Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Finally, a game that keeps up with Ben's energy level

Just when I had finally mastered the rules of t-ball, along comes a new sport for the Morningstar Family - soccer! But, although keeping track of when you throw the ball in and when you kick it in, let alone the intricacies of off-sides, is taxing my sports-challenged brain, I have to admit that I'm grateful to have found a game that keeps up with Ben's abundance of energy. Case in point - it wasn't sufficient to take a photo of him posing in his new uniform, no, he had to be balancing on his official "Orem Youth Soccer" ball.

And my favorite part of that photo of Ben showing off his uniform? The fact that Mom didn't even know that the socks are supposed to go on over the shin guards. Poor kid. It does explain why the socks are long enough to be thigh-highs, though.

My second favorite part of soccer (the first favorite part being all of the running) is Ben's team's name. With their orange jerseys came a rift in the team. Half wanted "Orange Fire." Half wanted "Orange Tigers." But Assistant Coach Steve to the rescue - and the "Orange Fire Tigers" were born! Freaking awesome. That's my favorite team name ever. It would make a hell of a tattoo. I'll have to file that thought away...

The Orange Fire Tigers met a fierce rival tonight in their first game. The "Green Team" (seriously? Green Team?!?) made up for the lameness of their name with some formidable soccer skills. Fortunately, they still don't keep score in the 7-year-old league, so we can honestly say that we don't know who won. Unless, of course, you counted the number of actual goals scored. I never do.

Go, go, Orange Fire Tigers!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Farewell to the Powells

Today was the Powell family's last Sunday in Utah. This week they move cross-country where Jim will take a new position as the Worship Pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Westminster, Maryland. Yes, you read that correctly - some of our bestest friends are moving to our hometown, the town where both sets of our parents live mere minutes from each other, the town where we met and were married. Crazy business.

If there's a silver lining to these blasted goodbyes, it's the guarantee that we will see these folks again. They can run - but if they are running to our hometown then we'll assume that they're not really trying to hide.

Ok, there are 2 other silver linings (can clouds have multiple linings? well, mine can). 1 - Jim will have the opportunity to serve God and follow his passions in full-time music ministry (I have to list that as a good thing or else I sound sacrelig). 2 - Their departure did give us ample excuse for a multitude of parties and goodbye dinners. This has included the consumption of many tens of dollars of Amano Chocolate, our new collective obsession.

Small consolation, though... they will be missed. Really, really missed. Powells, we love you dearly. Westminster, be good to my sister!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Living Room Facelift

The living room was the first room we painted (or, rather, talked friends into painting) when we moved to Utah and eight years it was time for a facelift. Something a little brighter on the walls, new curtains, rearrange paintings, and prep for new carpet this fall.

While we were in Orlando with our fabulous Kaz crew in June we engaged the services of one of our college student friends to paint. There was an unfortunate misunderstanding where the bottom of the walls was supposed to stay rusty but instead got a shiny new coat of Mushroom Bisque as was intended for only above the chair rail. We recovered quickly(ish) from the shock of losing our beloved rust-stained walls (although it's still a little painful to talk about) and since there was no way we were going to go through the 18 step process of painting, treating, and sealing the walls again with rust treatment we chose to look at the rather boring room as a clean slate. Sigh.

Step 1: Curtains. The valance had to go, and we decided that we needed something a little bit bold. We opted for track panels from Ikea. When closed, they connect to make a macro picture of a flower. When open, they sit entirely to the sides of the windows, so they don't block any light and they make the window look huge. Success.

Step 2: Theme. In celebration of our twelfth anniversary, Steve bought this very cool painting for me. He saw it hanging up at Sundance and decided (correctly!) that it would look awesome in our living room. I decided that it was the perfect inspiration for the whole room.

Step 3: Giant copper trees. I'm sure it comes as no surprise that our decorating tastes tend towards the unique and eclectic. Oh, and time consuming, that's a prerequisite for any decorating idea I have, it must be ridiculously time consuming (see: painting millions of tiny circles on Sasha's walls and crackle painting our entire bedroom). When compared to most of our projects, hand painting 7 copper birch trees on our walls seems almost sane.

We're very happy with our brand new living room! Hmmm... what project to tackle next?

Before
And after!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Girly-girl

I admit that I am at least partially to blame for the phenomenon that is Sasha's obsession with nail polish. Although I would never, ever even consider painting my own nails, the novelty of painting my toddler's nails is irresistible.

Here we are picking out the finest 60-second nail polish that $1.99 can buy at Target. We had great fun choosing colors and ended up with pink and blue. We also wanted to get a fabulous metallic grape color, but it was $3 and that's way outside of my toddler nail polish budget. I am happy to report that the pink toenails match her pink Crocs perfectly.

Teeny-tiny three-year-old nails are deceptively difficult to paint, especially with all of the wiggling. We did, however, persevere and ended up with quite an extraordinary polish job, as Sash displays here in this picture when encouraged to, "show off your nails!" Polish does come off of kitchen counters with nail polish remover, which is made necessary because 60-second nailpolish doesn't really dry in 60 seconds (lies!) and it's so hard not to scrape your bright blue wet nails along the counter while grooving to Alvin and the Chipmunks.

And here's Sasha's attempt to show you her pretty pink painted toenails. I like that she's still keeping her fingers splayed in, "let the nails dry" style. Obviously I put the fear of God into her rather effectively after the 31st time I had to redo the polish on her left index finger.

You'll just have to take my word for the cuteness of the toenails, she refused to stay still long enough for a proper picture.

And here's my best attempt to show off Sasha's, "pony hair" as she calls it. Like I said, there was a lot of wiggling involved.

I've gotten pretty darn good at the pony hair over the past week and am probably unduly proud of the accomplishment. We even got the pigtails going on earlier in the week. It takes a brush, a comb, a spray-bottle of water, and specially purchased toddler hair teeny tiny rubberbands, but the resulting "princess hair" is well worth the effort.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Adoption Update - I-800A arrived!

We interrupt your regularly-scheduled Wednesday afternoon activities to let you know that our I-800A arrived in the mail today! I will never insult USCIS again (until the next time they make me wait for something I'm impatient for) - we may have waited 45 days for our fingerprinting appointment, but to receive the notification of approval just 5 days after our prints were taken is faboo.

The words "Approval Notice" and "Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country" sure do look sweet together.

Tomorrow we send it all off to the Utah Lt. Governor's office for verification - it feels great to have this last piece of paper in-hand!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First Day of School

Note: The following photo represents an reenactment of the actual events taking place on the morning of August 24, 2010. Jamie left too early for work to participate in the photography and Steve forgot to take pictures but very sweetly agreed to stage a "going to school" scene in the afternoon uncannily like the one witnessed that morning, only with less hitting and more hugging. There were several loud, moaning, "Mooooo-oooom" sounds heard by Jamie over the phone as Steve explained to the children that they had to put their bookbags on and pretend to head off to school at 4 in the afternoon. They survived. And they looked adorable.

Happy first day of school! Today, Second and Fourth grades. Tomorrow, college.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Strategy games with my little sister

by Sam

Playing chess with Sasha was fun. The first move she did herself that coordinated with the move of the piece she did after I won. Usually I just went, "Sasha, do you want to put the piece here?" And she said, "Yah." [Editor's note: With Sam dictating Sasha's every move, I find his swift victory a little suspicious]

You know what, I think Sasha's going to take a wewy wewy wong time to play chess. Once she's actually old enough, I'll teach her how to play.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Adoption Update

Yesterday's fingerprinting appointment at USCIS was wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am easy. Hooray! Now we just wait for our I-800A (the pre-approval for Mei Mei's visa) and our China dossier is complete.

Here's the current state-of-the-checklists:

Done:
  • Financial Statement
  • City of Orem Adult Criminal History Records Request
  • Employment letters
  • Notarized forms from our doctors stating that we're not medically interesting
  • Birth and Marriage certificates from Maryland, Verified by the Lt. Governor
  • Adoption application letter
  • Family photos
  • Education hours
  • Homestudy
  • I-800A application sent to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • I-800A fingerprinting appointment at USCIS
Still to do:
  • I-800A approval
  • Verify all of the documents with the Utah Lt. Governor's Office (it's like the apostilling we had to do for Kaz only different, and don't ask me what the difference is)
  • Send all documents after they've been verified by the Md. and Utah Lt. Governors to the U.S. State Department for double-super verification
  • Send all documents verified by the U.S. State Department to the Chinese Consulate in DC for triple-super verification
And then we'll be paper-ready and WACAP can send our dossier to CCAA (Chinese Center of Adoption Affairs). Whew!

We're still on-track to be matched this fall and travel in the spring. We're sure looking forward to be dossier-complete!

For all of the gory paperwork details, please see our China Adoption Timeline.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lagoon - Utah's Disney World

I know that this is hard – nigh impossible – to believe, but despite calling Utah home for nine glorious years, we had never visited Lagoon.

We took our first trip to Utah’s fun Mecca (slogan: "It’s what fun is") last week and were very pleasantly surprised by the largest family-owned amusement park left in the U.S. Granted, the day had its oddities, such as the Pioneer Village, which includes what is apparently a very large and fine collection of guns and other assorted weaponry and several old Mormon meeting houses that were moved to Lagoon from around the state... but Pioneer Village also had a pretty darn fine water rapids ride so I can’t criticize too harshly. Sam went on his first loop-de-loop roller coaster and both boys rode a first wooden roller coaster, my favorite part of the day (Sam was a fan, Ben not so much).

We were jolted into a newfound appreciation for just how different it is to have a girl when Sasha spied a singing-and-dancing musical spectacular and was immediately and immovably rooted to the spot until the show’s completion. After relieving Steve so he could go ride a roller coaster with Sam (one person could not be expected to endure that whole show, and I was flabbergasted at the length of the production. Wow. Really long. Not a good thing. They should have modeled the musical extravaganza after the Extreme Parrots show we saw earlier in the day. Yes, bizarre name, but reasonable length.) I sat down between Ben and Sasha for the remainder of the spectacle.

In the middle of the Ode to Billy Joel I leaned over to Ben and asked, "Ben, are you enjoying this?" To which I received a puzzled yet emphatic, "No, I think it's kind of weird" (roger that). Then I leaned over to Sash and asked the same question. Without removing her transfixed eyes from the stage she whispered, "Yah, I gike it a wot" as she swayed along to the music and mimicked the dancers' hand motions.

Good times, good times. Glad that we could all agree that the Ferris Wheel was the perfect way to close out a great day at Lagoon.
And a shout-out to inContact for footing the bill for the day's fun. If there's anything I like better than a day off of work at an amusement park with my family, it's getting it all for free. Best work summer party I've ever been to!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mani-Pedi Toddler

Check out the sight that greeted us upon return from the Bob Dylan concert Tuesday night! My daughter has now, officially, far exceeded me in girliness. I guess I should have seen it coming when the crown-and-crinoline obsession hit a few weeks ago.

Our fantastic sitter, Sidney, and Sasha plotted this new onslaught of fabulousness and Sidney came armed with silver polish that changes color in the sun and a color called (I am not making this up) "Cajun Shrimp" for the itty bitty toddler toenails. Apparently Sasha was so thrilled with the results that she immediately insisted on changing into a princess dress and heels. Who can blame her?

Do I see a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique visit in our next visit to Disney World?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I'll Be Your Baby Tonight

We love our Bob Dylan here at morningstarhappenings and never miss a Dyan concert. After all, you never know when it'll be your last chance to see Bobby - I know that Mr. Zimmerman is only 69, but I think he lived his early (and probably middle and possibly later) years a bit harder than most.

This concert was heaven compared to our previous Dylan outing at Deer Valley, which was possibly the coldest and wettest I have ever been. Last night was warm and dry and simply delightful. The best of company, a great venue, and a first-rate performance. Summer concert going at its finest.

Besides the obvious benefits of the evening (great music and an evening out with my man), my favorite part was probably the crazy old guy on the hill next to us. He regaled us with stories of following Dylan on tour in the 60's and eating dinner with "Bobby Dylan and Jimmy Morrison" and borrowing guitars from "Bobby" to jam with the band. I don't know if they were true, but the stories were fun.

My fourth favorite part of the concert was watching old hippie-folk dance the night away. Never gets old.

video

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Meteor-wrong

Thursday night we camped out in the backyard to watch the Perseid meteor shower. Like last year, our photos of the show only look like falling stars if you squint and shake your head back and forth really fast. Oh well, at least we have a nice sequence of pictures of the sky over our backyard at 3 am.

This year's shower was, admittedly, weaker than last year's. I think we just got unlucky; apparently 3-4 am didn't end up being the best time to watch the meteors in Orem Utah. We didn't even wake the kids up, but rather let them slumber peacefully in the grass - they were ticked at us in the morning for not rousing them, but not nearly as mad as they would have been to be dragged from their warm sleeping bags to watch (mostly) motionless stars!

Until next year, I suppose.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Haircut!

I wasn't the only one who got a haircut this week (thanks for noticing!) - Sam is currently enjoying the first professional haircut of his 9 good-looking years. His precise instructions were, "Basically the same, only 3 or 4 inches shorter." which is less helpful than you might think.

But after considerable hemming and hawing, his haircutter and I decided to just stick with the same style, only shorter. Just like he said in the first place :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

iPhone, I Love You

I'm in love. I resisted for so long. I stayed with the finest phones that $0-$20 could buy. I sort of marginally knew how to use a cell phone sort of. But that life is behind me now. I am an iPhone 4 owner.

My phone is magical and wondrous. I can take pictures of checks and deposit them to my bank account. I can watch Webex presentations. I can find trailheads using Google Maps that put little dots on my current location and desired destination. I can listen to XM Radio. I can waste hours playing Flight Control. Magic.

And we've only just begun. Heaven knows what earth-shattering applications and uses will be discovered during week 2 of iPhone ownership. I can't imagine how my affection for this device could possibly increase, but anything's possible when you own an iPhone :) I don't think I've loved anything this much since my Schi Devils. Well, besides the prerequisite God, Family, blah blah blah.

Oh, and apologies for the crappy self-portraits. I asked Steve to take a picture of me with my beloved phone for the blog but he said that if I'm blogging about an iPhone I have to take pictures of myself with said iPhone. I had no ideas there were so many rules about premium mobile phone ownership, but I'm learning quickly.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Camping at Granite Flat

Boy, this blog sure makes us look like outdorsey folks, judging by the prevalence of hiking and camping posts over the past few weeks... it doesn't really feel that way day-to-day, but I'm happy to maintain the mountain-family image. And hiking photos are a whole lot more interesting than pictures of the guys playing Xbox or me napping on the Luvsac while the kids enjoy their 4,000th viewing of the Mickey Mouse DVD.

We spent last weekend camping and hiking with our friends the Kaszas at the Granite Flat Campground in AF Canyon. In amusing irony, we hiked the southern end of the Dry Creek trail on Saturday... it took us two full days of hiking to find the northern end of the trail, yet we randomly found ourselves hiking the other side just one week later. The trail gods can be cruel.

We had a fabulous, low-key weekend highlighted by naps during a Saturday afternoon rain shower and the two dogs (Chorney and the Kasza's dog Bella) chasing each other full-tilt for hours on end, much to Sasha's delight.

"What do you want to do today, Babe?" "Doin' it"
Enter: Ben, holding knife menacingly. He hasn't wounded himself or anybody else. Yet.
A-hiking we go. Wherever the dogs lead, Sasha follows. "Beya (Bella), Gaya (Chornaya), waid o' me!"
Sasha demonstrates her walking/whacking stick
Love the wildflowers
Back at the campground, Mommy whups the boys at Settlers. Actually, they're getting pretty good - they consistently give me a run for my money. BTW, I was supposed to look thoughtful in this photo, but I ended up just looking angry. File that away under, "faces not to have while being photographed"
Sasha developed a deep and sticky affection for s'mores on this trip
Sasha makes Chornaya "pretty"
This is what our spastic black dog looks like at night while wearing glow sticks. On the bright (heh heh, get it? bright) side, she was much easier to find at night while illuminated

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