Thursday, April 30, 2009

First Date

What three things are missing from this picture?

I'll give you a hint - they're short, often messy, and almost always loud.

That's right, last night Steve and I went on a bonafide date - just the two of us - to see Wicked up in Salt Lake! I bought tickets months and months ago when they first went on sale and decided that, come hell or high water, we were going to be ready for a date on April 29th.

Fabulous, wonderful, saintly friends of ours let all three of our kids hang out at their house for the evening and we really couldn't have asked for a better first babysitting experience for Sasha. She did wonderfully, the boys were (reportedly) very well behaved, and Mommy and Daddy had a fantastic evening enjoying truly the best in musical theater.

Admittedly it was hard to leave Sasha - hard for Mom and Dad, not hard for Sasha who was merrily playing away with a whole house full of fun new toys! She was glad to see us when we got back from the show, but wasn't panicked or frantic, and she was clingy today, but nothing more than you'd expect after an action-packed previous day. I tell you, that kid is a trooper!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Here's Sam's photo of Sasha and me wearing the fabulous hats he created today. Of course, I'm a queen and she's a princess (don't be confused by the marked similarity of the princess hat design to that of the elf hat - they're totally different. This one's pink). I'm not sure if these top the Thanksgiving hats of 2008, but they're giving them a run for their money!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

We Have Arrived

I thought that I had used up my 15 minutes of fame... what with my cameo on What Not to Wear (note: "cameo" may be a strong word here), my insightful man-on-the-street news interview last fall, and my spotlight on the BYU EMBA page (note: please do not actually read the spotlight because I think I sound like a twit, but the photo is super-cute so you should visit and marvel at the headshot and not read).

But the celebrity was only beginning.

I found out tonight that our blog is listed on the blogroll of my personal adoption hero, Dawn Davenport. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that we have arrived. Dawn's work is simply fantastic and all y'all should purchase multiple copies of her book, listen faithfully to her podcast, and dutifully read her blog (all found at Tell her the Morningstars sent you.

Bath Time!

Like many kids who come from institutional care, Sasha's first bath in our apartment in Kaz was a little rocky. Bathing isn't playtime in an orphanage, it's just time to get clean, so the kids don't have any positive associations with being stripped down and sprayed off.

It took Sasha about 2 minutes in her first bath to realize that this could be fun! And now she's a regular water bug, splashing away with anybody who happens to be in the tub with her - usually Ben, who now wears a bathing suit in the tub because he "wants to be like Ned [Flanders]." Oh well, I guess that if his role model (for bathing attire, at least) had to come from The Simpsons, Ned is a good choice.

Monday, April 27, 2009

First Impressions

Sasha's adorable little chubby paws have been captured forever in clay! My friend Amy runs Tiny Touches and she did a really fabulous job with Sasha's hand and footprints. In a few years we'll look at those prints and marvel - was our baby girl ever that small?!? It's a superfun keepsake of our first month together... and the perfect shape (round!) for Sasha's room :)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ben on Two Wheels!

This afternoon Ben came in from one of his daily bike rides and announced that he was ready to take his training wheels off. Not one to squelch a child's ambition, and figuring, "what's the worst that can happen?" I grabbed a wrench and removed the training wheels. It was chilly out, so I took Sasha in to grab a fleece and shoes and by the time I got back outside again, this is what I saw:Wowsers - I guess he really was ready to take those training wheels off!

As we cheered Ben along, he happily chanted out, "I'm the Master of Awesomeness!" which we had to agree with. He did later add that he wasn't perfectly awesome yet, because after all, you need to practice to get perfect. And didn't think he was quite ready for a half pipe (although I'm sure it's only a matter of time - Steve offered to take him to the skate park whenever he's ready). The boy has high ambitions after his first day on two wheels!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dragon Boots

April showers are a whole lot more fun when you have a new pair of Dragon Boots to stomp about in. And adding a pair of goggles certainly does complete the ensemble.

Ben, Sasha, and I went shopping today, focusing on Sasha's needs for simple clothing. Steve and I have been completely bewildered by most of the girls' clothing we have. It's all so particular - like jeans with pink floral ruffles that perfectly match the pink floral shirt but exclude them from wear with a red shirt (terrible example, but it really causes us no end of stress). We had no idea how terribly complicated girls' clothing is. So today I got solid shirts and plain shorts and pants for Sasha... I do so love the cutsie girlie stuff but sometimes a girl just needs a t-shirt! Note: do not allow this to dissuade you from purchasing adorable outfit-set-things for Sash. Those are expensive and delightful and we will gratefully accept them as gifts and supplement them with $3 khaki shorts to safeguard our sanity :)

The goggles came with a pair of swimshorts that Ben chose (I suspect they were chosen specifically because of the "free" goggles) and while at Gymboree our eyes spotted an upgrade to the Shark Boy Boots made famous in such posts as: Ben the Chocolate Monkey Shark Boots Boy, God bless the U.S.A., and The Craziest Child Ever Created. I only hope that the Dragon Boots will be so treasured.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Poppop and La Caille

Popppop (Steve's dad, Spike) was in town this week for a ski instructor academy at Snowbird and Sasha's first interaction with her extended family went simply swimmingly! Sash got to hang out with Poppop three times this week (remember, we still aren't ready to have folks staying in our home, so Poppop had a room up at Snowbird) and definitely warmed up to her grandfather. She even gave him fives by the end of our time together, which I'm sure Poppop was simply thrilled with!

On Wednesday Poppop took us out to dinner at La Caille, a rare and wonderful treat. While Steve drove up the canyon to pick Poppop up, the kids and I enjoyed each other's company in the warm sun and the gorgeous gardens that surround the restaurant.

Of course, Sasha's favorite part of it all was the birds - geese and ducks and chickens and swans. It was Sasha heaven! This picture is of Sasha chasing the geese - her hand is up in the air doing her "duck" sign, easily the most oft used sign in the Morningstar household after "milk."

Everybody enjoyed a fabulous dinner, and the boys even sampled escargot - can you believe it?!? Of course, they didn't know it was a snail at the time, Steve just put a little bit on their plates and told them that if they politely ate a "no thank you bite" they could get dessert at the restaurant. Much to my surprise, both boys decided to sample the gray, gooey substance on their plate and Sam even agreed that it "wasn't too bad." That was, of course, before they knew they had eaten a mollusk. Even with the squeals of disgust (there's no point in being tricked into eating a snail if you can't make a fuss about it afterward) I think they agreed it was worth it for chocolate cake and ice cream.

And Sasha ate just about everything in sight, including a shrimp tail that she got her paws on (she's a fast one!) and a lemon wedge. The speech therapist advised Steve that she may become a surprisingly picky eater after her palate is repaired because she'll be able to sense food's texture for the first time, so we're just going to enjoy our non-picky Sasha for as long as it lasts.

Thanks for the great dinner, Poppop, and congrats on being the first grandparent to lay eyes on your beautiful grand- daughter! We’re sure looking forward to the rest of the Grand Squad coming out!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Breaking Kazakhstan News

This article showed up today in my Google News Alert for Kazakhstan. Google sure does have an exhaustive grasp on the entire world news scene!

Weekly World News (The World's Only Reliable News): Kazakhstan Building Alien Embassy.

I find it interesting that the photo of the alien embassy (I can only assume that's the architect's vision for the building-to-be): looks so much like the Palace of Peace we visited in Astana:Uncanny.

I, for one, welcome our alien overlords. I hope they are pleased by their Palace of Peace/Alien Embassy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Two More Appointments Down

Steve has been a busy Daddy this week and I think that all of Sasha's pre-surgery appointments are now done!

Yesterday was Sasha's assessment at with the speech therapist. Steve said that he really liked the therapist, especially because she was clearly very familiar with the specific challenges of cleft palate kids. I was hoping for some kind of rating (the perfectionist in me comes out!) so I could say that Sasha rated a 258 (not sure what that would be out of, it just sounds like a nice number), but apparently this therapist isn't going to appease my need to be graded. (Lisa Simpson: Look at me! Grade me! Evaluate and rank me! I'm good, good, good and oh so smart! [drops to her knees] Grade meeeeee!!)

The speech therapist confirmed our belief that Sasha's comprehension is progressing well. She understands simple commands and sentences and responds appropriately. The therapist didn't seem too worried about Sasha's limited vocabulary, especially since she can't physically make a lot of sounds yet. Once Sasha has fully healed (around 3 months after surgery), we'll go back to the therapist and start work in earnest. Until then the therapist gave us some materials and ideas to work on but we're not supposed to push Sash to make certain "plosive" consonant sounds (like "t" or "k") until then because the pressure apparently could mess with the sutures. Crazy, eh?

Then today Sasha met with the Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist who confirmed our suspicions that Sasha should have ear tubes. Sasha's ears aren't draining correctly, which is pretty common with her condition, and can interfere with her hearing. We haven't been able to get a really good hearing test done with Sasha, but the results of a test that they did at Primary Children's where a machine blows a puff of air into her ear to measure how the middle ear reacts was enough to convince the surgeon that she should have tubes put in. The procedure is called a tympanostomy tube surgery and you can read about it here.

Apparently Sasha's ears are draining so poorly that - get this - the doc could tell that she drinks a lot of milk because there's milk in her middle ear! Ick! Yeah, that was all the persuading I needed to go for the tubes.

They'll insert the tubes at the same time as Sasha's cleft surgery - May 13th is going to be one big day for our little girl! We've been getting a lot of great advice about the surgery fro other parents and it sounds like the first few days of recovery are going to be really hard. She'll probably stay in the hospital for a day or two until she starts drinking (in our craniofacial doctor's words, they could release her, but we'd just be back in the hospital the next day with a dehydrated kid because she's too miserable to drink) and then most families say that their kids are pretty out of it and clingy for up to a week. Depending on what our doctor thinks, she may have to wear arm restraints for up to a month to keep her fingers out of her mouth, which sounds miserable to me but certainly better than messed up stitches. So we're trying to prepare ourselves for a pretty challenging month while hoping for the best from our amazingly resilient little girl. We know this is the right thing to do... but it's going to be hard!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

And Then There Were Two

Word to the wise - never name any pet Lucky. It's tempting the fates and he/she/it will necessarily meet an untimely demise.

We lost Sam's red chick named Lucky last week. He was the smallest of the chicks, so we figured that if we were going to lose one, it would be him. And it was our fault, of course, they ran out of water for a few hours and apparently baby chickens really need water. Don't blame Steve, though, he had strep and was feeling miserable - chickens were the last thing on his mind. You can blame me, but I was at work all day. Let's blame the name Lucky. Yeah, that seems right.

Anyway, our two remaining chicks are happy and healthy (so far as we can tell, not being chicken experts) and they're getting so big! Now that it's finally getting warm again we can let them outside with the kids, which everybody really enjoys.

In fact, Sam has discovered that the chickens and the rent-a-bunnies (that we still haven't returned) make for a pretty good money-making scheme. If you'll recall, Sam is always trying to make a buck, which he promptly "invests" in Legos. Here are a few examples of past attempts, which always make me smile when I'm not cringing in embarrassment about our son walking up and down the street yelling, "yard sale!": Love of a Sibling, Sam the Entrepreneur. Now he's charging folks a dollar to hold the bunnies and chicks. He made $3 today!

Sasha continues to love the chicks and we are very proud that she has not yet squished one. That's not for lack of effort on her part. She is enthusiastic about the chicks as only a two-year-old can be.

Sasha is getting a little frustrated at the chicks now because they're faster than they used to be and it's harder for her to catch them to give them her "special" brand of Sasha "hugs". I think this bodes well for Slime Tree and Siniy's survival.

One more photo of our beautiful little girl, just for good measure. Look how long her hair is getting! Is it a little odd to you that both Morningstar girls' hair is shorter than that of their counterparts (mine is shorter than Steve's, Sasha's is shorter than Sam's and Ben's)? Hmmm... makes ya think. Mostly, it just makes me think that those guys need a trim!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Finally - Spring!

After all of my complaining about the snow, I figured I better express my gratitude for a nice warm weekend with similar exuberance. We had a beautiful Saturday and took two walks to the park to bask in the sunshine.

Ben introduced Sasha to the baby swings at the park and she just loved them! Doesn't it just take your breath away that she's already two and she just experienced her first ride on the swings?!? We have so many firsts to enjoy with our baby girl!

Sasha liked Ben's energetic pushes on the swing, and Ben even introduced her to the swing phenomenon known in our family as the Underdog (pushing while running under the swing to give the swingee an extra fun ride). She also just enjoyed hanging out, being swayed by the breeze and watching the other kids at the park.

Walking home down our little suburban street I had to marvel at how much I love living here. Two parks within walking distance, flowering trees in bloom, the last of the snow melting in the shade, and an hour with my three favorite little people - it was a sweet afternoon indeed.

Oh, and Ben insisted that I include this picture of him looking super-cool. He donned my sunglasses and asked me to snap a shot and I requested his "coolest" pose - here it is!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

4 Pair for $108

I got some money for my birthday and after a few moments of consideration decided that it was time for a new pair of Birkenstocks. You probably know (and even if you didn't know, you could probably guess) that Steve and I are pretty big Birk fans. I just went up to the closet and snapped this photo - our current total is 15 pairs of Birk shoes and 13 pairs of sandals. And, yes, my "half" of the shoe organizer does take up more space than Steve's "half". And, no, they do not always occupy their little cubbies in the shoe organizer and are usually strewn about the floor in front of the closet.

Anyway, I was the luckiest Birk buyer on earth two weeks ago when I started shopping. I managed to score 4 pair for $108 with shipping! No small miracle, I know. There's an art to Birkenstock shopping - you can find some good deals on eBay or Sierra Trading Post, but I generally buy from Birkenstock Express or Birkenstock Central and I get repairs done by Birkenstock Central or the shoe store in Provo. The real trick is to go a size up and get narrows. I certainly do not have a narrow foot, but the cork and leather stretch out quickly and you can save a ton if you shop for narrows.

I feel like a whole new girl and spent this week designing outfits to show off each new pair. I know that you're dying to be introduced individually to each one, so here goes:

A stunning collection, I know

Desperate Plea for Comments

My friend Mary just authored a fantastic post on her blog. It is entitled Every Time You Read a Blog and Don't Leave a Comment, a Fairy Dies and you should head straight to her blog and read it because she echos the thoughts of every mom-who-blogs (hithertoforth known as MWB) out there. I don't know of any MWB whose heart doesn't jump just a little bit when they get that "There's a new comment" email in your inbox. Yeah, that probably sounds pathetic, but I'll admit to it. You spend hours a week writing posts for your friends and family and probably more than a few lurking strangers, and it's always nice to know that somebody cares enough to jot down a sentence in return.

So share the love and express your appreciation - comment on a blog today!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sasha's Birthday Morning

I've been so caught up in our posts about the veritable blizzard of the past two days that I forgot to post pictures of Sasha's birthday morning! Our tradition is to pile the gifts on the birthday boy or girl's bed while they're sleeping so that they wake up surrounded by the joy of wrapped packages (those without Gifts as a primary love language will never know the sheer glee of this ritual and I feel bad for y'all). Clearly Sasha enjoys the tradition.

The "most unique and freaky princess gift" award clearly goes to Cousins Abby and Xave for the Disney Princess Box Kite on the right-hand side of this picture. Yes, I will take copious photos of the first time Daddy launches this kite into the air.

I think that this photo can only be captioned, "Oh no, more clothes!" For a child who loves to pull every article of clothing out of her drawers multiple times per day, she sure made some funny faces when unwrapping clothing.

Sasha enjoyed the entire unwrapping experience. She was so well-trained by her brothers that she stopped needing their assistance with the unwrapping halfway through her stack of gifts, much to their chagrin.

And we are happy to say that the most entrancing gift was the nevalashka that we brought home for Sasha from Kazakhstan! "Nevalashka" is Russian for "never falls down" and it's a freaky little doll toy that has a weight and a chime in the bottom so that when a kid bats at it, it wobbles around (Weeble style) and chimes away. We fell in love with these crazy dolls in Kaz and purchased one for basically every baby we know (they also come in Sailor Duck, Alligator, Demonic Bunny, Cute Puppy, and Fox varieties. We stayed away from Demonic Bunny for obvious reasons). Actually, we ran into some problems in airport security because apparently they're not used to seeing six nevalashkas lined up in a row in a suitcase and the effect is rather bomb-like.

Anyway, the first of Sasha's Kazakhstan birthday presents was a rousing success and hopefully she enjoys the next 16 just as much (we got a gift from Kaz for each of Sasha's childhood birthdays). Happy Birthday Baby Girl!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Seriously - Spring?!?

I was premature with yesterday's post. I knew that the weather forecast said that we might get more snow today. I had no idea they meant that I would wake up to a foot of snow in my backyard on April 16th!

The downer is that I think we lost one of our tall evergreen tree/bush things in the back. Is it a bad thing if it's "standing" at a 45-degree angle? It didn't break, I think that the weight of 12 inches of very heavy snow was too much for the roots to hold on to in the saturated dirt.

Here's a photo of our sad, sad tree after the snow melted a bit. It's original to the house and you'd think that shrubs would last longer than 40 years... oh, wait, I guess you wouldn't.

And here's your bonus photo for the day: Sasha discovers the delicious miracle of the chocolate Easter bunny. This also illustrates our favorite of Sasha's special talents - the chocolate runny nose! It never fails, give her some chocolate and it will invariably leak out of her nose. I tell you, this kid is just full of surprises!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I think that somebody forgot to tell God or Mother Nature or the weatherman (I'm having trouble making up my mind who is responsible for this) that it's mid-April and it's probably appropriate for it to stop snowing in Utah Valley.

In the mountains it should continue to snow so that Snowbird can stay open until the 4th of July like it did a few years ago... but here in the valley it's time for spring. We're "supposed to" (according to the weatherman) get more snow tomorrow but temps should head to the 70's by early next week. That's good - I'm ready to get out in the garden and enjoy some sun on my face. Besides, Sasha has some adorable new warm-weather outfits that it's time to model.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Surgery Scheduled

Today we had our first appointment with Sasha's craniofacial surgeon and it all went marvelously. Well, she wasn't a huge fan of letting him see the roof of her mouth (or lack thereof), but in all other respects the visit was a success. Dr. Siddiqi was very kind and patently answered all of our questions, Primary Children's Medical Center is clearly a first-rate institution, and we have surgery scheduled on May 13th!

We have lots of doctor's appointments coming the the next weeks and months - a speech evaluation, a meeting with an Ear, Nose, and Throat doc at Primary to decide if Sasha also needs ear tubes (this is common with cleft kids because the jaw doesn't fit together quite right), surgery and follow-ups, and then a meeting with Sasha's whole cleft palate team (dentist, speech therapist, surgeon, etc) in the beginning of June. Whew!

Here's your cleft palate tidbit of the day:
We were really confused about the surgery because some websites we read indicated that if there wasn't gum involvement, the doctor just made some incisions in the sides of the palate and stretched the skin across. This made zero sense to us. But Dr. Siddiqi explained that with cleft palates, all of the ingredients for the palate are there (the skin and muscle), they just never formed a palate. So he takes those ingredients and stitches them together in the way they were meant to connect. Of course, it's more complicated than that and he has to make a few "loosening incisions" (yes, that idea makes me cringe, too)... but the basic idea is that he's taking the palate that's hiding on the sides of her mouth and putting it back where it belongs!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Saucy Posse

We asked Ben if he wanted tomato sauce on his ravioli, to which he responded, "Yes, I'm in the saucy posse!"

Note the similarities in eating habits between Ben and Sasha. Sigh. And I wonder why the laundry bin is never empty.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter, Happy Birthday!

Today we are enjoying new life in all of its forms, rejoicing in the miracle of Easter and celebrating our little girl's second birthday! What an amazing and appropriate way to start our first full year of life together... it's just perfectly right to celebrate the joy of Sasha's birth and adoption on the same day as we celebrate the joy of Jesus' resurrection - the event that made us joint heirs with Christ as God's adopted children! (see the last half of the 12/3/08 post for more thoughts on the parallels between adoption and salvation)

And it's Grammy's birthday, too - how fun! Happy Birthday, Grammy!

We had a full, fun, beautiful day. And, no, Ben did not actually squish the bunny's head despite what looks like it in the picture.

Happy Easter - He is Risen!

ps - if Sasha's dress looks a little familiar, you have seen it before. It was mine when I was a little girl! (see 10/16/08)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sasha's First Birthday Party

It's been so much fun sharing so many firsts with our little girl in the three weeks we've been home (how can it only be three weeks?!?) and today we got to celebrate Sasha's first birthday party! Our little wonder turns two tomorrow and today we gathered with a small group of friends to wish Sasha a very happy second birthday.

Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side. But we would not be deterred! Growing up with an April birthday I had many a rainy birthday party - one would think that in Utah Sasha wouldn't have this problem but we have had a very wet April. Oh well, it was fun nonetheless and the kids certainly didn't let the rain dampen their spirits.

We had the party at a local park (not having people in our house yet does have its inconvenient parts). Steve did a marvelous job decorating the pavilion... in the freezing rain. I think that man's love has no bounds.

We kept the fiesta pretty low-key and only had a few activities - the Easter Menagerie, an egg hunt, and cake. This was fortuitous because it left us ample time to huddle together around the space heaters clutching our hot chocolate.

Ok, "menagerie" may be a bit of a stretch, but it's amazing how entertaining three chicks and two bunnies are! Sure, they're fun to hold and cuddle with their sweet fuzziness, but the real fun comes when one of the bunnies gets loose! Don't worry, he was eventually corralled. I suspect that having Sam and Ben "help" catch him wasn't actually helpful, but it definitely added to the spectator enjoyment.

The egg hunt was also a rousing success, although I am still very unclear on how the roughly four thousand eggs that I took hours lovingly filling and Steve placed around the park could all be collected in about twelve seconds. Steve had the bright idea of a staggered start, which is the only way that Sasha managed to "collect" three eggs. I guess that her haul was proportional to the amount of effort she exerted, however - look at her lazing about while the rest of the under-four set is running hard with their eyes on the prize! Oh, sure, you're going to try and convince me that the fact that she's never seen an Easter egg hunt before and had no idea what was going on should excuse her from exercising a competitive birthday girl edge... yeah, good call.

Well, at least she looked dang cute when she did eventually pick up an egg. Don't you just want to kiss those chubby cheeks all over!?! Can you believe that this little princess is ours!? Amazing, I know.

Once the eggs were opened Sasha did suddenly become a huge fan of the whole egg hunt concept. Note in this photo the mouth stuffed full of Hershey Kisses while she surveys her basket for the next victim.

After the egg hunt we celebrated with bunny cake. I will say that I'm pretty proud of the decorating job on the cake - Nilla Wafer and M&M eyes, coconut ears (I don't like coconut, so Steve and I compromised on coconut on the ears only), Poky Stick whiskers, and licorice mouth. That's one good looking bunny cake!

Sash did need some help blowing out the candles... both because she had no earthly clue what was going on and because she can't blow out of her mouth yet. There are some tricky parts of having your mouth and nose connected more than "usual"! I suggested that she could blow them out with her nose because if she closes her mouth she can blow pretty well, but this idea was voted down because the idea of a two-year-old's nose breath (et al) all over the cake was rather unappealing.

We had a wonderful afternoon celebrating our beautiful little girl with dear friends. Happy second birthday, Sasha!


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