Sunday, January 31, 2016

Kung Fu Panda 3

This morning's service was great from start to finish, as you can see from some of the pictures here that Mommy took.  She's been the photographer for us for some time, capturing moments during the service.  Above, you can see the worship portion of the service, and here below you can see our actors having fun with a skit that was all about Sadness.

It was a morning completely dedicated to the character of Sadness, and it was a whole lot of fun.  This has been a really great series, one that's just flying by already - we've only got one emotion left, and that's Fear next week.  We'll have some fun with that one.

After church, we met with Ye-Ye and Nana, and Aunt Shain and the cousins as well for a trip to the movie theater.  We haven't seen a movie since "Star Wars," and we actually haven't been to this theater in probably a year or so.  What movie did we see?

"Kung Fu Panda 3" was a decent flick, although not as good as the previous two.  Still, the previous two were amazingly awesome, so a step down from that isn't all that bad.  With Chinese New Year approaching, this was a fun thing to do together as a family, filling up a good section of a row, and devouring a whole lot of popcorn.  Aunt Shain had some gift cards, so she took care of the snacks, and everyone sat back for a good time at the movies.  Nana seems to be doing better after her recent shoulder surgery, and everyone enjoyed the movie.

Of course, "Kung Fu Panda" is a big deal to us personally.  It was the last movie we saw before heading out to China eight years ago, and the theme music was right there in our heads as we were traveling to China to meet Madison for the first time.  A few years later, we all saw part two together, when Madison was a little older.  And here we were for part three.  I'm not sure if they're making another part after this, but it's been a great run with great characters and of course a whole lot of China in it.

So one week away, we have the new Chinese New Year.  It's the Year of the Monkey, which is a big deal.  Mommy was born in the Year of the Monkey, so we'll have to do something special.  Maybe go to the zoo or something!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

New Star Wars Poster

This is the new Star Wars poster for the next movie, by the way!  You can see everything is appropriately labeled, and in keeping with the theme of the last poster, the big question is, "Where's Luke Skywalker?"

Yes, Madison likes to doodle a bit.  We'll share this awesome freehand drawing she did of the character Sadness in a bit.  She has doodles everywhere, along with folded paper creations.  Daddy has a few tiny Origami Yodas in his office, and of course the cootie catchers.  Those are everywhere, to the point that we have a tub to put them all in.

So Daddy did have to work today, but it wasn't for long.  We got some things done for tomorrow, and a little bit for the Fear message next week, too.  Madison was doing some work of her own, including her piano homework, and working on that devotional - she's only got a few entries to go, and then she's done!  We're proud of her for both, as she's diligent to get the job done in both cases.  She's got just a little piano to go left for tomorrow, but that's fine.  We've got a little time to get that done tomorrow.

Of course, tonight we saw "High School Musical 3" with Madison, and it was the main event.  It was better than we remembered, although Madison really liked it just as much as the others.  It's been a fun little stretch here, introducing her to these movies - and we have a few more on the way as well.  

Meanwhile, we have finished the Rush Revere book, and are moving on to "A Diary of a Wimpy Kid."  That's a fun, quick read - with more pictures than I thought it would.  But it is pretty funny, particularly the haunted house that Greg and Rowley set up in the basement, charging neighborhood kids $2.00 a person to go into.  

Next book, however, will be a return to the classics.  Mommy found a lot of these abridged versions of classic stories, and we'll dive into these once we've cleared the first Wimpy Kid book.  We'll have a little balance there.  Meanwhile, Madison reads a lot on her own too.  She reads those books, and then there are some books from "Ever After High," and one with "Equestria Girls" as well.  And yes, there's the "Monster High" books too.  Daddy will be reading some of those as well, but again, there's got to be some balance, and it feels great to introduce her to some classic stories, like the Mark Twain ones we were reading earlier.

Shepherd's pie.  Have you had any of this marvelous stuff?  Mommy made some for us tonight, and it just absolutely hit the spot.  Such a good and creative dinner!  

Today we were doing a bit more Disney Infinity 3.0, which is something Madison and Daddy are kind of addicted to lately.  We've been working on our farm, using loyal farmhands like Chernabog.  There are these little sidekicks that help your character out in battling, but then in farming too.  So you have this representation of Chernabog here, the ultimate in evil bad guys, a towering ginormous and dark monster.  And he's small with a garden hoe and a farm hat on with a picture of a churro.  I am not making that up.  Yes, Chernabog has been helping us farm lately, and our crops have been mighty and threatening and … well, pretty decent anyway.

Friday, January 29, 2016


So the "High School Musical" festival continued this weekend with part two, which Madison has really enjoyed a lot.  Her favorite character is still Sharpay Evans, mainly because "she's funny." This has been a big deal for her - she can't wait for movie time each night, to sit down and watch the next installment.  Tomorrow night, we complete the trilogy with part three, and then after that, a solo adventure with Sharpay.  We even have the concert experience, which we haven't seen yet.  But with Madison's enthusiasm, we just might check it out.  And then after that, the one they filmed in China too…!

Daddy had to make dinner reservations today, this time for the Daddy-Daughter Date Night in just a week.  They just announced this, and it was already full in several locations around here, and only five available slots that I know of in one last location.  So, at 1:00 am, Daddy found a place and made a quick reservation.  Next week, we're going to the Daddy-Daughter Date Night.  And just barely, too.  It was funny - I sent an emergency email to our friend Chris at 1:00 am, and he was able to get a spot too.  Last year, he and his daughter went at the same time as us, so it was fun for Madison to have a friend along as well.

This will all be for next Saturday, which is shaping up to be a busy day.  We already have an appointment to make a Valentine's Day-themed craft at Home Depot in the morning, and perhaps after that, we'll be heading over to something Madison hasn't done yet, which is on Daddy's 'to-do' list:  an ice hockey game.  Yep, there's a discount for tickets on this one particular night, and I think we'll try to make it over there.

Today we got the last of the Star Wars messages written, and it would have been 'just in time,' if not for our temperamental fire marshal.  Apparently, it's more of a subjective call on his part as to what is safe, and what is 'in the code,' as there's been a bit of back-and-forth about what is legal and what is not.  To begin with, he made the claim that all styrofoam on our stage was not to code.  Which is odd, because just about every church has it on their stage in one form or another.  So we asked him to find that in the code to show us, and the reply was an adjusted answer:  it's legal, so long as you coat it with repellant (which we heard him say two weeks ago), and so long as (here's the new thing), the coating is applied by someone who is certified to do it.  This all just screams of the sort of thing we had to deal with up north with unions and so forth.  I remember vividly an illustrated sermon in Rochester, New York where I was the spotlight operator who had a choreographed routine to do, and yet I was not permitted to do that choreographed routine because I there was another guy who was only allowed to operate the spotlight there, because in essence I was taking his job.  And, if we used him, we'd have to pay him a lot to do the spotlight, and learn how to do all the stuff that I'd been doing all along rather easily, and in fact had been given a plane ticket to Rochester to do in the first place.  This was one of my first impressions of unions, and given the complete lack of common sense of it all, it was not a good one.  Anyway, as noted before, carpet catches fire and gives off poisonous fumes.  So does plastic.  By extension of logic, these should be banned from buildings too, apparently, unless coated with a repellant.

How does this affect Madison?  Good question!  The new "Star Wars" series has to wait until March, and we have to provide some sort of 'filler' messages to make up for the last few weeks of February.  This is something I loathe entirely:  'filler' services.  Because of all this, we can't do our very best for these kids (including Madison), and we're wasting time.  Because of bureaucratic nonsense like this.

Coincidentally, there is the Iowa Caucus this Sunday.  Madison will be learning about the process somewhat as we move along through the season.  Currently, there is a lot of worry about who the winning candidate will be.  Mommy and Daddy have been watching some of the live rallies in Iowa at night, and there are some good candidates out there.  Or, at least, better ones than what we've been dealing with thus far.  This will be the third President of the United States in Madison's lifetime, and hopefully he'll be the right one.

And… should any of the candidates be reading this, if you pass a law prohibiting certifiably insane fire marshals, you have my vote!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Start of Something New

Next year's "New Year's Eve" flick just might be the one we watched tonight:  "High School Musical."  We were waiting to watch this one until about now with Madison, who we knew would like it.  And yes, sure enough, she really did.  She loved it, and can't wait to watch part two tomorrow night.  The secret is that Mommy and Daddy liked this one too, as did squillions of other people about ten years ago or so.  This was everything with the kids back then, and we made a lot of references to it, and the kids did a lot of squealing about it, especially the girls.  Anyway, it's a good movie, and finally Madison has joined the rest of the squealers, and is really into all the characters, even the minor ones.  Tomorrow night we'll continue with part two, then part three, and then that one with Sharpay on her own.  By the way, that's Madison's favorite character already, which we could have seen that coming.  There's something about that fashionable Disgust character, or Sharpay, or whoever!

This afternoon, we visited Nana at her house, and spent some time at the house.  Ye-Ye was there, and we were dropping off some movies and food as Nana recovers from surgery.  Hopefully she'll be fine by this weekend, but fortunately, Ye-Ye is there by her side for the next few days, acting as a nurse.

Daddy got his shot today again, while Mommy was working on getting some new clothing for spring.  We've been going to a place that trades in new stuff for other new stuff, and it's been working out for us.  Madison saw the clothing when she got home, and like Sharpay, she smiled real big and started trying each thing on, talking about each item.  Mommy did good picking the right items, and we didn't even pay for anything.  They're all a clothing label called "Justice," which I guess is a big deal.  It's an odd name for clothing, if you think about it.  I mean, I hear "justice," and I start thinking of a judge's robe or something.  Or maybe a superhero outfit from the "Hall of Justice."  Anyway, she loves her new clothing.

Can you believe it?  We finished our book tonight.  This presents a situation:  what to start reading next?  These books take so long, and now we're facing a dilemma deciding what to read next.  Stay tuned on that one.  In the meantime, Madison did enjoy this book, and learned about government quite a bit.  Coincidentally, this is what they are learning about in school.  This has been an amazing season of parallels as far as reading and what they're learning in school.  Madison has known answers before the teacher started talking about them, all thanks to these books we've been reading together.

Madison was editing her paper tonight, and 'publishing' it as well. Summer is officially her favorite season now, no turning back!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Madison has a hot cup of tea each morning before school.  And thus, the whole indoctrination of tea is complete.  Daddy isn't as heavy a tea drinker as Mommy is, or her parents.  But he does like a good spot of tea from time to time, especially on a cold day.  Madison is now in that category, hopefully not the addict that Mommy has become over time.    But each morning, Mommy makes her a big cup of tea, and Madison drinks it all down without any fuss or problem.  The funny thing is that she did not always do this with her hot chocolate in the morning - go figure!

Anyway, in this spirit, Daddy had a message tonight to preach in the classroom, and the topic of tea went really well with what we were trying to say.  The illustration involved two bags of tea - one is more immersed in the water, whereas the other one was just dipped once.  Obviously, the one that is more immersed is the stronger cup of tea.  And as Christians, we too are stronger when we're more immersed in prayer, God's word, and visits to church.  Fairly simple message, but a fun one, as Daddy literally made a cup of tea right there in front of everyone in the classroom as he spoke.  Not many other illustrations will let you do that.  Here are the three points:

1.  Tea is best served hot, hot, hot!  You have to boil the water, not just heat it up.  That’s the way we need to stay for God.  Don’t be lukewarm!

2.  Like a bag of tea, we must soak in God’s word, in prayer, in worship, and in church!

3.  Tea takes time to make.  It’s a slower process, but it is worth it in the end!  Just like a good cup of tea, it takes time for us to get where God wants us.  But when we get there, it’s all worth it!

So if you're ever looking for a good sermon that involves tea, or lets you get a chance to make tea as you speak… here it is!

We were spending a lot of time today at work, talking about Summer Xtreme, which is not that far away now.  Just 131 days, to be exact.  Also, more talk about the fire marshal, who is actually is making up his own rules about how what he thinks is safe, versus what is actually listed in the code.

Anyway, today was largely about ballet and school for Madison.  She's writing an opinion paper about her favorite season, which she is convinced is summer.  This might have to do with the fact that there is no school in the summer, and it is her birthday season.  SPEAKING OF WHICH, with our planning for Summer Xtreme today, we plotted out Gwinnett County's Summer Xtreme as well.  This year, Madison is also going to that one, and the first day of Gwinnett's Summer Xtreme is actually her birthday.  So it's a big, big party for her this year, and she'll be going to a new place she's never been to before, Sky Zone.  So that will be nice.

Anyway, lots going on right now until then.  New series coming up fast, and already lots of imperial entanglements.  We're busy, busy, busy this season.  But it's good to be busy, right?  Sure it is!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hospital Visit

Nana is at the hospital today, and her surgery went well.  She had some work done on her shoulder that will hopefully improve her life 100%.  Daddy visited to begin with, and after piano class this afternoon, Madison, Mommy and Daddy dropped by the North Tower of the hospital once again.  We've been here a few times lately, haven't we?  This time, things were looking really well as Nana will be coming out of the hospital tomorrow, hopefully in the morning.

Madison was sweet, sitting on the bed and talking with Nana a bit, and looking through personal devices at pictures and so forth.  Which is when we took this one above.

So we got home a bit later, which meant that the homework that Madison had to do went right up against bedtime.  Nevertheless, Madison has been wanting to play some Disney Infinity 1.0 lately, so we popped in "The Lone Ranger" for a tiny bit before bedtime.  We're still reading at night too, plugging along with this book that we're nearly done with.

But there wasn't much time for anything else today.  A hospital visit and piano class after school - both are important.  Madison, by the way, is doing really well with piano.  She's quick to recognize chords and she's also quick to play things for the first time too - we're really proud of her there.

She went to bed tonight, and Mommy and Daddy went off to visit with Agent Carter once more.  Yes, the routine of Tuesday night.  It was a regular sort of weekday, with a hospital visit thrown in for good measure. But all is well here!

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Washington Post

We missed this one on social media, but the other day, Madison's Christmas picture was put on the Rush Revere site, and just look at the amount of "likes" and "shares" this got!  Yes, that would be a record for any picture we've posted so far.  It was something we sent in a few weeks ago, really just as a way of saying we appreciate the book - honestly, we weren't expecting it to be posted.  What we got in return were a few full-sized posters in a tube, which were pretty cool.  And then we saw this posted as well, so it's been kind of neat to see.  Madison saw herself and grinned - she thought it was all pretty funny.

Yes, we're still reading the book.  It's a longer one to read each night, but it's been good for Madison in a few ways.  Tonight's bits were funny, so she's been laughing at that.  But there's that education that slips in, as by this point we're learning about the Star Spangled Banner, and Francis Scott Key.  Tomorrow night, we'll meet the guy as we keep on with our reading.  But as the book is drawing to a close, the big question is this:  what to read next???

Today we had ballet, which was fun as always.  Everyone is back in the swing of things.  After ballet, there is always a unique 'mail system,' where the instructor puts notices down the back of the ballerina's tops.  Today we got a few bits of mail, including a "Beauty and the Beast" tea party upcoming.  We'll see if that works out with the schedule.

Meanwhile, Daddy has been reading and writing messages for Star Wars, and skits for the "Hooked on a Feeling" series.  Yes, we still have two emotions to go:  Sadness and Fear.  The Sadness skit should be pretty fun, while the Fear one might turn out rather surreal.  We'll see how that pans out.

Madison had some math homework to do tonight, involving tenths and trick questions.  Or, at least it could be a trick question we were reading.  I'm not sure.  It is Common Core, so you just never know.  Meaning, it could have been written in a not-so-bright kind of way!

She's bright though, really.  She reads and reads, and loves books.  Each trip to ballet or music or speech therapy, she reads the entire way there.  Today she was at the school library, and got another "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" book.  That's her current book series that she's into, the one she was reading on the way to ballet today.  Salt crystals lined the steps - it is still cold outside, and there's snow still lingering.  Our BB-8 snowman is considerably smaller outside, pretty much the last bit of snow in the entire neighborhood.  Not many people could make snowmen this time around, although the temperature stayed cold enough to preserve a lot of it in the shade.  You just couldn't do anything with it.  Hopefully we'll get a friendlier snow before too long.  I know the folks up north are not wanting that though - they've had, according to the news, the fourth-biggest snowstorm in history in the Mid-Atlantic states, and Pennsylvania too.  Washington DC in particular is shut down.  Which, and this ties things up rather neatly here, might be a great thing after all.

Moving on, tonight Mommy and Daddy watched "Legally Blonde" again, as a part of our ongoing "Romantic Comedy" movie series.  Although this one isn't technically 100% in that category, it's still a fun movie that we've completely forgotten about.  I guess we're in this Washington DC mood, because the other night we saw "Dave" again (love that movie), and the sequel to "Legally Blonde" takes place in our nation's capital as well.

The reason for the mood I guess might have something to do with the voting that takes place in one week.  It's the Iowa Caucus, which is the bizarre way we do things in America.  For some reason, we let people in Iowa decide who is good enough to be our next President for each political party.  And while that may be a slight exaggeration, by the next week, the folks in New Hampshire vote as well.  And so we have two states that determine quite a bit.  Seriously, by the time Georgia gets to vote on March 1st, there may be quite a few candidates that have dropped out.  Or, the contest may be pretty much over by that point.

Yes, common sense would say, "Why not have every state vote at the same time?"  I am seriously not sure about why we do it this way.  And the truth is that in Georgia, we may actually have some candidates left to vote for this time around.  So that's the answer to the question, really:  Mommy and Daddy will see who's left to vote for when our chance comes around.  But this year is shaping up to be rather interesting politically.  One way or another, there'll be a new animatronic President in the Hall of Presidents next year.  Hopefully one without an animatronic teleprompter.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Liberty and Gus

This morning was a different sort of service, our annual Miracle Prayer Service, the one that concluded the church fast that we've been on this month.  This year, because of Uncle Dave's death and memorial service, we broke the fast last week.  It was just a tough time for the family, but we're determined to make up for it throughout the year.  Madison kept her fast going until the memorial service, when the family joined together and had food provided for us by the church.

Still, all along, Madison has been filling out her DEVOTED devotional, a devotional booklet that accompanies the fast, and gets kids filling out scripture-related questions, while looking up references and stories from the Bible.

This morning's service was shorter for the kids, as they had to be in the classroom earlier - but Daddy has some activities for all the classrooms so that there was something to do there beyond simply waiting for moms and dads.  Madison was there a good bit this morning when you add up the two services.

But she also spent a good amount of time in the service as well.

This picture touches our hearts.  It was taken by Pastor Lance, and has touched many other hearts as well - our daughter is so beautiful and has a heart after the Lord.  We don't take credit for it, although we've done the best we could.  But as any parent will say, there is a whole lot of grace in effect.  In that respect, we are enormously blessed with favor.  Our child has such wisdom and such a good heart for others, and faithful and responsible, and highly rewarding.  Not to mention just plain fun to be with!

This afternoon, we stayed indoors, what little time we had left after the two services.  There was a bit of piano to finish up, and after that a scavenger hunt for power discs.  We have a lot of the 2.0 discs, and these are all great rewards for doing piano, or doing other random chores.  One of today's discs was Gus, a donkey with a football helmet on.  This is from the movie "Gus," which is about as obscure as you can get when it comes to a modern video game experience.  We own the movie, and with all the football going on today (AFC and NFC Championship Games), Daddy was thinking of watching that one.  But Madison wanted to watch "Attack of the Clones," and so there it was.  We had the popcorn again, and were set to do our research, watching something take place "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..."

It is a long movie, actually.  We got to bed a tiny bit later, and we had some time to read from our latest time-traveling book.  We've got two-and-a-half chapters to go on that one, so we're approaching the end.  The characters meet a girl named Maddie, which of course was funny to Madison.  They ran into her at the Supreme Court, which is something we were learning about tonight as we read.  Madison knows there are nine justices now, and knows it is part of the judicial branch.  See?  All kinds of learning going on, and it's a fun read for her too - she likes Liberty the horse, who she has with her each night when we read.

It was a fun day, with a great service in the morning, a bit of rest in the afternoon, and a few equine sorts of characters to highlight the end part:  Liberty and Gus.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

BB-8 Snow Droid

Well, it was somewhat of an unexpected snow, and when we went outside to check it out, it was a rather pathetic sort of snow.  Seriously, you couldn't pack it, and it hardly covered the ground, and on top of that, it was really windy outside and 26 degrees.  Therefore, we couldn't do much.  In fact, we couldn't make a proper snowman at all.  But undeterred, we made ourselves instead a snow droid.  This is our BB-8.  We painted a couple bottle caps, and used a few markers for the paint work there.  Also, a few twigs for antennae.  It came out pretty decent, and is currently rolling around on our front porch somewhere.  The temperature tonight is twenty-six, so it'll be just fine for one more night.

Today Daddy wrote a message, while Madison worked on piano and her devotional.  Also, there was plenty of Disney Infinity 3.0 to tangle with, as Madison has been working on her creative race tracks and special rooms.  Ever since last night's viewing of "Wreck-It Ralph," she's been all about Vanellope, so that's her character of choice lately.

Beyond the little bit of snow mentioned above, we never left the house.  Mommy was doing some straightening upstairs, while Daddy wrote this message about the jedi.  In fact, here's the description below, something that actually took a bit of time to develop.

     The most important characters in the Star Wars universe would have to be the jedi knights.  They are guardians of peace and justice throughout the galaxy, given amazing power to serve something greater than themselves.
     It’s not far off from what we as Christians are called to be.  Consider this:  the jedi knights have a code, and know they simply cannot do certain things that can lead to the dark side.  Yoda told us a jedi craves not these things! 
     But as Christians, neither should we. We are in this world but not of it, a royal priesthood.  We must be mindful of our thoughts, and stay away sin, the dark side.
     A long time ago in a land far, far away, there was a servant named Elisha who learned these things and more.  He was like a padawan, serving and gaining wisdom from his master Elijah.  Always two there are – a master and an apprentice.
     As you grow in your faith, God will put in your life people that you can learn from.  There are mentors, pastors, teachers and parents, all with something you can be taught.  As you listen to and learn from them, your faith will grow, and the Lord will continue to prepare you to become a master yourself!
     So, are you ready to step out, and become a force of light?  There are many crying out for someone to save them, and you are the chosen one.  That’s right, God wants to use you to bring others out of the darkness, and into His marvelous light.  Don’t worry:  if you have a heart for Jesus, you can do all things.  Just follow the Master, and He will lead you on.
      Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn once wisely said, “Your focus determines your reality.”  What that means is simply this:  if you want your reality to be a Christian life that God is pleased with, then you must put your focus on what matters most.  Focus on learning, serving others, and staying away from sin.  But above all, focus on following the Master.

Madison wanted to watch "The Phantom Menace" tonight, which we did, with a healthy dose of popcorn on top of things.  Here we go, starting with the later trilogy, the first three episodes.  She hasn't seen the darker Episode III, so we're sort of bracing for that one.  She's tougher than we think though.  I mean, if she made it through that one part of Episode VII, then I guess she'll be okay here.  It's just that the entire movie is pretty dark, compared to the other entries in the series.  Actually, Daddy has only seen it twice, I think.  Which is a whole lot less than the others.  

Anyway, afterwards, we did our typical reading - we're still with the same Rush Revere book, although we're getting closer to the end.  Madison is learning a lot about the branches of government lately, which has been great of course.  She's also doing her devotional, the one where she writes in her answers to various entries this month.  She's almost done with that one, in fact, and we're really proud of her for sticking with it.  So much so, that Daddy feels another reward coming on.  Not sure which one.

Meanwhile, this tiny snowstorm here... has moved up to the north to be something very serious.  Of course, they all make fun of us over a little bit of snow, and our reaction to it. all those up north who like to poke fun of us down south... how's that working out for you now?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Surprise - no school!

We slept in this morning - go figure!  There was no school, despite the atmosphere looking essentially as it did last night before bedtime.  This was a complete surprise to Mommy and Daddy, who did not see that coming.  We thought for sure the kids were coming in today - but the weather forecasters must have seen something.  The Governor has issued a state of emergency for us, but ever since a few years ago, he's been forced to issue states of emergency for even the slightest threats to the roads.  It's just that 'state of emergency' usually means an earthquake or tsunami or something.  But no, not in Georgia.  We have states of emergency a few times each January-February.

Anyway, Daddy went to work, and all was normal for a while.  The temperature was at 35 or something like that.  But the catch was this:  at 3:00 today, it did in fact start to precipitate with ice and sleet.  There was ice coming down in such a way that even Daddy came home from work a little early, just in case.  Sure enough, there was a tiny bit of slipping and sliding - we got home just in time.

There was hope that the snow would accumulate to something meaningful, but that simply didn't happen much.  There was a small layer of snow on the ground, so that amounted to something visually, but that's about it.  Oh, and of course it was cold.

Madison had plenty of school work to do in the meantime.  A snow day isn't what it used to be!  As long as there's electricity and an internet connection, the kids have assignments to do online.  That's just what Madison was doing today for a good portion of the time.  There was also a bit of piano practice, and of course her devotional she's been working on.

When Daddy got home, it was time for a bit of fun though.  We did have the fire in the fireplace going, as sometimes our feet take a bit of time to warm up.  Tonight, Madison wanted to watch "Wreck-it Ralph," so we popped in that movie for a bit before bedtime.  Daddy is still reading her that book before bedtime, by the way.  It's a long one!  But it's a good one, as we've been talking about the Supreme Court and now the American Flag and Francis Scott Key.

Speaking of which, this is the big year.  This is the year that Daddy and a few buddies will audition for the singing of "The Star Spangled Banner."  Or, at least I hope we do.  We've been talking about it for a while, and thought it would be fun to get together the guys at KidPak for a special version.  We'll see how that turns out, but later on next month, there are auditions.

So the snow is sort of falling, although not much.  Again, at least it's something.  Hopefully we'll have more later on, more to build a nice snowman and maybe even do some sledding!  We'll see how it goes!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Goodbye Mrs. Courteny

Despite the amazingly cold night and icy precipitation last night, we still had school this morning - this was a surprise that we weren't even going in later.  It just warmed up this morning, just enough to get us all to school for the day.  The temperature was 35, and that was hard to argue with.  Driving out to school, we could see there wasn't really a problem with the roads whatsoever.

So early we rose, and early we started, spending the day cleaning up.  Madison had fun returning to school today, and meanwhile Mommy and Daddy were inside mostly, moving things about the house, cleaning up, and writing messages for the upcoming Star Wars series.  This is taking a long time to do, which is surprising, as this is the sort of theme that should have been easy.  The problem, I think, is that there is so much to write about.  Also, it's always a bit of a process.  Sometimes, a thing is easy but it doesn't feel exactly right.  And so it gets tweaked over and over again until at last there is a flow we can walk away from.  So far, we have about six messages written, and have two to go.  Also, there's a devotional that needs to get finished - lots to do still along those lines.

Madison had speech therapy again today, and for today, it was the last appointment with Mrs. Courtney, who Madison has loved all this time.  They really enjoy time together, so much that Madison was very sad to hear this would be their last time together.  Still, she understands what's going on, how Mrs. Courtney has just gotten married and needs to find a new home.  That explanation from Mrs. Courtney worked well, and the two happily parted this afternoon, after a longer visitation than usual.  And yes, there was a nice picture for us to look back upon later.

It was a good night tonight, with homework to do, more reading about the Constitution, and a little bit of piano practice as always.  There was a bit of Disney Infinity 3.0 as well, and leftovers from the food this week for dinner.

But the end of the night was a surprise.  Madison was already in bed - and we had no idea this was going to happen - there's no school tomorrow!  Yes, there's supposed to be ice and snow in the forecast.  It must really going to happen, if they've already called the day off.  You think it'll snow tomorrow?  We'll find out soon enough... right now, Madison doesn't know.  We left a note over her alarm clock, the one we turned off, one that reads:  "NO SCHOOL TODAY!"

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

In Memory Of

This afternoon, we had our memorial service for Dave, pictured above with his family.  He was 51.  Despite the threat of icy roads, and the time of day and location this service took place, a lot of people showed up.  We were there at noon at the Browns Bridge Community Church - Madison was with us for her first memorial service/funeral.

We had a pastor speak, and there was worship music in between.  Another pastor spoke at the end, and thrown into the mix, there were things that were said by family:  Jonathan and Hannah above, Ye-Ye spoke as well - and so did Daddy. This was the outline of what Daddy shared today, which went decently enough.  Parts of Daddy's email announcement were in these words.  Daddy was nervous, but it all worked out:

When Dave passed away, we were all there.  Just like we were in life.  Through holidays, special events and moments, it was always this family unit working together, or celebrating together.  It was as if Dave was waiting for me to get there, so we could all be together last time.

When I was asked to say a few things, I was struggling at first - where to begin?  And that's when the obvious answer occurred to me:  start at the beginning.  Now don't worry, I'm not going speak about the twenty something years I have known him.  But I did want to share something that I myself hadn't thought about fully in some time.

My name is David - yes, another David.  My memories of Dave are many, especially this week as we poured through so many old photographs and happy occasions.  Dave was a good guy.  He wasn't perfect, but none of us are, of course.  Dave was always into sports.  Therefore, he had absolutely nothing in common with the rest of us.  Seriously, he would want to talk about college football, and we would be doing our Yoda impersonations.  Still, we found common ground in our Christianity, and of course our politics, which he was always quick to bring up at the big family meals, despite the contrary leanings of our grandmother.

I will remember him most though, for being so amazingly bold with his faith.  He was a guy who could walk up to complete strangers and start telling them about Jesus.  Dave was the type of guy that instead of just saying grace, would pray a five-minute message in the middle of a public restaurant, thanking God before everyone at McDonald's, O'Charley's, Disney World, or wherever.  To this day, I secretly envy that.

About the time I met Dave for the first time, I wasn't going to church.  I wasn't running from God, but I certainly wasn't running to Him either.

In fact, I thought my life was pretty stable, especially when compared to my sister!  But she had a remarkable conversion, and was suddenly the angel of the family!  I remember one time visiting Dave and Shain in Oklahoma early on, and they were putting in Jessie Duplantis videos, and secretly praying for me of all people.  Like I was a sinner or something!

Now I didn't have a pivotal, singular moment returning to the church.  But something remarkable did happen, and there we were, just as it has been:  all of us together.  You see, Dave wanted to be a pastor.  He wanted to start a church, and to begin with, WE were his congregation.  My friend Chad joined us, and together we all helped set things up each Sunday, only to tear it down that afternoon.

The congregation never expanded beyond the people listed above.  And the question could be asked, "What was the fruit of all that?"  I mean, after all, Jesus told us, "You will know a tree by its fruit." (Luke 6:44).

It's a fair question.  And the answer is simple.  To quote the father in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding:"  "We're all fruit!"  WE were the fruit.  I went to that church for a season, and the next church I started going to is the one I attend now to this day.  In fact I work there, where my wife and I have created the curriculum for thousands of children.

This is not in anyway to glorify myself at all.  But I'm not sure if I would be in this direction today if it were not for Dave's crazy idea to start a church.  What path would I have gone down if not for Dave's vision?  As I look back this week, I realize that yes, I am a fruit!

Not too long ago, Dave and I had a conversation about Christmas movies.  He told me one of his favorite movies was "It's a Wonderful Life."  And as I was looking back this week, and thinking about what to say, my wife and I remembered a line from Clarence the angel.  He said this:  "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"

Today we gather around to look at a pretty big hole.  And this week, I am seeing more and more of the fruit of his life, of his purpose here on earth.  As Dave passed away, I his remarkable children, all raised up and strong in faith.  We'll miss him terribly, but because of our faith, we don't mourn as others do.

We'll see Dave again someday.  And until then, this family will do as it has always done by staying together.  Because God is taking care of us, just as He is taking care of you now, Dave.

We'll all see you soon enough.  It's just one more thing to look forward to in heaven.

After the service, we went to the house for a bit.  We had a slide show made from pictures of Dave over the years, ones we've scanned on our computer here.  There was pleasant music and a nice atmosphere, as nice as we could make it.  There was a fire in the fireplace, and our church took care of a tremendous meal for the whole family, one waiting here at the house for us.  We sat around and talked, and shared stories, all the while the weather got a bit worse outside.  Fortunately, everyone got home safely.  Just as with all things, the temperature only got below freezing - and unsafe - after everyone got home in time.

Madison was gracious at the memorial service, welcoming everyone and thanking them for coming.  She was so diplomatic.  But during the service, she was in tears.  It hurt her to see others in such pain, and she was empathizing with everyone else during the service.  But she did very well.  We hate that this happened, of course.  But she couldn't miss it, as we are family.

This week, we're one less in our number.  But we're still family.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

National Popcorn Day and Beyond

Today was National Popcorn Day, although to this household, pretty much every day is National Popcorn Day.  As if we need to have another reason to eat popcorn.  But there it was.  Tonight, we sat down to the next Kung Fu Panda movie with our big tub of popcorn.  Yes, there it is again. If you did a search query on this blog using the word 'popcorn,' I'm afraid it would not be terribly helpful, as the word is used in nearly every day's entry.

Today was Tuesday, and it was a weird one.  For example, we had a fire marshal visit the office to begin with.  This guy was different from the last fire marshal, in that the one we've been used to has been more New Testament, and this new guy is clearly more Old Testament.

Here's an excerpt from an email I sent out, dealing with the aftermath:

     We've had a visit from the fire marshal this morning - and it wasn't pretty.  One side effect of the visit was this information:  you can't have styrofoam on the stage unless it is coated with some sort of fire repellant.  This brings to mind a few questions:

1.  How come styrofoam is bad, but carpet is good?  Both produce poisons when burned.  And carpet actually catches fire, whereas styrofoam... melts.

2.  Aren't stores like Michael's and Hobby Lobby violating the fire code as well?  They have shelves full of styrofoam.  And what about florists?  Those places have got to be fiery explosions waiting to happen!

3.  Who is paying this guy off?  Is it another church, or is it a fire repellant company?

     Okay, jokes aside, a scheduling problem rose up:  we cannot start Star Wars on February 7th.  It is looking more like February 14th, so we can coat the styrofoam with fire repellant as well.  Or, at least so someone else can.

     THAT SAID, we want to do the message for Sadness on January 31st, and the message for Fear on February 7th.  But I don't know if we can do a skit on February 7th, because I'm not sure if everyone can be there.  Is this something you can let me know?  Can you all be here on February 7th?  Let me know, please!

Check yes or no:

❏  Yes, I'll be there!
❏  No, sadly I have other plans that very day!
❏  Let's set fire to JoAnne's and see what happens!

PS:  Also as a helpful friendly reminder from your local Fire Marshal:

A.  It is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS to have a standard Yankee Candle Company candle in a jar.  This is apparently because part of it can actually catch fire.  Rather than risk this awful calamity, if you are looking for a way to disperse a pleasant fragrance, we recommend this:  purchase one of those ridiculous wall spraying things that seems to know when to spray you in the face each time you walk by.  Breathing that in is surely much more safe than having a deadly candle of death.

B.  Do you have extension cords in your house?  You might as well have a nest of poisonous vipers!  Throw these cords of doom out immediately, as they are merely tools of the devil, designed to introduce your home to the flames he is so familiar with.

So yeah, that was the theme of the day.  There are electricians coming in, no doubt happily paying the fire marshal off a little from the money they're making for moving electric sockets from point A to point B.  The humor of one of the sockets is that you have to now literally cross my office in the darkness to get to the light switch.

We had piano after work today, and Madison has been doing well there.  She's learning a piece by Anton Dvorak, his "New World Symphony."  She plays that, and all Daddy hears is the song from "Little Einsteins" about Rocket needing a home.

Until recently, he didn't know the name of this composition.  It's called the "New World Symphony."  If you haven't heard this tune before, or watched "Little Einsteins," you may have heard it playing before appearances by the New World Order in the wrestling ring.  Yes, before Scott Hall, Hulk Hogan, and Kevin Nash would start thrashing opponents, they'd get the crowd all riled up with a stirring rendition of the "New World Symphony."  Good times.

Okay, so tonight's homework was about King Midas.  Yes, Madison read the classic warning fable about the good king whose very touch turned everything to solid gold.  The moral of the story is to be happy with what you have, which in this version of the story, he did learn just to be just that.  Madison read that, and we were thinking back to the movie "Aladdin and the King of Thieves," which had a character that learned the same thing.

We helped Madison with this, and then soon after the movie and homework, and time with her devotional, it was time for bed.  We got ready for bed tonight, and read our book that featured more learning for Madison - Rush Revere and his crew were at the Constitutional Convention.  We've been pretty happy with this book.  While I would assume it the topic was somewhat dry, Madison is still listening very well, and learning about the Senate and House of Representatives.

Madison went to bed tonight with a smile on her face, not worrying about turning things to gold with her touch, without visits from the NWO, and even worse, without a visit from the fire marshal.  Mommy and Daddy went to bed tonight with smiles on their faces, as tonight was the big premiere of "Agent Carter."

Monday, January 18, 2016

Gund Lovie

It was MLK Day today.  An aside from listening to U2's old song, "Pride," we didn't do much to remember Martin Luther King today.  Perhaps some day down the road we'll head down to Ebenezer Baptist Church, and sit in the old wooden pews and listen to his voice as they replay his old messages.  That sounds actually pretty amazing.  But for now, it's cold outside, and there's work to do here as we set up for the family coming over soon.  The memorial arrangements are in place, and today KidPak has offered to pay for food for the family afterwards, catered by a nearby place that serves things gluten free.

We did have ballet tonight, which was quiet - and cold.  While Madison danced, Mommy and Daddy got a lot of grocery shopping done, with that vision of eating meat and sweets again just around the corner.  We decided to break our fast for the family gathering this week, as we all gather together and have a meal after the memorial.

It got cold outside, and there are hints and allegations that there may be some winter weather coming our way in a few days.  We'll see how it goes, but all that is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, right about the time of Uncle Dave's memorial.

So today was about putting away lots and lots of ornaments and lugging lots and lots of things downstairs, as we completed the Desantafication Process, for the most part.  Madison was helpful on and off, and also doing some reading as well.  But she also spent a lot of time creating race tracks with Disney Infinity 3.0.  Some of her best friends on the television are Mater, Francesco, Holly and Lightning McQueen.

We did our usual reading tonight, and snuggled under all kinds of big and small blankets.  It's going to be very cold tonight, with the temperature feeling like five degrees tomorrow.  For Georgia, that's cold.  So out come the blankets!  One of Madison's bedtime companions now for the past seven years is something called a Gund Lovie.  Daddy only really took the time to look it up tonight, which is sad in a way.  It is just a lamb/blanket, and we have mentioned it here before.  But when we had Madison in China, another family came up to us at the Majestic Hotel in Nanning, China.  It was really nice what they did - they handed us this lamb as a gift for Madison.  And she's had it ever since.

It turns out there was a name on the bottom of the lamb, or at least a series of names.  And tonight, we looked them up online - this Gund Lovie was a gift from the Brownlee Sisters, who are also adopted from China, and who sell all kinds of things to raise money for a few other children who are still in China.  Of course, we'll have to get some things from them now!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Stick to the Code!

Madison's reward for doing her piano this week was a couple power discs left with Daddy by none other than Spider-man himself.  Actually, he didn't get this discs - he got a cryptic note that looked like this:


And if you figured out that her first disc was by her alarm clock, you figured right.  She got one of those decoder things for Christmas, the ones where you write in blue and red and orange, and then look through a red 'decoder' to see only the blue letters.  Daddy remembers these when he was younger, and so when this came around for Christmas, we thought it would be fun to leave a couple notes just like the one above, scattered throughout the house in a scavenger hunt.

We had DISGUST this morning, and it was just a great service overall.  The bottom line was a simple one:  "Sin is disgusting."  But the characters were spot on, as were the movie clips that complimented the service.  We filmed kids this week, all so our POV character could interact with them and set up a situation for our main character to have to deal with.  It went really well, and Madison and the rest of the full crowd really seemed to enjoy the morning's service.

When we got home, we did some more cleaning of the house.  We're having to dismantle Christmas one area at a time, and with the events of last week, we're somewhat behind in that regard.  In fact, this might be the latest we've ever really made progress taking things down.

The weather, by the way, is getting colder.  And it is windier too.  That said, we were primarily indoors today, after church at least.  Madison was working on her piano a bit, as we said earlier, but she's also been very faithful to work on her fasting devotional.  It requires a bit more effort than simply reading, and she is quick to hit the computer and look up scriptures and ask questions of us to get the right answers for her booklet.  We're so very proud of her - she's got such a heart.

We closed the day out a little later, playing Disney Infinity 3.0 of course.  We've finished one playset, "Rise Against the Empire," and were also tackling "The Force Awakens" as well.  But there's a lot more to do with the game, as Madison has been spending some time building worlds with race tracks and obstacles.

We went to bed a little later tonight because we don't have to get up so early tomorrow.  But still, we were tired when we eventually did hit the sack.  It's been a full day, but most Sundays are when you consider how long we're at the church.  But we still had some fun when we got home, and tomorrow, we'll have more time together, and more fun on another day off.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Jedi Training at the Mall

Starting this week, if you're out of line at Lakeshore Mall, you run the risk of dozens of tiny jedi padawans whacking you repeatedly with foam lightsabers.  It's part of mall security's plans to bring the light side back, and possibly take over the galaxy.

We signed up for this a couple weeks ago, and were glad we did, as the event was full.  Lots of kids were there, and some were dressed up as Rey, or Darth Vader, or in Madison's case, Princess Leia too.

The event was pretty much a duplicate of what they do down at Disney, only this one was at Lakeshore Mall.  This is not exactly a galactic sort of atmosphere, but I suppose it's better than Mustafar, or the inside of the Death Star's trash compactor.  And the costumes, as you can see above, really were pretty good.  I'm not sure if these are members of the 501st or not, but the costumes are great.  And then on top of things, there was the lightsaber battle.

Madison constructed her own lightsaber, and was given the color yellow to work with.  Yes, yellow.  You remember all those yellow lightsabers in the movies, right?  Anyway, she did very well in her battle against the Dark Lord of the Sith.  Interestingly enough, she battled Darth Maul this summer at Hollywood Studios, and didn't get to fight against Darth Vader.  So it was pretty cool that we got to spar with Darth Vader here at the Lakeshore Jedi Outpost.

And... it was free.  So no complaints here at all - Madison had a great time making a lightsaber and fighting against Darth Vader.  And Daddy had a great time watching.  Lots of kids showed up, and everyone was in awe of Darth Vader as he walked in.  It was fun!

The rest of the day involved yes, scanning.  And a bit of work at the office.  We're planning another installment of the "Hooked on a Feeling" series tomorrow, which features a theme of Disgust.  This is Madison's favorite character, and I like the direction we're going with it, because the whole concept of 'disgusting' really will draw the boys' attention in.  Yes, it'll be one of those services!

Friday, January 15, 2016


Aunt Shain, Hannah and Nana came over to visit, along with many old photos of Uncle Dave.  We were just about to watch "Kung Fu Panda," so we made a night of it, watching the movie while Daddy went through scanning and fixing up all the old photos.  We've got plenty more boxes of photos to look through, but Madison had a nice time sitting next to Hannah and Nana on the couch, devouring the usual ginormous bowl of popcorn.  It just so happened that we were finished with the scanning just at the end of the movie, so that all timed out rather well.  With the Chinese New Year celebration upon us, we usual dip into our Chinese-themed movies, but this one is more special this year:  part three is coming out in a few weeks.  Hopefully, we'll all get out to the theater to see it.

The weather has been nicer of late, although a cold snap is due us.  I think that's going to be coming this weekend, actually.  We don't know where snow is in the forecast, but we're all of course just wanting at least one day of a really good snow.

Daddy was at work today, and Madison had school.  Mommy has been feeling better lately, which is just great.  The fast may have something to do with her doing so well, although we've had a noticeable lack of energy this month.  This could be because of the cold, and a desire to hibernate!

Anyway, it's a slightly busy season here, and I've got to get back with the scanning...

Thursday, January 14, 2016


We did have some homework today, but no speech therapy, and therefore a bit of extra time.  This is what Madison has been wanting to do, play a game at the kitchen table.  And so, we donned our Fibber glasses, and had our first official game of Fibber.  Mommy won easily, but the truth is we all won, because the game was a lot of fun to play.  Plus, everyone looked silly with those glasses on.  It was a Disney version of Fibber, so that added an extra element for Madison.  But it really was a nice game.

Before bedtime, we've been time traveling some more with the latest Rush Revere book, and having a more in depth conversation with the Father of the Constitution, one James Madison.  It's been an interesting read, as we've learned about his personality and what it was exactly that he did before becoming President himself.  Daddy is pretty fascinated with the man, and after a tiny bit of research, we've discovered that yes, Madison is actually named after the man in an indirect sort of way.  Okay, it's a really indirect way.  Here goes:  Madison was named after the mermaid in "Splash," who was named after the street in NewYork, which was named after the fourth President of the United States, one James Madison.  So it is with great interest that we've been learning about James Madison, and the more we read and do research, the more there is to like.  It's utterly amazing the influence that this one man has had on our government today, although I'm sure he'd be scratching his head from time to time about the random abuses of power.  Each night, we're reading a bit, and Madison and Daddy are learning about the Virginia Plan, the New Jersey Plan, and the Connecticut Plan.

And don't get me started on Madison's memorization of all the states.  She randomly just starts listing states, and I am fairly certain she could name them all if she kept up with the ones she'd already said.  Daddy can do the same thing, sort of traveling in his mind from one to the next.  So yeah, he's impressed.

We've been scanning photos, and spending a lot of time looking for photos in old albums tonight, all of this for Uncle Dave and his upcoming memorial service.  It will be next week, and Daddy has been asked to say a few things.  It is so surreal that he is gone.

Caravan of Courage

So we did a bit of 'research' here, watching an old Ewok movie that we've had in our basement for years, and yet still not brave enough to watch it again.  It's nowhere near as bad as the Star Wars Holiday, but it was made for television in the 80's on a significantly lower budget.  And yet, Daddy remembers watching this as a kid, waiting and waiting for that big moment when it started on television.  This was a huge deal to us, because that was basically the next filmed event to be shared with us after "Return of the Jedi."

I remember being saddened about Chukha-Trok's sacrifice, and fascinated with the giant wolf boar things.  I don't remember the terrible acting, and I don't remember the narration by Burl Ives, which both were actually pretty fun elements this viewing.  I haven't seen this since it was on television that fateful night, and so it was with great expectation that we popped the popcorn, and sat down to return a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

Madison actually really enjoyed it.  And Mommy and Daddy have never had a problem with the Ewoks either.  Recently, Madison has been playing on Disney Infinity 3.0, running around and exploring the Endor stage of the game, conversing with Ewoks.  We noticed a few references - easter eggs you can call them - to "Caravan of Courage" inside Disney Infinity 3.0.  They mention 'wisties.'  Now, up until watching this movie, I had no idea what wisties were.  I didn't remember that far back.  But now I get the reference, and it just makes the game that much richer.  Following that rabbit trail a bit further, there are references to Dash Rendar, and a few places where you can see his ship, the Outrider.  These are from "Shadows of the Empire," and it's just great the game developers snuck those in there.  We were all playing games in the 90's!

Anyway, it was a short night.  Daddy had the day off, and had to make a trip to the funeral home this morning to assist in any way he could.  There'll be a memorial service next week, and until then, we'll be gathering some pictures of Dave for a slide show of sorts.  It's a state of shock we're in, where reality hasn't quite settled in.  Looking through all these pictures, it's hard to believe this tall, healthy looking guy isn't here with us anymore.  You can almost hear his voice, and with the political season we're in, you can hear it even stronger - at least in your mind.  He was very outspoken about issues, and his mannerisms were things you can picture too.  The pictures bring joy, and yet this sadness that we can't just simply go over and visit anymore.  He's gone from us for a while.

"Brothers and sisters, we want you to know what happens to those who die. We don’t want you to mourn, as other people do. They mourn because they don’t have any hope.  We believe that Jesus died and rose again. When he returns, many who believe in him will have died already. We believe that God will bring them back with Jesus. "
1 Thesalonians 4:13-14 NIrV

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Dave Berry

We lost Dave tonight.  Here's the email Daddy sent out earlier:

This afternoon, Dave's sons felt strongly that he would pass away tonight.

We went to the hospice today - I got there at 7:15 or so, and met with our immediate family:  my parents, my sister, and her three kids.  That was it in the room.

My dad was thanking me for bringing up the concept of forgiveness earlier, as apparently earlier the entire group had made peace with Dave, letting him know they forgave him for any incidents along the way, but also letting him know how much they love him.  

We were there by his bedside, just talking as always.  The entire time, his breathing was labored - short, hard breaths.

Our conversation veered to events from as many as eight years ago, about forgiveness again, and that's when my sister noticed that he had stopped breathing - his breaths were sporadic, and then suddenly, just as it had all of our attention, the breathing had stopped completely.

The time was 7:50.  It was as if he was waiting for all of us to be together one last time.  We're a small family, and these sorts of gatherings are what we do several times each year.  And here we were again for one last time.

Dave's oldest son and his wife Shain jumped up to his side, and the oldest then went to get a nurse.  She came in, listened for a heartbeat, and told us all he's almost gone.  It was time to share our love, and give him our last messages.

His sons told him how much they loved him.  My mother told him she'd see him again in heaven someday, already weeping.  The oldest was already crying, although the other two siblings were silent, probably in the same frame of mind as myself:  is this for real?  How could this have happened?

The nurse pronounced him dead at 8:01.


Tomorrow, I'll need a day off, I think.  I am going to the funeral home to help cover the expenses of a cremation, and death certificate and so forth.  My dad was calling different funeral homes tonight, trying to get the most affordable place he could.  It is amazing the salesmanship that you have to endure when your loved one just passed - it just seems so uncomfortable to me to try and sell all of these funeral perks to a person who just faced the most horrible tragedy of their life.

Dave was a good guy.  He wasn't perfect, but none of us are, of course.  I will remember him for being so amazingly bold with his faith.  He was a guy who could walk up to complete strangers and start telling them about Jesus.  I'm so amazingly withdrawn, the polar opposite of that.  Dave was the type of guy that would pray a three-minute message in the middle of a public restaurant, thanking God before everyone at O'Charley's or wherever.  He went to Rhema with Shain in the 90's, and that's when heathen David (me) went to visit the newly married couple in Oklahoma.  They were showing me Jessie Duplantis videos, and praying for me in secret, the sinner that I was.  Since when did I become the sinner in the family?

I never had a dramatic comeback to the fold, but I did start going to church again soon after.

Dave started a small church when he got back - that was his dream.  He wanted to be a pastor.  My friend Chad and I helped him set up, and followed him from week to week, part of a faithful congregation that was made up of me, Chad, and all the people above in that room tonight.  We worked hard, but it just didn't expand beyond that small congregation.  Still, there is a purpose to everything that God lines up.  I was looking for a new church after that, and it was the early 90's.  The next one I would go to is the one I still go to.

Dave found other jobs afterwards, and one the family suspects might be the cause of this:  a pesticide company.  Did he use those chemicals correctly?  We'll never know the cause, as no one will ever know the cause of all the cancer in the world.  It is a terrible thing.

Dave was always into sports.  Therefore, he had absolutely nothing in common with the rest of us.  Seriously, he would want to talk about college football, and we would be doing our Yoda impersonations.  Still, we found common ground in our Christianity, and of course our politics, which he was always quick to bring up at the big family meals, despite the contrary leanings of our grandmother.  

These last years, the Dave I knew was buried in work.  With three kids, he did his best, frequently juggling two jobs to make ends meet.  He worked long hours, and missed out on a few family occasions along the way, due to his busy schedule.

It was around this time last year that he found himself too busy to go to a doctor.  But the symptoms kept getting stronger.  He was a young guy, so what could it have been?  Digestive troubles?  Allergies?  A food intolerance?  Something with one of those organs inside?  Whatever it was, it didn't line up with God's word.  And that's the way it was, having been to those church schools of Oklahoma, those 'name it and claim it' sort of places.  He had such faith, again, something bigger and deeper sometimes than I ever had.

And yet by Easter, it was apparent something was really wrong, and he needed to really see a doctor.  But by that time, it was probably already too late.

But what is too late?  To God, that is?  We believed, we prayed, and we hoped.  This is the sort of thing that Zena made it through, and had a miracle even this past summer.  So Dave would make it through also, and things would be great.

He looked terrible Christmas Eve.  That was the moment we realized that everything wasn't going according to plan.  Just a few weeks before that, he lost his job - and he was told he'd be taking chemotherapy for the rest of his life.  

He just gave up.  And none of us have been in his shoes, so we can't point fingers or judge.  We could only pray for God's will, and that Dave would find peace.

I think he found that peace tonight.  I know, as I looked at his body that Dave was no longer in it.  I've heard stories about spirits floating out, looking down at themselves and around the room before going off to heaven.  Perhaps he was looking at us, looking down upon what used to be his mortal shell.  At that point, I strangely thought this, and was no longer looking at his body myself.  I was looking up and around, and letting him know that his family is in good hands.  We'll take care of those three kids.  We'll take care of his wife.  God's got this here, and He's got you now.  

We'll see you soon enough, Dave.

Monday, January 11, 2016

It's Soup!

It's a season of soup, and Mommy makes some great bowls of soup.  Seriously, these are things you look forward to almost as much as Thanksgiving dinner or hamburgers on the grill.  Okay, we'd better stop talking about those right now, as we're all on a fast.

ANYWAY, we had a bit of soup today for dinner, and it's just the perfect recipe for a cold winter day as today.  It's not terribly cold like it is up north, but it's all what we're accustomed to.  And lately, we've been accustomed to a warmer climate, rather than the chilly temperatures we're supposed to be enduring.

And so into the fireplace went the logs, and the electric fireplace was on while Madison practiced piano a bit.  Daddy did quite a bit of writing for the upcoming "The Spirit Awakens" series today, nailing down two messages already.  In the meantime, Madison had ballet once again, settling down into the weekly rhythm of things as we did before the Christmas break.  Ballet had plenty of kids this time, as everyone is back from their various vacations.  We've got one coming up soon, actually.  It's a quick trip, one we'll describe later.  But it will be a fun trip for sure.  Let's just say we made the reservations today for Tony's on Valentine's Day.

Tonight, we didn't have as much time due to all the homework and piano and the devotional that Madison has been filling out.  It's so touching to see her attack this daily fasting devotional, as each entry requires answering questions, looking up scriptures and spending some time in thought before writing out answers.  On top of that, she's learned to look up scriptures online through a website that Daddy uses, and she does this on her own to read the guided passages.  It's just fantastic to see.

We did do a bit of "The Force Awakens" tonight on Disney Infinity 3.0, but didn't have time for much. Afterwards, it was back to the time-traveling book series we've been reading, and then off to sleep.  It was an early night for Madison.

Meanwhile, Mommy and Daddy watched "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" once more, part of our own ongoing series of romantic comedies each night.  It's such a fun movie, and of course there's a sequel coming out in a few months.  Hopefully it'll be good, but it's pretty neat to see the entire cast return.  We'll get our bottles of Windex ready!