Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ski Team Prep

It's October - that means it's ski season preparation month! Hooray!

This year we took the prep up a notch with 4 days of ski team training at Copper Mountain, Colorado for the Morningstar boys! Here's what I know about the trip:
  • Judging from this, the only photo I received, they did arrive in Colorado with all ski gear
  • Sam: It was good. There was snow.
  • Ben: Skiing in October is really warm
  • Ben: Our condo had a tub with jets. I didn't realize you have to put a certain amount of water in or else it makes a big mess.
  • Sam: Our condo had RFID cards for the doors, but they didn't have RFID for the lifts, just regular stickers (Sam found this ironic)
  • Both boys: We had to jog every morning. Me: Um. Were you supposed to bring sneakers? Boys: Nah, we just did it in Crocs.
  • Sam: I think ski team will be fun (this is Sam's first year on the team)
  • Ben: Sam is slow (this is Sam's first year on the team

While the boys were in Colorado the girls were doing their own ski team prep by practicing their bike slalom. They did great with their leaning and turn initiation and we only had a few collisions. Good thing ski racers are tough!

We are officially ready for winter, ski season, and especially ski team - now we just need some snow to seal the deal!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ying's second time having surgery

by WanYing

A little background from Mom: WanYing was born with limb differences caused by Amniotic Banding Syndrome. Her right hand was most affected and shortly after coming home at age two she had hand surgery to free the fingers of her right hand. WanYing's right thumb was very short and at the time of surgery her hand doctor told us that in time we might want to lower the webbing between the thumb and first finger of her right hand to give her thumb more relative length. 

This summer at her yearly hand checkup, WanYing's hand doctor said she thought this was a good time for the touch-up surgery. WanYing had been asking about having the first two toes of her right foot separated as well and her doctor said that she could do both surgeries together.

The bandages just came off and WanYing is getting used to her new digits - here's WanYing's description of the experience.

WanYing's hand and foot before surgery
I had surgery before but now I got surgery again so I can use my thumb better. Before surgery my toe was stuck together but now it's not. And on my hand that got surgery my thumb was very short and now it's bigger.

One time when I had my other surgery every one except my pinky was stuck together but then I had surgery and then it was not stuck together.

It feeled weird when my dad played with it where my stitches were. It felt weird because it was my first time having something between my fingers. [This part was really funny - she was so sensitive to having Band Aids put between her toes because he had never experienced the sensation of anything between those toes before!]

I got to play with Play Doh before I had surgery. Playing with Play Doh made me feel great and there was also like a frigerator and it had food shapes in it so we could make Play Doh stuff. And they said that I hadded to take the Play Doh home so now I have new Play Doh! [The Shriner's Hospital staff did such a great job of helping WanYing feel comfortable and secure!]

Then after the Play Doh I changed in the bathroom into my doctor clothes. I got to bring McGillicuddy to hold.
Then we got out our blanket and they set the bed down and then I hopped into the bed and then they gave me sleeping medicine then I went to sleep. [WanYing definitely doesn't remember this picture - she was pretty doped up by this point!]
And then I was asleep for a while and when I was asleep they did surgery.
And then I woke up and I had a chicken soup and I had Goldfish - and I had two packs of goldfish. And then we went home
And now we're at home taking our pictures of my foot and my hand. The bandage is off my hand and my foot
My thumb's bigger now and I feel great because now I have a bigger thumb

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sasha's Braces

by Sasha

A little background from Mom: Sasha was born with a wide cleft palate. We had the cleft repaired when she came home at age 2, but as a result of the cleft her teeth enjoy a rather creative and chaotic arrangement (chaos and creativity being a hallmark of basically every aspect of Sasha). We've known for a while that Sash would need substantial orthodontic intervention, including a few rounds of braces and eventually implants to take the space of some adult teeth that forgot to form. This summer Sasha had an expander installed to help give her mouth some extra space and last week in came the first round of braces! The following is Sasha's description of the experience.

When I got my braces I didn't like it when they put the expander out 'cause the blood was coming a little bit but I rinsed it out. And then I was excited because I could feel the top of my mouth!

When they put the braces on it feeled a little weird because it hurt a little bit 'cause when you get braces it will hurt a little bit. It was like ticklish-hurtiesh.

I'll have braces 'till summer probably. That's what I think. [Mom's note: as long as she means that she'll be done with braces in summer 2035, I think our expectations are aligned]

When my braces come off my teeth are gonna look straight and neat. [Agreed!]

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Picky Pizza Posters - SLAB

The ultimate quest for the worst pizza experience in Utah Valley

SLAB is designed for large groups of people who can’t agree on their pizza toppings. Cheese? Chicken cordon bleu? Pulled pork? At SLAB, everyone in your picky group can be appeased. Pizzas come in only one size, twenty inches. But you order your pizza by the quarter slab. Meaning an enormous pizza is created on-demand for your party, but you only get a quarter of it. Perfect for the college crowd it is catering to and located so close to BYU that you need to sign the honor code just to get in.


Large tables with seating for 8 in cheapish chairs, very convenient for large groups of college kids, which also works well for largish families. Everything designed for easy cleanup, which is also appropriate for college kids and our family. Copious amounts of napkins in dispenser, good for those with children who spill large drinks (sigh. we speak from experience). Maybe the restaurant should be renamed Slob?

This is the first place we’ve brought in a nice DSLR camera and felt like we blended in. Very “hip” here.

Large TV showing some baseball game. Boooring. But admittedly entertaining to hear Sam analyze the game, since his full understanding of baseball is founded on 2 seasons of t-ball.


Price for a large cheese

$18 (4 20” slabs equal one pizza)



Bucking the trend of unlimited refills, the fountain drink machine clearly stated only ONE refill allowed for free. We assume this is in reaction to college kids who will keep drinking any free non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverage as long as it lasts. But they have Apple Beer so who can blame them for restricting it.

Pizza Impressions

Large slab served on wax paper. No plates. Apparently we and SLAB share a "pizza on fine china" philosophy.

Mildly greasy. Crispy crust. Thin and similar to a cracker, but soft at the end. Sauce is just enough to be there but not overwhelm the cheese. Mild flavor bleed over from one pizza slab to the next, which was quite a problem for the pickiest of the crew.


5/6 Slices

Flavor bleed-over is a plus or a minus depending on your point of view. We were heartily divided as to whether the flavor mingling was a good thing.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Camping in the World's Largest Organism

It's been on my camping request list for years and this weekend we finally did it - we camped in the World's Largest Living Organism. Allow me to explain. About 3 hours south of us, near the ever-so-creatively-named Fish Lake, lives Pando. Pando, The Trembling Giant, is a 100-acre aspen forest and DNA tests have confirmed that the whole forest is a single living organism, a giant grove of aspen trees that all share a single root system.

For years I've contested that depriving our children of the chance to visit and camp within the World's Largest Living Organism showed a serious lapse in parental judgement. Steve countered with the the inarguable point that it's just a bunch of trees. And so the debate circled.

But this weekend we were looking for a new place to camp and we wanted to hit some autumn leaves so off to Pando we drove!

It was cold (we were camping at about 7,000'). It was beautiful. And, yes, it looked like a bunch of trees. But it was still pretty cool knowing that all of those trees shared the same DNA!

If you're looking for a get-away with plenty of trees and a fun fact your kids will continually mock you about but you're convinced they secretly find kinda cool ("Wow, Mom, trees! Sure glad we got to drive 3 hours to see identical trees that share a giant root system!") then we can definitely recommend Pando.

Ben says it's "Pando-monium!" But he hastened to clarify that's not because it was actually chaotic there, just because it sounds cool.

I must disagree with the child - any place with the 4 Morningstar kids is bound to contain high levels of chaos. It was definitely Pando-monium.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Meet the Xtracycle

We've now owned our Xtracycle for a month and it continues to transform the way we approach our days, from kid carrying to grocery store runs to hyper-intense bike races. For example, here's a quick runthrough of our rides last Saturday:
  1. Load the girls on the Xtracycle and head to Target looking for gold shoes and hair clips for family pictures. I could have ordered them from Gymboree when I ordered the girls' dresses but I thought they were way too expensive. Lesson learned - no gold anything at Target.
  2. Finish Frapuccinos and then load the random Halloween costume pieces and on-sale tea purchased at Target into the bags and ride to Gymboree. Find ridiculously overpriced shoes, tights, and hair accoutrements except that they didn't have WanYing's shoe size or Sasha's tight size.
  3. Add Gymboree purchases to the bike bags, load the girls on, and head back up the giant hill to the mall. Successfully purchase missing sizes. 
  4. Head home with 10 miles of fully loaded, superfun girl together time thoroughly enjoyed.
What other bike could be up for a fabulous afternoon like that?!?

Here's a tour of our new bike so you can appreciate her in all her glory:

Superbright 70 lux lamp powered by the dynamo in the front wheel
Xtracycle sells a "hooptie" and "magic carpet" (safety bar and rack pads) for maximum kid-hauling awesomeness
She came complete with fenders and itty bitty mud flaps - fabulous!
Mud flap and dynamo-powered light on the back, too
WanYing's favorite way to ride is backward for optimum car-waving opportunities. It's pretty dang cute for all involved.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Picky Pizza Posters - Costco

The ultimate quest for the worst pizza experience in Utah Valley

By Sam and Steve

If you like purchasing obscene quantities of paper towels, frozen egg rolls, or granola bars for a mediocre price savings, then Costco is for you. For those elite few who get to call themselves Costco members, there is a special dining area that serves pizza alongside with other culinary masterpieces such as pulled pork sandwiches, jumbo hot dogs, and a Hot Pocket-like creation called a chicken bake.

I really like this description I found of Costco on Imgur: If zombies ever attack just go to Costco… they have concrete walls… years of foods and supplies… and best of all the zombies can’t get in without a Costco membership card.


A warehouse. We’re sitting at a group of a dozen tables, in a warehouse. There are jaunty table umbrellas - why are there umbrellas inside? We're always transfixed by the onion dispensers. Ambiance is topped off by all the smart TVs in the nearby electronics area to Bluetooth pair with :).

It's very noisy. Shouting is best way to communicate, so our children feel right at home. Fluorescently bright lighting. Great place to get bedroom furniture, Halloween costumes, large electronics, and yogurt to accompany your pizza.

Sam: Is it wise for them to leave the smart TV’s Bluetooth on? Wonder if they’re passworded? Only one way to find out…

Price for a large cheese

$10 pizza + $55 membership = $65 total. Most expensive yet.


Limited to pepsi fountain drinks, a case of 2 gallons of milk or 2 gallons of prune juice.


Checkout for pizza took forever; the line probably was moving backwards. Every table was already messy and sticky so there is no guilt in the children making it messier or stickier.

Ben: NO Samplers? Where are my hors d'oeuvres? And why do I always need to be with an adult to get them? How is that fair?

Pizza Impressions

Cheesetastic! Best cheese taste yet, though it tends to fall off all at once in one large cheese hunk. Very floppy soft crust with a touch of crunch. It's best folded in half for consumption. This is probably largest “large” yet (as befits a wholesale retailer). Great cheese hunks left on box to consume later.

WanYing: Awesome! (singing) Everything is awesome! (Lego movie was playing on flat screen tv display)

Sasha: I love it when the cheese falls off! Then I eat it up.


4/6 Slices

That was great. Lets get a palette of Oreos for dessert. Or maybe a hot tub or set of tires for the van.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Riding, Camping, and Enjoying Little Cottonwood Canyon

A few weeks ago we took the chance to enjoy autumn fun Morningstar-style (bikes, camping, dirt, and lots of romping)!

It all started with a little 3500-foot climb up Little Cottonwood Canyon with my buddy Pete in the annual Snowbird Hill Climb. It was my first time up Little Cottonwood Canyon - 3500 feet of climbing over 10 miles was a lot but I kept on pedaling. My new motto is, "I may not be fast, but I don't give up!"

After the up and some well-earned Coke and watermelon I rode down to Tanners Flat campground and staked out a site for the fam. Hanging out on a sunny rock by a babbling brook after a tough ride was pretty much the best thing ever, exceeded only by the arrival of my favorite people, sandwiches, and beer a few hours later.

After a few hours of romping, Ben complained that he was bored. This is crazy talk, of course, because he had a stream, dirt, and a shovel - what else could a boy need? When I explained this fundamental truth to the child he saw the clear and obvious logic of my statement and proceeded to dig holes, which the girls then filled with treasure for Grammy to find. Perfect camping fun!

Pringle duck faces, chili cheese dogs, treasure hunts, leaf collecting, stream crossings, and all, we had a fantastic weekend up in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Autumn camping is the best!


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