Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Celebrating Poppoppop

The five of us were blessed to spend the weekend in Virginia Beach for Poppoppop's memorial service. There were lots of fun times at the beach and reuniting with family - the weekend was bittersweet as these things always are, and probably should be. We all miss Poppoppop, and the celebration of his life can't be separated from the mourning of his death. As we saw in the tremendous turnout for his memorial service, he loved and was loved by so many people; we are grateful that his life is part of our heritage.

Here is a Poppoppop's obituary, it does a wonderful job summarizing my grandfather's eighty years:
Donald R. Reinhart VIRGINIA BEACH
June 17, 2009 marks the day that this truly remarkable man lost his battle with cancer and transitioned to heaven. Don lived 80.5 fulfilling and happy years. He grew up in Pennsylvania and graduated from Penn State in 1951, majoring in chemical engineering. After marrying Jean E. Koch, he moved to Maryland and spent 43 years developing and selling industrial paint finishes. Don and Jean were happily married for 53 years before she passed away in 2005. Atlantic Shores in Virginia Beach became his home in 2006. Don was dedicated to the community and served on the board as a resident director. Last year he humbly received the honor of "Resident of the Year." Don took great pleasure in helping others. He celebrated life daily, maximized every moment, and enjoyed the beach and traveling. His passion was collecting and repairing antique clocks. Kite flying was an avid year-round pursuit. His nicknames included "Kite Man" and "Father Time." Don's fascination with the world along with his wit and wisdom will long be remembered. Many will cherish Don's memory including Donna Reinhart-Bourgelas (daughter) and her husband Tom; and Scott Reinhart (son) and his wife Marcia; grandchildren are Jamie Morningstar (and her husband Steve), and Ryan and Jake Cahill; great-grandchildren are Samuel, Benjamin and Alexandra Morningstar and Anthony Sands. Of special mention is Don's dear Friend, Louise Wilson.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

We've Created a Monster

She's officially a strawberry-a-holic, folks. Nobody is allowed to even think about touching the colander until it is emptied and the toddler is covered in sticky redness. We've created a monster.

Just a girl and her colander of berries:
At least she's offering to share (in one picture):
I had to include this photo because I love this particular Silly Sasha face:
Poor, hungry Sasha searches for more berries after she and Mama devour them all while sitting in the playhouse. An extraordinarily sweet way to pass the half-hour before bedtime :)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer Flowers

Confession: my flower gardens are a total mess this year. I know, it's been a crazy year and I should just be grateful that I am often able to stand upright unassisted, but I still wish that my gardens looked tidier.

But, if I take artfully-framed pictures of the flowers from so close that I need to use the macro lens, you just see the flower and not the "garden" all around it! So this year you will see my gardens from aa distance of three to six inches. Trust me, it's better for all of us.

In the "she won the battle" category, the strawberries are no longer in danger of being completely strangled by morning glory (the bane of my existence), so maybe there's hope for my gardens yet. Of course, Sasha's a lot more supportive of my time in the strawberry patch than she is of my efforts to weed the flowers. Oh well, the gardens (and hopefully the neighbors) will survive one year of less-than-pristine flora in the Morningstar yard.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Chef Sam

You know your kid is growing up when he's big enough to prepare his own grilled cheese sandwiches. You know he's really grown up when he's making enough sandwiches for the whole family! And you know it's time to stay away when he's brandishing a knife at you for a photo - at least it's only a butter knife!

Between Sam's mastery of grilled cheese and Ben cooking his own quesadillas (granted, he uses American cheese and microwaves the tortilla, but it still counts as cooking in my book) our meal prep days may be over!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bela at Red Butte

We love outdoor summer concerts, and this year's season started with a bang last Sunday with Bela Fleck and Femi Kuti at Red Butte Gardens.

Waiting in line to enter was... wet. Waiting for the concert to start was... wet and cold. But I've dedicated far too many lines in the past month's blog posts to bellyaching about our weather so I'll leave it at that.

The important part is that by the time our favorite banjo master took the stage the skies had cleared! Bela played with a kora player from Mali, which was a very cool combination. We've never been disappointed by a Bela Fleck concert and even the rain and redonkulous cold (oops, I forgot, I said I was done complaining about the weather) couldn't dampen our spirits as we enjoyed the world's greatest banjo player in action.

The concert was a double billing and after Bela was done, Femi Kuti took the stage. Before Sunday we weren't familiar with Kuti's work, but it was a delightful concert that got us out of our seats and grooving with the beat (it was that or succumb to frostbite). The music was infectious fun, but we all agreed that it was the background dancers that we will remember. Gyrating around in the freezing cold in their teeny tiny fringed skirts and bikini tops and bare feet... well, it's just a scene that sticks with you.

It was a great start to our summer concert season! Now if we can just get some sun for the next concert...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Back up to Six

You knew we couldn't hold out for long - we have selected the newest member of the Morningstar family! We put thought and research into the decision and finally chose to go with a puppy even though she'll be a lot of work in the beginning. And not just any puppy, we finally decided that, despite the sissy name, a labradoodle is the right dog for us.

If you're unfamiliar with labradoodles, they're a cross-breed between labrador retrievers and standard poodles (those are the cool, big poodles, not the sissy little freaky ones - no offense intended to sissy little freaky poodle owners), making for smart, friendly, very trainable dogs that don't shed. Each of these characteristics stands in stark contrast to Nesbitt who, God rest her soul, wasn't particularly intelligent, hated most other dogs and the vast majority of people, and shed constantly. We know that we were responsible for most of Nesbitt's idiosyncrasies and look forward to starting over with a blank slate of a puppy who is genetically predisposed to socially acceptable dog behaviors.

We are all thrilled with our puppy-to-be. She's only five weeks old now, so she won't come home for another couple of weeks. This is fortunate because it gives us a chance to read up on all of the "how to not screw up your dog" books that the library offers.

It's also given us time to decide on a name for our new pup, which has been no small task. We were committed to a Russian name and after trying several on for size we've finally settled on Chornaya, or Chorney for short. Chornaya is the female version of "black" in Russian, so it's sort of like naming her "Blackie." It sounds more creative in Russian :)

And although we are all looking forward to bringing home the sixth Morningstar, Sasha is clearly the most excited. The girl is dog-crazy! She had to kiss every puppy in the litter and here's a picture of her giving Chorney her 10th or 20th peck of the evening. We figured that if the chicks could survive Sasha's "love," a puppy should have no problem... right?

Sasha is so enamored that she has started demanding that we put Chorney's photos up on the computer screen so she can give them kisses. Now that's some serious puppy love!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Chatty Sasha

Five months ago today we met our beautiful Alexandra. Just look at this shy little girl we met in January! And we knew then, just as we know now, that this girl was our daughter - not our by biology but by choice and love and the grace of God (far stronger reasons than mere biology in my book!).

And look at our zany, beautiful girl today! It is hard to describe the changes that have blossomed in Sasha over the past weeks. Between a mouth that's working for her and clear hearing (thank you, ear tubes!) Sasha's real personality is spilling out - and she is full of it (personality, that is)!

I wouldn't have believed it was possible five months ago, but our daughter is a chatterbox! Sasha was a sermon illustration today in church and as soon as she saw her picture displayed on the screen she punched her little fist in the air and started loudly chanting, "Sasha, Sasha, Sasha!" (well, it sounded like, "Gagah, Gagah, Gagah" but we knew what she was saying - her excitement left little room for confusion). She mimics us all the time and most of her signs are now accompanied by vocalized words as well. Besides her near-constant babbling, we catch her running around the house repeating phrases to herself like, "Good job, Sasha" and, "Yay Sasha!" It is adorable.

Sasha has even mastered the use of a straw! And we did a little experiment last night and confirmed that if we feed her copious amounts of ice cream very quickly, she even gets brain freeze :) Go repaired palate!

We are so grateful for our joking, affectionate, energetic, babbling, crazy little girl. And what a joy to celebrate the five-month anniversary of our relationship on Father's Day!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Wet Wedding

Last Saturday we attended the rather moist but very lovely wedding of a friend from church. The weather wasn't cooperative for an outdoor ceremony and reception, but we waited the storm out and were rewarded with some very enjoyable rain-free hours.

I just had to share a few pictures of my beautiful family. And they were so delightfully behaved - it was enough to make a mommy's heart swell with pride and gratitude!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Summerfest Fireworks

Our Orem Summerfest parade experience was cut short by one of our now-daily downpours and for a while we were concerned that the annual fireworks display might be cancelled. But no way - we Oremites are made of stronger stuff than that.

The skies cleared and the wind calmed down just in time for dusk. For a suburban town, Orem really does fireworks right!

Sasha wasn't a huge fan of her first fireworks extravaganza, so we'll have to work on desensitizing her to the noise before the Stadium of Fire. I'm not worried, though, I think that she'll be so enamored by the dulcet tones of the Jonas Brothers at the Stadium of Fire that no volume of bangs will be able to disturb her revelry. That's the hope... or else we are going to be very unpopular with the folks seated around us at the fireworks display.

Summerfest just gets more fun as the kids get older and more adventurous and we sure enjoyed Summerfest 2009. As if we needed any additional reinforcement of the felicity of the weekend, check out the rainbow over our house right before the parade! Home sweet home.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summerfest - Only in Utah

We love our adopted home state, but even after living here for 8 years we occasionally have a, "wow, this place is really different" moment.

Steve and I enjoyed one such moment in the middle of the Summerfest parade after the Missionary Mall float passed by. The float was honestly pretty lame (Giant blow-up LDS missionaries on a trailer? Come on, you can do better than that!) and wasn't enough to turn our heads until Sam proudly displayed the freebies being tossed from the float.

Yep, they were throwing ties! Wow.

You've got to admit, there aren't many places on earth where your eight-year-old can catch a necktie being tossed out as an advertisement in a community parade for a business specializing in attire for two-year missionary trips.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Goodbye to PopPopPop

With heavy hearts we announce the passing of Donald Ray Reinhart. After struggling with cancer for most of 2009, my grandfather passed peacefully from this life early Wednesday afternoon.

PopPop (promoted in our family to PopPopPop when he became a great grandfather) was a joy to each of us and we are grateful that Sam and Ben had a the privilege of knowing their great grandfather. His passing leaves a hole in our hearts and family and he will be missed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Summerfest - Transformation

What can transform this terrified child:
Into this child who was so enthusiastic that we couldn't snap a photo without vigorous in-front-of-face waving?
Only the magical power of the princess float!
Sasha has been steadily educating us on the very real differences between the genders, and the Summerfest parade afforded us another opportunity to learn.

The fire trucks, motorcycles, and honking cars produced floods of tears and emphatic "All done! All done! All done!" signs. I can't blame her too much for her adverse reaction to those parts of the parade, it was really loud and I'm not a huge fan of sirens either. Yet without fail, as soon as a princess (a.k.a. beauty pageant) float rolled by the tears stopped and were immediately replaced by enraptured waving. Just put sparkles and tiaras in front of this girl and all is right with her world!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Summerfest Children's Parade

There is simply no way to describe all of the wonders of our Saturday in a single blog post, so I will have to treat you to an entire week's worth of Summerfest blog entries. Yes, it was that magical.

Saturday's festivities began with the Children's Parade. We had a crazy Saturday (two baseball games, a wedding, and then the parade and fireworks!) but managed to carve out some time to decorate the bike and wagon for the Children's Parade.

Ben did all of his own decorating, wrapping streamers all around his bike. They're a little hard to see in this picture because the blue and black streamers blended with his bike's coloring, but it was really a lovely effect in person. It said, "I am an independent five-year-old," as does his expression of intense concentration in this picture. It's hard work riding down Center Street in such a tight formation!

Sam was kind enough to pull his sister this year and we went with a patriotic theme for the trusty wagon. Coupled with Sam's new "Orem - America's nicest city" shirt, I found the combination of local and national pride inspirational.

You're probably wondering, "where does one get an 'Orem - America's nicest city' t-shirt?" I don't blame you for asking, I'm a little jealous of it myself. The shirt was acquired Friday night when tiny t-shirt peddlers (always get the kids to do your selling!) offered Sam the civic-minded masterpiece for only $5. And how much did Sam have left over from his Summerfest savings? Exactly $5. It was kismet.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Look what I found in the fridge!

Ah, the mixed bag of emotions that naturally accompany the daily discoveries of toddler life. As a parent, you're so excited about daily learning, burgeoning independence, and new skills. And you live in terror of daily learning, burgeoning independence, and new skills.

This week, Sasha discovered that she can open the fridge all by herself. She also discovered that she can open the drawers, poke about, and find all manner of interesting items to devour. She discovered that the bright red thing foraged from fridge drawer #2 is deeee-licious. Yep, much to Mommy's chagrin, Sasha is proudly chomping down on a tomato.

Friday, June 12, 2009


It is the weekend around which our entire year revolves - Orem Summerfest! Wahoo!

Before I go further, you have to understand something about Utah: it is the land of dinky town carnivals and festivals. Just to name a few, there's American Fork Steel Days, Spanish Fork Spanish Days (not a particularly creative name), Pleasant Grove Strawberry Days, and the most celebrated of them all, Orem Summerfest. Each of these festivals includes:
  • A beauty pageant (oh, I mean scholarship competition)
  • A baby contest
  • Carnival rides
  • A parade lasting no less than two hours
  • Fireworks or a rodeo
Ok, so maybe Orem's celebration isn't really better than any of these others, but it's within walking distance of our house, making it the clear winner.

The parade and fireworks are on Saturday night, so traditionally we dedicate Friday evening to rides, games, and carnival food. The roasted corn peddlers and the kettle corn folks were both in attendance this year, so Steve and I made a meal exclusively of corn products. Perfect.

Sasha joins the ranks of proud Morningstar Summerfest fans. Here she makes an odd but happy face as she enjoys the carousel:
Sam triumphantly displays his trophy earned for a fine carnival-game performance. It's some sort of croco-dog
Another ride that gets two thumbs up from Sasha: the swings! Every time a ride ended, she emphatically signed, "More, more!"
Papa reigns supreme on the aptly named Fun Slide
We prepare our scared faces for the Tilt-a-Whirl. It was fun for the first few minutes, but Tilt-a-Whirling only stays entertaining for so long until you pray for it to be over and the nausea to subside. Even Sasha started signing, "all done" in the middle of this one.
Papa, Sam, and Ben (not pictured) before the Gravitron (that's the thing that spins around really fast so you stick to the walls)
Ben after the Gravitron. Don't worry, the green tinge to his skin subsided after a little rest on the curb and the magical rejuvenating powers of cotton candy

I declare Day 1 of Summerfest a complete success. Hopefully the rain holds off long enough tomorrow for us to enjoy our parade and fireworks!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

When did I move to Seattle?

I thought I lived in a desert. I thought that the desert in the summer was supposed to be a)hot and b)dry. I thought I would get my money out of a Seven Peaks season pass in the month of June alone. I thought it was my God-given right that my children should be outside all day every day whenever they aren't in school. Apparently, I was wrong about all of these things.

Yes, yes, I know I should be grateful for the moisture and my flowers love the temps and blah blah blah, but right now I just want to enjoy a hot day at the pool with my family!

Rant over.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Swim Lessons

Nothing says "Summer Vacation" like swim lessons! Both boys are enrolled this year and are doing great, I think they may be destined to swim team greatness like their mother (my swim team career lasted only one season when I discovered that it's actually a lot of work and I didn't posses the natural speed or strength of a dolphin).

Here's a quick pic of the swim lesson bike train leaving the station. For those tracking Sam's two-wheel progress, he's still practicing and so prefers the tag-along bike for longer treks.

So far Ben prides himself on his back float, although I thought that the picture of the front float was more entertaining. The problem with floating on your front, according to Ben, is that you're supposed to blow out bubbles but when your tanks are empty then there's nothing more to blow out and you can't breathe in water. I find the logic unassailable.

Sam is swimming unassisted now and doing really well. Here he is swimming across the 13-foot-deep section of the pool! Apparently the parents were advised on the first day of class not to watch their children in lessons and I'm assuming this is because the reasonable parents would freak about about their child's barely-above-water status in thirteen feet of water. Fortunately the teenage instructor knows better than I do - Sam's doing wonderfully in class and hasn't drowned once.


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