Tuesday, December 30, 2008

She'll have fashionable headwear!

A few weeks ago, Sam started loom knitting a hat for Sestra. Apparently, loom knitting is all the rage in Miss Shelly's 2nd-4th grade class and when Sam saw the looms in Sestra's closet (they were purchased to make circles for her dotty walls) he got super excited about making a hat for Sestra! He wanted to make it in Kazakhstan colors, so we chose yellow, and you can see by the tongue out in the photo that clearly loom knitting requires intense concentration.

Aunt Sarah and I joined in the fun today and we finished up Sestra's hat, created a matching one for sestra baby, and Sam even started a new one (this time in green) for Ben! We are going to be one good-looking, warm-headed family in Kazakhstan!

Here's Ben looking awfully cute, modeling with sestra baby. The hat is a little snug on him, so hopefully it'll fit Sestra just right!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Vacation

We've been enjoying our free time immensely over the past week - baking cookies, watching movies, and getting ready for our trip to Kazakhstan. We're just enjoying being together (well, except for Steve, who's working full time) and the appreciating the vast quantity of snow that has been falling on us lately!

Sarah (our good friend from college) is in town, and I'm definitely appreciating having an extra set of hands during the day. I don't know how our children can store up so much energy during their too-brief 10 hours of sleep at night :)

Hope that you and yours had a wonderful Christmas. Our tree came down yesterday and once the pine needles are vacuumed we'll be in full "prep for Kaz" mode!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas without Sestra

I admit it - I was worried about celebrating Christmas without Sestra. There was such joy last year in "knowing" that we'd all be together in 2008 and we were so close to celebrating together in Kazakhstan... I was worried that this year's celebration would be be overshadowed by the disappointed expectations.

But God is doing amazing things in us. Here's my reading yesterday from Lamentations 3:21-33, a simply beautiful passage amidst far greater grief than I have ever experienced:
But there's one other thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

God's loyal love couldn't have run out,
his merciful love couldn't have dried up.
They're created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I'm sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He's all I've got left.

God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
to the woman who diligently seeks.
It's a good thing to quietly hope,
quietly hope for help from God.
It's a good thing when you're young
to stick it out through the hard times.

When life is heavy and hard to take,
go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don't ask questions:
Wait for hope to appear.
Don't run from trouble. Take it full-face.
The "worst" is never the worst.

Why? Because the Master won't ever
walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly.
His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.
He takes no pleasure in making life hard,
in throwing roadblocks in the way
These times are both sweet and hard for us. Sweet in the anticipation of meeting our little girl, in enjoying every day with the boys, and in the knowledge that God is using this time purposefully and productively. Hard because with each day we lose another day of firsts with our daughter, another day of her life that we can't get back.

But we trust God's plans far more than our own and we wait for hope to appear. We will be together soon, and we will enjoy our time as a family of four now and a family of five soon.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Snow Fun

We have had a ton of snow here in Utah over the past few days and if you know anything about the Morningstars, you know that we've been out to enjoy it! You'll have to bear with me on this blog post, my children were just so unbelievably adorable that I have to share way too many pictures. (this one is of Sam trying his darndest to catch a snowflake on his tongue)

Sam was hellbent on getting to the library yesterday to get a new Encyclopedia Brown book and since I refused to drive the 3 blocks in the of snow, we hoofed it! We had a marvelous morning together and the kids made it there and back again (with two Encyclopedia Brown books and a movie. Life is good!). Ben's energy did wane a bit towards the middle of our journey home, but he was sustained by gnawing on icicles gathered from the little league bleachers (yes, I know he's probably getting all sorts of weirdness from eating icicles, but Ben and I see eye to eye on this and agree that no pollutant can steal our joy from eating ice and snow. We eat raw cookie dough, too. What can I say, we live dangerously!).

There was enough energy left over when we got home for a few stellar snow angles, but alas the boys decided that the rented movie was more appealing than making a snowman. I can't blame them, I was ready to get indoors, too.

Oh, and I can't resist sharing this lovely photo of Steve and me at Sundance before our new job celebratory dinner. With all of the snow, we weren't sure if we would make it up there, but the Subaru did us proud and we enjoyed a fabulous night out together.

And today brought more fun in the snow for Steve and Jamie - a ski day at Snowbird! As you can tell, we had a very snowy day! The snow was heavier than we're used to (I know, we're such ski snobs now after 7 years in Utah!) but we found plenty of stashes to enjoy and had a fabulous day enjoying good turns and great company (each other!).

Here's a choice shot of my hubbie floating by:
Oops! Well, if you're not falling, you're not skiing hard enough. See, I told you there was a lot of snow! Swim free, Steve!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Job-free No More!

I'm officially employed again! Although Steve and I were really fine with me not starting anything until after we return from Kaz, I have to admit that it feels good to have something lined up already. And it has all been truly orchestrated from above.

You know that our adoption stuff has been a little wonky lately (dates changing, there have been some complications with bringing the boys, I have to redo a bunch of paperwork because it's now a year old... you know, the usual) and I honestly haven't been left with very much time or energy for the job hunt. But it was hunting me! Through truly no effort of my own (besides a couple of interviews), I signed papers today for a fantastic new position! I'll be working as a Sr. Product Manager for UCN, a hosted call center software company in Midvale.

For the first six months, I'll be contracting for them, which ordinarily wouldn't be my first choice, but works perfectly for my current situation since it gives me huge flexibility to be gone for seven weeks in Kaz. They have been amazingly flexible and I'll start January 5th and work as long as I can before leaving, and then just pick up again when I get back. It's fantastic! They have been really accommodating about the commute time, using public transportation, and working from home. This is one heck of a company.

And the timing is perfect - it lets me enjoy the (late) holidays at home and do some early packing for the trip, Steve can work full time all the way through Sundance's busy season, and I'll have something to start and then come back to once we get return from Kazakhstan!

And now it's time to leave for our celebratory dinner at the Tree Room! Wahoo and God bless my Sundance employee!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bubble Ben

You'll remember that for Christmas Ben asked for "lots and lots of gum" and his little Early Christmas wish was granted. Well, yesterday morning he woke me up with a magnificent new talent - Ben can blow bubbles! Today he got up to six pieces (no, I have no idea how he fits a wad of six pieces of gum into his mouth, but the boy must have jaws of steel) and in the line at the post office blew one so big that when it popped it got into his hair (granted, the boy has a lot of hair, but it's still an accomplishment)! That's what persistence and 20 pieces of Double Bubble, Hubba Bubba, and/or Bazooka Joe a day will teach you!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Finally, Snow!

It's been a long time coming, but we finally have some snow here in Utah! We had a big storm today and Sundance got 21 - yep, twenty one! - inches of snow. So we spent the afternoon making crappy snowballs (Utah snow does not pack well - it's the blessing and curse of the Greatest Snow on Earth) and enjoying our first good snowfall.

Steve started work at Sundance last Friday and is grateful for some more snow on the mountain. Ski instructing is better than basically any other job on the planet... but it is a heck of a lot more enjoyable when there's snow to ski on. It's really been fun for him to work full time this winter and I've enjoyed staying home, although I'm a little nervous that I may need to go grocery shopping soon, something that I've avoided like the plague for the past 8 years. Maybe I can make the groceries we have last until January? Yeah, probably not. Sigh. And I thought staying at home was all about eating Christmas cookies. Well, maybe I can use the snow as an excuse to delay the shopping a few more days.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Early Christmas!

Since we were originally planning to leave next week for Kazakhstan, we already had everything ready to celebrate Christmas on December 13th. When our travel plans got pushed back, we gave the kids the choice - stick with Early Christmas or celebrate on the 25th. It will come as little surprise that they chose to open presents two weeks early :)

So today is Christmas! Our day started with a generous kid-approved sleep in until 7:45 and a breakfast prepared by Sam! Life cereal for breakfast, a family favorite. What a swell kid.

After breakfast came the traditional dramatic reading of the Christmas Story from Luke and Matthew. For the second year in a row, Sam did the reading - this year in the King James version! Ben and Daddy provided a moving interpretation of the story using our stuffed nativity set. And, yes, once again it was the most boisterous and often violent retelling around... if it wasn't the angel bouncing on the shepherds, it was Ben the Giant stomping in to wreck havoc. Oh well, it's all about making the Bible relevant, right? (things I tell myself to make it all feel better)

We had a lovely day opening gifts, playing new board games, assembling Legos, making cookies, watching the snow fall outside, and looking pretty darn fine in this year's tie dyes (see previous years here - 2007, 2006, and 2005). I try to select a shirt that's relevant to the year's interests, so this Christmas it's shirts with the seal of Kazakhstan! I think it's some of my nicest work yet... and the orange shirt Ben's holding is Sestra's for when she comes home!

And now we're 30 minutes away from dinner, so I better go find the table under all of those Legos. Merry Early Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

On second thought... Christmas in Utah

Whoever said that "the only constant in life is change" is quite possibly my least favorite person on earth.

It looks like we'll be spending Christmas in Utah after all and traveling to Kazakhstan in January. We always knew that traveling in December was an educated guess on behalf of our agency, so we tried to prepare ourselves for the possibility of delayed travel, but I won't pretend that this isn't disappointing news. We know that in 2 or 3 months, a delay of 2 or 3 weeks won't matter one little bit, so we're just going to enjoy a few more weeks of Utah winter before heading to Siberia (well, close to Siberia).

Steve gave the kids the choice of keeping our planned Early Christmas or waiting for Regular Christmas and you'll never believe it, but they decided to open their presents this Saturday anyway! I know, who would have thought that the boys would want to enjoy their gifts early even if it wasn't necessitated by travel?!? So Early Christmas stands and we will celebrate in 4 days. I have no idea what we'll do on the 25th now... maybe a movie marathon or some similar low-stress activity!

And the big bright side of this news is that now Steve can work at Sundance over Christmas. He was really stressed about not being on the mountain during the busy season, and now he's free to work as much as he can over the holidays while I stay home and eat Christmas cookies (I'm pretty sure that's what stay-at-home parents do, right?!?). Just kidding! Although I will admit that I'm going to enjoy this role swap as long as it lasts.

So, yes, we're disappointed, but we know that God loves us and loves our daughter immeasurably more than we can imagine and we're willing to wait a few more weeks as he orchestrates everything perfectly for our arrival. We'll keep you posted as we learn more.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Goodbye to the Grands

We woke up this morning to an empty house - well, a house with only two boys, a mom, a dad, a dog, and one fish. After a whirlwind two and a half weeks with the grandparents painting Sestra's room, eating way too much turkey and potatoes, decorating the house for Christmas, celebrating Steve's birthday, and attending a shower and the Christmas Dessert we are facing a Saturday with no guests and nothing on the calendar. Don't worry, though, we won't be bored - we have 1001 more pre-travel things to check off of our to do list!

Despite the look on Ben's face in the above picture (he was clearly displeased with us for making him pose when he could be watching Kung Fu Panda), we had a great time visiting with Gramma, Poppop, and Grammy. It was especially fun for them to be a part of our preparations for Sestra, and we sure appreciated the extra hands with the carpet cleaning, painting, and decorating - thank you grandparents!

Before Grammy left yesterday, we had a conveniently schedule field trip with both Sam and Ben's classes to the Festival of Trees, so we spent the morning together before heading up to the airport. The Festival of Trees is a fund raiser for Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake and it was really cool! They had tons of decorated trees, wreaths, and (the kids' favorite) gingerbread houses that are all donated and then purchased by members of the community. It was a lot of fun, and all for a really fantastic cause.

And when Ben figured out that you got a candy cane when you visited Santa, he decided that he'd give Santa's lap a whirl. For the first time ever, our Ben stood in line and made his request of Santa - this year he would like "lots and lots of gum!" A boy after my own heart.

Friday, December 5, 2008

2008 Christmas Dessert

Every year the ladies at church throw a fantastic Christmas dessert. It's tons of fun and we usually get to host for around 500 women that we invite from church and our community. Of course, not having a building does make the dessert a little more complicated, but this year they decided to host it in the Provo Library, one of the very prettiest buildings around.

I had the pleasure of hosting a table again this year, which I always enjoy doing because it gives me a chance to use my great grandmother's china (with two small boys in the house, I don't use it often). It's also an excuse to brew a few pots of my favorite teas, another one of my favorite things.

Fortunately, this year I had two extra sets of hands to help with serving, set up, and tear down - the moms! Here's a lovely photo of me, my mom Marcia (left), and Steve's mom Sharon (right). I'm not sure how I missed the memo on everybody wearing floral Nehru jackets... but they sure did look spiffy!

We all had a great time at the dessert, enjoying great food, fellowship, beautiful music, and a fantastic message. What a great start to the Christmas season!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Steve's Ready for Court

Christmas from the Reinharts came a little early this year (even earlier than Early Christmas!) and left my hubby looking fine! Sign that man up for a daughter, we're done suit shopping for adoption court in Kazakhstan! No judge could possibly turn down such an upstanding and professional looking young man.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Celebrating Sestra

Oh my goodness - after all of the mock-violence of the last post, it's time to get back to more pink!

Monday night was one of the sweetest evenings in recent memory - a "baby" shower for Sestra! My girlfriends have an understanding - we believe that every baby is worth celebrating and, since we're always looking for a chance to host a party anyway, we throw showers for every pregnancy (including, apparently, the paper ones!). The caterer, however, was a little confused that the "guest of honor" wasn't the one with the giant, beautiful belly (Kristen is 9 months preggers!).

It was a beautiful, intimate shower at one of my favorite places in the whole wide world - The Beehive Tea Room in Salt Lake. And it was made all the more fun because both of my moms were in town from Maryland to join in the celebration! My sisters (and moms!) truly showered me with love and some really cool gifts to boot, like this sweet blanket that Mom crocheted.

I'll admit that I'm not quite sure that I'm ready for violently pink boxes filled with anime-eyed dolls that crawl and make baby noises. Good thing that I have friends who ease me into the world of mothering a daughter gently :)

It's hard to pick out a favorite moment in an evening that was just so sweet and special, but I really loved hearing from Kristen, Laura, and Cindy about what this adoption journey has meant to them and taught them as they have walked it with me. Cindy spoke about God's perfect hand weaving together so many details that maybe weren't the things I wanted at the time but that are the very things getting us to Kazakhstan in two weeks (ack! LOI, come soon!). This wild idea one year ago is on the brink of bringing a little girl into our family, and that simply doesn't happen by accident or happenstance.

Kristen spoke especially poignantly about the biblical relevance of adoption as God's illustration of what he has done for us. She quoted from Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He's the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

...It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.
And she talked about our long and arduous planning for adoption, the pleasure we've taken in orchestrating the details of bringing Sestra into our family, and the simple fact that Sestra has done nothing to earn a place in our family - she didn't win a contest or perform really well - but simply because we choose to love her and because of the joy it brings us to add her to our family.

It's a perfect picture of God's grace. We can't earn it, it is simply a result of who he is because his nature is love. He has chosen us and it brings him great joy to add us to his family.

Grace. This whole journey has been about grace to Steve and me - learning about God's grace, letting his grace cover our fretting and worrying, and just reveling in our place as his adopted son and daughter, joint heirs with Christ. We could never deserve a gift like that, and that's why God gives it freely. What amazing love.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

GUNS! Well nerf guns...

This blog has gotten a little too pink and frilly lately and this is my attempt to let the pendulum swing back the other way. It’d be best for this blog post if you picture a booming and assaulting voice screaming the words to you. Just trust me here.


And a big thank you to Donna and Poppoppop whose birthday card enclosures allowed the purchasing of a Nerf weapon of superior quality. I now know what it feels like to be a bullying superpower.


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