Sunday, May 31, 2009

School's Out

Friday was the boys' last day of school and both of them came home with excellent compositions about their favorite memories of the school year.

Ben's is especially cool because it's his first journal entry that he wrote entirely on his own (he usually copies over the teacher's writing in highlighter). It reads: "My favorite memory this school year was popcorn and brownees" and it includes a delightful drawing of a very happy Benjamin chowing down on brownies as he exclaims, "Mmmm."

And here's Sam's journal entry on his major learning points from the year:
5 things I learned this year.......
1. that the nematode is like a worm
2. tri means 3 and bi means 2.
3. Teachers Rock! not
4. I like school next to teachers and (turn page)
5. I like the nematode 50-25-25 most.
Apparently Ben's school year revolved around food and Sam's learnings centered on sarcasm and worms. Yep, sounds like my boys!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Baseball Season

You know that we Morningstars have a passion, nay - an obsession, with organized sports. Any given Sunday or other day of the week when sporting events are televised we're glued to the sportsy station, cheering on our team(s) and eating appropriately themed snack foods... ok... I can carry the charade no further. So we're not really sports people, but for the last few years we've roused ourselves from our sports-phobia and enjoyed six magical weeks of t-ball. This year we took it up a notch.

As you can see from the clipboard and pensive pose, Steve is no longer merely Dad - he is now Coach Steve. Heh heh heh, I giggle a little on the inside just writing that. He's actually really great at it and the kids love him, and t-ball is right up his alley since there are really no rules or points involved and you've achieved stellar coaching success if your first baseman can throw the ball halfway to home. Unsurprisingly, he's the only coach I saw today wearing Birkenstocks.

Despite having a raging case of strep throat, Ben had a pretty good time at his first t-ball game of 2009 (we Morningstars won't let a little infectious disease keep us from the sport we love! Ok, that's not true, we didn't know he had strep till we finally went to instacare this evening and Ben and I got antibiotics. Groan. I'm so sick of being sick!). He whacked the ball with gusto and kept the grass firmly attached to the field by sitting on it during all of his time in the outfield. We are also proud to note that unlike his teammates who were chasing after the ball in large clumps of be-sneakered feet and tiny baseball mitts, Ben never once fought his teammates for control of the ball or even rose to attempt to retrieve it when it rolled near him. Way to share the spotlight, buddy.

Sam's first coach-pitch game came right after Ben's t-ball game. It's kind of a pain that they're not on the same team, but Sam is really enjoying the heated competition of coach-pitch. My heart swelled with pride today when, after warm-up time, Sam's coach called, "Ok, kids, over to the dugout!" and I heard my son's voice above the crowd asking, "What's a dugout?" We should probably get Sam some sort of "Kid's Guide to Baseball" book so he can brush up on his vocabulary... I'm not sure that Calvin and Hobbes is providing enough educational value on the baseball front. That's ok, I had an equally embarrassing moment when I asked another parent if it mattered which side of the bleachers we sat on. Apparently one's simply supposed to know these things.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Mom, Look What We Can Do!

If you have boys, you know that the words, "Mom, look what we can do!" insight only fear and dread. You pray that whatever new discovery they're going to show off a) includes no incendiary devices, b) is legal in the majority of the lower 48 states and c) will be survived by at least one and preferably all children involved.

Here was today's feat:Ok, I've gotta admit, that one's pretty cool. I do not, however, want to know how they discovered that they could accomplish this acrobatic display.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

He Has Eyes!

The haircut was a bit more extreme than I was planning on... but between Sasha crawling all over me (wearing her fleece pants while I was cutting Ben's hair - ick! Those pants were downright furry by the end!) and Ben squirming, this is the haircut we ended up with. Oh well, it'll grow out soon enough. Besides, short hair is nice for the pool - right? And Ben doesn't seem to mind the unintended sheering, he's just glad that his hair no longer trails in his chocolate milk glass as he takes a sip.


After:(and, no, that's not a bruise on his face - it's a tattoo)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Peek-a-boo Perfected

Sasha has been working industriously on her peek-a-boo skills and I think she now has them honed to perfection.

Here's the one-handed hide:
A full, barely-peeking two-handed hide:
The peek:
And the jubilant celebration after a game well played!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How I Spent My Memorial Day

How I spent my Memorial Day:
Dismantling my brother's rubber band ball to make beautiful bracelets

Showing off my mad two-wheel skills

Practicing my budding two-wheel skills (we blame an over-exposure of Calvin and Hobbes at a young age for Sam's temporary difficulties in mastering riding without training wheels - click here to read more)

Honing my most recently acquired skill - snapping (and with flair, no less!)

Reading the awesome Roald Dahl treasury that Mom got for me in England

Catching another Roald Dahl volume on the road (don't ask me how he can walk and read at the same time!)

And a good time was had by all. Three cheers for a quiet, relaxed holiday weekend.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Splendiferous Day in the UK

I'm now home safe and sound from London and am surviving the jetlag and desperately enjoying being with my family again. A week is a long time to be away! I got home yesterday night (well, I guess it was this morning) at a little after 1 am but am feeling good and even made it to church this morning.

The kids are all in great shape - nary a scratch in my absence! And Steve survived, too, although he keeps muttering in rather desperate tones how glad he is that I'm home. Sasha won't let me out of her sight, but she doesn't seem too traumatized by my absence. It always feels good to be appreciated :)

Friday was an amazing day. We finished training in the early afternoon, in time for me to make a pilgrimage to Great Missenden, England. What - you've never heard of Great Missenden?!? Well, it was the home of my favorite author in the whole widest world, Roald Dahl, and the location of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.

The museum is fabulous and the next time you're in Great Missenden you should definitely stop by. It's geared for children and has a lovely set of interactive displays, storytelling activities, and loads of information about Dahl's fascinating life. Here I am sitting in Dahl's chair, thinking up brilliant blog postings for you amusement. You can't not be inspired sitting in the chair of such a genius!

Great Missenden is a charming spot and I gladly took the "Roald Dahl walking tour of Great Missenden," which included the home that inspired Sophie's orphanage in The BFG, the filling pumps from Danny the Champion of the World (my favorite book of all time), and Matilda's library. Completing my afternoon, I had tea and a scone with cream at Cafe Twit, the museum's restaurant, and found aniseed balls just like Dahl described in Boy at the town tobacconist! Sitting at the station waiting for my train to London while sucking on aniseed balls and writing a letter to an old friend was a moment of great contentedness that I shall not soon forget.

My evening in London was also very nice, although I'll admit that the congested streets of a Friday night on the town were a bit much for this suburban gal. I managed to find a quiet nook where I enjoyed a panini, mango smoothie, and glass of red wine while reading a newly acquired Dahl volume (Going Solo, it's been ages since I read it) and after that I felt much better.

I rounded out the evening with tickets to Chicago, which was thoroughly enjoyable. And, no, the irony of traveling to London to see Chicago is not lost on me, but there were four of us and it was the only big stage production that none of us had already seen. The production was amazing - what a fantastic end to my week in the UK!

Friday, May 22, 2009

May Flowers

After all of those April Showers, I feel compelled to post some May Flowers photos before the month is over! Here's our lovely, green back yard (this is a double-edged sword for Steve... green is healthy and fun to play in, but also means that the lawn mower has to run far more frequently) complete with apple blossoms and hanging baskets.

The lilacs outdid themselves this year and were simply beautiful. I love the way they perfume the whole back yard, although I'll confess that I had to immediately throw out the bunch that I brought inside because they sent Steve and me into sneezing fits. Oh well, they're prettier on the bush than they are in a vase anyway.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Jamie in London

I'm in London for the week for work, which is cool but I believe immediately disqualifies me from any "Parent of the Year" awards - those will all have to go to Steve for single-handedly wrangling our critters for a whole week! Of course, the work aspect of the trip tends to cut into my sightseeing time significantly, but I did have some time to tool around Sunday since our plane landed at 8 am and I had to stay awake somehow!

For only having a couple of hours to tour about, I think I covered quite a bit of ground. At least, my legs sure told me so the next day :) Here are a few choice shots of the day:
The obligatory phone booth shot

Big Ben and the Westminster Bridge (that one's for you, Ben! And, yes, I did get a box of sweets shaped like Big Ben just as you requested!)

London Bridge (I didn't make it into the Tower of London, but at least I did see the bridge)

St. Paul's Cathedral, where I couldn't help but sing the Little Old Bird Woman song from Mary Poppins. I watched a lot of Mary Poppins as a child and it served me well as research material for my afternoon in London, much like Mulan helped me in China.

The Globe Theater at intermission - I caught a lovely matinee of Romeo and Juliet and pined away for my own star-crossed lover

I'm spending the week in Aylesbury, a little town about an hour outside of London. I don't have any great photos of Aylesbury yet since I spend the vast majority of my time in not-particularly-scenic conference rooms, but you will be happy to know that I got a healthy dose of English countryside tonight at dinner as I ate bangers and mash at a local pub. Now if only I could shed my horrendous American accent, I would blend perfectly with the locals :)

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Fond Farewell to the Chicks

Our two remaining chicks, Slime Tree and Siniy, have moved on to a better place. It amuses me to no end to tell the kids that we took the chicks to a nice farm in the country and really mean it!

We decided that it was time to get rid of the chicks because:
  1. They had grown to the size of small raptors and were constantly getting out of their "coop" (cardboard box)
  2. They could run so fast that Sasha could no longer catch them to try and squish their little heads as she "loved" them (no idea why they learned to flee so swiftly!). This was very frustrating to her
  3. With Sasha's surgery coming we wanted to remove one more complication from our lives
  4. They stank
So on Wednesday morning before Sasha's surgery we released them into the yard for one more play time/photo session before saying goodbye. I'm not sure how, but Sasha managed to corral the chicks into the house. Much hilarity ensued as she "helped" Steve get the chicks back outside. Then we scooped the chicks back into their box and they were off to their nice new home in the country!

They were good chickens. I hope they make good eggs. And if not, I hope they make good chicken nuggets. Just kidding! Everybody knows that egg-layers make for lousy eating :)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Three Months a Morningstar

Three months ago today this incredible little lady became Alexandra Grace Morningstar. It's simply astounding to think of the changes she has experienced in the past three months - new language, new home, new mouth, and for the first time ever a family to love and care for her and a mama and papa devoted to her for a lifetime. Everything Sasha knew, everything familiar to her has been turned on its ear!

We are blown away by how quickly and joyfully Sasha has adjusted to her new life and are filled with gratitude for our daughter.

Of course, we have our times that feel like far less than the fairy tale we know we're living... or maybe they just feel more Hans Christian Anderson than Disney - both fairy tales, but one style significantly stranger and less sparkly than the other. Steve and I joke that we manically oscillate between "This is just incredible!" (picture us saying it with starry eyes and huge smiles) and "This is just incredible!" (picture this one with deep dark tired circles under our eyes and the desperation that only a two-year-old can bring out in a parent). This is hard work!

But she's worth every tired night and tantrum soothed and meal frustrated ("What do you mean you don't want yogurt and are now throwing its goopy stickiness to the floor in disgust?!? Thirteen seconds ago you were in tears writhing on the floor because life simply could not continue without yogurt!"). She's worth it all - not because of the sweet smiles and soft cuddles and exuberant hugs and silly faces made just because she likes to see us laugh. Those things are wonderful, but they're not why we love her. We love Sasha because she is ours. She's worth it all because she's our daughter.

These first three months have been incredible. Alexandra Grace, we are grateful for every day we get to be your Mama and Papa. Happy three-month Gotcha Day Anniversary!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Robin Watch

There's an aspen tree right outside of Sam and Ben's window and a few weeks ago the boys cam running down the stairs to gleefully announce that there was a bird nest outside! They've been watching the nest from their window and eventually identified the bird in question as an American Robin, thanks to a songbird book that Sam has from long ago (here's a photo of Grammy, Ben, and Sam on a robin stakeout). I'm actually pretty impressed that they could figure out the bird's species from the toddler board book on birds - I wasn't giving that book enough credit for its educational value!

And lo and behold, a few days ago the boys had a new discovery - evidently there were eggs in the nest (we couldn't see in very well, so we didn't know that) and now there are three robinlets! We've had lots of fun watching the scrawny baby robins crane their necks and peep about asking for food. We're not exactly sure how three baby robins and a rather large mama robin all fit in that nest together - it must be cozy!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sam the Author

Lately Sam has really gotten into nomenclature books at school. They're little subject-based books that he makes, illustrates, authors, and proudly brings home to show off. Most of his creations so far are about the parts of something, such as the parts of a seed or a tortoise or a nematode (an unsegmented wormy thing, I came to learn).

Here's Sam's explanation:
Nomenclature books are pretty much books that you identify what color the covers are supposed to be by the rim of the book that you're copying from. Blue stands for geography, and red stands for zoology, and green stands for botany, black stands for geometry, and yellow stands for history.

I do nomenclature books cause they're not too hard, but good work. There's a picture on one page and a sentence on the other. Each page describes a part of what you're writing about in the nomenclature book. Drawing the pictures isn't too hard depending on what the book is.
Did that explanation clear it up for you? Oh well, at least it was an amusing little discourse on nomenclature books.

Here's my favorite book so far: Fundamental need of Humans: Defense. Just check out the cover illustrations of military technology through the ages - inspirational! I'm not totally sure what the flying tongue there under "Defense" is supposed to be, but I'm inspired nonetheless. My child will soon surpass me in artistic ability.

This is my favorite page from Fundamental need of Humans: Defense. It reads: perhaps the most important of the ancient greek weapons was the hoplite or foot soldier. No, I'm not totally sure what that means, either, but it's got a killer (heh heh, get it? killer?) illustration. Great work, Sam!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sasha Released!

We got home at 4 pm today - fewer than 24 hours after Sasha went into surgery! She was doing so well that the docs and nurses agreed that we could take her home as long as we are careful that she drinks plenty of fluids and stays hydrated. Wahoo!

Sasha obviously did really well in the hospital today - Dr. Siddiqi's resident checked in on her in the morning, removed the despised tongue stitch, and remarked one more time on the width of Sasha's cleft (do you detect a theme?). She enjoyed some Spaghetti O's for lunch and after that they removed all of her monitors and wires so that we could go on a walk and enjoy some freedom. And once Sasha realized there was a big wide world outside of her hospital room, there was no going back! She ran up and down the corridors and had a blast greeting the various dogs that were visiting to cheer up the kids. They even let us give her a bath to wash off all of the gunk from the previous day. The only times she got mad were when we tried to prize the yogurt cup from her vice-like grip (she kept dozing off and spilling the yogurt - gross) and when we tried to get her back into the room after our walk - no way was she going back in there!

So a little after 3 pm we packed up and were out of there! As you can see, Sasha was a little groggy in the car, but she had a nice nap as we drove home from Salt Lake and filled her many prescriptions and she perked right up as soon as we got home and she saw her brothers.

And here's our "sick little girl" this evening - can you believe it?!? She comes home 24 hours after having her mouth hacked apart and decides to learn to climb up the ladder to the playset all by herself! She just amazes me. I fear that she may have inherited Ben's monkey-climbing gene (I believe that's carried on the paternal side). Don't worry, we'll keep her off of the really high acrobatic equipment until she's off of the loopy pain meds.

Here are a few other shots from our happy reunion this evening:
Ben shows off his apple-tree dismount

Sasha eyes up the next trick on her list of things to learn

A pleasant evening swing - now this is the pace befitting a little girl who just came out of surgery!

Quick Sasha Update

What a difference a day makes! Sasha is still pretty groggy from the Lortab (blessed, blessed Lortab) but she's been eating pretty well and has discovered a new passion for Fig Newtons, as you can see from the picture.

We had a pretty decent night's sleep, despite the beeps and vitals checks and all of the other lovely things that they do all night in the hospital. Everybody seems optimistic that we'll be able to go home today, so we'll see how that all turns out.

Sasha has one stitch that they'll remove today that's keeping her tongue from falling to the back of her mouth with all of the swelling (this is standard - it's the string you can see coming out of the side of her mouth). After that, they'll decide if she's healthy enough to go home! We definitely appreciate your prayers for rest and recovery. The folks here at Primary Children's have been great, but there's no place like home.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cleft No More

Today will not soon be forgotten in the Morningstar family! It started well and ended well... the middle part wasn't quite so good but hopefully that part will fade from memory quickly.

Sasha's surgery was scheduled for 2:30 pm and she wasn't allowed to eat all day. I thought that would be truly awful, but to be honest it was rather disconcertingly fine. Steve has a theory that since her meals were so regimented at the baby house, she hasn't yet learned to listen to her body when it comes to being hungry and full. I'm not sure if that's true or not, but you would think that a two-year-old would have strong negative opinions about not being fed all day and Sash just took it like a champ. We kept her busy and distracted and she did ask for food a few times, but surprisingly it was never a battle.

We got to Primary Children's Medical Center at 1:15 and went through the intake process just fine. We were told that the doctor was running a little behind (no big surprise there) and had a good time playing in the pre-surgery waiting room. Then we were told that the doctor was running a lot behind and we probably wouldn't get in to surgery until 4. Sigh.

But Sasha was fabulous. She happily blew bubbles, ate bubble solution (she wasn't supposed to eat or drink, but I don't think bubble solution counts), took rides in the little plastic cars, and otherwise occupied herself for the full 2 hour wait! What a kid.

At 4:00 she had a sedative and her craniofacial doc and ENT (Ear Nose Throat doc) chatted with us about the procedures. By that point she was really loopy and was happy to lay down in the wagon and go with the anesthesiologist. It was go time!

Steve and I made ourselves comfortable in the parent's waiting room and just a few minutes later the ENT came out and told us that the ear tubes went in just fine and she has infections in both of her ears (not super-surprising, that's the whole reason she's getting the tubes) but that the normal drops they prescribe after inserting tubes should also take care of the infection. One procedure down, one to go!

The cleft palate repair took another two hours, but it all went just as expected and the plastic surgeon was able to get all of Sasha's mouth parts into their proper place. He remarked again about how wide her cleft was - we just responded that when we Morningstars commit to something, we go all the way!

He was able to get the whole center part of her palate just where it belongs, which is awesome. Right now, it sort of looks like she has a strip of plate down the center of her mouth and she still has gaps on either side, but Dr. Siddiqi said that's normal and those gaps will heal right up in a couple of weeks without additional surgeries.

After meeting with Dr. Siddiqi after he was done with Sasha's surgery, it was time to go get our baby girl from post op. Begin suckiness.

As she was sedated, the swelling in her mouth from the operation started to obstruct her airway, so they gave her meds to wake her up from the anesthesia instead of letting her rouse naturally. Those meds immediately flushed all of the pain meds and sedatives from her system, which meant that she was feeling everything. I walked into post-op past this kid screaming bloody murder thinking, "wow, I'm glad that's not my kid" - you guessed it, that was my kid.

Of course, the choice between a breathing baby in pain and a baby who isn't breathing is an easy one to make! We spent the next two hours with a screaming, hurting, bleeding, restrained, miserable, and angry Sasha trying to calm her down and keep her blood oxygen levels up. It was awful. Really, beyond words, awful.

But we have a great nurse who worked really hard to find the right meds that were safe for Sasha and kept the edge off of her pain and by about 9 pm she had finally calmed down enough to sleep. Her pulse has stopped racing, blood pressure is normal again, her oxygen levels are doing great, and she's finally at peace.

So we're hoping that tomorrow will be a whole new day. She already had a few ounces of apple juice to drink, which is awesome, and we're allowed to feed her mashed potatoes if she wakes up and is hungry. The arm restraints come off tomorrow, which is fantastic because Steve and I were expecting her to have to wear them for weeks. We may be discharged tomorrow or we may need to wait until Friday, we'll just wait and see what tomorrow brings and how quickly she bounces back.

It's so funny - she already sounds different! Even her crying doesn't sound like it used to. Before surgery, I was sort of mourning her cleft. That probably sounds insane, but it's been a big part of the Sasha we know and love and I was sad to see it go. But now that I hear the beginnings of what her little voice is going to sound like (granted, those beginning were mostly screams, making it all slightly less touching) I know that this is right and good.

We definitely appreciate your prayers for good sleep tonight and fast recovery. It would be great to go home tomorrow, but if it's better for her to stay until Friday then that's ok, too.


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