Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Festivities

I don't know if it's like this in other parts of the country or not, but here in Utah we celebrated Halloween on Saturday. The whys escape me, it's just how it's done. Unfortunately, whale Sunday has proved to be 60 degrees and sunny, Saturday evening was in the 40's and raining. Sigh.

While the rest of our party opted to chow down on pizza and caramel apples inside, Ben decided that since he was encased in plastic, he could go out in the pouring rain to trick-or-treat. And if Ben was going, Sasha was definitely going. So the three of us tromped through our neighborhood with me lifting the kids over the rivers on both sides of the street (we don't get enough rain to warrant storm sewers in residential streets, but that means that when it rains the streets are very wet) since Sasha is little and Ben was carrying 30 pounds of port-a-potty. We made it to three houses before collectively agreed that we were cold and wet.

Fortunately, the clouds lifted after a quick candy snarf-down break and we were able to make it the whole way around the block candy-laden and in comparatively dry comfort.

Sam the park ranger looked very official. I wouldn't have perpetrated any tricks around him.

And Sasha was an adorable rainbow fairy. In all of the photos I took of her in her wings, she's jumping, demonstrating her flying abilities. The intense sugar high may also have had something to do with the bouncing.

Every time we got to a new house, Ben would announce, "I'm a port-a-potty" and Sasha would chime in with, "And I'm a Tinkerbell ferry!" I'm pretty sure they both charmed themselves into far more than their fair share of treats.

Merry trick-or-treating to all who are doing it on the calendar-appropriated day!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

My Husband, Kid Costume Visionary

You know that my husband has mad costume creation skills when last year's costumes are featured on Boing Boing! It's so hard to decide which I love the most... this year's port-a-potty is hilarious, the ewoks and AT-ST last year were sheer marvels, 2008's Transformers we awfully cool... but I still have a warm spot in my heart for my little jawa and Herbie and his infant brother mechanic.

My husband, the kid costume visionary.

Friday, October 29, 2010

My Son, the Port-a-Potty

Which of these things is not like the other?
Why, the kid-sized one, of course! (Give this guy some privacy)
(admittedly, the port-a-potty in the port-a-potty is a little trippy to me)
We put the "portable" in port-a-john!
Ben found out the hard way that if you turtle a port-a-potty costume, you are stuck until your dad recovers from his fits of hysterical laughter and puts you to rights again.

That's right, my crazy son decided to be a port-a-potty for Halloween. Let's face it, the only way to top last year's costumes was to go in a completely different direction. This was, I feel compelled to point out, entirely Ben's idea and he's been talking about it for months. Judging by the high demand for Ben's services, I think the desired effect was achieved.

Do they have "Honey Buckets" other places in the country, or is this a Utah phenomenon? Regardless, Honey Bucket has got to be the best port-a-potty brand name ever.

I love all of the details - the cleaning schedule, the "occupied" sign, the logos, the chimney... but the thing that really completes the effect is unarguably the face. Makes a mama so proud(?)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


The sweetest words (besides, "get on the next plane to China") that a mommy can read:What? You need a little help with that? Here's the translation that came with the letter:
The application of Stephen Morningstar and Jamie Morningstar for the adoption of LING WAN YING from Shangrao the Center of the Children's Welfare, Jiangxi Welfare Institute Jiangxi province that you submitted was received. It is hereby advised that with a review of the Rehabilitation and Nurture Plan for the Child made by the family, the China Centre of Adoption Affairs agrees to move this application file into the procedure for adoption of special-need children.

China Centre of Adoption Affairs
Ok, I guess that the actual verbage doesn't sound super warm and snuggly, but from where we're sitting, that feels like a big ol' hug from the Chinese government!

Now we wait 1-4 months (how's that for a spread?) for our Letter Seeking Confirmation. That's the official, final Chinese OK that they're cool with us adopting WanYing. Once we get the Letter Seeking Confirmation and return our confirmation (she will be well confirmed) then we can send her a care package! Fun! Oh, and we also get to start the USCIS end of the paperwork (another 2 months) - remember, we're pre-approved for a visa, but we still have to match that pre-approval to WanYing. And then we go, go, go!

Exhaustive details are, as always available on our China timeline.

For now, we're just enjoying that the "the China Centre of Adoption Affairs agrees to move this application file into the procedure for adoption of special-need children" - sounds almost as good as Sasha squealing, "That my widdle sister! My Mei Mei, WanYing!"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sam's Favorite Pictures from Zion

by Sam

I like taking all of these pictures. Of them there are rivers, bikes, tarantulas, etc. I really like all these pictures, however, these are my favorites.

This one is a lizard.
This one is of Ben running to catch his card box while it's going away while Grammy is waiting to play war again with him.
This one is of me going to get Sash stuck out of the "quick mud." I'm not really the one who took this picture but it's still one of my favorites.
This one is of Sasha coming back over the river. She's a little stuck in thin "quick mud." Again, I didn't take this picture.
This one is of the others biking.
This one is of a tarantula.
This one is of a lizard on a rock.
This one is a face in the rocks. If you notice, it has a big black nose.
This is another one of a tarantula.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Adventures in Zion - Angel's Landing

With all of the excitement about Wan Ying, I (understandably) never finished our posts about Zion National Park! Back to the vacation photos...

One hike from our weekend in Zion National Park merits a post of its own - Angels Landing. At 5 miles and a 1500 vertical foot climb, the hike itself is no small achievement, but it's the last 1/2 mile - a climb up a vertical rock fin that makes it so amazing.

At the start - the monolith behind Sam and Buddy was our destination!
Hiking up the steep, hot, sunny, steep switchbacks (this was not my favorite part of the hike)
Views of the etched canyon walls on the way up - this part was so beautiful
And up the fin we go!
We got about 1/3 of the way up the fin and Mommy and Buddy decided that we had enough. I tired of the certain death for me and my child looming around every corner. Sam did not share the lame grown-up opinion. But he held it together quite nobly despite the utter unfairness of it all.
But just as all hope was lost, Daddy to the rescue! Daddy went back down to the campsite to put Sasha down for a nap, but then he took the bus up to the trailhead and by the time we got down off of the fin he caught up with us. We decided this was definitely an adventure for a father and son and Steve and Sam started back up the fin again. Mommy took a nap at the saddle, relieved that Sam got to complete his adventure without me. From this picture, you can understand my reluctance to go myself, let alone take my boy!
They made it!
Sam reflects on the majesty of God's creation (at least that's what Mommy projects onto this photo)
Ah, yes, this is why Mommy did not join Sam and Daddy. Apparently the vista as viewed from the comparative safety of the center of the fin was not enough. No, the child had to peer over the edge as his father photographed it. Note the teeny tiny miniature road far, far below.
Here's Sam's view from the corresponding shot taken by Daddy. The only thing ok about this photo is that I know he made it back down alive.
And back down again...
Suddenly, the tarantula we saw on the trail didn't seem that dangerous.
And back down the switchbacks. They were way more fun on the way down.
And extraordinary hike in an extraordinary place with extraordinary men.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Choosing Wan Ying

As parents feel for their children,
God feels for those who fear him.
He knows us inside and out,
keeps in mind that we're made of mud.

Psalm 103:13-14

Psalm 103 is awesome on many levels, but this week I have been so very grateful for verse 14 - "He knows us inside and out, keeps in mind that we're made of mud." I have been keenly aware of my brittleness and I am so grateful for a God who already knows all of my weakness, and loves me despite and even because of it.

So, this week was crazy. Intense. Like all of our emotions were revved up to the red zone all week. Crazy. But, I suppose deciding whether or not this child is your child shouldn't feel any other way.

On Tuesday evening a new shared list was released from China and at around 7:30 pm we got a call from our agency telling us they had locked a file for us. They said that she was born in February 2009, and that she had "adhesion" of the fingers on both hands and the toes of one foot. And they asked if we wanted to see her file.

Hearts pounding, we said yes. And we opened our inboxes and saw the following photos from May 2010:And one set of measurements from May 2010 with the following info:
The child lives in a foster family, has normal development and good physical state. Now she can wave her hands to express goodbye, can understand what “no” means, can call “mama, baba”, and can say over ten words. Her hands are flexible, she can tear paper, can crawl to pick up things without help, can sit up when lying, can step forward with holding onto support and can stand up with one hand holding onto support, able to be cooperative when putting on clothes, can put blocks into a cup, can stand alone for a moment, can walk slowly, and can point at the things she wants. She has 6 teeth, gradually understands the relationship between people, can distinguish strangers from acquaintances, and will laugh happily when adults praise her. When she holds a toy, you stretch out your hands toward her and say “can you give it to me?” she will give you generously.
She has 3 meals per day: porridge, rice or noodle, and drinks milk once, supplemented with egg, fruit, bread, biscuit and etc.
And we had no idea what to think. The photos were so grainy - was there a little personality behind those blank eyes? Were we really ready for a kid who not only looked different from us, but whose hands and foot didn't look like everybody else's either? What were the surgical, genetic, and therapist implications for "adhesion"? What the heck is adhesion anyway? Were we ok bringing home another 2 year old? We were sure looking forward to not going through potty training again... the questions and insecurities abounded. And we had until Friday afternoon to decide, otherwise our lock on her file would expire and she would be available for somebody else and WACAP would lock another file for us.

And, to be fair, we are not historically people who fall in love at first sight (or first photo). Heck, when the boys were born, I wasn't quite sure about their little tiny alien faces either. I think we try keep a little emotional distance until we've decided. Then we jump in feet first :)

So, we started researching and also sent Wan Ying's file to the good doctors at the Tufts International Adoption Clinic to help us sort through it all.

On Wednesday we consulted with the doctors and got some answers, and a lot more questions. It turns out that the average five month old in China weighs 15 pounds - Wan Ying's weight at 15 months. Here head circumference and height were hovering right around the 3rd percentile, so that was ok, but they were very concerned about her weight and the whys around why she was so little. And there was only one set of measurements, so they couldn't plot the weight to look for growth curves. Big questions.

But there were a few answers. From the photos, the geneticist's best guess was that Wan Ying's limb differences were caused by either syndactyly (a genetic condition that causes fusing of the digits) or amniotic banding (that's where the digits get trapped in bands released from the amniotic sac during gestation and as fetus grows but the bands don't and the wrapped digits stop developing - think rubber band around the baby's fingers). Either way, there are very few accompanying effects besides the shape of the affected limb(s). Ok, that was good news. It means that her condition probably won't degenerate and that there's no pain involved, those are just the hands she was born with.

And the report says that she's stacking blocks, scribbling with a pen, and picking up a pill with her thumb and finger and she's walking or at least standing alone. That's cool because it means that she's making her hands and feet work for her, even if they don't look quite like everybody else's. The doctor said that if she's really walking on her own, there's a good chance she won't even need surgery on her feet since there's no reason to disrupt something that's working for her (always nice!).

So, the limb stuff wasn't a big sticking point. But her weight was scary (although, to be fair, Sasha only weighed 14 pounds at 18 months, so we've walked this road before).

We went back to our agency with the questions from the doctor. Our fabulous coordinator, Elizabeth, said that she was happy to submit these questions for us but that it was very unlikely that we'd get a response before Friday when we had to make our decision.

More angst, more wondering, more guilt, more emotion, more unknown. Yuck. And what were we going to decide if we didn't get an update?

But, then, mid-day Thursday we got a call from Elizabeth - a minor miracle had occurred and an update had come through already! With new photos! And how this little face greeted our inboxes:Oh, so much sweeter! So much more life! And she's standing on her own and wearing shoes! And her updated measurements put her at 20 pounds at 20 months!

Steve and I emailed the updates to the doctors at Tufts and talked about our thoughts and feelings. We both felt way better about the photos (not that we would have released the file because of the photos, but it was awfully nice to have nicer photos) and her weight looked better to our uneducated eyes and she didn't look scrawny in the photos... so we decided that as long as the doctor was less worried about her weight and nothing weird came up as a result of these new photos, we were in.

And when we talked with the doctor Friday morning, her response confirmed what we thought. The geneticist felt like amniotic banding was the most likely cause of the limb differences (good news!), although they still recommend genetic counseling when she gets home to make sure. And her weight was almost to the 3rd percentile, so although she's still small, her numbers are moving in the right direction. We still need to consider the possibility of early malnutrition and its possible effects, but at least she seems to be catching up.

So we decided we were in. We submitted our Letter of Intent. We called our (overjoyed) parents, we introduced the kids to their sister's photos. We started to coach them about what it would mean to have a sister with limb differences and responses to some of the questions they might get (No, it doesn't hurt. These were just the hands that she was born with because they couldn't grow quite the way other people's do in her birth mother's tummy. Yes, we're really lucky to have her. Yes, she can do anything any kid can do!). Steve told them that we might get a little more attention as a family than we would ordinarily want, but that we wouldn't have accepted Wan Ying's referral unless we were confident they were up to the challenge. And then we shared our joy with the whole world.

These past few days have been some of the most emotionally trying I can remember. But God has been so merciful, so faithful to us. He has kept in mind that we are made of mud, he has cared for us as his children. And we are so very grateful that he has enabled us to confidently choose Wan Ying as our daughter.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Introducing Wan Ying Ling

We are thrilled to introduce you to our daughter, Wan Ying LingHere's what we know right now about our new little one:
Birthday: February 6, 2009, so she's currently 20 months old
Current Height: 30 inches (76 cm)
Current Weight: 19.8 lbs (9 kg)
Favorite activity: playing games
Favorite toy: dolls
Wan Ying currently lives with a foster family in the Jiangxi Province under the jurisdiction of the Children’s Welfare Center of Shangrao City.

Wan means a great number and Ying means reflect or shine, so I'm thinking we should nickname her Glitter... but Steve's leaning towards Dragon Slayer, so we'll keep you posted on the nickname wars.

We have submitted our Letter of Intent to adopt Wan Ying to WACAP (our agency) and they will add it to her file today. From there, we have many more bureaucratic steps to work through (see our full China timeline for the gory details) but we're hopeful that we will travel to China shortly after her 2nd birthday in March or April of 2011 to bring our daughter home! Happy, happy day!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Adventures in Zion

We spent a simply lovely fall break in Zion National Park last weekend, joined by Grammy and Buddy (Jamie's parents) visiting from Maryland. Everything was perfect - great weather, fantastic company, and unbelievable scenery. Well, everything was perfect except for the state of our muscles after two full days of biking and hiking, but I suppose we have nobody to blame but ourselves for that one!

I've come to believe that there's not a bad campsite in the park, especially since every site I've used in Zion has a fire pit and a cold G&T. Oh, maybe it's really my hubbie who makes every site perfect
Sasha dressed her own dog, can you tell?
I'm not sure this was Buddy's wisest pose ever, but it's sure a cool shot!
Daddy sneaks a kiss on the trail
Every time the camera comes out, the girl has to run!
I wonder where she gets it from... and why is Ben wearing his bike helmet on a hike?
I really love the beauty of the desert
Everybody pauses for lunch by the pools
And back down again...
We always take pictures of ourselves biking downhill - we look a lot happier when aided by gravity
Almost back to the campsite
Home again, home again
Sam and Ben achieve Junior Rangerdom
Ben even scored a sweet vest - so official!
Happy kids, happy grandparents (this was before Sasha decided to try to run off of the edge of the cliff, she wasn't so happy after that)
Zion canyon
Apparently when Mommy tells you that the cactus is prickly, you should listen to her
What a fantastic fall break!


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