Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Tonight was the big conjunction, the moment two planets grew close - at least from our perspective.  Of course, Jupiter and Venus are millions of miles apart.  But tonight after sunset, we were able to see the two quite close together.  We had bug spray on, watched the bats pass by overhead, and trained our binoculars towards the heavens, watching the skies for the two shining heavenly bodies.  Meanwhile, the moon was giving quite a performance behind us - it was full, and reddish in color.  The clouds swirling overhead added an atmosphere of foreboding to the evening.  "It's a harvest moon," Madison says - that's what she calls a full moon that's somewhat red.  She was out there with us, watching the night skies.

Of course, this is the anniversary today of another huge conjunction.  That would be the merging of our family with Madison - two very different worlds suddenly joined together.  We spent much of the day in reflection on this, watching old videos and looking through pictures.  Once a year, we sort of join up with the other families who've adopted from China that week, and we all reminisce about the different memories we all have.  We share pictures online, and laugh at old stories.  Most of all, we remark about how much time has gone by.  Seven years now.

Today Daddy was at work, but Madison had her assignments to complete while at home:  practice her piano, her drawing, her math, and make her bed too.  If all that was done by the time Daddy got home, we'd see "Inside Out."  Sure enough, it was done.  So we went to see "Inside Out."

It was a great movie, although not our favorite Pixar movie.  Everyone has a different favorite.  Daddy's is easily "The Incredibles."  But this one was really good too, and certainly very creative.  Madison enjoyed it a lot.  We sat in the back row, as usual, and got our massive bucket of popcorn filled to the top.  Afterwards, we drove home, landing in our drive way with 99 on the odometer.  On our way to the movies, our odometer was actually the same number as the temperature outside.  Fortunately, the temperature decided not to follow the odometer any further than that.  In quite a few years, we wouldn't want to see our temperature at 70,000 degrees!

Anyway, it was a fun day, ending with a bit of stargazing, and then of course Jabba the Puppet.  Madison laughed really loud at one part, a quote from Han Foldo.  We're enjoying these books quite a bit, but I believe that's been said a few times here thus far.

Now it is time to proof some of our "Quest" books a bit more.  We've got a busy day tomorrow.  But it was a great one today!

Monday, June 29, 2015

New Car Smell

We got a 2015 Toyota Corolla this afternoon, a nice addition to the family.  We happened upon a pretty good price drop that made getting a used car pointless when you could get a brand new one for the same price.  So Madison experienced her first car dealership today, which went surprisingly smooth.  I say surprisingly, because haggling is not my forte.  If I think five dollars is too much for something, the salesperson will offer two for ten, and I'll walk away thinking I got a great deal.

Okay, I'm not that bad.  And it didn't matter anyway.  For one, Mommy printed the advertised prices attached to the models and serial numbers.  Another factor:  the process wasn't really that bad.  You have images of large guys leaning into you talking about bonus features under the hood that real men would never pass up on.  I think this goes back to a time that Ye-Ye made a car salesperson cry or something.  This is a memory I had as a kid.  So I have a phobia with car dealerships now.  In defense of Ye-Ye, him making a salesperson cry has nothing to do with his communication skills.  It was just a bad day for the other party, I guess.  I don't know.

What I do know is that today we drove off with a new car, by way of a fairly easy process.  We looked at about two others past the one we initially spotted online.  But we came right back to that one, and the thing was settled.  Madison liked it right away, although she was gazing at those red ones saying, "Ooh la la."  I am not making that up.

We did a test drive, and then we were inside the dealership, which was designed in a much more friendly way than we're used to.  Again, I've been building up a lot of stereotypes over the years, pretty much envisioning the worst for this process.  Hence the extreme reluctance.

We were offered drinks from the cafe there.  Yes, there's a cafe inside.  And they sell Toyota t-shirts and have rocking chairs and a place for a big screen television.  There's always a talk show on these televisions though - that's my only gripe so far.  Why not "The Avengers" or something like that?  While people wait for service repairs or updates, there are plenty of places to hang out.

We were stuck at a desk for a bit.  And we did the financing, and Madison was quite patient.  It helps to have free wi-fi and a Kindle.

So after all the signing and talking about extra features and insurance possibilities, we drove away with a new car.  Currently, it has 51 miles on the odometer.  This is just confusing to me.  How can an odometer have such a low number on it?  Yes, I know the answer.  It just looks weird.  Tomorrow, we'll hit the magic number 53 and beyond.  Madison likes the car  - she's thinking about giving it the nickname of Betsy.  I don't know why, but there you go.

The rest of our day was comprised of a visit to speech therapy, which went well as usual.  Also, a visit to Chick-Fil-A in Alpharetta, which had a staggering amount of people there for no apparent reason other than they all decided to eat at Chick-Fil-A that day.  Part of me suspects that they were there en masse to make some sort of statement (beyond the fact that they all like chicken sandwiches).  In which case, we were happy to join them.  Madison is eating a lot lately.  Like a conehead, she consumes mass quantities.  This has been a pattern lately, and we're wondering if we're up for another growth spurt.  I hope not - we want her to stay tiny and cute, right?

Of course, she can't.  We all have to grow up.  Even Daddy does too.

Tonight, we watched "Tad, the Lost Explorer" as we continued our theme of archaeology and adventures.  This is one of those movies that I would definitely say is better than you think it is.  Seriously, I judged a book - or movie - by its cover.  And I was wrong.  This was an enjoyable film for the three of us, with an added bonus of popcorn of course.

Tonight, we started a new book, "Jabba the Puppet," which is book four of the Origami Yoda series.  These are really entertaining, although Daddy has to sort of censor some of the language in there.  Not that it is extremely bad, but we don't want Madison to be saying certain phrases quite yet.  It's hard to say what those are without just typing them, but just know they aren't that bad at all, really.  Just enough to get you in trouble at school, we'll say.

Anyway, it's a funny book because I think it is taking a pretty healthy jab at schools lately.  Mommy and Daddy were laughing at some of the material, just as Madison was.  It's a fun time before bed.

Tonight, our new car rests in the garage.  We peeked at it, just to see if it was really true.  Yep, we got a new car.  The neat thing is the hypothetical situation of this car being the first one Madison drives someday.  Yes, that's a long, long ways off.  But this car is known for longevity, so perhaps this is the one she'll start out with.  This gives the picture I took with her and the car today a bit more weight.  It's a nice car, and will do us fine.

Oh, and the new car smell?  Yes, Madison got to smell that for the first time today.  We had a conversation about 'new car smell.'  It's funny that common experience of all of us car buyers.  It's that one thing that sparks such great feelings.  Yeah, that's pretty nice there.  It won't be long before it dissipates, but it's like the smell of pine or cinnamon at Christmas, or the smell of coconut sun tan lotion at the beach, or the smell of chlorine in a water fountain at a fancy hotel.  It's great how smells can conjure up fantastic memories, or take you to a feeling and place that brings such joy.

I think I'm going to go out into the car and take one more whiff before turning in tonight!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fortune Wookie

We've been really into this series of books lately - the ones that started with "Origami Yoda."  We're on book #3, which is "The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee."  This one has been just as good as the others, with Madison and Mommy listening closely at bedtime.  The original premise was to read just one chapter per night, but I think it's been about three or four per night, per book - we're just that into these, which have been lots of fun.

We took some big naps today, as last night was a late one for Mommy and Daddy.  No explanation - we just didn't sleep well.  A lot was resting on us for the service this morning, which went really well, actually.  The message was dynamic, and glory to God for that.  In some ways, as a writer for these series, the messages are easier.  You've already done the research a long time ago, and the messages are actually a part of you.  And in other ways, you let go and realize that it isn't you so much doing the talking.  The imagery of an astronaut ignoring Mission Control and spending his fuel up to look out the window is strong, and it really happened.  The short window he had to get back to the earth was missed, and he was way off course.  The real danger was that he could have burned up in reentry.  He might not have made it home safely.  This is an appropriate metaphor for our nation today.  We're really off course, but if God's people humble themselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways - we can see healing.  That's a big if, and it's up to this next generation, apparently.  Because I think we've blown it.

In honor of our Space Camp series, there is one thing I forgot about.  It's down in the basement, and kind of unusual.  Daddy used to collect fast food plastic cups that advertised for movies.  I have all the "Jurassic Park" ones, and the ones for "Batman Returns."  Also, there are "The Lion King" cups, and a wide variety of plastic casino cups we picked up in Vegas.  Daddy went out there with the guys some time ago (when we played "Trog"), and we gambled our nickels on the tiny slot machines.  Daddy walked away $2.15 richer than he was when he arrived, yes sir.  That, and we played a bunch of video games.  But the big thing for us was collecting those plastic cups from each casino to collect our winnings in.  We didn't really gamble that much, but rather just walked into each place to get plastic cups and leave.  Oh, and eat those really cheap meals they had there.  This was back when prices were set in such a way to draw folks to the middle of the desert.  Daddy has since decided gambling is not for him, even when you're using nickels only.  But the plastic cups remain.  It's an odd collection, to be sure.  The thing that got me down there were the "Apollo 13" cups, the ones used to promote the 1995 movie of the same name.  I think I have two of them.  Recently, we were looking online at the value of the plastic cups - that Batman set is being sold for $40.00 right now, which of course is more than we paid for it initially.  The "Jurassic Park" ones are $8.99 each, probably due to the recent movie "Jurassic World."  I like the artwork on these cups, the way the ink put down.  I think I'll keep them around a bit more.  Someone is getting these as an inheritance, I bet.

MOVING ON:  We got a lot of rest today.  Tomorrow should be a big day with big news, but we'll see about that tomorrow.  Today, we did some more LEGO Batman 3, again in space.  There's your theme for the summer.  We opened up some new DC characters, which are fun - although again, I seem to lean towards the Marvel ones more.  The big DC characters - the main ones - are cool, of course.  Even some of those villains.  The secondary folks don't seem to capture the imagination as much, and that's one of the primary differences between the two.  Again, I used to be more a DC guy growing up.  We loved the Tim Burton vision of Batman, and Christopher Reeve is simply Superman - there can't be another, although Brandon Routh came close.  The latest incarnations of both of these characters are too dark for Madison, and just not as fun as I hoped.

Still, Madison is enjoying the LEGO games quite a bit.  The vision LEGO has of Batman sort of pokes fun at the direction the hero has taken, and we're glad to see that more comedic take in the games as well as of course the LEGO movie with Batman in it.  Fortunately, Green Lantern was spared the treatment he got in the LEGO movie, as he's more of an annoying wannabe there.  In this game, he's his cool self, the hero I remember growing up.  Green Lantern was Daddy's early favorite growing up.

As for Madison's favorite, it's usually a girl hero.  It just depends on which game she's playing, but right now it's Wonder Woman.  It could be Black Widow if it is Disney Infinity or LEGO Marvel.  In just a few Saturdays, Madison will be creating a sky cycle for Black Widow - we signed her up for that morning at Lowe's.  This is the class that fills up so quickly, so Daddy actually waited until midnight, despite being really tired, and got her in for making that sky cycle.  We're not going to see a huge line this time around - yesterday was amazing how many people were there, and walked away empty handed.  This is a very popular series here!  Currently the Captain America one we did yesterday is available online from creeps who take advantage of this sort of thing:  only $40.00!  We did it for free, because it's a free program for the kids, and Lowe's offers it for free.  And then there are the folks that come in, pick up their free copy of it, taking it from the kids in order to sell it online for $40.00, plus shipping.  Black Widow would smirk at this capitalist scum, while Captain America would shake his head sadly, exclaiming that's the freedom we have here in America.  So I vote for sicking the Hulk on these folks.

Anyway, Madison will at least have her Black Widow sky cycle, no problems.  And speaking of vehicles, there's another new one coming our way soon.  That's probably tomorrow, as you'll be reading about soon enough...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Cat Puzzles

So there was one opening left for this Lowe's project above - but it was in Cumming.  So we drove down there instead of Gainesville, which was full.  Daddy signed up for this a few days ago online, and when Madison and Daddy arrived at the Lowe's this morning, I kid you not:  the line was 30 people deep or more.  These were the 'stand-by' people, who did not sign up, but were hoping that someone else did not show up, so they could claim one of these projects you see above.  I kind of felt bad because there were plenty of kids in that line as well.  We almost didn't get in ourselves, because I didn't bring a waiver.  We were initially told to get in that line, but I explained that the Gainesville location usually has a print-out of all of the online sign-ups, and that sort of flustered the guy there.  He then let us by without having us sign a waiver or anything.  Regardless, we did get our Captain America, which seems like a big deal over a little wooden project.  But I see the appeal.  First of all, he's part of the Avengers.  Secondly, he's part of a series.  Meaning, there are five other projects, and they all link up together.  The patches all get put together too, so if you miss one, you miss the complete deal.  SO... that said, we'll have to sign up earlier for the next few projects - we're back off our vacation, so that should be no problem.  We missed the Iron Man one though, as we were at Disney that day.  Let's see, Lowe's or Disney?  Yeah, I think we made the right choice.

Anyway, we made the bike you see above, which is perfectly timed with the Fourth of July in a week.  After that, Madison and Daddy went by the worst Race Trac there in Cumming.  The refill cup was rendered useless to her - there was no sweet tea at all.  The regular tea was unsweet, and the green tea had become water.  It's funny watching her try unsweet tea though.  She was stuck with water.  She was like that kid in "The Santa Clause," the one that mumbles, "Plain milk's fine."

Of course once she tried Daddy's ginger ale, she realized she really likes ginger ale.  This was her first try of that, and apparently not the last.

Yeah, real eventful day here.  I know.  Moving on, we went to Fry's to pick up a copy of "From Earth to the Moon."  Daddy will be using a few clips of that, hopefully, as we continue our Space Camp tomorrow.  It should be pretty cool.  We found that this location was the only one that had a copy of this video series, and on top of that it was pretty cheap.  So, down we drove after our stop in Cumming.

On the way back, we dropped by one more place, the library.  Here, we picked up some more Weird School books, and a few other books as well.  We've got to keep Madison's supply of reading full, as even with all this driving around, she was in the back seat, reading, reading, reading.

Daddy went to work today, and Madison did one of the cat puzzles we picked up from the library.  They have this exchange program there where you bring in a puzzle, and you can exchange it for another one.  And so on.  And there are plenty of cat puzzles there.  Once we're done with the one we're working on today, we'll go get another cat puzzle.  I had no idea there were this many cat puzzles on the market.  These aren't photographs either.  That would be easy.  No, these are paintings of cats with toys or fabrics or baskets.  I'm starting to get itchy thinking about it even now.  Currently as I type this, there is a puzzle that is 30% done right now, one third of a cat in the living room.  These puzzles are about 300 pieces, so we're getting better and better with them.  Madison and Mommy worked on this a little today, throughout the day.

It's been raining off and on again.  This is much preferable to the blazing hot inferno we had last week. The temperatures stay cooler, and the plants get watered for free.

Though Daddy spent much of the day inside.  Still, when home, we watched another movie together, along with the obligatory popcorn:  "Ducktales the Movie:  Treasure of the Lost Lamp."  It's the first of our themed movies, as we're starting an Indiana Jones-type series called "The Quest."  We've currently got a few DVDs stacked up:

1.  National Treasure
2.  National Treasure 2:  The Book of Secrets
3.  Sahara
4.  Raiders of the Lost Ark
5.  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
6.  Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
7.  Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
8.  DuckTales the Movie:  The Treasure of the Lost Lamp
9.  Treasure Buddies
10.  UHF.  At least the first ten minutes of it!
11.  DuckTales:  Treasure of the Golden Suns (got this from the library today!)
12.  Tad the Explorer (got this from the library too!)
13.  Operation Condor (forgot about this one!)
14.  Mickey Mouse Club:  Quest for the Crystal Mickey
15.  Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Samson's Hairbrush

Other possibilities:
16.  Tomb Raider
17.  High Road to China
18.  King Solomon's Mines

Anyway, that's the "research" phase of this, along with the recent visit to the show down at Hollywood Studios, "The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular."  This is just a list for future reference, really.  We're starting to get it in gear with this series, starting in just two Sundays.  Of course, there's tomorrow's message first.  Got to get that out of the way.  But we'll be moving fast towards an exciting new series really soon!

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Firm Reliance

We had a fun night tonight at the mini-golf course, as Hannah was throwing a birthday party with some other older girls.  Madison kept up with them the best she could, and was proud of the way she was hitting the golf ball from time to time.  There was ice cream and cake, which of course are a perfect end to any party.  But the best news of all is that it didn't rain.

Now of course we're praying for rain lately, so don't misinterpret things.  It just didn't rain on our party. And therefore there was no opportunity for someone to leave a cake out in the rain.  The thing is, during the golfing event, the rain loomed.  The thunder in the distance was there.  But we were spared the downpours.

They did come later, and that's a great thing too, of course.  We just had a nice little window, and a cooler one at that, due to cloud cover.  And Hannah enjoyed her party with her friends.  It was a sweet little gathering indeed.

The rest of the day was the usual homework, reading, math, piano and housework.  Daddy is driving Ye-Ye's truck for the next few days, until we get something new ourselves.  Hopefully that will be sooner than later.  And today was a big day for work, getting together the two booklets for the upcoming series, "The Quest."

Daddy is speaking on Sunday, so he put together a quick message, one based on some of the stories I've read from astronauts.  It's perfect for Space Camp, a little tie-in with the patriotic season we're entering, due to the Fourth of July.  As we close up, here it is in all its glory, a little message called "In God We Trust."

KidPak Adventures:  Space Camp
In God We Trust

HOST:  “This message is a little different.  There’s a big holiday coming up – anyone know what it is?”

Let audience answer.

HOST:  “Next weekend is the Fourth of July, a patriotic holiday that marks the 239th anniversary of the signing of what?”


HOST:  “That’s right, the Declaration of Independence.  This is the document that brave men signed their names too, including Button Gwinnett and Lyman Hall – we live in a few counties here that were named after these guys, Hall and Gwinnett Counties.”


HOST:  “These men were putting their lives on the line, telling Great Britain we’d had enough, and we’re going to start a new country.  They all signed it, and they said they supported it with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.”

CUE SLIDE:  “A firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.”

HOST: “ That’s a mouthful.  Thomas Jefferson wrote that out, and they all signed it.  Our Founding Fathers all signed it, so what does it mean?”

HOST looks around for answers.

HOST:  “It means they really trusted God.  Firm means solid, unwavering, sturdy.  Reliance means depending on, counting on, trusting in.  And divine Providence is their way of saying God.  In other words, ‘In God We Trust.’”


HOST:  “Bam.  At the very foundation of our nation, there it is plain as day.  And it has been a big part of our country ever since.  In fact, as we continue with Space Camp, you can see where many of our American astronauts put their trust too.  Let me set a stage for you – it’s 1969, and we have done something so incredible that there are folks that don’t believe it to this day.  We landed on the moon.”


HOST:  “No other nation’s flag went up there.  We spent millions and had an army of engineers and scientists working for years for this one moment, and finally, we get two guys to safely land on the moon.  It’s a historic moment.  And I want you to look with me right now at one of the first things that happened the day the Eagle had landed.”



HOST:  “You may know a trivia question to ask your parents.  What was the first meal eaten on the moon?  It wasn’t a taquito!”

OFFSTAGE:  “Hey, taquitos!”

HOST: “It was communion.  Buzz Aldrin was remembering Jesus.  And he was reading His words:  ‘Apart from Me, you can do nothing.’  Here they were in this huge accomplishment, going from earth to the moon.  And Buzz was careful to remember that ‘apart from Jesus, you can do nothing.’  He believes it to this day:  ‘In God We Trust.’”


HOST: “Let me introduce you to another astronaut, who also believes it to this day.  This is John Glenn.  He’s the first American to orbit around the earth.  He also went up in a space shuttle when he was in his 70’s.  This guy was looking out his window at the earth – only a few other humans had seen this view he had, looking down on the earth from above.  He said this.”


HOST:  "To look out at this kind of creation out here and not believe in God is to me impossible, ... It just strengthens my faith.”


HOST:  “These are our American heroes.  Just like the Founding Fathers, they knew this one simple thing:  In God We Trust.”


HOST: “I can’t stop there.  Let me tell you about the first time we went around the moon.  Nobody knew if these guys could do it, or what would happen when we got that far away from the earth.  Some thought the astronauts wouldn’t be able to return at all.  So here we are, about to try it.  We’re about to go around the moon for the first time.  For the first time ever, three guys are about to see the other side of the moon with their own eyes – never done before.  The entire world is watching.  Seriously, this was the most-watched television program ever at this time.  Everyone was glued to the television, listening to these astronauts as they described what they saw.  And as they wrapped things up, you won’t believe what these three astronauts told the entire world.”



HOST: “Those astronauts actually read the first chapter of the Bible!  It was such a big deal – why, they even put it on a stamp at the post office.  Take a look!”

CUE SLIDE:  “APOLLO 8 Stamp – “In the beginning, God…”

HOST:  “Only six cents for a stamp!  Whoa!  But more importantly, there it is, the words these men spoke from the Bible, right there on a stamp for everyone to see.  ‘In the beginning, God.’  That’s our first point.”


HOST: “‘In the Beginning, God.’  It’s appropriate that the first words spoken around the moon were these from Genesis, chapter one.  It’s appropriate that the first meal on the moon was communion.  It’s appropriate, because our very nation’s beginnings are grounded in Christianity.  In the beginning, it was in God We Trust.”


HOST:  “Unfortunately, someone got upset about that.  ‘That’s using government property to preach the gospel,’ they said.  ‘You can’t do that!’  So they actually sued NASA.  But the Supreme Court actually got this one right – go figure!  They said this case was - wait for it - 'out of our jurisdiction.'  It’s outside our borders!”

HOST:  “From then on, NASA was told to quiet down the astronauts a bit.  Stop preaching so much.  But for some, that didn’t quite work out.  Let me share with you one other guy.  His name is Colonel James Irwin.”


HOST:  “Only twelve people have ever walked on the moon in the history of the world.  Just twelve.  He was one of them.  Now Mr. Irwin was not what you call a church-going type.  He went to church from time to time, but he was more a pilot than anything else.  According to others, he was an arrogant sort, with a bit of a swagger.  But with his one trip to the moon, all that changed.”


HOST: “He was having a few technical problems with the equipment he had to use, and couldn’t get it figured out.  He was stuck, and in trouble.  But that’s when he actually heard a voice.  He knew it was the voice of God.  The Voice said, ‘Get down on your knees.’”

HOST gets down on knees.

HOST:  “And he did.  Right there on the moon, he got down on his knees.  And that’s when it clicked.  Because he was lower – on his knees – he was able to see what the problem was with his equipment, and he was able to fix it.  And he was overwhelmed.  Where did that voice come from?  James Irwin actually felt the presence of Jesus behind him – right there on the moon.”


HOST:  “He came back a changed man.  He once said that Jesus walking on earth was much more important than man walking on the moon.  He was called ‘deeply religious,’ but he didn’t mind.  They gave him a ticker tape parade, and he saw how everyone was looking to him – and that’s when he got his new mission.  He would use his fame to tell as many as he could about Jesus.  And that’s what he did.’  In God We Trust.”


HOST: “ This reminds me of one more space story that’s true.  It’s about those words ‘In God We Trust’ all the way 249 million miles away.”


HOST: “Anyone want to go to Mars?

Let audience answer.

HOST:  “I noticed something last year on the Curiosity.  That’s the rover we have on Mars.  In 2012, NASA sent a message to Mars.  Want to know what it is?”

Let audience answer

HOST:  “IN GOD WE TRUST.  We weren’t exactly expecting to find any aliens on Mars to read the message, but nevertheless, there it was, neatly engraved for all to see.  In fact, it was visible in quite a few of the pictures sent back to earth, a reminder of who we put our faith in.”


HOST:  “Now let me explain.  Odds are you’ve seen a lot of the pictures from Mars – they’re incredible.  They were taken up close and personal by the Curiosity.  But when taking pictures, NASA needed an object – any object – to show the scale of things.  Just how big is that red Martian rock they are taking a picture of?  One good and simple way to find out the answer is to compare it to some other everyday object.  Let’s see… what kind of every day object can you put on the rover.  Something nice, small and flat…”

Let audience answer.


HOST:  “NASA scientists decided a penny was perfect for the job, so they sent it off into space, fixed to the side of the Curiosity.  Who says a penny in today’s world doesn’t go very far?  In 2012, one went all the way to Mars!”

HOST holds up penny

HOST:  “That penny is from 1909 – you can see that clearly enough in the photos.  It is deemed a ‘lucky’ penny, and rightfully so, having made the tremendous journey to Mars and landing there safely.  And right there at the bottom are the words our country needs to remember.  What are those words again?

Let audience answer


HOST:  “In God We Trust. That’s our second point.  And a big part of this message.  Let me share with you a scripture about trust.”


HOST: “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion.  They will always be secure.  They will last forever.”


HOST:  “When you trust in God, when you rely on Him, when you talk with Him, walk with Him, and serve Him, your life is rock solid.  Because you’ve built it on the Rock.  And I’m not talking about one of those red rocks from Mars either.”


HOST:  “That’s what our country was founded on, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.”

HOST:  “But lately, it seems to be leaning in another direction entirely.  It’s as if spiritually, we’re drifting off course, and into deep space.”


HOST:  “And that’s where you come in.  Rather than complain or worry, there is something that all of us need to do.  It’s point three.”


HOST:  “This is part of a scripture found in Chronicles.  Let me read the entire thing.  You may have heard it before.”

CUE SLIDE: “2 Chronicles 7:14”

HOST:  “IF my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”


HOST:  “Who is it that supposed to humble themselves and pray?”

Let audience answer.

HOST:  “Healing this land begins with us.  God’s word is clear.  It’s up to us.  We must humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from sin.  Now here’s the big question.  Are you doing any of that?”

Let audience answer.

HOST:  “I hope so.  And I need to be doing all of the above myself.  Because we sit around and worry and see the dumb things some of our elected and nominated officials are doing, and sometimes all we do is complain.  But the Bible tells us something we can do that’s a lot different:  we should humble ourselves, and get rid of pride.  Pray more.  Seek His face.  And turn from sin.”

HOST: “ I think one of the problems we have as a nation is that this generation doesn’t do any of that enough.  And that’s our fault.  But you’re the next generation.  And you can save this country.  There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, and together, we can bring this country back to where it was ‘…in the beginning.’”

HOST: "An astronaut was in space, circling the earth.  Mission Control was telling him to focus, and not use up his fuel.  But he kept using up his fuel just to get a good view out the window at the earth below.  And the whole time they were telling him to keep focused on that short window to return home.  But he didn't train as well as he could, and he was more distracted by looking out the window.  They were telling him he had better pay attention, because he could burn up on reentry.  He could burn up.  But still, he was distracted."

HOST: "He missed his window by three seconds.  Just barely.  They found him 250 miles away, after searching for him quite some time.  They actually lost track of him because he wasn't focused.  But at least he didn't burn up.  And they find him there, sitting in a raft, eating a candy bar, smiling."

HOST:  "He never went into space again.  And he serves as a reminder to us.  We're that astronaut.  We're the ones floating through space.  God's voice is telling us to stay focused.  But we keep looking out that window.  Are we looking at the computer, social media, television, cell phones, video games?  Whatever it is, it's okay to look out the window from time to time.  But you can't lose focus of your mission.  Your mission is to get back home safely.  Your mission is not to burn up.  Don't become so distracted that you become lost, or worse."

HOST:  "I think that's what's happening in our country now.  And God's voice is telling us all to focus on what is important."

HOST picks up penny.

HOST:  “You know, some day, astronauts are going to go back to Mars and see the Curiosity for themselves.  Won’t that be something?  And they’ll see that penny, probably.  And hopefully our country will still believe strongly in those words we have written some 249 million miles away.  What are those words again?”

Let audience answer

HOST:  “IN GOD WE TRUST.  Let us pray.”

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Run Silent, Run Deep

Continuing our theme of being a Sea Wolf, this morning we had a pretty drawn-out game of Battleship.  Of course, this was a Star Wars version with space ships and so forth.  But the concept is the same.  And Madison had never played it before.  Still, she won, and caught on very quick - just as I thought she would.  It was actually a bit of fun, something we'll do again soon, apparently.

The PT Cruiser we have has died.  Again.  Maybe it is a fuel pump?  We're not entirely sure, but today just might have been the last straw.  Thus far, we haven't been impressed with this particular model, or this particular car company in general.  But it was a donated car, so we've been happy to have at least some form of transportation.  The thing is, it is currently our only form of transportation of late, and when it is dead alongside the road after a grocery shopping trip… that's trouble.  And yes, it did restart, and we made it home.  Barely.  It might be staying home for a while, unless we can get someone over there to look at it, someone who knows more about cars than Daddy does.  Which is essentially 90% of the planet, assuming that 18% has never even seen a car before.

Let's see.  Also today, we met our praying mantis in the garden in the back, our protector from vile insects that seek to damage our valuable crops.  Madison named her Carol, which is a great name for a praying mantis.  There's no rhyme or reason to the name, it's just Carol.  Carol the Praying Mantis.

We did do some grocery shopping earlier, as mentioned.  And we also stopped at the gas station to enjoy some frozen yogurt.  Madison really likes the Georgia peach flavor, especially after adding three pounds of gummy worms on top.  That's where the price starts to skyrocket:  gummy worms.  They weigh these things and charge you by the ounce, or in our case, by the pound.  And it's the gummy worms that send this price upwards.  Apparently, these are rare candies exported from some exotic country far away, possibly mined from the earth, or harvested from rare trees on top of mountains at extreme altitudes.

So we're still in space, right?  Leave it to LEGO Batman to go… into space.  Yeah, that's the latest theme of the LEGO Batman game, which is pretty fun for Madison and Daddy.  But not as fun as the last one, oddly enough.  Still, it's the only alternative for Madison if she wants to see anything related to Batman. Because the upcoming movies are a definite 'no.'  I mean, seriously?

One more note, related to superheroes.  This summer, the Penske truck is all about "The Punisher."  Apparently, he drives one of these trucks.  In the movie "Winter Soldier," a couple key moments feature a Penske truck slamming into villainous characters and their vehicles.  So anyway, a friend of ours snapped a photo.

He noticed a Penske truck that seemed to be following him around, parking in an unusual style at various spots - and thus, a funny trend has begun.  Anywhere we see a Penske truck, we see the Punisher.  It's not anything Madison should see on television, but like Batman, we have a LEGO Punisher to watch.  Although there are Batman cartoons around for her to see - that might come later.  But Punisher is probably completely out of the question.  Anyway, there's our summer:  see a Penske truck, and that's what you think of.  I'm not sure exactly what Penske feels about this…

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Today we visited Potatoland, or at least saw it on television for the first time.  We picked up season one of a cartoon series simply called "Mickey Mouse" from the library, just one of a few new items for Madison to check out on the way down to Florida last week.  It turns out that these cartoon shorts are hilarious.  I mean, this one here, "Potatoland" is laugh-out-loud funny, just in terms of animation alone. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but the three of us sat on the couch and just laughed quite a bit.

Today was a work day, one where we got a lot of our newest series done - we're pretty much all wrapped-up with the messages for "The Quest."  The devotional is pretty much done as well, so we're feeling pretty good at this point about that portion.  The challenge will be the dramas, as many of the actors are doing that summer break thing.

We had a meeting about our messages, this one in the car on the way to the house - and then back to church.  The purpose of going home was to pick up Madison and Mommy.  Lance and Josh sat in the house for a bit, and we discussed all the goings-ons for the next few months, and feel pretty good about the direction we're taking.

Madison made it to church tonight, of course.  It was a Wednesday night in the summer, so we don't have to worry about getting up early for school tomorrow.

As for Madison, she's settled into a good pattern at home this week, with piano, drawing, reading, and homework online.  She's doing math problems using friendly numbers, and doing a bit of guided reading and questions.

We did finish another cat puzzle today.  We don't have cats, but we have cat puzzles.  These come from the library, which is actually a vast resource for cat puzzles.  If you are at your wit's end looking for cat puzzles, you should definitely try out Hampton Park Library.  Cats puzzles are just right for Madison and Mommy - the two of them went to work over the puzzle table, looking down and studying, and carefully putting things in place as if they were surgeons over a patient's table.  It did not take long to complete this 300-piece puzzle.  These two were quite focused.

So that's how a standard summer day goes, or at least one on a Wednesday.  No time for pools or journeys, but Madison still did plenty today, plus had time for LEGO Batman 3 and some more reading from the Weird School.  The highlight though, would have to be our visit to Potatoland!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


We did watch "Paddington Bear" tonight again, which again is an excellent movie.  I have to say honestly it is my favorite movie so far this year, and yes that includes quite a bit I've seen since then.  It's just really well done, that's all.  The subject of marmalade came up again, naturally.  It's something that we all enjoy rather much, especially the recent marmalade sampling we had in Florida at Nana and Ba-Ba's house.  That marmalade was amazingly fresh and full of citrus flavor.  This may be because of Captain Citrus.

We didn't actually see Captain Citrus down there in Florida, which might be a good thing, as I guess he only appears when there are emergencies related to the orange crops.  Or, it could be that he's there to enhance the flavor somehow, which of course gives Florida an unfair edge over the products coming from California.  It's my understanding that his power comes from the sun, which explains why he doesn't live in Washington state.

ANYWAY, the marmalade was strong.  And good.  And Madison likes it a bit as well, although not as much as Daddy does.  He's not as crazy about it as Paddington Bear, of course.

So we're back.  And we're getting used to being back, which takes a bit of adjustment.  Marmalade helps.  But there was a lot of work to be done, as we're getting ready for another big church conference this weekend.  So we were back on the old grind, whatever that means.  Maybe the grind is there to sharpen the implements they use to peel oranges and make marmalade.

Regardless, we were all back together tonight to watch a movie and pretty much go to bed rather quickly.  Everyone is still tired from the vacation, and the weekend after that.  It was a great weekend, and a great vacation.  And that always helps.  We're getting back to work after a change of pace, and a bit of rest on top of that.  And, we'll get back to work with a bit of marmalade as well.  It's what Captain Citrus would want.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Bat Lady

We visited the Bat Lady today at the library, who is not a superhero, I might add.  She is, however, super fun in an educational way.  She did a great job talking with the kids and teaching them about the two different types of bats, mega and micro.

She even brought a bat out, one named Robin.  True story.  Of course, there was that theme going on throughout - she had a Batman t-shirt on, and all sorts of Batman items about, such as Batman jewelry and even Batman shoes.

But it was all about the bats today, and for an hour she talked about bats, and you'd think you'd be bored out of your mind.  You'd think the kids would be too.  But this was an effective presentation, complete with bat silhouettes for the quiz, and bat masks too.  When Robin showed up, the kids were pretty excited - but excited in a quiet sort of way.

Today we had speech therapy in the morning, which went well.  Mrs. Courteny says there is a lot of progress going on, and Madison does seem to like it there, and practice a lot outside the office.  It's difficult, but she has her chores chart back up and going, and the hard part was getting started again on a routine.  She made her bed, did piano practice, read, and did online homework assignments too.  What exactly is a friendly number, you ask?  She did a little with friendly numbers.  These are the kind you want to run into, and not those mean numbers.  Some people don't know any friendly numbers so they start making up imaginary numbers.  Remember imaginary numbers?  As a student, I never could get over that concept.  Why have an imaginary number when you have an infinite number of perfectly good numbers to work with?

Anyway, it was a fun day.  We finished book two of the Origami Yoda series, which is called 'Darth Paper Strikes Back' or something like that.  I won't spoil the ending, but these two books have been surprisingly good, both Madison and Mommy sitting up in bed listening to every word that Daddy reads.  We'll have to look into getting more from this series as the summer progresses.

Other than that, the day was chores, rest and oh:  LEGO Batman 3.  Yeah, we kept up the bat theme by giving her that copy of LEGO Batman 3 that I've been holding on to since Christmas.  It would have been just white noise to give her that amongst all the other goodies, so this has been waiting for just the right occasion.  The right occasion is her birthday, which passed by, and Daddy forgot to bring the gift with us to Florida.  So then the right occasion became great behavior at the library, completion of the chore chart, completion of a big section of piano practice, and a post-birthday gift related to the bats we talked about earlier.  It worked out, and she was delighted.  So we did the first level, going after Killer Croc, and thus, we start off on another LEGO adventure.  We're itching to try out the Jurassic Park version, but that may wait until Christmas.  And it just might be more for Daddy, actually.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day 2015

So we are back, and this time it is for real.  We were back yesterday, but there wasn't much time to sort of sit back and say, "Okay, we're back!"  Mommy did a lot of unpacking, and Daddy was setting things up at work for a bit, other than the concert of course.  But today was different.

It's funny getting acclimated to civilian life again, after being away for so long.  We were at church this morning, which went well.  Our car is having a few problems, and it is the only one we have left.  That said, we're considering getting a new one pretty soon.  We'll see how long this one we currently have holds out.

The weather here has been outrageously hot, although Nana and Ye-Ye have come over repeatedly to water flowers in out absence.  Still, everyone's lawns have taken a beaten, especially when you consider that it was pouring rain just about every day before we left.  Now that we're returning, the cooler weather is starting to return a bit with us as well, or at least it is overcast and not so bad out there at the moment.  Not as bad as it could be, anyway.

We watered the plants and just did some cleaning up today.  Unpacking, and looking at photos, and pretty much staying indoors as much as we could.  Willis Carrier should be a name on everyone's lips, an inventor of the highest caliber, alongside the names of Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.  This is the guy who invented air conditioning, or is at least credited with it.  It's one of those things you're profoundly grateful for each summer in Georgia.  There are just a few weeks where it seems unbearable to go outside at midday.

We picked up the final Disney Infinity 2.0 character at Downtown Disney, and tested him out today:  The Green Goblin.  Not entirely sure why they chose to go with this incarnation of the villain, versus the more traditional route.  Nevertheless, we do have him.  Madison and Daddy tried out some of the new carnival levels on the game using the Green Goblin, who has all kinds of great threatening catch-phrases after his victories.

This adds so much irony after playing a game of virtual skee-ball:  "Behold!  The Might of the Green Goblin!"

Anyway, it was a quiet afternoon after KidPak.  This morning, we continued our Space Camp series with a message entitled "Failure is Not an Option."  But we also had another vision for the morning, a bit where we talked about Father's Day.  That was today, of course.  We wished our fathers a happy day, and Madison said as much to Daddy repeatedly.  Also, she made a card for me, one with a scavenger hunt involved - it made me go from room to room and eventually, I was able to go into one room where she was hiding.  She popped out and said, "Happy Father's Day!"  And then gave me a sweet hug.

Such a wonderful day, Father's Day.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Mandatory Czar Experience

Look who Daddy met tonight - and he's wishing Madison a happy birthday!  Tonight was a mandatory sort of night, a little Father's Day present for Daddy, who got to go see the Mandatory Tour down at the dreaded Chastain Ampitheater.

What separated this concert experiences from other Chastain experiences is the VIP status we paid a little extra to enjoy.  Okay, a lot extra.  But we considered Chastain and how awful a venue it is, and thought going through what is called the 'Mandatory Czar Experience' would redeem the night.  And in many ways, it did.  For example, how many people do you know that have ever got to spin the Wheel of Fish?

That's right, Daddy did.  We got there a few hours early and just basically hung out, listening to Weird Al tunes as we did some catching up.  I went with my old friend Alan - the two of us have been Weird Al fans for quite some time.  Our VIP tickets got us to a place in the shade early, where we could enjoy appetizers and get involved in some games and/or polkas.

It was just like old times.  We used to go to concerts all the time, actually.  If you name a touring artist in the 90's, there are pretty good odds that we went to see them.  I think the one we missed was Dave Matthews, but other than that, we pretty much saw everybody.  Country artists included.  And Wayne Newton too.  Seriously, just off the top of my head:  Peter Gabriel, Paul McCartney, Aerosmith, Billy Joel, Bruce Hornsby, Elton John, Bonnie Raitt, They Might Be Giants, Jimmy Buffett, The Outfield, Mike and the Mechanics, Garth Brooks, Joan Jett, and many others.  Of course, we saw Weird Al a few times in there as well.

The concert was great, although as mentioned earlier, the venue is awful.  Our seats were pathetic, these little wooden fold-out chairs squeezed in a tight area.  The diners are always present at the front, as if that adds ambience or something.  It adds distraction, of course.  And additional noise.  But our thoughts were that this was a different sort of concert, and in the end it was.  It was great - including the live cam following Weird Al through the parking lot at the beginning straight to the stage.  The standards were there, along with some variations of old songs and some of the newer stuff from his most recent release.

And the 501st was there too. The big finish had the two Star Wars songs, featuring stormtroopers and Darth Vader on stage in the background, the stormtroopers actually dancing a bit.  It was a big finish to a great concert - the audience was so into it, singing along and for just a short time we were all complete geeks and unashamed of it too.

And then the big moment:

Daddy did get to meet Weird Al afterwards.  It was part of the package, and pretty neat too.  Now, we didn't have an extensive conversation.  In fact, I could only imagine how tired he was after putting on such an incredible show.  But nonetheless, he gave Madison happy birthday wishes, and signed a Mandatory Tour poster just for her, with birthday wishes on that as well.  Alan and Daddy spent a few moments speaking with him, and then that was that - we were whisked out the door, and on our way.

So was it worth it?  Yes.  Again, Chastain is a terrible place to see a concert.  But Weird Al made up for that with a really fun show, and the before and after were pretty cool.  Oh yeah, and I didn't mention the complete card set we got, the t-shirts, the poster, and the nifty VIP tags.  Yep, it was pretty cool.  We probably won't do it again next time, but this time we decided to do it, just because we could.  Go big, or go home.  We decided to go big.  You could say it was mandatory.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Back Seat Artist

Madison created masterpiece after masterpiece in the backseat of the car today.  We were on our way back home, and she was just in the mood to draw these elaborate creations.  We had a pad for her, markers and pencils she got for her birthday, and of course she had a lot of time.  So that's what she chose to do - practice her drawing skills.  She's actually getting pretty good.  You can see the progress she's making with this skill over time.  In all the other areas of her life, you could see this year - second grade - as the big one for learning and growth.  And now we're starting to really see it with her drawing as well.

We drove back home today, as described earlier.  This was a longer drive, as our starting point was Satellite Beach.  And we left later, because we simply could not resist one last long stroll down the beach.  Today, the conditions were best of all in the morning.  The heat was not there yet, and that ocean breeze was gentle.  The tide was lower, so there was no dancing around to avoid smooshing through the seaweed.  We couldn't resist collecting even more shells, and Daddy couldn't resist taking a whole lot of pictures once more.

One our way back up the Space Coast, we saw the Silver Surfer again - someone has this incredible model of the Silver Surfer in front of their place of business.  Also, we saw a Disney cruise ship at port this time, along with the other cruise ships.  The three of us took in a breath and made a wish for a cruise next time.  We're suddenly more cruisers than anything else.  Madison would like to do one again very much.

So we left the beach area and drove up I-95, passing by Daytona and all that.  We went across I-10, and went through Osceola National Forest, and soon enough were back on I-75 northbound.  And yep, we made a significant stop in Henry County.  Not by design, of course.  The traffic there is always horrendous.  It has been horrendous there for years.  Madison has spent hours of her life in Henry County, just sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic.  Because as far as I know at the moment, that is all you do in Henry County.  Perhaps it is their way of getting you to spend more time there.

Anyway, after that, and consequently the following Atlanta traffic, we got home pretty worn out.  But we got there safe, to God be the glory.  So many times we make these journeys and we sort of take for granted our safe arrival.  But tonight we are truly thankful, tired a bit, but also grateful for a wonderful vacation.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Freeze-Dried Ice Cream

Today was the day we returned to Kennedy Space Center.  Of course, it was the first time for Madison to visit the place, and for her part she was actually looking forward to it quite a bit.  Perhaps she was looking forward to the playground they had there the most, but the fact is that we've been doing a great Space Camp series all this time at KidPak, and the theme of space travel is in the air.

So we arrived mid-morning, after a bit of a drive up the Space Coast, passing by Port Canaveral, which was sadly empty at the time.  We even experienced another first for Madison:  a drawbridge.  These aren't the biggest deal in the world, but we were able to watch it slowly rise and then slowly return to position afterwards.  We theorized jumping it, as we were in a rental car.  But even Madison knew that would be silly.

So we got to Kennedy Space Center, and our first stop was to meet an actual astronaut.  This was pretty cool, actually.  His name was Jack Lousma, and he did the first of two presentations describing the differences between the Saturn rocket launching and that of the Space Shuttle launch.  Of course, there were obvious differences, but there were plenty of other things we learned as we heard him speak.  He described the earth as a beautiful place from above, just as the Master painted it, and then afterwards took time to pose for pictures with us.

Next we saw the exhibit dedicated to explorers, which highlighted a huge theme of the park visit:  traveling to Mars.  The Orion is getting ready, they tell us.  NASA is not downgrading at all after the close of the space shuttle program.  It is in fact gearing up, we're told, for a trip to Mars.  Which is pretty amazing to think about.  Who would want to do that?  A lot of people, apparently.  It's a trip of a lifetime, as in you're spending a great deal of your life on the way there, quite isolated for quite some time.  But there are folks brave enough to want to take this journey, so I salute them.  It just isn't for me at this point, as space travel is pretty time consuming, this even despite the tremendous speeds you go at.  Plus, as anyone knows from watching all these Mars movies, the planet isn't safe.  Seriously, pretty much any movie about Mars features serious trouble.  I think "John Carter of Mars" and "Mars Needs Moms" end up with a planet that is in better shape to visit, but even those two show us there's a whole lot of danger in going to Mars.  We asked Madison if she wants to go to Mars, and this was without throwing any bias her way.  After seeing the explorer exhibit, we asked her, and she emphatically said, "NO."

After Mars, we went over to the IMAX to see a movie, Madison's first IMAX experience.  It was a feature narrated by Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame, and had to do with space travel, the International Space Station, and of course, traveling to Mars.  Yep, there it is again.

The next stop on our tour was a great one, not to say we didn't enjoy the other ones.  But to Madison, the visit to the Atlantis really stood out.  It did for us too.  They had the Space Shuttle Atlantis actually in an enormous facility, and there was a lot do do there, beyond sitting there dwarfed in size by this ginormous space shuttle.  There were slides and a miniature space station to crawl about in, and there is even a space shuttle ride experience, which we first thought about doing, but Madison opted out of at the last minute.  We watched the riders go from a camera, and it didn't seem that bad afterwards, but it was certainly a bit noisy.  We're noticing Madison is not a big fan of loud noises.  This is something you can't really avoid with the space shuttle!

The next thing we did was something Mommy and Daddy didn't get to do last time - the bus tour.  It was nice, actually.  We even saw a manatee on the way over to the VAB.  It was in the water, close to the shore, I guess finding some green stuff to munch on underwater.

As for the VAB, the Vehicle Assembly Building, it is in fact ginormous.  They say you could put Yankee Stadium on top of it, and still have room for five acres of parking.  I know this was brought up as a stat, but perhaps they should really do this.  It'd be a lot of fun to watch a game up there, right?

Okay, not.  We went on from there and saw a few of the launch sites, which were pretty impressive - and then we were dropped off at a place where a huge Saturn Rocket rested on its side.

It is amazingly big.  We watched another movie, and then one after that - and then got to go in the building.  It was mandatory, but by this point we were 'movied out.'  Seriously, we saw two movies at the Atlantis experience, and the IMAX, a movie short at the astronaut meeting, and now two movies here.  I was interested in the movie about the moon landing, but we were suffering from movie fatigue!

But the site had some other things to do that were pretty cool.  For one, there was an exhibit where you could see the Apollo 14 capsule.  This is the one that Daddy has been reading about lately, the one with Alan Shepherd in command.  Also we saw a whole lot of great costumes - and Madison even got to touch a moon rock.

There was food there at that station too, so we had a bite to eat.  We even finally tried the dehydrated ice cream, 'astronaut food.'  We'd been waiting for that one, and Madison had fun trying that out.

But it was getting late, so we got back on the bus to go back to the main area.  We passed by some endangered turtles on the way, and found ourselves walking back through the park to return home.  Yes, we stopped at the playground, of course. That was mandatory.

And we also went through the rocket garden, and posed in a few of the capsules there.  It was a fun day, and it wasn't actually over with yet.  We returned back to Satellite Beach, and you just can't have a condo on the beach without walking up and down it frequently.  So we did that when we returned there, chasing crabs around and enjoying the pleasant weather by the shore.

It was a full day, one we're a bit tired from, actually.  It's been a great vacation though, with a good mix of new sights and relaxation.  Tonight we'll fall asleep to the rhythmic sound of ocean waves, dreaming of the stars.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Satellite Beach

Today was a beach day, pure and simple.  The farthest we went today was about four miles down the road to a Friendly's - this was the idea of Nana, who wanted to get Madison an ice cream.  We all got ice cream, of course.  Madison's ice cream had a candle in it though, one that was lit and brought out with the entire staff there.  They sang a different sort of birthday song, and Madison loved it.  She loved the ice cream too.

The rest of the day was just as nice.  We did several walks along the beach, with different purposes - sometimes to collect shells.  We've got quite a few - the plan is to use them for a craft when we get home.  We have all kinds of nice shells, which does not cease to amaze me.  They just keep washing ashore!  Nature keeps making them, and we keep picking them up.  The quantity of life out there in the ocean is just astounding.  Of course, with that thought in mind, we did not spy any sharks.  Or Portugese Man-O-War.  Or bacteria.

We did see the tide go out quite a bit, and then by nightfall, it came in quite a bit.  Madison hates stepping on the seaweed.  But then again, who does?  The high tide was a careful dance down the beach, as nobody wanted to feel that squishy sensation of seaweed between their toes.  No, it didn't help things when Daddy said people actually eat seaweed in Japan.

We did make use of the pool, all five of us.  It's a smaller pool, but plenty of room is there for the five of us.  It's a bit deeper in places, but Madison had her floaties on, and was enjoying that quite a bit.  You can hear the ocean waves plunge inward and feel see the pelicans fly in formation overhead as you float along in the pool.  The condo is several stories tall, so it provides a good area of shade later in the afternoon, that way you don't feel like you're burning in the sun so much.  Speaking of which, the temperature was just right here.  It's scorching hot inland, but out here, the sea breeze was nice and relaxing.  We sat on the balcony, and Daddy actually fell asleep as the sea breeze kept us cool, and the ocean waves maintained their peaceful rhythm.  It was a perfect day for this sort of thing, and everyone was quite content by day's end.

We had a big meal once more, the five of us seated in the dining area.  You can see the ocean from there as well - it has such a calming effect.  Tonight before bed, we read from Origami Yoda once more.  It's clear that this is a series of books we'll be reading the next few weeks.  Mommy and Madison both love this book, as does Daddy.  It's lots of fun.  After reading, we tucked Madison into her trundle, which is still a fun word to say, and went out once more on the balcony.  Such a nice night, dark, except for the glow of boats on the horizon.

Sea turtles come up on this shore quite frequently.  We could see their tracks this morning, and there are laws to keep them protected.  For example, we have to make sure the shutters and curtains are drawn in our condo before going to bed.  The lights are not good for the turtles.  It would be great to see one.  Maybe we'll come back another time for just that purpose.  Actually, I'm pretty sure we're coming back - we really enjoyed Satellite Beach.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sandpiper Tower

It was a bit of a drive down to Satellite Beach, especially considering we wanted to avoid the annoying toll road.  We went right by Liki Tiki again on the way down and everybody waved.  More importantly, we stopped at Race Trac on the way, filling up our cups for free and filling up the tank as well.  No free refills on the gas tank, unfortunately.  Maybe that comes next year!

We passed by Medieval Times, which we might be coming back to in September.  Ms. Karen is getting married there, actually.  So we might find ourselves down there quite soon.

But we did make it to the beach eventually.  We left later in the day, as our check-in time at the condo wasn't until 4:00.  I think we arrived around 4:30 or so.

Sandpiper Tower is where we stayed, and despite the age of the place, the rooms are really quite nice.  And here's the better part:  nice and quiet.  The only sound you can hear is the constant roar of the ocean.  Which is perfect for lulling you to sleep, actually.

Yes, the ocean is that close to the condo.  We walked into this room, having not seen the ocean yet.  And in the room, you see the ocean.  From two angles, actually.  The living room area has a window that lets you see it head-on, and then another that lets you look northward along the beach.  Of course, there is a balcony to go out and rest on as well.  Open that sliding window door, and the impressive volume of the beach fills the room.

We were already pretty happy.  But the bedrooms are nice too - Madison actually has a trundle to sleep in.  What's a trundle?  It sounds like a name you'd give a hobbit.  But in fact, it's a bed that slides out from underneath another bed.  In our bedroom are two beds, and a trundle that slides out in between our two beds.  The decor is nice, and the beds are comfortable.  And there's a window, and you can see the beach and ocean right there.  It's really quite nice.

Of course we couldn't wait to go out and walk along the beach.  The temperature was just right for doing such a thing.  Off came the shoes and socks, and out we went, walking along the shore and getting our feet wet as the waves rushed up to greet us.  Okay, yes:  we got more than our feet wet.  Those errant waves can sneak up on you, and fortunately Madison was already wearing her bathing suit.  We were very close to her the entire time, but she was never wanting to run out too far into the ocean.  Once she got salt in her mouth, she was content to just get her feet wet.  Chlorine is better in your mouth than salt, she reasons.

The ocean breeze was cooling us off, and the pelicans were dive bombing as usual.  We could find a whole lot of shells along the beach, but not many other people.  This beach isn't completely deserted, but you couldn't fill a small shuttle bus with the amount of people we could see in either direction.  It was just a handful.  We love an empty beach.

There is a pool here, and though it is a small one, Madison is very excited about that prospect of swimming in it.  There are also shuffleboards and ping-pong.  Tomorrow is a 'nothing' day, where we just stay here and relax - so we'll probably take advantage of some of these amenities.

We have all kinds of groceries here to have big meals, which we did here tonight.  And of course, we were spending a lot of time already just sitting out on the balcony, reading or playing Scrabble.  There's just something about the beach, isn't there?  There have been a lot of reports lately about shark incidents, in fact one just north of us at Daytona Beach.  And some sort of bacteria too.  We're not concerned.  We're not going that far into the water, and nobody has an open cut or anything like that.  The next few days are going to be just perfect.

Monday, June 15, 2015

9th Birthday

Today was Madison's ninth birthday, and we did it pretty much the way she would want it:  with a visit to the pool, and with ice cream!

After the Disney marathon this weekend, there was a lot of serious relaxing to do around the house today.  That we did, reading and resting and playing Scrabble and drawing and watching television - the Disney Channel was on, but there were also a few movies Daddy borrowed from the library.

The temperature was amazingly hot today, so we opted not to go to the pool until much later when it was safer.  Even in the water, you can feel yourself cooking under that intense sun.  But when it started to go down, Madison and Daddy went off to the pool together - there was actually a looming rain cloud that looked ready to pounce on us.  But that did a few things:  it kept the temperature down a little, and it also kept the pool empty from anyone else.  Seriously, that pool is usually pretty packed with folks.  But for a while, Madison and Daddy were the only ones in that entire pool.  She loved it, of course.  There was another older gentleman who arrived to do laps, and the two of them hit it off right away.  It started with him splashing Madison a little as he passed by.  And that pretty much sealed his fate.  Even when leaving the pool, Madison made a beeline over towards him and the stairs where we were to exit - but she didn't exit.  She had to splash him one more time in front of all his friends.  It was so random, and pretty funny too!

So we got back after the pool and a relaxing golf cart ride, except for that one old guy yelling at us to get out of the way ("HEY STUPID!  GET OUT OF THE WAY!").  We were on the golf course on a trail there after hours, and had no idea we were in the way.

ANYWAY, we had stalled long enough because when we arrived back at Nana and Ba-Ba's house, they had set up a surprise for Madison.  It was a birthday cake with nine candles on it.  The lights were dimmed and we all sang "Happy Birthday" to her right there and then.

Madison was given a few gifts, including one of those tiaras from yesterday - she wore that the rest of this vacation, even at the beach.  This was actually Nana and Ba-Ba's first time spending the day with Madison on her birthday.  They're usually down here and we're back in Georgia.  But today was the first time they could celebrate her birthday, so they were pretty excited too.  They got her a few gifts, things from Disney World, of course:  a big set of markers, pads of paper, and lots of art supplies.  Madison was quite happy.

We did eat the cake, and there was ice cream.  You can't have a proper birthday party without ice cream.

She knows that this vacation in itself is her birthday.  We asked her early on if she wanted to go to Disney Quest for her birthday - and she was nodding enthusiastically.  And the lightsaber and so on.  And we asked her if she wanted to go to the beach for her birthday.  Of course, she was all over that one.  But I think one of her favorite things to do on vacation doesn't involve rides, beaches, or activities - it's just the pool.  And that said, despite not doing anything overly dramatic today, it was still an ideal birthday for her with presents, cake, ice cream, and a visit to the pool.

Sunday, June 14, 2015


So today we were supposed to go to Star Wars Weekends.  This, after years of failed attempts to do this exact thing.

The problem was Liki Tiki.  Our neighbors decided to have a block party late into the night, and security doesn't exist so much despite the screaming in the parking lot.  Or the running up and down screaming.  Or the screaming in the rooms.  Our neighbors were a nightmare, and the ultra thin walls did not much help.  The other concerned neighbors tried to call security too, and even speak to the noisy individuals, but nothing much came of it.  Daddy tried speaking to them too - we have a nine-year-old in here trying to get some sleep.  But nothing changed, and what seemed like forever went by and it was 1:00 am, and we were drained.

You have to get up and get there early to go to Star Wars Weekend.  We didn't make it.  We were too tired.  Plans that we had for years were suddenly ruined.

We cut our stay at the Liki Tiki short, as we thought we probably wouldn't be able to sleep tonight either - even if we had went through all the packing involved with changing our room for one night.

Fortunately, Disney understood.  They seemed to forgive us for staying at another non-Disney condo.  They didn't charge us the cancellation fee for the dinner reservations we had that day (would have been $30).  Yeah, we didn't get to do that.  Also, they modified the existing tickets so that they wouldn't expire.  Our tickets would have expired this week, but Disney made it so these tickets won't expire until 2030.  I think we'll be back before then, so that's good.

In order to talk to Disney, we did go back to Downtown Disney once more.  We went to Guest Relations, but didn't go to Ghiradelli's believe it or not.  We did find a few new shops, including one that did all kinds of work with crystals, sculpting and carving.  Madison was in love with a few tiaras that she saw there.  We asked her what her favorite one was, and as she was with Mommy in another store, Daddy was sneaky and got that one for her birthday tomorrow.  She'll like that very much.

Then, it was back to Spruce Creek, to Nana and Ba-Ba's house.  We were there pretty quickly, and all was peaceful and quiet again.  Madison wasn't even so much aware of all the noise at the condo last night, but Mommy and Daddy were - and we were able to catch up on our rest pretty quickly.  We sat on the lanai in the back, reading books and resting our eyes somewhat.  We were completely relaxing, and all was well again.  Nana and Ba-Ba even had a nice big dinner for us!

It wasn't quite what we planned, but in the end, perhaps it was a good thing the night was so incredibly bad at Liki Tiki.  The temperature today soared to around 100 degrees, and between the lack of sleep and being so tired, it was a good thing we didn't go to Disney after all.  We'll get to Star Wars Weekends someday.  But maybe the heat would have been too overwhelming today.  And consider this:  we did so much on Thursday that was all Star Wars related.  Madison made a droid and a lightsaber.  We rode Star Tours twice, and did the Jedi Training Academy.  Also, we had the breakfast with the Star Wars characters, and dinner with Disney characters dressed up in Star Wars costumes.  We even got to see the tremendous fireworks show, up close and at an angle that not many others have ever seen.  So all that said, we did get to do quite a bit.  So maybe next time on the official Star Wars Weekends.  And we'll be back again in this area soon.

We just won't be staying at the Liki Tiki anymore…!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Grand Finale

We had a really crazy thing happen tonight.  Well, I suppose it happens frequently - as often as there is a Star Wars-themed fireworks presentation over Hollywood Studios.  We got caught in a bit of traffic on the way back from Downtown Disney, and saw the beginning of the fireworks show, which was pretty cool in itself.  We were heading right towards it, so Madison got to see a lot of the fireworks, minus the soundtrack of course.  There is this left turn where you head south after passing by Hollywood Studios, and here's where you pass by it again - only closer.  And that is when the grand finale took place.  We were essentially directly underneath it.  Seriously, it filled up our windshield and the noise was spectacular.  I have never been that close to exploding fireworks before.  Just to demonstrate how close we were, consider this: our vehicle, by this point traveling about five miles per hour (along with a few other cars on this route), the car was hit by falling debris from the fireworks.  Left and right, all of it was coming down around us as the rockets red glare blasted all about us.  It was intensely amazing!

Today we were back at Downtown Disney, as we just described. We were also at the pool for a while, checking out the Liki Tiki's pool for a bit.  Madison loved it, the waterfalls, the bridges, the slides, the fountains - all of it.  It was a bit crowded, but she didn't care.  She just wanted to splash and swim and push Daddy repeatedly underneath a water fall.  Which she did.

Afterwards, we were back to Downtown Disney, and back inside Disney Quest once more.  Yes, we established our dominance at Mighty Ducks Pinball.  Mommy and Daddy and Madison were ranked 1,2, and 3 time and again.  There wasn't a time we were playing these last two days where one of us was not in the top 3.  And Daddy got #1 about three times.  Madison and Mommy won it too - again consider that there are ten or twelve others playing too.  We're just good, that's all!

And we're great pirates.  We again hit the top score, dominating the high seas in our pirate ship - and then in our submarines for a return to Sea Wolf.  The new thing was an old game Daddy remembers playing in Las Vegas in the 90's some time.  It's called "Trog."  Madison, Mommy and Daddy played that one together for quite some time - really we could have kept on going.  But it was time to head out shortly after that, off to do some looking around at the art galleries, and of course a return to Ghiradelli's.

One thing of note were the guest musicians that appear along the way at Downtown Disney.  There was a string quartet that sounded wonderful, obliging us with a pretty upbeat version of "Let it Go."  But then there was also a guy named Dominic Gaudious.  I only know this because we bought a CD from him right there.  He played a bit of guitar, but what made him stand out even more so was that he played the didjeridoo.  That's the Australian instrument, a long cylinder that you breathe into on one end - it is quite a distinctive sound.  And it usually isn't a musical sort of sound, but he made it work.  As he was playing the guitar, he tossed a guitar pick to Madison and winked.  We still have that guitar pick, which of course has his name and website on it.  Great marketing idea!

It was a nice relaxing day, punctuated by an us usual display of fireworks you don't get to see every day.  We've seen the Star Wars fireworks show up close and personal, quite an explosive ending to the day!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Sea Wolves

Madison is a Mighty Duck!  We went to Disney Quest today, and there is this one large game where everyone becomes a virtual pinball on this huge screen.  The idea is to get the most points, frequently getting by the goalie in the game.  You do this by leaning this way or that.  Madison could hardly lean the apparatis one way or the other, but she enjoyed the game anyway.  We were up against a whole bunch of other people with this game, and only at the end do you see who won.  Adults, teens, other kids... the winner was Madison!

It was a fun day, although we did stay pretty long.  We did pretty much everything there is to do at Disney Quest.  Daddy was thrilled to see right away that they had Fix-it Felix cabinets there, so we did that for a time.  We also went to floor #2 for an appointment with an illustrator who showed us all how to draw Mickey Mouse.  We had our desks lined up, and the three of us did a pretty swell job of drawing Mickey.  Madison is getting very good with illustrations.

One unexpected joy of the place would be the food.  You'd think it would be just arcade food.  That's essentially what Disney Quest is - a ginormous five-story arcade.  But it IS Disney, so the chef came out to talk with Mommy, and sure enough, within a few minutes she was eating a huge gluten-free cheeseburger.  We all ate well, in fact!

We did some skeeball, some pinball too.  Video games with bowling, and Marvel vs. Capcom 2.  But the video game that strangely captured our imagination the most was SeaWolf.  There were three sit-down versions of the game lined up, and I think the three of us sat at our various stations for about fifteen minutes, launching torpedoes and sinking as many ships as time would allow.  No one ever bothered us there, so we kept going and going, and the girls were having a blast.  So to speak.

Of course, there are more elaborate video games there.  This time, Madison and Daddy did the Aladdin Virtual Carpet Rides, which was the first time that Daddy ever wore one of those virtual goggles - the same with Madison, of course.  That was fun, but the real fun is always the Pirates of the Caribbean.  Daddy was captain, steering the girls through the bay from port to port, sinking other pirate ships and stealing booty and treasure.  The neat thing was our second ride through - we got the highest possible rank by listening to the employee there.  She told us to go immediately to the left, blast away at the ships, and the gold in the walls of the islands there.  Then, go over the waterfall, and go after the pirate ships in the port you find yourself floating in.  You may have time to battle a sea serpent, and of course at the end there's the battle with the other pirate ship.  Our score was the highest for that day, and the crew was quite a scurvy bunch, doing quite a bit of yo-ho's as we disembarked.

It was a good day, and it was a cool day too - we stayed indoors at this place, and didn't get outside into the higher temperatures so much.  When we did go outside, we cooled off by going over to Ghiradelli's for our standard order of ice cream.  Daddy told the employee there that it was Madison's birthday and she loved cherries, so when the ice cream came out, there was also a small plastic cup filled to the top with cherries!

We did some shopping there as well, getting a few books - including a new Kingdom Keepers book.  We also picked up the last Disney Infinity 2.0 figure we need, Green Goblin.  That's quite a funny souvenir from Disney World, but he was on sale, so that was cool.

Anyway, we headed back to the condo quite tired, really.  We spent quite a bit of time at the arcade, and may do so again tomorrow - our tickets are good there for another day.  Whatever we'll do, it'll be fun - we're on vacation!

Thursday, June 11, 2015


This turned out to be our "Star Wars Day" in such a wonderful sort of way.  First, a word about the weather - this week, the temperature soared in ways that would make everyone across the nation extremely uncomfortable.  But not us, not here, ironically in Florida.  The weather started out as overcast with a threat of rain - in fact, there was a bit of drizzle to start out with.  But in the end, it only served to keep things cool for us until the afternoon.  By then, we were quite happy with all that had been done throughout the day, and what a full day it was!

Madison was dressed up like one of th newest Disney Princesses - Princess Leia.  Mommy did her hair in buns and she had the white gown as well - it was adorable.  She got a LOT of comments today about her look, and a lot of people wanted to take pictures with Madison, or pictures OF Madison.  She was just that cute!

We went to Hollywood Studios today, and this time Daddy was determined to get Madison signed up for the Jedi Training Academy.  We waited on line early to get in the park, and then we rushed with all these other parents over to the ABC Studio building there, and waited again - this time for about a half-hour.  But in the end, we walked out with an appointment with desinty:  our jedi training academy reservation.  With a free scholarship too, I might add!

From there, we had our miracle reservation, the one Daddy had been trying to make since January.  No exaggeration there at all.  Since January, I've been trying to get to the Sci Fi Breakfast, where Madison could meet various characters from the Star Wars movies.  At the last minute this week, I was able to snag that reservation!

Right away, Madison snapped a photo with Darth Vader and Boba Fett, the former giving Daddy a fist bump.  This is the proper Sith greeting, of course.  I'm not going to complain, versus having a force choke as a greeting.  Anyway, the meal was wonderful, one that Mommy just loved.  Madison enjoyed seeing the Jawas scurry up and try to steal stuff, or attempt to trade stuff.  We didn't have anything to trade yet, so Madison did her best trying to shoo them off.  We got an autograph from Greedo, what turned out to be our only autograph from the day, actually.  We told him we were his biggest fans, and of course the question of who shot first came up - no answer, of course.  Too soon, I think.  Stormtroopers were patrolling the breakfast, and Madison was keeping an eye on them.  She had the most fun interacting with them, actually.  She kept goofing off with the Stormtroopers, mainly because she was Princess Leia, and they had to be extra careful around her!

After a really great breakfast, it was time to go to Star Tours, which had already an incredible line.  Welcome to peak season.  But once we got past a certain point in the line, we asked if we'd have time to make it through the line, given our time slot with the Jedi Academy.  No, was the answer.  But we had favor, because the employee put us through the VIP line, and straight to the Star Tours.  Madison was smiling big as we soared through Tatooine and the pod races, and then over Coruscant.  Last time we did Hoth and Geonosis, but she doesn't remember that so much.

So we did have enough time to make it to the Jedi Training Academy, and this was the thing Daddy has been waiting for a few years now.  Madison was quite attentive, and ready to listen to her instructor teach her the ways of the force.  It's a good thing she was listening too, because it wasn't much later that who should show up but Darth Maul himself.  Darth Vader returned as well, although he was probably still a bit full from breakfast.  As for Maul, he challenged each of the kids in Madison's group to a Duel of Fates, and Madison was easily able to parry his strikes and drive him back.  Eventually, the group as a whole used an impressive force push to convince the Sith that there would be no victory today.  And with that, the lessons were over.  Madison got her training certificate, and was pretty stoked about battling a Sith lord!

As a bonus, we did a few other Star Wars related things.  For one, while waiting for the training to begin, all the parents were asked various Star Wars trivia questions.  On the line were Fast Pass tickets to the Star Wars ride.  Yes, Daddy and Mommy easily won, as we were easily the most knowledgeable fans in the crowd.  It was no contest, really!  So we got our Fast Pass tickets, and just walked on the ride once again - this time also due to the fact that Madison looked so cute.  Fast Pass gets you so far, and then Madison's costume got us in the VIP line.  We walked right on!  This time, Madison was hoping we'd go to Hoth, and guess what?  We did.  This was very exciting to her!

Afterwards, Madison constructed another lightsaber.  This time, it was purple, unlike the red one she made a few years ago.  Over time, she came to realize that red in the lightsaber world isn't exactly a jedi thing, so Daddy now has the red one, and Madison has a new purple one.  The handle resembles the one Count Dooku used, so Daddy was thrilled to see her make one on her own.  Now there will be plenty of official battles!

We also made a droid.  Madison named him H2-D2.  He's entirely purple, and is a nice standard R2 droid.  Or rather, a H2 droid I guess.  Other than the uniform purple color, the one thing that helps him stand out from the crowd - just in case you have a hard time spotting him - is a large sombrero.  Hats are optional at the droid factory, and despite the Mickey ears being available, Madison went with a big sombrero.

So while we in that area, we did "research" for the upcoming series, "The Quest."  That's an Indiana Jones-themed series, so we went to the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.  And as it has been since the irst time I saw it over twenty years ago, it was spectacular.  Madison enjoyed it quite a lot, as did Mommy and Daddy.  For one, we all got to sit in the shade.  Daddy snapped awhole lot of photos to use later.  We stopped at the souvenir shops afterwards, but there wasn't much we could use for the display case.  We'll get sme stuff elsewhere for that.

From there, we went to see the Muppets in 3D.  We had to wait in line for this, which just goes to show you how crowded th park was today.  It was good as always, and the new thing we saw was nearby, the "Frozen Sing-a-Long."  They did a great job with this show - of course, Madison was really singing along as Anna, Elsa and Kristoff retold the story of their adventures, with the help of the official Arrendel historians.

After that, we were ready to eat again.  And Daddy had made reservations back in January for dinner with this special guy:

Jedi Mickey and all the other Disney characters were there too, all dressed up in Star Wars costumes. The food was good, although not as great as the breakfast, oddly enough.  This was the most that we ever paid for dinner, by the way - it was amazingly expensive.  But the memories are worth it, and the fact that we didn't have to wait in line for so long to meet with each of these characters.  It was a nice meal - we took our time in there, and Madison even had a lighsaber duel with Donald Duck.  Princess Minnie was happy to see Madison in her nice costume, and the Chipmunks are always fun to hang around with.

Andthat was about all we could manage with the heat.  Sure, it was mostly indoors - but the Florida heat is pretty oppressive.  We did have one more place to go though, one Madison really wanted to try.  It was the Twlight Zone Tower of Terror.

Madison and Daddy waited for an hour on this one.  It was her first time, but Daddy's fourth or fifth.  Madison just read a kids book about a big drop ride like this, so she wanted to try it out.  Verdict:  she didn't like it very much at all.  We'd hear that the rest of the vacation!  But of course, it was her idea, and we were very proud of her for trying new things and being so brave.

After that, it was time for the nice leisurely stroll out of there, and a quick drive back to the condo.  It was a very full day, and remarkably full of all the Star Wars things we wanted to do when  planning our visit.  The goal was to go to Star Wars Weekend, and do what we could on this day.  In that respect, we did so much today, more than we even expected.  It was a fantastic day, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...!