above:  they are all using their talents in a great way, helping the kids here.

This morning, Madison saw parts of the new "Karate Kid" movie, which takes place in China, and has no karate in it.  It's Kung Fu.  Still, it's a good movie, and always good to see anything with Jackie Chan in it.  Madison saw the "jacket on, jacket off" scene, and by the end of the morning, learned a few lessons about obedience as Pastor Lance shared the Word.

We were pretty tired today, so Mommy and Daddy got on the couch - and fell asleep.  Afternoon naps on Sunday are the best.  You don't feel so bad coming home Sunday, because you've done so much.  We did something that Madison can grow with, a pretty valuable sort of morning in that respect.

There was piano practice as usual, but we were tired and didn't do much beyond that.  It might have something to do with the exertion from yesterday's roller skating trip.  Whatever the reason, we rested the remainder of the day.  We popped in "Home on the Range," which Madison remembers very little of the last time we watched it a few years ago.  Great songs.  And great yodeling too.

That's a fun movie right there.  We saw it first in Florida, Mommy and Daddy only that one time.  We were at Downtown Disney at the theater there - I think this was the first thing we've ever seen there.  Anyway, it's a much better movie than it gets any credit for.  In fact, I say that about a lot of the Disney movies in that time period.  "Treasure Planet," "Chicken Little," and "Lilo & Stitch" are just a few from this period that are actually pretty fun movies.  As proof, Madison enjoyed it.

And then it was off to bed pretty quick for all of us.  Lots of wear-and-tear on the weekend, so a good night's rest is the perfect prescription.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Kids Day Out

Madison was extra nice today - although that is her assignment from Mrs. Pam (extra nice gets an extra gift), she didn't actually think of rewards when she chose to help out a fellow skater who was trying to learn how to skate.  During one break, the two stopped alongside the rink, where Daddy took this nice picture.

Initially Madison herself couldn't skate on her own so much.  This is the story of parenthood in a nutshell though:  two laps with Daddy, and then one with him nearby.  Then he was dismissed.  Yep, just like that.

So as you've probably gathered, today was the big roller skating trip with the church.  A few hundred KidPak kids joined us at the roller skating rink from noon to four o'clock for an afternoon of fun.  There was the usual hokey-pokey, the elimination game, skating in reverse, and cardboard pizza.  This was easily the worst pizza I think I've ever had in my entire life.  But the kids were anxious to get back on the rink anyway, so they endured the 'pizza' and rolled back onto the rink.

Here's Madison with a kind friend who was in turn helping her skate as well.  Later the two were helping that third girl, holding her up as she tried to make her way around the rink.

It was a fun afternoon - Daddy was rollerskating with the staff and volunteers as well, a great circle of friends.  We were all helping kids around, or snapping photos, or just generally helping people out.  Did you know that sixteen laps around the rink equals one mile?  That said, we were going roughly four miles in an hour, as I figured it took about a minute to get around the rink - there were lots of obstacles in the way.

Bottom line, we were all pretty exhausted upon returning to the house.  Add to this the fact that we got there to the church pretty early:  this morning we had Easter production practice.  Mommy was matching costumes with various characters, and largely organizing all the props and Bible robes for a good part of the day.

But we all connected at the end, and came home quite tired.  Madison finished her piano practice early this week, which was just awesome.  She's doing a song, "The Secret Box," which is a lovely little tune we hope to record soon.  Madison is doing well with that song, and hopes to play it for the spring recital.

She played pieces of that - and we've got seven weeks to go until the recital - so if that's the song she's going to play, we're in decent shape.

Tonight, we revisited "Meet the Robinsons" once more.  It's a movie about an orphan, and about time travel, and about "keep moving forward."  It's a great movie.  The director himself was adopted, and there were moments we were wondering about Madison, and if she was relating at all to Lewis' experience being left at an orphanage so long ago.  Neither character remembers that early in life, although Lewis eventually invents a machine that helps him remember that far back.  Madison hasn't quite gotten that far with inventions yet, although we did mention she's good with fractions!

Anyway, it was a nice evening together.  And an early night to bed, given that all the roller skating we did today sort of tired everyone out.  We're up early tomorrow for church - another big day!

Friday, March 20, 2015


We did watch the eclipse this morning, although not out our window.  It wasn't seen over North America.  But when we woke up, Daddy put it on the computer, a live broadcast of the event.  So right off the bat, there was a lesson on astronomy.  To help the illustration along, Daddy used a quarter to represent the sun, a penny to represent the earth, and a dime to represent the moon.  Putting them in orbit around each other, he was able to show Madison over breakfast exactly what happens when there is a solar eclipse.  All of this while we were watching it live on the computer - technology is amazing!

We returned to our hole-in-the wall today, and continued our speech therapy with Madison.  We just sort of pass by the hole-in-the wall, the place where a KIA once passed through, and it reminds us of what happened.  Or what could have happened.  Again, we are blessed and highly favored.  Things can always be much, much worse.  One thing we noted today was the angle of attack. The car's wheels were directed in such a way that there was a minimal sort of damage to the car and building.  If it went straight, it would have hit the corner, and a more solid foundation.  The possibilities there involve a greater impact to the car, and a greater risk of collapse for the building itself.  Again, things can always be much, much worse.

This morning, Daddy went to the dojo again.  We've been there a lot lately, doing our filming for our martial arts series.  It's been fun, although a bit time-consuming.

Madison brought home a leprechaun.  Or, at least a picture of one.  It was a cut-out, large-scale leprechaun, the kind you hang up on your refrigerator.  She gave it long black hair, and made it a girl that resembles herself, actually.  It looks fantastic - we'll be keeping that one with the other St. Patrick's day stuff, in order to bring out each year.  Yeah, it's time to pack that stuff away.  Which... we've been doing.  Now it's time to bring out the Easter stuff!

Tonight, we continued the book "Far from Shore" before bedtime, one that Madison is enjoying greatly.  Once that is done, we're looking into the Frozen series chapter books - you KNOW that Madison will be all over those!

Until then, there's a lot of "weirder" going on.  She just loves these "Weirder School" books, ravenously reading.  Seriously, she just about finishes one book a day.  That's a hundred pages or more.  Yeah there are pictures and the font style is bigger.  But her recent reading log has her reading way more than she's ever read in her life.  To help this along, Mommy and Daddy are pretty helpful about getting to the library to get MORE books for her.  

We watched "Robots" tonight, partly because Madison doesn't remember the movie in the slightest.  It's a good movie, and now part of our ongoing William Joyce fest.  He's a pretty good artist, one behind a lot of children's books we like.  Many of these have made it in one form or another to major animated motion pictures, like the movie "Robots."  Anyway, part of our William Joyce fest was "Rise of the Guardians."  After this, we'll revisit "Meet the Robinsons," and sometime after that, "Epic."  All good movies that we haven't seen in a while.  

Bedtime was a little later tonight, but it's okay.  We sleep in somewhat tomorrow, although not too much - it'll be another packed sort of day!


Here is one picture of our car, along with that building that pulled out in front of Mommy without using a signal.  Seriously, look how that wall just simple crumped there like a sheet of paper.  You can see one place where the brick/wallpaper is folded, still hanging on to the bricks above it.  In the old days, bricks sort of stood one upon the other.  But in Alpharetta, bricks are more like a nice sheet of wrapping paper to go around a building.

Today we said goodbye to the KIA.  It was in fact totaled, as the damage to the vehicle itself was greater than the actual worth of the car.  Which is sad, because the car itself was a tank.  It could have leveled that building if Mommy wanted to keep driving through the thing.  The only damage was surface strikes to the hood and windshield.  But make that front portion bullet-proof, and you can possibly use it for military functions.  The speed control problem is just a bonus feature, as enemy combatants AND the driver of these cars will always be in for a bit of the unexpected!

In a way, it's a pretty heavy loss on our end.  The car had more value than what the book value actually is.  That is to say, it was a high-end sort of vehicle that offered protection, comfort, and reliability.  So to that extent, we've taken a pretty substantial hit. 

However, the lurking issue of a speed control problem is just crazy to think about.  You send your wife and kid off thinking that the car they are in is the safest option, and that everything is okay.  And yet a flaw in the 2005 Kia Amanti - one we've since read about from other drivers - is simply frightening to contemplate.  It isn't a stuck accelerator pedal - it is a flaw in the engine that gives the car a completely random burst of speed. One moment, you're in a parking lot, and the next, you're in an office building.  

Not good.  Needless to say, the next vehicle we get just might not be a Kia.  

Today, Mommy and Daddy went to the place where the Kia was being kept, in order to collect any things inside it - and say goodbye to the car.  While we had it, things went well.  We took the car on a few trips to Florida, and there were some fun memories with the car.  But that lurking issue inside it was the determining factor when it came to paying for the repairs.

Speaking of bad customer service, our insurance hasn't been exactly stellar.  Zena has never had to use them before.  In fact, Daddy and Zena have been both paying for car insurance for over twenty years or more - and never once having to have them pay anything.  We could have used that monthly payment to buy a couple cars by this point.  Anyway, the communication at Allstate is horrible.  So, it might be time for a change-up there as well.  

Madison was at school when we paid our last respects to the KIA.  She had a good day - things are pretty routine at this point with school.  She doesn't need much prompting to go.  This morning, she was up before Mommy and Daddy - and the alarm.  She just wanted to make sure we didn't forget to get up extra early this morning!  Daylight Savings Time is still making us a little groggy in the morning, even with the going to bed early.  In fact, Mommy and Daddy sometimes go right back to bed after Madison is dropped off at school.

Madison still wants to hear make-up stories on the way to school.  This morning, her favorite character "Flower Girl from the Future" was still with the X-Men, and they were assisting the Easter Bunny with hiding eggs, and playing pranks on one another along the way.  She cannot wait for April Fool's Day.  That sort of thing just tickles her.

So Spring is here, pretty much.  Although the temperatures are supposed to chill out a tiny bit beforehand.  Still, the trees are convinced that the weather will turn around.  Including our lovely Bradford Pear trees.  The blooms on these trees are nice.  We have three of them in our front yard, and they look fine when coming home - those blooms and more give you that 'spring is here' sort of feeling when you pull up in the driveway.

Only... they STINK.  Seriously, Bradford Pear trees stink.  Literally.  They smell awful.  I'm not sure what God was thinking there.  I know there is a master plan in place, but for about a week or so each year, Bradford Pear trees stink up the whole world.  

I remember a death metal band from the 90's named Pungent Stench.  The name stuck with me because it was just a great rock band name (along with Pulsating Protoplasm).  Anyway, I can almost guarantee you that the guys who were in that band were first trying to think of a band name as they sat on their front porch one spring afternoon, just like today.  And as they looked out at the Bradford Pear trees in their front yard, one guy said to the others, "Just what is that pungent stench?"  And then there was this glow in all of their eyes:  we know what to call ourselves now!  Initially, they were going to put a picture of a Bradford Pear tree on the cover of their first album, but calmer heads prevailed when they instead opted for the more conservative imagery of guys with gas masks, glowing eyes, and blood letters.

Madison smells the pungent stench.  Not the band, but the pear trees.  And she loves the flowers blooming everywhere too.  She had to write a paper about being a daffodil, about emerging from the ground for the first time and looking around at the new world. And now, she's seeing daffodils in her travels wherever we go.  When we drive from place to place, she'll call them out.  There's a daffodil!

The pollen is affecting her, of course.  But here in the South, it affects all of us.  Fortunately, the rain has been such - on and off - that we're blessed with a count that isn't too high.  Not yet, anyway.  But still, Madison takes medication each morning to help with that raspy morning throat we all get.  And the cough too.

We wrapped up homework tonight, and a LOT of piano practice as well.  Madison is just about caught up there.  There was just enough time to get to play some games, so we did a bit of Disney Infinity again.  Daddy and Madison are working on a new Condorman-themed playset that is going to be epic.  We are artists, and this game of late has been our medium.

Bedtime was time for reading Bible adventures, and other stories as well.  We're all getting a good night's rest this evening.  Lots of busy stuff coming up soon!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Toe Bath

So today was Wednesday, which makes for a fairly busy sort of day.  Especially when one is down to only one car, as we were.  This is the new situation in our lives, the juggling of travel and work and appointments and school and all that sort of confusion.  We're looking into options for a new car, but we're sort of in a more patient state of mind - we can afford to wait, for the time being.

Madison is learning fractions already - can you believe it?  She is actually doing various word problems that sort of spell out different simple fractions.  I don't think she is adding them together or doing anything other than understanding them.  But this is a big step.  And she seems to be taking it all in stride, which is pretty amazing actually.

She is still doing her toe bath, but her toe is in fact getting better.  This is definitely going to be good news for Saturday, as she's supposed to be going roller skating that day.  She's looking forward to it, especially now that her toe doesn't hurt so much.  Her daily toe bath is a luxury she's gotten quite used to - this is the most we've used this device in years.  But it is getting put to good use, so that's a major plus.

Madison finished a good bit of her piano assignments, which meant it was time for a weekly reward of sorts, and this one actually was yet another holdover from Christmas.  It was donated to us, a roller skating Monster High doll.  It's another version of Frankie, who has now joined the rest of the Monster High friends in the playroom.  They all stand around and catch up on the latest news, while posing or trying on new clothing.  Madison spends a bit more time in the playroom than she ever has before, all thanks to these dolls.

As it is Wednesday, Daddy didn't have time to head home.  We had a staff meeting, and a big one.  It was outside, so it was actually very pleasant - the weather outside was absolutely perfect.  Daddy suggested we all meet outside, and sure enough, everyone else was all on board for the idea.  In fact, as I wrap up, here's the KidPak staff out on the playground just outside the church:

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Day 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  We had an exciting morning, certainly after a visit from a leprechaun.  Madison left her leprechaun trap out on the kitchen table, and honestly we weren't expecting anything.  I mean, it's the same trap that we put out last year.  Surely we wouldn't see much this morning.  And yet, here's what we found in her bathroom:

Crazy, huh?  Her bathroom was "leprechauned!"  There was the lighting, but then on top of that, the TOILET had green water in it.  Madison told us she thinks the leprechaun peed in it.  Everyone knows that leprechauns have green pee.

But it didn't end there.  Look what happened when she turned on the faucet in the bathroom sink:

There was actually green water coming out of the faucet!  She was absolutely floored!  It was a pretty funny morning, actually, with all the little surprises that she encountered.  For example, Mommy actually made green pancakes for breakfast, and as for the trap?  Well, there was no leprechaun captured.  There was, however, a little note - and a gift.  He gave Madison a rainbow.  It was actually a strip of sour candy, one made with the colors of the rainbow.  Yes, there was Lucky Charms involved too - it was quite a morning.  All this before school!

So the day went on as most days tend to do.  But this one was special.  The weather was just perfect, and after school, we went to piano as always.  The spring recital will have a pirate theme to it, which got all the kids running around and saying, "Arrrr!"

There were a lot of people wearing green today.  This is a fun day.  We saw all the green as we went out and shopped at the grocery store.  And while we were out, of course we had to go get one of those Shamrock shakes from McDonald's, right?  Yes we did.  We sat outside in the shade, sipping on our Shamrock shakes, and just enjoying this marvelous day.

Madison did some piano homework when we got home.  Also, some regular homework.  Lots to do each week, isn't there?  We ate well tonight, but didn't quite have enough time for an ol' Irish movie.  But we filled the "St. Patrick's Day" quota pretty big.  We did watch that Veggie Tales short, which is a really good short history of who St. Patrick is, one that is fun for kids.  But with not that much time left in the day, we opted to sit on the couch, soak Madison's toes, and play some video games for the rest of the night.  Which again, wasn't that long.

We read another chapter from "Far From Shore" tonight before going to bed.  Madison told us straight up:  "Today was a fun day!"

Monday, March 16, 2015

Free Ice Cream Day

Today was Free Ice Cream Day at Dairy Queen, a celebration of their 75th anniversary, and a gift to us, the public.  We were just there yesterday, funny enough.  The call of spring was in the air and the weather was warm - we just had to go get ice cream.

But today was different.  We're talking about a huge advertising campaign for free ice cream.  This... is irresistible.  Seriously, how can you expect to avoid something like free ice cream?  So despite our short time schedule tonight, after ballet we joined the millions of other Americans, and got in line at the drive-thru for a free ice cream cone.

Thank you Dairy Queen!  Everything was smooth in the line, and the ice cream tasted smooth to everyone in the car.  It is fun grabbing hold of a nationwide sort of party like this, and now we can say we were part of it.  No pictures of the big event to prove this - mainly because Daddy was driving a car with one hand, while eating an ice cream cone with the other!

Ballet went well.  They're gearing up for the big Spring Recital, so practices are going a little bit longer.   Which wasn't so bad with the weather quite nice outside.  Daddy walked around for a bit around the college campus there, and read a bit more from his Terry Pratchett book, "Reaper Man."  Interesting timing that this was the book I was reading when he passed away.

We got home, and Mommy had a nice surprise all lined up:  dinner on the back deck.  It was fish crusted with pistachio bits, and was delicious as always.  Madison said it was like a picnic!  The weather was just right for eating outside, and Mommy made it all quite nice for our return.

Afterwards, there was play practice.  Madison is anxious to see what she can be in this play, but Daddy is urging patience - she'll have a part, and it will be fun to do.  Funny how once upon a time, she didn't want to have anything to do with our productions.  That was only a few months ago, in fact!

We did do a little homework, and a little piano as well.  There was the bath, and the continued use of our foot bath device, which she's become rather attached to.  I suspect she'll want to be using that long after the toe problem is gone!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Foot Fist Fiesta

So we have this foot massage thing at the house, and it has been somewhat interesting to set up.  Daddy got it for Mommy last Christmas, and the concept is simple, right?   Just put your feet in some hot water and allow the gets of water to massage your feet, while the device keeps the water nice and warm.

Well, it isn't THAT simple.  For one, it takes gallons of water.  Another challenge:  plugging it in nearby a chair that you can set up.  Obviously, you want to have something to do while soaking your feet, so you need to put it in front of a television, or a computer.  Or maybe find a place to read a book. 

So you have to run this cord under the living room furniture, possibly using an extension cord to make the distance.  Then, you need a beach towel to put beneath the device to catch any splashes, and have a place to rest your feet when you take them out of the device.  And you need another towel to dry your feet off.  And you need a few gallons of water too.  And the device is big, and in a box you have to store somewhere out of the way.

Add all this together, and we've discovered that the Brookstone foot therapy device is terribly comfortable, but also terribly inconvenient to set up in the first place.  Enter Madison's toenail problem though, and suddenly this device is feeling not-so left out.  It feels like it has purpose again.  And Madison feels slightly like a queen, seated on the couch with her feet in this deluxe model foot massager.

This morning, we started our newest storyline for Kung Pow!  It features the return of Daddy's character, Professor Wisenheimer.  It also features some crazy folks doing kung fu moves that don't exist.  Madison enjoyed the service - we did some videos this week, filming them at a dojo in Oakwood with a very nice couple that runs the place. We also had a funny St. Patrick's Day video, and an old Chinese kung fu movie that we dubbed over our voices for.  The message of the day was courage, and Madison really got it by day's end.  She knew the story about Joshua and Caleb, and their courage when moving forward into the Promised Land.  It was a great day in church!

But as with most days at church, you get home and are just wiped out.  It can be a very tiring adventure.  The great part is that you really feel like you've accomplished a lot.  After all, we've made a big impact in these children's lives.

The weather was actually hot today.  Yes, that's right.  The sun came out as a teaser for what this summer might be like.  And we were suddenly reminded of the value of air conditioning.  In our defense, we've only had cold weather until now - there hasn't been a proper adjustment yet.  We haven't gradually turned the heat up.  Today was a sudden burst of heat, a visit from Spring who pops in to say, "Whazzup!?"

So you can imagine that Dairy Queen was crowded.  We had the same brilliant idea a squillion other people did!  But we stuck with it.  We used ice cream as a motivation for Madison to complete her piano.  She rose to the challenge, and soon we were out on the road again to get some ice cream.  Madison wanted to try something new this time around, she asked Daddy earlier before we left if she could try a Blizzard.  Daddy showed her the flavors on Dairy Queen's website, and Madison went from there, picking her first Blizzard flavor:  Choco Cherry.

She really liked it.  Mommy loved her caramel sundae.  Daddy tried a grasshopper silk pie or something like that.  A word about the Choco Cherry, Dairy Queen:  You used to make it better.  Somewhere along the line, your craftsmen have lost the gift of creating this masterpiece.  It is still good, but it isn't the perfection that it used to be.  Still, it was a perfectly pleasant afternoon trip for ice cream. 

We went home afterwards, and did a few things that we built up the energy for.  Daddy has the canopy up in the back deck again, this after taking it down for the various snow and ice storms.  And there was a nap or two.  Like a cat, Mommy curled up on the couch after finding that one shaft of light that cascaded down into the great room.  She and Daddy fell asleep on the couch to the sound of Madison's piano practice, which is getting better. 

Tonight we watched "The Emperor's New Groove."  Because Daddy wanted to.  It's been a while, but everyone really likes this movie.  It still cracks Mommy and Daddy up, and for Madison, there was plenty that she had forgotten about.

At bedtime, it was back to Pixie Hollow to visit with the Nevergirls and Peter Pan.  There's something near magical about Neverland, isn't there?  I'm not knocking the Weird School books, but a trip to Neverland is one sweet journey.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pi Day

This post was left at 9:26 today, and that is no coincidence, because today is Pi Day.  Yes, it is indeed that time of year, where we all seek a piece of pie because the date happens to be 3.14.  Because... why not?  The 9:26 is important because those are the next three digits of pi.  3/14/15 is the date.  And the time is 9:26.  So you have 3.1415926.  Make it 53 seconds, and you're perfectly pi.

To help illustrate this fact, today we made a few monster trucks.  These are the trucks that Lowe's has generously provided for us, part of their Build and Grow program.  This month, for some reason, we have been building monster trucks - one named Max-D, and the other named El Toro Loco. 

While these are not something your average math professor will look to in order to illustrate pi, you can of course find pi in everything.  Or, at least anything that has a circle in it.  In this case, we'll look to the monster truck's huge tires.  Yes, you can find pi there.  Simply divide the circumference by the diameter, and there it is:  pi.

When you stop to think about it, the idea about pi is pretty amazing.  It is quite literally found in any circle ever created, this magical number 3.1415926 and so on.  And today, it is literally on the calendar too

We had work today at the office, setting up our new series drama, where we have all kinds of karate goofiness.  This time around, we have mostly different actors to perform, and with that we have to find new gis for everyone.  This is a word that most computers hate.  They resent it so much that they will mercilessly correct your spelling of 'gi' to 'go' because surely you didn't mean to actually type out the letters 'gi.' 

Anyway, we did get that work done.  So yay us.  And there was a bit of play practice for the Easter production as well.  For that, Madison was quite helpful, opening doors for all the folks who arrived later on.  But she was enjoying simply watching the people practice for the play.  She is anxious to be a part of it!

Before stopping our motion for the day, we had one more stop!  Daddy got an email that said the latest Nevergirls book was available for pick-up at the library.  It was on hold for some time, and finally it is our chance to bring it home to read.  We returned a few of the Weird School books while we were there, and were ready to whiz home.  Not before Madison spent some more time at the computer lab there.  Madison likes that computer lab.  It's like an instant thing - you go to the library, and while Daddy looks for books and movies, Madison heads to the computer lab

We got home, and as advertised, we did our piano practice.  And there wasn't much time after that for much.  So we went to the Pixie Jam level and worked on that a little more.  This is a theme of the day, apparently.  We have created a monster truck rally board on Disney Infinity 2.0.  Madison and Daddy have been working on that, and noticed that it is now available for download on the game for other people now.  It just got on there, and our creation already has 400 downloads.  Let's get ready to rumble!

We stayed in Pixie Hollow a bit at bedtime, because it was time to start reading our book.  Already in chapter one, Madison figured out they're meeting an old friend:  Peter Pan!  We'll continue reading this week, each night making our journey to the skies, to the second star to the right.

Friday, March 13, 2015


As far as days go, this one was a mixed bag.  Plans for heading to the dojo for filming were averted at the last minute, all because of one toenail.  Yep, Madison's toe has gotten to the point where we need some antibiotic.  The soaking in the water isn't quite enough, although that will continue.  This morning, we visited the doctor, who gave us the necessary prescription while telling us what we already knew:  soak in water, take the antibiotic, and try to work it out on your own.  If not, then we'll have to go do a podiatrist pediatrician.  Try saying that three times fast.

This morning's appointment was squeezed it, so we had to act fast.  We got there pretty fast, and were in and out - even grabbing the prescription on the way home.  Hopefully that will do the trick.  Our family has a bad time with toenails, but I don't know a single family that doesn't.  Baba had to have a toenail removed once - and so did Aunt Shain.  So it is on both sides of the family.  Of course, Madison is adopted.  But still, she's probably got ancestry in China - the Emperor, no doubt - who suffered from ingrown toenails as a child.  I'm sure all the Emperor's advisors were rushing to his aid to try to figure out a cure.  But none of them could.  They even sought advice from all the animals in the land, and yet not one could give good counsel on how to deal with this ingrown toenail.

The dog suggested barking at the toenail, the thought being that an evil spirit would be driven away.  Yet despite all the Emperor's barking and howling, the toenail remained sore.

The tiger suggested using his claws to swipe away the bad skin above the toenail.  But this was a nightmarishly frightening prospect filled with terror, and the Emperor politely declined.

The rabbit suggested hopping up and down on the sore foot, stomping away the bad feeling.  But when the Emperor tried this, it only got worse.

The ox suggested using his horn to pry the toenail upward.  But the Emperor thought that was a dumb idea.

So the mighty dragon was asked next.  He thought for a moment, and then came to a decision in his mind.  He took a deep breath, and immediately all the Emperor's advisors knew that the dragon was about to breath fire upon the beleaguered toe.  It goes without saying that they all ran for their lives.

The Emperor was distraught.  Would he have to live with this toenail pain for all the days of his life?

Yet one day, desperate for any answer, a trusted advisor suggested talking to the rat.

"The rat?" the Emperor asked.  "That is the lowest of animals!  And yet, because I am so discomforted, I shall nonetheless ask this lowly beast for his suggestion."

And so he did.  He humbled himself to the rat, begging him for any suggestion at all to relieve his pain.

What the rat told him was this:  you must rest your toes in Kunming Lake near your Summer Palace.  Keep them there for fifteen minutes three times each day.  For seven days.

The Emperor thought this idea was silly.  Yet he was desperate, as already described above.  So he did as the rat said.  Each day, he went down to the lake, and each day he dipped his big toe in Kunming Lake, keeping it there for fifteen minutes as the rat said.

His advisors  warned him, "What would China say, with its Emperor listening to a rat's advice?"

Nevertheless, he did as the rat said.  And on the seventh day, and on the third time, he removed his toe from the lake.

And nothing was changed.  But his toe was softer, he noticed.  And that's when he saw the rat, who had come to pay a visit.

"Nothing is changed, rat," the Emperor said.

But the rat did not reply.  Instead, he raced forward to the Emperor's big toe, and he did the unthinkable.  He chewed away the bad skin with his little rat teeth.  It was certainly unexpected.  And honestly pretty gross.

And just when he was about to call his guards to imprison the rat for life, he noticed something remarkable:  his pain was gone!

He looked to the rat and said, "My pain is gone!"

The rat only smiled, and bowed graciously.

The Emperor told him, "What can I do for such a worthy beast like yourself?  I can give you jewels, gold, or land in this kingdom.  Name it, and it is yours!"

The rat thought about it, but did not want any physical item.  What he did want though, was respect.  For even the Emperor himself had initially looked down upon the rat.

And that's when an idea occurred to the Emperor.  "From this point on," said he, "You will have your own year.  The Year of the Rat.  And it is during this year that we will all be reminded that each one of us serves an important purpose.  And that no one should be looked down upon."

Small rat tears formed around the rat's eyes, tears of gratitude.  And from that point on, he lived comfortably near the palace, friends with the Emperor for all his days.

And that is why every twelve years, after recognizing dragons, dogs, tigers and rabbits, we take time to remember humility, and how everyone serves an important purpose in the kingdom.


That was quite a rabbit trail.  Or a rat trail.  Regardless, the next thing we did was head to the movies.  This is what you do when you're having a challenging week.  We went to see "Frozen Fever" and "Cinderella" at the theater, even going to the noon showing. Now Madison was off of school, so this was a rare opportunity.  We knew the theater would be crowded later (it was), so we saw the first showing of "Cinderella" that we could.  

And it was wonderful - both movies were.  It was so nice to sit together for such a happy moment with Madison.  She was a little princess again, and just loving all the princess stuff going on in front of her.  Plus, there was new Anna and Elsa footage to look at, with Olaf, Sven, Kristoff and even Hans in the mix.  She had a great time.  We had a great time, and of course everyone is wishing we could go to Disney again.  Occasionally, Daddy would look over at his girls to the right - Mommy and Madison.  The two of them were just loving this movie.  Madison was completely entranced, and Daddy was quietly praying that some day she would have that sort of Cinderella moment with the right sort of prince.  It's the same desperate prayer of all fathers though!

As for wanting to go back to Disney:  Alas, not so soon.  For the car is totaled.  Yes, the 2005 Kia Amanti is no more.  This is largely the result of the speed control problem.  Buyer beware.  It's a lurking danger within this car, something that clearly could have been a lot worse.  And the call today was not so great.  The damage to the car (driving through an office building) actually exceeded the value of the car.  Go figure.  So it more than likely will be leaving our family, and this after such a short time with us.

Today, we went to a few places before going home.  We dropped by to get some new ballet shoes, as the other ones were too tight.  Not good if you have a bad toe.  Hopefully Madison will be better by this Monday.

The other place we went to was Cracker Barrel.  This was just what we needed.  We haven't been out to eat in a while, so this was a good idea.  We enjoyed a nice meal together, and Mommy did a little shopping for clothing afterwards.  And when we were done, we went home to stay.  The weather is getting chilly, which is winter's last gasp I think.  But we put a fire in the fireplace and popped in the last "Lilo and Stitch" movie of the series later on tonight.  This after piano practice, of course.  We've got plenty to catch up on there, but we've got some time this weekend for piano as well.  With the weather warming up, we'll have time to motivate her with a trip to Dairy Queen for some ice cream!