Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ad Update

February was a short month, but even though we only had 28 days to view and click, your 3,711 visits to this blog netted $12.27 for orphan nutrition in Kazakhstan! Sweet! This brings the total contribution to the SPOON Foundation generated by ads on this blog (December, January, and February) to just shy of $48!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Obamas know we've got it goin' on

See, we told you we were tight with the Obamas - first a joint-family vacation in Martha's Vineyard and now they're sending personalized letters to our home! And am I the only person who finds it suspicious that the Obamas' daughter is named Sasha? I'll need to think about it a while to come up with a "plausible" story explaining how their nine-year-old Sasha is actually named for our two-year-old Sasha, but I'm sure I'll come up with something.

I'm glad that Sasha's finally getting the presidential recognition she truly deserves... now I have to find room on her wall o' love to display it!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Train up a child...

Apparently, Sasha is really serious about her quiet times! Steve discovered Sasha deeply involved in study and meditation yesterday with two, count 'em two, Bibles and a copy of Search for Significance.

I guess I should be grateful that she was highlighting with the "Tide to Go Instant Stain Remover" pen instead of a Sharpie :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Celebrating Sam's Birthday

On Saturday we celebrated Sam's 9th birthday at the happiest place in Orem, if not the whole wide world, if you're a Morningstar male - the Nickelcade (as featured in posts like The Best Day Ever and Happy Birthday Steve!)

Technically we celebrated at Nickel City, which is the new name for the Nickelcade in its new location. When Sam suggested that he'd like to have his party at Nickel City I was all for it - now's the time to book, before it gets crappy and disgusting like the old Nickelcade (Mommy's true colors shine through). Plus, all I had to provide was the cake :)

And I have to say that Nickel City exceeded all of my expectations. The pizza was completely edible. I didn't worry about my kids contracting some sort of disgusto disease (again, in stark contrast to the old Nickelcade location). The kids had a fabulous time. And the lasertag was totally awesome.

Sam and Daddy get their game on

I guess I shouldn't complain, at least she chose a gun that coordinated with her outfit

Jack and Steve inside the lasertag arena - I told you it was awesome!

Sasha has a strange affinity for yellow ride-on animals at arcades - check out the marked similarities between this photo and Babylon in Karaganda (the photo near the end of that post)

I was very pleased with Sam's cake - he said that he wanted to have a nickel cake, and I delivered! I took a picture of a nickel (a 2001 nickel, of course) and got it printed out at one of those photo-on-a-cake bakeries where they print the photo out on a thin sheet of icing, and Steve and Sam applied it to our homemade 9-inch round cake. Perfecto!

Happy Birthday, Sam! Hope you got your birthday wish!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Celebrating Gotcha Day

This has certainly been a week of festivities!

I don't think there's a right or wrong way to celebrate Gotcha Day, but in our family we've decided that Gotcha Day is our time to celebrate being a family, so we spend less time focusing on Sasha's birth culture and Kazakhstan (we save that special commemoration for her birthday) and more time enjoying our familyhood.

First we looked at Sasha's "Becoming Alexandra Grace" book (yes, I did finish it in time for her Gotcha Day!).

And then it was off to the bowling alley! We had a great time introducing Sasha to the fine sport of bowling and, as usual, I lost to all of my children. Some day they'll bowl without bumpers and then we'll see who's the big bowling looser! Bwa ha ha ha.

Here are more photos of our grand bowling excursion:
The ball ramps are the best!

Sam has his mother's technique

Can you believe they make bowling shows that small? So cute!

Happy Gotcha Day, Sasha, we're so glad that you're a Morningstar! Your crazy face is the perfect addition to our family.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Happy Birthday Sam!

Happy birthday to the smartest, best skiingest, most joketellingest, handsomest, most inquisitivest, wackiest, long hairiest nine-year-old in my life.

We love you so much, buddy, and are so proud of the boy you are and the young man you're becoming. We pray that you grow to become a man after God's own heart and that the joy of the Lord is forever your strength.

Happy 9th birthday, Sam!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

First Gotcha Day Anniversary!

One year ago today, this beautiful girl became Alexandra Grace MorningstarSo much has changed in the past year, yet so much has stayed the same. Our wonder that God would bless our family with such a lovely, tender, resilient, feisty, adventuresome girl; the incredible personal and spiritual growth that blossomed in each of us as a result of our adoption journey; the abiding faith, hope, and trust we learned by walking through the vast unknown of each day. I will never be the same.And today I pray the same prayer I pray for our dear Sasha every day - that out of his glorious riches, God would strengthen her with power through his Spirit in her inner being, so that Christ would dwell in her heart through faith. I pray that she is rooted and established in love and that she will have power, together with all of us, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that she will be filled to the measure of all of the fullness of God.

Happy Gotcha Day

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Morningstar Adoption FAQ

Here are questions about adoption and our journey to Sasha and Mei Mei that we hear frequently and the answers from our perspective. I've included both the raw questions we sometimes hear and their more sensitive rephrasing :)

We know that the path we chose in building our family is a little different from the norm ("normal" paths don't seem to suit us very well) - we have been so blessed by the addition of Sasha to our family and love to pass along what we've learned along the way. If you have other questions that we haven't answered here, leave us a comment and we'll add them to the FAQ!

Raw Question: Couldn't you have more kids of your own?
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: Why did you choose to have children by adoption rather than by birth?
Answer: As far as we know, we could have more children by birth and we have been so blessed to have children both by birth and by adoption. What a gift! We had always been interested in adoption, and when the time came to add another child to our family we decided that providing a home and a family to a child already born into this world was the right path for us. You can read more about our choice to adopt in the posts, Our Adoption Testimony, Adding Another Morningstar and Our China Adoption Story (chapter 1).

Raw Question: When there are so many kids in the U.S. who need homes, why would you fly halfway around the world for a child?
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: Why did you pursue international adoption over other forms of adoption?
Answer: We believe that every child deserves a loving family and stable home and that as long as the adoption follows the appropriate legal guidelines there is no wrong way to adopt. We knew from early on that international adoption was the path for us. You can read more about our choice of international adoption in the post, Adding Another Morningstar

Raw Question: So... Kazakhstan... I have no idea if that's even a real country...
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: Why did you choose to adopt from Kazakhstan?
Answer: As we started looking at the available options in international adoption, the program in Kazakhstan stuck out very early on in the research process. We really loved the mandatory 14-day bonding period in Kazakhstan and felt like it gave the children a really positive, healthy transition into the arms of their families. We also felt comfortable with the good level of care in the institutions in Kazakhstan and the extra time we would be able to spend in-country to get to know her birth culture. You can read more about our decision to adopt from Kazakhstan in the post, Adding Another Morningstar

Raw Question: What's wrong with Kazakhstan? Why wouldn't you go back there for another child?
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: Why did you choose to adopt from China?
Answer: When we were starting our journey to Sasha, China fell off of the list of prospective countries very quickly because the wait time for the "regular" program in China had already grown to 3 or 4 years and at that time we weren't looking for a waiting child program. With our second adoption, because we were specifically looking for a waiting child program, China bubbled up to the top of the list immediately. China has a really healthy, well-established waiting child program, we'll be able to take all of the kids with us on the trip if we choose to, and time in-country should be less than three weeks. It's the right fit for us now. For more information, see the post Our China Adoption Story (chapter 1).

Raw Question: Sasha looks just like she could be yours! Did you specifically choose a child who looked like you?
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: Sasha is such a beautiful member of your family. Did you have specific requests in terms of gender and ethnicity? (but in reality this is a pretty hard one to ask politely :)
Answer: With two boys already in our home, we did tell our agency that we preferred a little girl between 2 and 4 years of age. We had no ethnicity preferences and expected to adopt a child of Kazakh ethnicity. The first time we saw Sasha, Steve and I looked at each other in shock that our daughter was white, completely surprised that our little girl seems to be of Russian/German ethnic heritage! The truth is that she is ours in every way, just as much as either Sam or Ben. We are enamored with her beauty, inside and out, and truth be told I'm sure we'd be just as captivated whatever of her skin color, eye shape, or hair texture might be.

Raw Question: Were you pressured into adopting a kid with special needs?
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: Did you go into the process targeting special needs adoption?
Answer: With Sasha's adoption we were not specifically seeking a waiting child. We went into the process open to some special needs that we thought would be appropriate for our family, and cleft palate was on that list. The reality is that every adoption is a special needs adoption - every adopted kid needs an extra measure of patience and love and acceptance - and we tried to be realistic about this fact as we started our adoption journey. You can read about our experience with cleft palate adoption in the post, Adopting a Child with a Cleft

After our experience adopting Sasha, we fell in love with special needs adoption and knew from the beginning of our journey to WanYing that we wanted to adopt another little one who was having a little more trouble finding her family. So, yes, we specifically pursued waiting child adoption from China. You can read more about this decision in the post, Our China Adoption Story (chapter 1).

Raw Question: How much did/will she cost?
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: What are the costs associated with international adoption? (again, this one's a touchy one. Tread with care)
Answer: It's no secret that international adoption is an expensive endeavor. Room and board for 2 months in a foreign country + U.S. paperwork and homestudy + document translation and processing + translator, driver, and facilitator costs = nothing in comparison to the joy and privilege of adding Sasha to our family. China will require less time in-country so the costs will be a bit lower than they were with Sasha's adoption, but the reality is that both of our adoptions are big commitments - emotionally, spiritually, and financially.

Raw Question: Was the wait for Sasha tortuously awful? (ok, this question isn't really impolite, and the answer is yes!)
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: How long did the adoption process from Kazakhstan take? How long will it take to adopt from China?
Answer: It was almost 13 months from the time we signed with our agency and began the paperchase in earnest until we left on a plane to Kazakhstan and then we spent 60 days in-country. Our full schedule is posted under Kazakhstan Adoption Timeline

WanYing's adoption should be a little faster, and we hope to travel approximately 12 months from the start of our paperchase (Spring 2011), but it's hard to know at this point. Our full schedule is posted under China Adoption Timeline

Raw Question: Did you find out about Sasha's real mom? What will you find out about WanYing's real parents?
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: Did you get information about Sasha's birth family while in Kazakhstan? Will you get WanYing's birth family information from China?
Answer: We were blessed to get several documents from Sasha's early life so that if she chooses to pursue more information about her birth family when she is older, Sasha will have good information to start with and our full support. We did not meet any member of Sasha's birth family while in Kaz and there are no guarantees that they can be found.

It is very, very unlikely that we will get any information about WanYing's early life because in China there is now way to legally relinquish a child, all children must be "abandoned". We hope to piece together as much of WanYing's story as possible while we're in China, but we will likely be left with many unanswered questions.

Raw Question: Does Sasha know she's adopted? Will WanYing?
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: How do you share your daughters' stories with them in age-appropriate ways?
Answer: We keep no secrets about our daughters' early life. We decorate Sasha's room with treasures from Kaz, have recorded our journey to her on this blog and in scrapbooks, and talk openly about her adoption. We intend to do the same with WanYing. There are hard conversations to come - the truth is that if the girls' early lives were all hunky-dorey, they wouldn't be our daughters. Adoption is always the story of loss and redemption. We will share the details that we know about the girls' birth and first two years in age-appropriate ways. If they choose to talk about those details with others, that's their choice to make - it's their story. Sasha and WanYing will always know that they are some of the great blessings of our life and that we are forever grateful to be their family.

Raw Question: Was it worth it?
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: Knowing what you know now, would you do it again?
Answer: In a heartbeat. You can read our reflections on adoption all over this blog - just start by searching for "adoption" and keep reading :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Raised by Wolves

Jeezy petes, you'd think that the girl was raised by wolves! Or monkeys! Or some strange monkey-wolf hybrid.

Truly, I think that having 2 older brothers is only one step away from a feral upbringing. And, yes, she can climb up to the treehouse by herself now. At least she looks super-cute while doing it, and the tights miraculously emerged unscathed!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sledding Awesomeness

[title by Ben]

Sam: We went sledding and it was awesome today. While we're sledding usually, Mom takes Chorney on a romp. We usually go to South Fork. We like to sled and so we don't go with Mom usually.

Ben: I almost gave my mom a heart attack when I started sledding 'cause I always got airborne and I could have gotten killed if I didn't land it right! [editor's note: I often think that it's better that Sasha, Chorney, and I go walking while the boys sled, it's better for my nerves this way]

Ben: This one is for professionals only!

Mom: Chorney loves her romps! And she even finishes them with slightly less energy than she started with

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Boys on Skis

What's better than a day at work and school? While both are fabulous ways to spend a day, they do pale in comparison to a family day on the slopes!

I learned:
1. Skiing with the boys is terrifying
2. Skiing from 10-4:30 confirms that I am indeed out of shape (not that I was particularly confused on this point)
3. Spending the day skiing with my husband, boys, and our dear out-of-town friends the Thomases actually does beat a day of work, hands down

Here we are on the lift - they look so peaceful and safe while going uphill... only to turn into little mommy-terrifyers on the way down!

Can you believe this is Ben's first season on skis?

Why stay on the snow when you can fly?

At least he always lands in one piece (so far at least)

Ben and Zack attack Bear Claw (their first time on the back mountain!) and emerge victorious!

And Mom and Dad pause for a gorgeous bluebird shot on top of Bishop's Bowl. That's one good looking couple!

At least we have decent health insurance for when my worries do come to fruition and somebody finally breaks something :) Kids heal fast, right?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fun with Word Concatenation

Sam's always making up new word combos, like "linner" (if you can have brunch, then why not dinner?), but tonight it all went horribly wrong as the boys discussed the color of their spit after brushing their teeth...
Ben: Look, Sam, I'm a witch!

[explanation - we love books by Roald Dahl, and in The Witches you can tell somebody is a witch in part because they have blue spit. The boys use blue toothpaste, hence the connection]

Ben: I'm a boy witch!

Sam: Yeah, a bowitch!

[wait for it...]

Sam: A b*tch!

[exceedingly awkward pause]

Sam: Uh, yeah, we'll just go with bowitch.
I nearly passed out from the effort of stifling my hysterical guffaws.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Question of the Day

Sam: Mom, have humans ever had hybrid offspring?

I wasn't completely sure what this question even meant, but figured that the appropriate answer was, "no".

Clarification - Sam was reading over my shoulder as I wrote this and explained that he meant something like Labradoodles. Still disturbing. Still think that the most appropriate answer is, "no".

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mischief and Mischief

When the child gets an idea into her head, she is nigh-unstoppable. Even if the idea isn't a particularly good (or safe or hygienic) one. Even if she has to muster all of her strength and monkey-climbing instincts to accomplish her goal singlehandedly. I think she gets it from her brothers.

Like today, when I was brushing my teeth and heard her in the room saying, "Mommy, seat! Mommy, seat!" and came back in to find her proudly perched upon the top of my dresser, having climbed up the drawers to claim her "seat".

Or Saturday morning, when I came downstairs and found that she had successfully arranged and started two simultaneous DVD viewing experiences to enjoy from the comfort of a single seat. As if one Elmo's World at a time could ever be enough!

Or again Saturday when I finished washing Sam's hair and turned around to find her meticulously brushing Chorney's teeth with Ben's toothbrush. Not just sticking it in the dog's mouth, oh no, we're talking pulling the gums out of the way to brush the individual teeth.

And the best part of that whole episode is the nagging question - how many times has she done this without our knowledge?!?

Maybe it's time for new toothbrushes all around.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ode to Columbia Sportswear

We once had a puffy red Columbia down jacket, size 4. It survived 2 very active boys, but lost its zipper pull in the process.

Knowing that Columbia has an excellent warranty, and expecting Sasha to wear said jacket next year, I shipped it back to Columbia a few weeks ago for a zipper repair. And what arrived on our doorstep this week? A brand new, completely adorable, jacket for Sasha! This baby has all the bells and whistles - it's waterproof, has the little goggle pocket, and even contains a powder skirt for those Utah pow pow days. Actually, when you're 3 feet tall, I guess that even a little fresh snow necessitates the powder skirt :)

Now we just have to get this gal on skis - she has all of the requisite gear to hit the slopes in high style!

So go dig through your closets and find your busted Columbia gear and maybe you can be as tricked out as my youngin :)

Oh, and Elmo says, "Cheese!"

Sunday, February 7, 2010

I thought Elmo taught tolerance

Ben: Sasha, can I sit next to you and watch Elmo?
Sash: No, Ben! No! No! Go to your room!

(photo taken in reenactment, I'm sure that the face was far less pleasant and more insistent the first time)

Whenever I see Elmo, he seems to be encouraging sweet inquisitiveness and forbearance toward man, animal, and puppet-kind. Apparently Elmo turns bossy after repeated viewings.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Film Fest Recap

I just realized that I never did a full summary of our Sundance films this year. We saw 3 documentaries and 1 drama this year and were again impressed by how the quality of the films we see goes up every year. I think we're getting a little better at choosing them (Rule #1: Never buy tickets to a Sundance film with the words "sexual awakening" in the description).

I think that our favorites were Waiting for Superman (a documentary about the U.S. public education system) and Space Tourists (a documentary about the Russian space program - read Sam's full description in the January 25th post). The other two were also well worth seeing, and since Kate was in town the experience was completely fabulous even if the films weren't quite as good as the company - they were Last Train Home (Chinese documentary about migrant factory workers going home for New Year) and Please Give (drama - basically Friends with Money only about a family in New York).

Even though we only screened at the Sundance Resort (Rule #2 - avoid Park City like the plague) we still had a couple of fun star-sightings (Mr. Redford, who still counts as a star-sighting even though we see him at Sundance periodically, and Karen Allen, the chick who played Marion in 2 Indiana Jones movies).

A successful Fest all around!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tea Party

Tea parties are definitely one of my favorite parts of having a girl. Combining tea (big bonus) and the chance to learn important vocabulary, like "demitasse cup" and "sugar bowl," makes for one happy mommy.

Sasha pours out

We still need to work on proper tea etiquette - pouring from the pot is vastly preferred to pouring from your cup into somebody else's

And now for Sasha's favorite part - Cheers!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I think somebody broke into our house

I think that somebody broke into our house and dropped off all of their dirty laundry. I'm not really sure how to prove it... and the theory does admittedly break down a little when I sort it and haltingly acknowledge that it all appears to be our laundry... but how could five people possibly create this much dirty clothing in just a few days? (ok, technically it's probably been a few weeks since I've really done laundry, but I don't want to admit that to the whole blogosphere 'cause it makes me sound like a slobby mom)

I can't imagine why I sometimes feel overwhelmed...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ad Update

In the month of January your 4,609 visits to this blog, combined with clicking on ads that are interesting to you, netted $15.67 for orphan nutrition in Kazakhstan! Sweet! How cool is it that in two months we've raised $35 for the SPOON Foundation just by reading up on ever-so-adorable Morningstar Happenings!?! :)


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