Saturday, May 29, 2010

Naming our Daughter

Hooray hooray that it's time to write another "Naming our Daughter" post! Of course, it's incredibly premature to talk about names, but why would that stop an excited Mama from obsessing over it?

You may remember that for months and months, Sasha was "Sestra" (sister in Russian). Similarly, for now we have decided to call our new little one Mei Mei, which means little sister in Mandarin. Based on my exhaustive understanding of Mandarin (i.e. Googling "Sister in Chinese") it appears that there's no word for just plain old sister, so we settled on "little sister" (Mei Mei - pronounced "may may") since she'll be the little sister to most everybody and Sasha probably won't really care even if she ends up being Sasha's big sister that we called her "little sister" in a foreign language. Sasha's flexible like that.

And once our Mei Mei is pared with an actual face and name? Well, it's hard to say. We really love that we chose to keep Sasha's birth name and would like to incorporate all or some of Mei Mei's birth name into her new Morningstar name. Of course, we may not know her birth name, she may have been named by orphanage staff... making the decisions all the more interesting. And it also gets tricky because sometimes Chinese names are hard to get American tongues around.

And, of course, we have "Rebecca" sitting in our back pockets, where it's been since we were pregnant with Sam. We love the name, love the history, love the symbolism of a woman coming out of a far-off place.

So, I guess that the answer with this paper pregnancy is the same as with the last - we really don't know! We really want to honor as much of Mei Mei's history as we can, while giving her a name that people in the U.S. will be able to pronounce and a one that we really latch onto as a family. We were so blessed by our Alexandra (both the name and the girl!) that we'll just trust that whatever Mei Mei's name ends up being, it will be just perfect for us and for her.

Friday, May 28, 2010

School's Out

My goodness, another school year has met its end. Yesterday was the end-of-the-school-year musical extravaganza where, as usual, the boys stood with their classes and looked confused. Sigh.

Wait, that's too harsh. Sam did participate with vigor in the Animaniacs State Capitol song and both boys clearly enjoyed singing Funkytown and watching the class breakdancers strut their stuff.

And they both flourished with style in the traditional program-ending pose after Tomorrow from Annie - way to finish big, boys!

Now... how to pass 3 long months until we can send them back to their teachers? I believe that the answer is, "Seven Peaks" and dreaming of those fabulous first day of school pictures...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wise beyond his years

Last night Steve made a fabulous Jamie Oliver chicken dinner and I came home from work to find dinner and wine on the table and jazz playing on the XM. Perfection!

Halfway through dinner Ben paused, cocked his head, looked at us sideways, and asked/exclaimed, "Is this sexy music?!?"

The best part of the whole experience? The song had just changed to Glenn Miller's In the Mood.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Look whose hair is long enough to fit into a ponytail! Well done, little girl!

Of course, it only stays in a ponytail for about 45 seconds because a) her hair is incredibly fine and b) as soon as I start brushing it back she insists on "helping" which isn't so good for the ponytail's longevity. But it's lovely while it lasts.

Can you believe that my baby's little baby-house haircut was this short just a year ago!?? My goodness, what a difference a year makes.

And now I have to include gratuitous extra shots of her new dress because I love it so gosh darn much - dressing a girl sure can be a lot of fun! But we'll pretend that the pictures are really of her cute little ponytail and not to show off a cute dress on an over-tired girl (have we mentioned that Sasha gets really wacky when she's tired?)

Monday, May 24, 2010

It's Just Not Right...

I know that with our love of snowsports and all things skiing we're supposed to be enthusiastic about this kind of weather, but isn't this a little extreme for May 24th?!? My Mother's Day flower baskets are not supposed to be snow-covered!On the up-side, however, Snowbird is now officially staying open through Father's Day!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Happy Birthday to Chorney

This week we celebrated Chorney's first birthday with a rousing rendition of, "Happy Birthday to You" and a festively printed rawhide treat. I have mixed feelings about the rawhide - I thought it was a clever product and definitely appropriate for the occasion, but I'm not proud to have spent $2.50 on a 25-cent piece of smooshed up cow skin or whatever the heck rawhide is made of.

Oh well, a Labradoodle only turns one once!

Happy birthday, pup! Here's to an equally affectionate but perhaps less energetic (?) second year!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Home Improvement

Q: How does one enter one's house when the entry-level floors are being refinished?

A: Creatively!Yes, it was a kid dream come true.

The floor refinishing was quite the project and I'm so glad that we decided to shop the labor out. We love do-it-yourself projects, but this wasn't one of them. Thanks goodness. Even with "dustless" equipment the cleanup is brutal.

But the finished product is so dang pretty!

Just a few more days and we'll even be able to walk on it with shoes :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fluffy rainbow perfection

The hands-up-and-twirl - I think it's hardcoded into every girl's fashion-show repertoire. And the more crinoline the better!!!Yes, Sasha, you are captivating!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Adoption Update

How fun to be writing adoption updates again! I know that absolutely nobody is half as interested in our paperchase as we are (as it should be), but here's a summary the current state-of-the-paperwork.

  • Financial Statement
  • City of Orem Adult Criminal History Records Request (shew, glad that China will have notarized documentation that we have no outstanding warrants in the metropolis of Orem)
  • Jamie's employment letter
  • Dr. Appointments for the "General Physical Examination for Adoption Applicant" form. Found a doctor in Provo with a notary in the office and had our appointments today - hooray! So much easier than carting around our own notary. Need to wait 10 days for all of our bloodwork to come back and verify that we're not medically interesting
  • Requested birth and marriage certificates from Maryland - do you think that the State of Maryland will ever stop and wonder why we need copies of our marriage license every few years?

Still to do:
  • I-800A from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. This requires:
    • Abuse clearance from Kazakhstan. Sigh. This is my new least favorite part of the process. I have emailed every ambassador and consulate on the internet (and, no, I don't know what the difference between "Ambassador" and "Consular" is) and am still pursuing any kind of background check I can procure from Kaz. If anybody can point me to where to request a police report on the Kazakhstan General Prosecution Office Website you will be my new best friend. All of this is required because I "lived" in Kazakhstan for over 5 weeks...we'll see how it all develops
    • Homestudy, which has already been started but is waiting for said criminal background check from Kaz
    • Fingerprinting at CIS
    • I-800 approval
  • Steve's letter of employment
  • Adoption application letter, stating in no uncertain terms that we will raise this child with all the love showered on the rest of our kiddos, will educate them, will give them all due legal rights, etc.
  • Verify all of the documents once we have them all (it's like the apostilling we had to do for Kaz only different, and don't ask me what the difference is)
  • Family photos
So, all of that was a really long way to say that for being only a few weeks into the process we are definitely chugging along. What can I say, if it involves stamps and forms in triplicate and official-looking stamps, I'm all over it! I do excel at the mundane... especially when there's a daughter waiting at the end of the paperchase :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Summer Comes Early

It's 68 degrees and Daddy's testing the sprinklers - do you know where your children are? Playing outside until their lips turn blue, of course!
No, the sprinkler is not supposed to gush like that (hence the testing) and, no, I don't know why goggles were necessary when running through sprinklers

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Whole and Holy

Time for a new memory verse. Here's the current selection:
How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He's the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.
Ephesians 1:3-6

This is the passage that Kristen read at Sasha's baby shower and one I've held close ever since. I just love how the Morningstar adoption journey is an echo of God's joy over all of creation!

Like him, we take such great pleasure in planning for the adoption of our child. Like him, we have settled on this little one as the focus of our love. Like him, we do all this for the sheer joy of relationship.

I love it that all of my excitement and anticipation for our new little one is just an echo, a pale reflection of God's joy as we are made whole and holy through his love. And I love it that he settled on me as the focus of his love before earth's foundations were laid. Wow. That makes a girl feel awfully special.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mother's Day Stepping Stones

For Mother's Day the kids got me an exceedingly thoughtful stepping stone kit and hanging flower baskets for the back yard. It was great - a gift we could enjoy making together and admire all summer long...

...still, and I know I should not admit this in a public forum, I was a little disappointed. You see, on several separate occasions, when questioned about the Mother's Day gift I would receive, Sasha promised that she had gotten me a tiger. A real live tiger of my very own! And she always punctuated the assertion with a, "ROAR!" for emphasis.

I mean, when you have your heart set on a 1/2 ton killer cat... it's hard to let go of those Mike Tyson/Siegfried and Roy dreams.

But I will seek contented- ness in my fabulous stepping stones and flowers, and perhaps Santa will bring me some sort of lethal pet for Christmas if I'm really good.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Must be bath day

I feel like I should feel bad for her... but I know that the only reason she's covered in bubbles is that she insists on trying to drink the bath water while the kids are in it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Our China Adoption Story (chapter 1)

We've known for a few months that we wanted to add another child to our family, and there was no question that when we did so we would pursue adoption... the question was, when?

In the spirit of honesty I'll admit that I was ready a couple of months before Steve. Steve's the stay-at-home parent and has a much clearer picture of the work involved day in and day out to care for a little one (far clearer than my baby-crazed vision, trust me!). And he needed to take the time to feel like things were under control(ish) with Sasha and he was ready to welcome a new little one. That first year at home is an intense one, and I'm so glad that Steve took the time to evaluate both the decision and the timing. During this time, I unloaded all of my crazy on my grace-filled girlfriends who encouraged me through the utter despair of waiting. I'm a horrible waiter... making paper pregnancy challenging... yet still I jump in with joy and excitement (I say that now - talk to me in 4 months when I'm in the depths of despair again).

But I stayed patient(ish) and Steve kept thinking and praying and researching and in mid-April he decided that he, too, was ready to start pursuing our next child, together in heart and plans.

The decisions came fast and furious - and here are some of the questions we answered in very short order:

Kazakhstan again?
No. Kazakhstan fell off of the list pretty quickly for a few reasons. We are so grateful for the time we got to spend in Kaz getting to know Sasha and her birth culture, but at this stage in our family and employment, taking 60 days off (or even 30 days if we did multiple trips) was just not feasible. Additionally, we knew from the beginning that we were looking for a waiting child program, and Kaz doesn't have a structured waiting child program.

What's a waiting child program?
Waiting kiddos are children who are taking a little longer to find their permanent families. There are many reasons for this - special needs, older children, sibling groups, or a riskier family history. After our experience adopting Sasha, we fell in love with special needs adoption and knew from the beginning that we wanted to adopt another little one who was having a little more trouble finding her family.

Why China?
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. This time, 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.

Age? Gender?
We're still at the early phases of these decisions. Right now we're leaning toward a girl somewhere around Sasha's age - maybe a little older. That means that we're looking for a little one between about 2 and 4 1/2 years of age... at least, that's where we're leaning right now.

How long will the process take?
Because we're open to a variety of needs and a slightly older child than your average family, we should be able to come in at just about 12 months start to finish. That means that we should be able to travel to meet our daughter at the end of ski season 2011. That rocks! Of course, all of that assumes that we don't hit any paperwork roadblocks, etc.

Do you already have a specific child in mind?
No, no, no. I can't imagine falling in love already and having to wait a whole year to meet her! I'm staying off of the photolistings until we're paper-ready - I think it's the only way to maintain whatever shred of sanity remains. I have no doubt that I'll fall in love with a little face in a little picture when the time is right :)

What agency?
We tried to do agency selection right and spent several days interviewing agencies, comparing programs, and talking to references. We needed an agency who would allow us to adopt out of birth order, one that supported us bringing all of the kids to China if we choose, an agency with a strong waiting child program, and a program that fit our style. In the end, we chose WACAP and they've been great to work with so far.

So, where are you now?
We've started our homestudy paperwork (background checks at this point), signed with WACAP, and just got their packet in the mail this week. Begin paperchase!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Silversmithing Class

For Christmas my parents gave me a silversmithing class at the Sundance Art Shack... and for a variety of reasons, it didn't actually happen until this weekend - but it was well worth the wait!

Steve and I had so much fun making our own unique creations and were thrilled with the results. Who knew we had these fabulous latent talents just waiting to be uncovered? I'm sure that the instructor's gentle suggestions and fixes had nothing to do with the fantastic results :)

Steve solders the silver on the necklace he designed for Sasha (we had this thinly-veiled look of terror on our faces a lot)
Jamie hammers out the band for her ring (note the tongue out in concentration - it's genetic)
Time to smooth out the stone's setting - almost done!
And the finished pieces! The best part about this picture was the positioning and framing - it was a small miracle that neither I nor the jewelry ended up in the river.
Ta dah!
And, of course, Sasha loves her new necklace. An especially pretty accessory for the collection :)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Four Roses

This Sunday, four roses graced our table. One for each of the mothers in our lives - Marcia, Sharon, me, and Sasha's birth mother.

It's easy to feel grateful for our moms - Gramma and Grammy have done an amazing job over the decades raising children who love deeply and know that they are deeply loved. They pray for their kids and grandkids. They really try to point us all to Jesus. They love us each unconditionally. They are pictures of Godly womanhood. We are keenly aware of the blessing that our moms have been in our lives. And we are grateful.

Cultivating gratitude for Sasha's birthmother is an admittedly a little trickier. She made some choices that are hard for me to fathom... and it is easy to feel emotions like anger, indignation, and blame. But, you know what? She gave my little girl life. And I need to make room in my heart and life for forgiveness and gratitude and honor for the woman who gave birth to our amazing princess.

The loss and redemption that are a part of every adoption story are so complicated. They're complicated for us as adoptive parents, and I know that my daughter will have to work through even more complicated emotions as she comes to understand her own story.

I know that the journey will last a lifetime, but even now I rejoice in my own burgeoning gratitude. I rejoice in what God is doing in me in response to my daughter's story. And I rejoice in the four roses that grace our table - four women who were blessed to give birth, to nurture life, and whose stories are now bound together in a tangled, sometimes confusing, and wildly beautiful garden.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Paper-Pregnant Mother's Day

We are so excited to tell the world - we're paper pregnant again!

That's right, we decided that it is time to add another Morningstar to our wild and wonderful crew and have started the paperwork process for international adoption from China! We are so excited to meet and welcome and love our new little one and, Lord willing, hope to bring her home in spring of 2011.

1001 more details to come, decisions to be made, papers to be filed... but for today I rest in simple gratitude for the three amazing children already in my arms and the one that for now I can only hold in my heart.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Sasha's life is filled with occasions for exclamations for surprise and indignation. We are constantly asking/requesting/telling her to accomplish absolutely ridiculous feats of effort or self control, such as brushing her teeth, not kicking the dog, removing the stickers mysteriously affixed to the kitchen floor, etc.

Her brothers have taught her a new coping strategy - the high-pitched, screeching, "what?!?" Sasha hasn't perfected her "t" sound yet, so it comes out, "wok?!?" much to our collective amusement.

It goes like this:
Sasha: (seeing Mama eating oatmeal for breakfast) Oatmeal please!
Mama: Ok (makes oatmeal for Sasha for breakfast)
Sasha: Piece cheese please!
Mama: You can have cheese when you're done your oatmeal (note: Sasha has finished none of her past 497 bowls of oatmeal)
Sasha: Wok?!?

Yeah, I don't know how she survives our insane military-school-like family disciplinary environment, either.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

One handy dandy invention

Thank you Calvin and Hobbes for providing my children with all the inspiration needed to spend a pleasant spring afternoon outside in the fresh air, their only requirements for happiness being each other, a cardboard box, and a Sharpie.

This time it was a time machine/duplicator. While Sasha spent most of her time in the Jurassic period (it's lovely this time of year), Sam was busy duplicating himself. I was glad to see that he had the forethought to include a "Duplicit Self-Destruct" button. After all, I saw at least the trailer for Multiplicity and I know the dangers of duplicating yourself without the proper controls set into place.

I am, however, a little concerned about the options to create both, "good" and "evil" duplicates... I guess I should be glad I have a choice (?)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

All about the accessories

What can I say? The girl knows how to complete an outfit... with every piece of jewelry she owns. My favorite part is the way she holds her wrist out ever-so-delicately as she strips the petals off of the tulips. I've got to admit it, I love having a girl, especially when she comes strutting down from her room bedecked in all of her finery and just begging to be fawned over - it gets me every time!

And in case you missed it because you were dazzled by the accessories (I can't blame you), check out this girl's curls! Baby house hair no more!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I think Gramma missed her calling

I think that Gramma may have missed her calling in life - she is clearly gifted in Elmo and Grover coloring book creation! Admittedly, Grover does have some distinct Squidward-type appendages, but I still think that Gramma's on the cusp of something great here.I suspect that these masterpieces will be on our fridge for a good long while.


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