Saturday, October 7, 2017

Feeling Fancy

Family photos are a singular experience. At no other time are the opposing goals of children (chaos) and parents (neat presentably) at odds. It's astounding how the kids pick up on the stress and importance of the day and magnify it back in their own unique way... prowling through the grass like a lion cub (getting covered in burrs and seeds in the process), throwing grass seeds at siblings, pushing, shoving, making faces, and fixating on giant logs that they insist on dragging all over the meadow.

You'd think that over so many years of family photos I would learn to just relax and let go, since it goes without saying that me freaking out about their behavior only makes them freak out more. Maybe I'll have figured that out by the time I have grandkids.

Thanks goodness that God sent us a very patient, very creative, always adventurous, and perfectly relaxed photographer friend who is happy to let my kids be themselves even when I cannot. She never fails to re-assure us that she loves us even when we're a bit out of control and capture a whole bunch of really beautiful pictures in the process - portraits that don't just look good, but also capture our heart and personality as a family.

I'm super grateful for  living in a state so beautiful that locations like this are in our backyard, for my perfectly, uniquely, beautiful family, and Sarah Arnoff Photos for capturing this moment in our lives!

Step 1: Pull out the Ansel Adams camera and attempt to explain the concept of film, exposure, and darkroom to the kids.

Yes, this is what we do with our 10 exposures.

And, of course, there were many many beautiful digital pictures taken in the crisp autumn light atop Buffalo Peak. It's a funny thing, when we first booked the weekend we were hoping that we wouldn't be too late for fall colors, but with our warm September we ended up with green leaves and meadows. Oh well, we'll take what we can get - it's all lovely!

Did it get rowdy and sometimes a little out of control? Yes, yes it did. And did I learn to let go a little more? Maybe. But either way, it made for some fantastic family portraits.
Lord help me... that stupid stick

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Tour de Donut

There are defining moments in life. Moments that push you to the limit. Choosing to win, at the risk of tossing your cookies. Pressuring your teenagers to acquiesce to wearing coordinating jerseys. Choosing that tenth donut. The difference between being crowned Donut Queen and going home merely exhausted and nauseated.

Today, we met that challenge as a family, and we emerged victorious: Second place girl, second place unicycle (a division created for our family!), first place woman over 65 (good job Mom!), first place woman 36-45, and Donut Queen and Donut Princess. 26 donuts consumed and 63 miles raced between the four Morningstar riders. A proud day.

Here's WanYing's description of her day:

The Tour de Donut is a ride where there's three laps. Each of them are seven miles. And once you go once around you get to eat donuts and each donut you eat you get three minutes off.

And there's different age groups. One of them is ten years old and then there's another age group which is like to twentyish. And I rode in the younger than ten one.

I ate four donuts, but I only had to go two laps because I was in the younger than ten group. And I was Princess of Eating Donuts for my age group. And I got second place in my age group for overall time.

It was hard because I to ride my own bike for fourteen miles. I felt good after the ride. And I would do it again.

I'll level with you - ten donuts pushed me to the brink.  But the fame, the glory, the commemorative plaque, and sharing the Donut Queen/Donut Princess plinth with my girl, well, that's a memory that no mere queasiness could ever sully.

Sam proudly finishes
One more pic of all our bling
I won the battle of the coordinating jerseys. I lost on the bottom half - Ben and Sam wore jeans and Birkenstocks. Choose your battles.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

19th Anniversary

Today we celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary! I've officially been married for half of my life - that's a pretty darn cool thing to be able to say.

I'm so proud of us!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Ben's 14th Birthday

Last week we celebrated Ben's 14th birthday, and boy did we celebrate in style! Being born around a holiday, especially a holiday with fireworks as its signature component, Ben's birthday tends to be quite a party :)

Ben decided to celebrate his 14th year by doing all five spans of the Sundance zip line. As one has to be 10 to ride, this was Sasha's first time and as you can see, she was just a little excited...
Mom and Sasha on the training span
The boys continually reiterated how not nervous they were
Down Bishop's Bowl they go!
Ben glides by Mt. Timpanogos
Ben and Daddy coming in for a landing

The party continued with the traditional Fourth-of-July cookout, board games, lazing about, and, of course, fireworks!

We never understand why the dog doesn't maul him.

We spent a wonderful weekend celebrating our fabulous 14-year-old. Happy birthday Ben!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Tragedy (sort of) Averted

Long-time Morningstar Happenings readers will recall a short-lived but highly-memorable column called "Tragedy-averted Tuesday". Every few weeks we would showcase some terrible idea Ben had. It was always Ben. And it was always entertaining.

After this week, we may be reinstating the column.

Our Monday evening went like this:
Mom: Boys, why is the oven on? The timer is done. [opens oven]
Mom: Aaah! Dear God, what happened? [turns oven off]
Ben: [rushing upstairs] I was playing video games and forgot about the pizza.
Mom: Aaah! Dear God, what happened? [stuck in endless loop of incredulity]
[removes very well-cooked pizza, sees strange disc beneath]
Mom: Aaah! Dear God! [note the theme] Ben, you baked the cutting board in the oven!
Ben: [eyes widen in terror at the recognition of what happened] Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. [walks out of front door. Just can't handle it]
Dad: Did you make him eat the pizza?
Mom: No! That's like cancer pizza now!
Dad: Did you at least take a picture?

So, we spent a good portion of our week scraping up molten plastic off of the bottom of the oven, pulling hardened plastic off of racks, and melting/burning/scraping the oven clean.

The miracle is, it all came off and our oven is cleared for cooking again!

I'm not the only one hearkening back to four years ago when we narrowly stopped Ben from microwaving an unopened can of soup, right? The boy is nothing if not an adventure!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Risky Love (no, not that kind!)

I've been thinking about this topic for a while, and I think it's important to record, to remember the significant things that God is teaching me in the current season of life. Jesus is the perfect teacher, and he'll re-teach me lessons as often as I need to learn them, but that's not my heart! I want to learn new things and go to deeper places of love and understanding; not keep re-learning the same thing over and over! Plus these lessons are usually pretty tough ones, so I'd rather learn from a tough thing once ;)

I want to get real about the inner fear I experience almost every time I reach out to somebody in love. Generally, this expression love includes a notecard and a stamp - the postal service is my medium and I'm just going to embrace it. But the reality is that I feel a little twinge of nerves every time I clip an outgoing letter to my mailbox. Over the past few years I've been learning about how love usually feels really risky at the time it is extended.

Here's an example of a delightfully common internal Jamie conversation:
Me: Oh, man, that's a funny pair of socks. My friend is going through a tough time. I bet she'd like a funny pair of socks.
Me: Or maybe she'd think I was a weirdo if I sent her a pair of socks. I mean, I don't really know her that well. I mean, I did know her really well a while ago but I haven't heard from her much lately. I know it's a tough time for her so I'm guessing that's why she hasn't reached out.
Me: Or maybe she just hasn't reached out because she just doesn't really like me. Or she thinks I'm too intense. Which is fine, but sending socks would probably seem like a weirdo thing to do.
Or another:
Me: It's my three-year work anniversary! I'm going to take the time to write a thank-you note to a few people I'm really grateful to work with.
Me: You know that's not a thing normal people do, right? They'll probably think you're over-the top... or needy... or overly emotional... or just have too much time on your hands... or all of those things. Weirdo.
The first me in these conversations - the one feeling the impulse to love rather than the one second guessing it - is the one I'd rather be, and I choose to express the act of love that I'm debating. But let's not pretend that the choice is easy!

The hard part about these expressions of love isn't the time or the expense; it's how risky they feel. These gifts, these notes are an extension of my heart. They means I care, I care personally, and I'm willing to communicate that care. And all that feels scary because I'm risking the real, unguarded me. The sentiment may not be appreciated or reciprocated. I may even look like a weirdo.

But over the years I've learned and decided that I'd rather look like a hyper-loving, stationery-obsessed weirdo than to miss the chance to express love and gratitude to the people around me.

The allegory is not lost on me. All of the emotion above is just a little shadow of how God feels about us. Sending Jesus was the very definition of sending "an extension of his heart." His love, his gift, was rejected. The most beautiful, world-changing, eternity-impacting, personal gift ever given was seen as scornful by most.

God is using all of this to teach me a little more about his heart - his passion for joyful, sacrificial giving. His commitment to expressing his love no matter the cost.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

WanYing's First Time on Little Red

by WanYing

Little Red is really fun. You have to train hard to do it. It's really fun and guaranteed that you're going to have a great time if you do it.

Little Red is a bike ride that you can do in Cache Valley. Only girls are allowed to do the bike ride. The guys can volunteer, though, to help around.

And there's many stands that you can go around to buy things, mostly bike things, though. You can get glitter tattoos - there's bikes and butterflies, but I don't know if there's any other things. I chose a bike, that's what I usually get every year. My mom and me got matching tattoos and they were blue and the tires were dark blue. Our gramma got one, too.

There's breakfast and there's lunch and there's dinner and there's tickets for the food but if you volunteer or you're a biker then you get free food. I really liked dinner.

You camp outside. There's a bunch of grass out there that you can camp on. You can bring trailers, you can bring a Vanagon, you can bring tents.

The hundred milers go first, then the seventies, and then the fifties, then there's thirty fives and then there's twenty fives and fifteen miles. I went on the fifty.

Volunteers have to wake up at 6, though.

Sam volunteered at the start line
Our family went in the car and played songs off their phones with big speakers and cheered for everybody and they played Eye of the Tiger and that was my favorite song

It felt really good to do Little Red. There were rest stops each 10 milesish. At the rest stops there were Oreos with peanut butter and bananas on it!

There were some people who were wearing costumes and some people even rided with their costumes on.

There was a huuuuuge downhill. We went 42.5 miles per hour down it. It was really fun. It was the biggest downhill I've ever done.

There were a bunch of farms. There were a bunch of horses and cows. There were even baby horses.

It was a bit chilly at some parts of the ride because we were going either really fast down a hill so there was a lot of wind or we were going so fast ourselves that there was wind. It felt hot in the afternoon.

It took us three hours to do the whole thing. I felt really good at the end because it was the longest bike ride I've ever done.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Sasha's 5kay

by Sasha

The 5kay was awesome. It took a long time and effort but we did it.

And how we did it is we trained at my school this year we had a club called Girls On The Run. Every Wednesday we stay at school we check in at the gym and then we get snack go to the field. Whence we get to the field we talk about what the lesson is we do warm ups and then we run. We either run as a activity or just to run sepretly. We run for about 45 minutes after we run we do energy awards wich is we pick someone who worked hard or focused a lot then we go home. Every time at the end of the year we have  a practice 5kay and a real 5kay. Are practice 5kay was the jogathon and are real 5kay is may 20 and its at sugarhouse in salt lake

Whence you get there you get there  you have a row for your school are row was row 11 and my school that i go to is walden elementry. It took about 50 minutes to finish it was 2 times around the park.

And at the 5kay you have a running buddy to support you and the running buddy has to be 18 and older my running buddy was grammy who is my grandmother and she was so fun to run with and the5kay was so fun!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sam's Trip to Yellowstone

by Sam

 As part of the last few weeks, my school usually does an expedition to somewhere cool. This year I went to Yellowstone National Park.  Here are pictures of some highlights.
We first went to Yellowstone bear world, a place more than an hour from Yellowstone (Confusing, I know). It's one of those drive through Safaris, and we got to throw food at the bears. Seen here is a bear sitting down.(The guide said they have learned that gets them more food, and he was very right)
The next day we went to see old faithful. You might have heard of it, its supposed to be famous or something. Its not obvious in the picture, but that is spewing water more than 50 feet!

Seen here is a bacterial mat. Those mixing colors are the result of different bacteria living in different temperatures.
Right here is a steam vent. It is very tall, as exhibited by the people standing to the right of it

Yellowstone really looks scary, almost alien

This is a picture of the Grand Canyon (Of Yellowstone). The Grand Canyon (Of Yellowstone) was carved by a river running through it. This waterfall is massive. If you look to the top right of it, there are people standing there.
Please note that The Grand Canyon (Of Yellowstone) is nowhere near Arizona or the actual Grand Canyon

I might be a dirty rotten liar, because this picture isn't actually from Yellowstone. It's from the Grand Tetons National Park. It was on the way home, so we went to visit.

This is a picture of a stream. It looks pretty.

 I think it was very fun to go to Yellowstone, and it was cool to see just how weird the earth can be


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