Monday, November 29, 2010

The 33rd Birthday that Refused to be Photographed

Sunday was Steve's birthday - Happy Birthday, Baby!  We had a delightful day, with presents in the morning, a movie in the afternoon, ice cream cake with friends in the evening... and you wouldn't know any of that by the terrible photos (and lack of photos) we have from the day.  Sigh.

Here at Morningstar Happenings we pride ourselves on good photography and pithy commentary on adorable subjects.  But, alas, for Steve's 33rd birthday, we fell short.  As such, we proudly present The Birthday the Refused to be Photographed:
Ok, the backlight isn't totally my fault - when you get 8" of snow on your birthday morning, it's hard to avoid a little backlight.  Note my son eating the ever-so-healthy Little Cesars pizza for breakfast.
Steve unwraps while Sasha attempts to flee with the biggest gift.  The biggest crime here is clearly Sasha's stripes-on-stripes outfit.  She picked it out herself.
Foiled in her attempts at birthday thievery, Sasha thrusts the gift upon Steve.  This is Steve catching the thrown present, but it looks like he's making an offering to the Toddler Goddess.
Terrible photography aside, Steve had a very happy birthday. We all look forward to the wonders and adventures that the next 33 years hold!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving (including this year's Thanksgiving hats)

I'm a wholehearted believer in the I Thessalonians 5 lifestyle - to be joyful always; pray continually; and give thanks in all circumstances - but it's undeniable that there are easier (and harder) times to live in gratitude. Right now it's so blessedly easy! A husband I adore, three amazing kids, one more princess on the way, a good job, a comfortable home, surrounded by friends and the Body of Christ. I deserve none of it, it is all the good gift of a God whose love endures forever.  And his love for me is unchanging - in good times and easy times and brutally heartwrenching times, his love endures forever.

This year, we had a quiet, lovely Thanksgiving with another transplant family from church.  Some traditions fell by the wayside since Steve's parent's weren't here to force them on us (read:  no oyster stuffing or sauerkraut) but the hallowed tradition of Thanksgiving hats endures! A little more subtle than last year's creations, Sam chose traditional pilgrim and indian hats to accompany this year's festivities.

We had a perfect Thanksgiving - fantastic company, incredible dinner (thank you, Steve!), and hearts full of gratitude. Oh, and Steve even managed to snag the last butter turkey at the grocery store during one of his many "this is really the last time I have to go out" trips to Smiths! A tradition perhaps even more precious than the hats, it is difficult to imagine a thanksgiving without the children fighting over who gets to decapitate the butter turkey.

We hope that your Thanksgiving was equally blessed.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Preschool Author and Artist

In my head, Sasha is still my little two-year-old baby - it's so easy for me to forget that she'll be four in just a few months! But her newly acquired writing and drawing skills do snap me back to reality when I let myself think of her as my toddler instead of the preschooler she is.

Sash isn't writing legible letters yet, but she definitely knows what writing is and what it looks like, and she loves it when we write lists for her in her special notebook. This week, requested lists have been our family's names - always starting with Sasha (of course) and moving through Ben, Sam, Mommy, Daddy, WanYing, and Chorney.

And now her writing is accompanied by pictures! It's so fun to see her drawing people - this drawing contains two pictures of Mommy. I think it's a stunning likeness, and she got my hair just right.

And here's Sasha's preschool homework book. She loves doing her homework and she works really hard to complete the pages (albeit in her own way) - here's hoping we can encourage that feeling through the years!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Learning Kazakh by Osmosis?

Look what I discovered in Sasha's bed when I went in for last night's final tuck-in - her "First 1000 Words" book in Russian, Kazakh, and English!

Here's hoping that she can learn her native tongue(s) by osmosis.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sasha's Saturday Plans

As we're driving home from a friend's birthday party Saturday:

Sasha:  I wanna go China.

Mommy:  Yeah?  What do you want to do in china?

Sasha:  I wanna see my sister.  I wanna pick up my sister.  I wanna see my WanYing.  And I wanna eat Cocoa Puffs. [I guess she's not on board with dumplings?]

Mommy: I think that's a great idea.

Sasha:  I just wanna go now.

Mommy:  Me, too, baby.  Me, too.

Friday, November 19, 2010

WanYing's Finding Ad

This week we got a very special package in the mail - WanYing's finding ad! The Chinese government requires that a bulletin be placed in the provincial newspaper where a child is found in an attempt to locate the child's family and a research group was able to find WanYing's ad for us.

WanYing's finding ad was published on February 27, 2009, so this picture of her must have been taken within weeks of her birth!  What a blessing to have a real baby picture of our baby!

The translation is:
Ling Wan Ying, female, birth day Feb. 6, 2009, was found on Feb. 10, 2009 at outside of the Welfare Institute in Wannian County. She had a skinny face with both of her palms adhesed.
As grateful as we are for this piece of WanYing's history (and we are so grateful to have so many artifacts and photos from WanYing's early childhood!), our hearts can't help but sag at the sight of all of these children whose birth families were unable to keep them and abandoned them to be found and cared for by the government and, hopefully and eventually, loving families.

This is just one newspaper from one day in one province in one country.  We are so blessed and grateful to be family to "column 4 row 4" but what has happened to the other 135 children on this page?  What will happen to the 143 million faces just like this in our world?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Desert Flowers

Adoption has its oddities. On the whole, it's no stranger than having biological children, but there are some stark differences.
For example, as an adoptive parent, you have the opportunity to meet or at least read about a child (and/or birth parents) before determining if they are in fact your child. This, of course, makes sense - you're not deciding whether or not a child is "adoptable" because every child is adoptable, instead you're deciding whether or not you are poised and prepared to care for this child. But logical as the process may be, it's admittedly odd.

Lots of people in the adoption world say that they "just know" that child X is meant to be their child. I think that's cool... I guess... but I do know that hasn't been our experience with either of our girls.

For us, there was no lightening bolt, no voice from the heavens, no rush of feeling except, perhaps, of anxiety and confusion about this little face on our monitor.  The fact is that both of our girls had some serious warning signs in their medical paperwork. We knew that both were "riskier" referrals, both in terms of immediate need and possible long-term implications of the need. Both were teeny tiny girls, far smaller than our doctors would have liked. And both looked pretty sickly and blank in the first photos we received. They weren't easy to say "yes" to, at least on paper.

Maybe it would have been love at first sight if they were chubby, healthy, pig-tailed girls in pinafores. Maybe if all of their metrics and histories had been checklist-perfect, we could have accepted their files without giving it some serious thought.

But that's not our story.

The truth is that we wrestled with our decisions to adopt WanYing and Sasha. We seriously considered whether we were prepared, skilled, energetic, strong enough to parent them. They weren't checklist babies - and that makes them all the more ours!

Maybe it sounds weird and backwards and counter intuitive, but to us the fact that we cried and prayed and fought and spent sleepless nights weighing whether these girls were our daughters makes our connection all the more real. These beautiful girls aren't our daughters because we felt saddled with them or we felt required to say yes to the first child that crossed our path - they are ours because we mindfully chose them. We dug deep and found the courage to say yes with conviction and passion and love.

Sometimes I hear adoptive and prospective adoptive parents bemoan the fact that they don't feel "connected" to a child's photo or didn't feel a jolt of certainty the first time they opened a child's file. And I guess that what I'm saying is that there's no shame, no guilt, nothing wrong with choosing despite or without feelings.  You haven't let your child down because you carefully considered your ability to say "yes." Love is a journey; feelings come and build with time - mindfully deciding that you are ready and able to care for your child makes her more yours, not less.

My certainty that my daughters are my own does not come because of any feeling that washed over me upon seeing their photo for the first time.  My assurance comes because I chose them.

To me, my girls are flowers growing in the cracks of desert rock walls.  They have survived more hardship than I can imagine, more trauma and discomfort and fear and loss in their short lives than I will probably experience in my whole lifetime.  At first glance, they may not have seemed easily appealing - they're not summer wildflowers blanketing a meadowed valley, all ready to pick and bring home and display in a vase.  But they are miracles.  Beautiful miracles.  Rare miracles.  My miracles.  And I am so grateful to call them daughters.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Creative Tea Set

As I walked into Sasha's room yesterday evening for the bedtime ritual, I was pleasantly surprised to see her tea set all laid out with each piece in its proper place, filled with water, and ready for a proper tea party.  Setting aside the general dampness that always ensues when Sasha decides to throw a tea party, I thought it was cute, until I noticed two new little cups added to the collection - the caps that cover the bolts at the base of the toilet!

Ugh!

Still, I guess she gets points for ingenuity.  Needless ingenuity given that she owns enough plastic tea service for 20 or 30 of her closest friends, but creative nonetheless.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ski Season Begins

Wahoo - ski season is upon us! We spent a lovely day up at Solitude exercising our ski legs and confirming once again that our family was born to ski together. And, for the first time, Sasha even did some highly successful ski toddling. Just one more unnecessary but awfully fun confirmation of her Morningstarness :)

Sam got a brand spanking new pair of skis this year. Here are his reflections on their inaugural day: "I really like my skis. They're called Gotamas. I like them a lot because they're really good skis. They were the best skis for my size in the shop. They are twin tips and especially made for powder. I liked them a lot. They were really fun to ski on."

The ski shop guy was equally enthused about Sam's new skis. When he called to tell us the mounting was finished, he couldn't help but throw in, "As shop manager, you just need to know that these are the only reverse camber junior skis out there. They're the sickest junior skis on the mountain."

This was a fortunate comment, because I do judge ski purchasement predominantly on sick factor. Apparently Steve chose well (duh).
Ah, Ben, never boring
Mommy and Ben share a self portrait on the ski lift
Ben had a great day of skiing as well - he held the day's record at 10 runs!
I love this photo - 1 because I love this adorable girl, and 2 because she's happily wearing the hat we purchased for her in Kazakhstan!
Sash had a blast toddling around on her skis
Oh, dear, the "sassy sister" pose strikes again!  We are in so much trouble when she becomes a truly sassy teenager!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

WanYing's 100 Good Wishes Quilt

It's time for a new project to fill all of that pesky spare time as we wait to bring WanYing home!

The Bai Jia Bei, or 100 Good Wishes Quilt, is a beautiful tradition from Northern China. A new baby would be greeted with a quilt made from fabric and clothing swatches collected from friends and family, sewn together in a patchwork of love and good wishes to envelope the new little one. This tradition has been enthusiastically embraced by the Chinese adoptive community (I suspect because it's a nice way to pass the months of waiting!!!).

We would love to bless WanYing with a 100 Good Wishes Quilt as we bring her home from China. We plan to create a wall quilt (with the grandmothers' help!) to hang up in her room alongside Sasha's Dream Quilt to remind her of the anticipation, joy, and prayer surrounding her homecoming.

Want to be a part of WanYing's quilt? Hope so, we need a *lot* of help! Here's what you can do:
  1. Select fabric that you like from your craft supplies, old clothing, project pile, or the fabric store - maybe it's meaningful to you, maybe it has some history, or maybe you just think that it's pretty. It should be 100% cotton and woven (not knit, not like a t-shirt). If each member of your family wants to select their own, all the more good wishes for WanYing!
  2. Cut a 12" x 12" piece and another little scrap of the fabric
  3. Write a note for WanYing with your good wishes. You could include a scripture, a quote, song lyrics, a picture of you, and/or your own heartfelt blessings and prayers for her future. Do whatever expresses your good wishes for WanYing. Don't forget to include your name!
  4. Add a scrap of the fabric to your note, so that WanYing can match your quilt square to your good wishes.  We'll put all of the notes in a book for her to read as she grows.
  5. Get your fabric and good wishes to us! You can give them directly to us, send them via mail (95 S 300 E, Orem, UT 84058), or give them to either of our moms if you're in the Westminster, Md. area.
If you're confused at all, here's an example of our good wishes and fabric for Macy Printy, and there are many more lovely examples on her 100 Good Wishes Quilt blog.

Thanks so much for joining us in anticipatory welcome of our new little princess!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ski Season is A-Coming!

Solitude, Brighton, and Snowbird are all planning to open this weekend, and the Morningstar family is itching to hit the slopes! I love it when we start skiing before Thanksgiving!

And, yes, it may be time to pull in the patio chairs...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

And the crazies begin...

And now I remember just how very hard it is to have a daughter on the other side of the world... to ache to hold her, to wonder and worry about the transition we will ask her to make, to rage in my head against the slow-as-molasses bureaucracies both here in the U.S. and overseas that keep us apart. My heart is committed to her - why is she still so long and so far away?!?

As such, I commit that writhing ball of emotion to God daily, often several times per day, and oscillate between feeling dumb for being so impatient and feeling completely justified in my compulsion to hold my child close.  And so I channel the energies into catching up on our albums from Sasha's adoption (I fell a little behind over the past year, shocker!), purchasing Mr. and Mrs. Mulan dolls for Sasha for Christmas, and plotting WanYing's care package, to be mailed after we get our Letter Seeking Confirmation.

And so I believe I cannot reasonably be held responsible for what I picked up at Gymboree on Saturday... after all, here's the conversation that Sasha and I had Saturday morning:
Me: Ok, Sash, let's go run our errands!
Sasha: Yeah, and let's go get WanYing
Me: (melt into a quavering pool of emotional jello)

Maybe a gotcha day outfit? Regardless, it felt good to buy something that her little body might wear. I'll take pretty much any connection right now, even a retail connection.

And I rest in God's perfect timing and in the fact that no wait is ever in void, not when it's designed by and dedicated to Him.
We wait in hope for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord,
    even as we put our hope in you.
Psalm 33:20-22

Sunday, November 7, 2010

One Less Broken Heart

In honor of Orphan Sunday and in celebration of WanYing's 21-month birthday yesterday (ok, that may not be a major holiday, but we'll celebrate every WanYing occasion we can manufacture!), I am proud to present the "One Less" video that Steve and I created. This is a promo for an adoption class we'll present for our church family in December (dates forthcoming) but we see no reason to keep such a sweet video under wraps!

Steve and I don't believe that adoption is the path for everybody, but we do believe that everybody should carefully consider their role in easing the plight of the world's 143 million orphans. How can you make one less broken heart in the world tonight?

video

Big, big thanks to everybody who let us use their precious kiddos faces in this video!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lovesac Leap

The obvious result of the Lovesac's relocation to the base of the stairs to make space for the Xbox Kinect?Top-of-stair leaps for everybody waiting for their turn to play!

No children were harmed in the making of this blog post, and, no, this was not Mommy's idea (even if she did find it hilarious)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Very Special WanYing Update

Yesterday we got an amazing comment on our blog. Through our comment on the Rumor Queen site (a China adoption update site), the administrator of a Chinese adoption site in Spain called "Con el corazon en China" (With heart in China) found our blog and recognized that our WanYing is being sponsored by a really big-hearted young lady in Spain named Laura. Laura left a note on our blog and through my killer high school Spanish skills and the miracle of Google Translate, we successfully exchanged several emails!

Laura has sponsored WanYing through a Spanish charitable organization called Adopchina since early 2010, which is awesome in and of itself, but becomes super-awesome because she's been posting photos of our little WanYing to her blog every month!

Courtesy of the fabulous Laura (thank you, thank you, thank you!), here's a brand new WanYing slide show!

8 Months - November 2009
11 Months - January 2010
13 Months - March 2010
14 Months - April 2010
15 Months - May 2010
16 Months - June 2010
18 Months - July 2010
19 Months - September 2010 - Our first glimpse of her beautiful smile!
20 Months - October 2010

Amazing! What a gift to us and to WanYing - the ability to piece together a baby book is such a blessing to all of us!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Naming our Daughter

Oh, it is so exciting to write this post - to finally know who are daughter is and to see her face and to know her Chinese name and to start to think about what we will name her when she is our own!

Like we planned before knowing that Wan Ying Ling was our Mei Mei, we really wanted to use Wan Ying's Chinese name in her Morningstar name. We are so excited that Wan Ying's name is pronounceable to American mouths (where Wan rhymes with fawn and Ying rhymes with ring). As a bonus, Wan Ying loosely translates to "many sparkles" :) We plan to keep Wan Ying's Chinese name as her first name just as we were blessed to keep Sasha's Russian name.

We will probably not include the surname Ling in Wan Ying's new name - it is the surname given to all girls in her Social Welfare Institute.

To try and remove confusion we think that we'll put the two characters of her name together and remove the space. That is, Wan Ying will become WanYing. In China, those two characters are the person's name, but in the U.S. we're worried that folks would think Wan is her first name and Ying her middle name, so we'll just put the two together to clear it up.

And we plan to give her an American middle name. Keeping with our Fruit of the Spirit/gifts of God theme, we're currently playing with middle names to see what we like...

WanYing Hope Morningstar?
WanYing Joy Morningstar?
WanYing Faith Morningstar?

All solid options to be sure, we'll keep you posted as we decide...

What fun to name our daughter!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pumpking Carving

We went over to the Kytes' on Saturday to watch the rally in DC and carve some gourds with our good friends. Both the rally and the carving were highly entertaining.

You will notice that Sam is conspicuously absent from most of these photos. As soon as he realized that Mom and Dad weren't going to clean out his pumpkin guts this year, he lost all interest in his creation. We even tried to shame him into participation (always a good parenting technique) by pointing out that his three-year-old sister was taking care of her own pumpkin guts, but he was too wise for us.

Admittedly, nobody liked cleaning out their own pumpkin guts.
Kylee was a trooper - she did her own guts and then even came to Ben's rescue on the assist
Sash lacked precision with the pumpkin saw, so we tag teamed it. She had a rather fabulously dramatic hacking technique, though.
Ben preferred to carve in angry concentration
Emphasis on the anger
Sash was so proud of her finished pumpkin!
We ended up with happy kids and delightful pumpkins
And they were just perfect on our doorstep Halloween night!

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