Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - Figs with a Future

2013 has been a year of new beginnings for us - a year of hope. And on this bittersweet day when we mourn Steve's mom's passing from this world two years ago and celebrate her true homecoming into Jesus' arms it seems a good time for reflection on tough times, hope, and how God combines those two in such surprising ways.

My Bible study this morning (you know, the one-year chronological study that I'm one year and halfway through - oops!) brought me to Jeremiah and the often quoted Jeremiah 29:11:
For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
This is a verse that's easy to agree with. I mean, who doesn't want God planning a good, hopeful future for them?  I'm in!

But it's easy (convenient?) to forget that these words were for exiles.  Conquered people.  Losers. Sinners.

Jeremiah 29:11 isn't a rose-colored glasses verse about God making every road level and straight and easy for me, it doesn't promise constant happiness and satisfaction and popularity and wealth.  Jeremiah 29:11 is about hope in the struggle.  Hope in the turmoil. Hope in the hard place.

Back 5 chapters from this iconic verse, Jeremiah talks about an interesting vision God gave him about these same exiles:
The Lord gave me this vision. I saw two baskets of figs placed in front of the Temple in Jerusalem. In one basket there were fresh, just-ripened figs, but in the other the figs were spoiled and moldy—too rotten to eat. Then the Lord said to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”

I replied, “Figs, some very good and some very bad.”

Then the Lord said: “The good figs represent the exiles sent to Babylon. I have done it for their good. I will see that they are well treated, and I will bring them back here again. I will help them and not hurt them; I will plant them and not pull them up. I will give them hearts that respond to me. They shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with great joy."
Woah. So let me get this straight.  The good figs, the blessed figs, the figs with "a future and a hope" are the prisoners of war in a foreign country? Not the path I would have chosen.  Yet for those figs in exile, it was directly through their experiences in a hard place at a hard time that God was planning to plant them, to make them his, and to give them great joy.

And this has been our 2013 experience. 

2013 has been a year where because of our challenges, not despite them, our family has been more firmly, more deeply planted in Christ and in each other.  Our hearts respond more readily to God.  And we return to Him and home day by day, week by week with great joy.

So we welcome the new year as figs with a future. Because we all need new starts - new years, new mornings, new lives - all found in the least expected, and often the hardest, places. Thanks you, Jesus, for providing as many new mercies and new compassions as I need!
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.
December - Christmas Tie Dyes
March - Bryce Canyon
February - Lunar New Year
May - Goblin Valley
August - Mt. Timpanogos
November - Solitude Resort
March - Bryce Canyon
October - Halloween
June - Colima, Mexico
April - Sasha's Birthday Party
February - Soldier Hollow
October - Dead Horse Point
July - The Narrows
April - U-Dig Fossils
May - Little Wild Horse Canyon
October - Halloween
February - WanYing's 2nd Gotcha Day Anniversary
June - Colima, Mexico
October - Moab
August - Wildflower Pedalfest
October - Dead Horse Point

Monday, December 30, 2013

Ode to a Man Who Researches Fountain Pens

True confessions: In the world of love languages, Steve got the jackpot (duh!). My primary love language is gifts, which means that I generally find special significance and have huge appreciation for presents and special little somethings chosen especially for me. I prefer buying from stores that wrap up purchases like little gifts. And I love getting packages in the mail. Even if I ordered them myself!

In some ways, gifts is an easy love language (of course, it's mine, so I guess it's obvious I'd feel that way). Steve buys me a pack of pistachios at the store for a special treat and he gets big points. He gets pistachios and finds a new kind of 2% Chobani Yogurt?  Cloud 9.  But it does make birthdays and holidays a little stressful for the gift-giver knowing that I have a lot of emotion invested in whatever is nestled in that soft pillow of tissue paper.

But this Christmas, my husband was more than up for the challenge.  He blew me away with several thoughtful selections:  new bike handlebar lights, my favorite coconut drink mix, and a black Sundance hoodie so we can be twinners (adorballs!).

But the piece de resistance? Two new fountain pens!

Yes, I still write.  With a pen.  A fountain pen.  On paper.  A lot.  And I tell you what, they knew how to make a killer fountain pen in the 1940s! For Christmas Steve found two Parker 51 Demis - the smaller ladies' version of the iconic pen, produced from 1947 to 1949.  These pens are definitely in Jamie's hall of fame of gifts received. I'm blown away that Steve discovered, found, and purchased two of these legendary pens! Such is the love of my husband.

So if the next letter you get from me is especially lovely, be sure to thank my husband for making it all possible.

And if you're looking for a great gift, I'm in the market for some cute colors of fountain pen ink.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sasha at Bearclaw

by Sasha

I've been practicing my turns and my stops and my french fry stops.  I've been practicing going down the hill with my arms out so I would not fall. I've been practicing so that I could get nachos.  There was a special guy who said if I get all the way up to Bearclaw I could get a special bowl of nachos with extra cheese.

I got to go all the way to Bearclaw because Daddy knew I was ready.

Skiing at Bearclaw all the way down was so fun.  It was not hard. I fell a couple times but it wasn't a big deal.

The nachos tasted great and I really liked them.

I really like skiing and it's so much fun.

Me and Daddy skiing on the steep hill

A big mountain and me

Me with a big bowl of nachos

This is my medal from the team race.  I really like it and I'm so glad that I got my first medal.   I was a very very fast skier and I want to do more races. 

Editor's note: apparently few girls show up for the Sundance Night Races.  In fact, this week there were exactly 2 other girls in the Under 12 division :)

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Wonderful Christmastime

After careful consideration, I believe that Christmas 2013 was made up of: 1 part quiet meditation, 2 parts peaceful wonder, 4 parts snow, 6 parts sugar, 37 parts Nerf gun darts, 1 part zombie gnome.

Yep, that about covers it.
As usual, the present-opening melee was preceded by a "traditional" (for us) reading of the Christmas Story as acted out with the nativity set Gramma and Poppop made us many years ago.  It was all going reasonably well and none of our precious nativity folks had lost their heads (literally - fortunately, they're easily mended) up until Sam got to the story of the Wise Men and we needed a King Herod for the Wise Men to consult with. 

Our nativity set is sadly bereft of a King Herod, so WanYing's new panda bear from her stocking (purchased by Grammy at the Portland Japanese Garden) gamely stepped into the role.

That's where it got ugly.

Once WanYing figured out that King Herod wasn't a good guy, she erupted into tears over her poor panda being forced into a role so far beneath his sweet character.

So then Daddy and Mommy launched into a long and involved explanation about how actors sometimes play bad guys but that doesn't mean they're really bad, they're just acting.  The message was somewhat diluted by Ben chanting, "King Harold is killing Baby Jesus" (he gets confused between King Herod and Hark the Herald - it's complicated).


After all of that excitement, we were ready to start opening presents, if only to distract Ben from his taunting and WanYing from Panda's misery.

Ben is participating on the Sundance Ski Team this year and is always cold (he's his mother's child), so this year his gifts all incorporated a snuggly warm theme: electric heaters for his ski boots, an electric blanket for his bed (which he has been repeatedly warned about lest it catch fire and turn into a Tragic Tuesday post), and this beauty to keep his face nice and toasty.  I think you'll agree that it's a bold look.

Sam is saving up for his own Lego Mindstorm EV3 and got mostly gift cards for Christmas.  Very much appreciated.  Not the most interesing for photographing.

WanYing's gifts followed a strong Minnie Mouse theme.  She outgrew her former Minnie Mouse outfit and so, in keeping with her unique style, on Christmas she wore a short sleeve collared shirt over a turtleneck, pink pants, Christmas necklace, new Minnie Mouse outfit, and then capped it all off with every ribbon she could find.  It was very, very fancy.

Every kid also received a new Nerf Gun this year because, as Steve explained to me, the four million Nerf Guns we already own are clearly insufficient for our family's needs.  Plus they were on sale for a really good price at Target, so if he didn't purchase them it would be like he was throwing money away.  It's hard to argue with that logic.

Oh, and of course these Nerf Guns use different darts than our current Nerf Guns, so we had to buy ten million new darts in order for everybody to have sufficient ammunition since my children and husband are incapable of picking up the freaking darts they just shot to refill their guns and instead must have six extra clips in every pocket.  Don't worry, I'm informed that the Nerf ammunition was also on sale for unbelievably low prices.

Never you fear, seeing the look of unadulterated joy on my six-year-old daughter's face as she opened her very own Nerf Crossbow, well, that made it all worthwhile.

She is terrifyingly accurate with that thing.  I credit the Kaz blood.
And, see, I told you our Christmas had one part zombie gnome!

As has become our tradition, we opened gifts on Christmas Eve and saved Christmas day for some less hectic skiing and family time.  It's a tradition I love.  We still get the boisterous fun of opening presents, and on Christmas day itself we get to focus a little more on being together.

This year Sam had an awesome idea - he decided we should give out presents to everybody at Sundance who was working on Christmas Day.  Fabulous!

Sam's idea was to give everybody $20 bills.  We thought that was a lovely idea if he was going to fund it.  He quickly changed his mind and opted for a gift we could all get behind - candy bars.

It was so much fun seeing my kids hike up to lift shacks and run up to cashiers delighted to share some love and gratitude (and chocolate) with them.  And everybody was so sweetly appreciative of our little gift. It made an already fantastic day even cooler.

And before we knew it, the sun had set, the lifts had closed, and it was time to get our tired, happy legs home for a big Christmas dinner and another Morningstar Christmas tradition - family tie dye shirts! This year's were based on our love for the Muppets as distilled through the Which Muppet are You quiz.

Not to brag or anything, but our shirts totally rocked this year.

It was the perfect Christmas mix for us.  Maybe next year we'll get a 1/2 part more of quiet meditation and peaceful wonder.  But I'm not holding my breath.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

WanYing Establishes a Unique Style

WanYing has really come into her own in the style department lately.  I believe she is trying to balance several important design principles:
  1. She is always cold, so layers are a must
  2. When it comes to colors, the more the merrier
  3. And if you add ruffles, gathers, or ribbons to the ensemble, all the better!
 Here are a few choice selections from the last week or so, for your viewing pleasure.  You may want to put on sunglasses, her outfits tend towards bright side!

Now this outfit may seem random, but there's always method to WanYing's choices.  In this case, she was frustrated that her fuzzy pants didn't have pockets.  So what's a girl to do?  Pull on a pair of shorts that come complete with pockets, of course!
For reasons I still don't understand, the girls feel that my laundry sorting is clearly inadequate and they need to re-sort it all.  This means that Sasha's sleeves are often 2 inches too short and WanYing is swimming in sizes 6 and 7.  Oh well!

And just in case you were confused about where WanYing may have learned her attention-grabbing style, well, wonder no longer!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Nordic Season Arrives!

Hooray! Ski season is finally here in all its forms! We here in Morningstarland generally try not to over-schedule our kids. We don't do a lot of sports teams (admittedly, mostly because nobody in our home has actual interest in most sports) and we don't have lots of practices or music lessons or clubs in our lives. But all of that goes out the window once ski season comes - bring on the business!

This year Ben, Sash, and WanYing are all doing the Nordic Ski Team up at Sundance and so far they're having a great time in the snow. Ben also decided to do the Alpine Ski Team, so we are going to be spending a lot of time on the mountain this year.  Good thing on-mountain is our favorite place to be!

Saturday was the first race of the year.  It went well, except for the part where Ben got a little lost on course and wasn't sure where to turn so he decided to stay put and wait for somebody to come by. Perhaps not the best choice for a ski race but oh well.   Eventually another kid did ski by and after discussing the options they decided on a route.  So we have no idea how far Ben actually skied, but at least a good time was had by all and he did eventually cross the finish line!

Oh, and Sash did a marvelous job of lap after lap on the obstacle course.  I think her enthusiasm may have had something to do with the Laffy Taffy at the end of the course.


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