Sunday, August 30, 2009

Perforation Proliferation

My house has an astonishing number of items with puppy-tooth-sized holes in them:

Fortunately, Chorney still can't begin to touch Nesbitt's record for big ticket item damage. I still cringe when I see this decade-old scar on our coffee table!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Doesn't fit my definition of "Lounge"

We love our adopted homestate dearly, but every once in a while we still get surprised by it's little quirks. We have season tickets at Hale Center Theater Orem and found this gem on the back of our playbill. Good ol' Utah.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Troll Under the Bed

Lately Ben has been experiencing some nervousness about things that go bump in the night. Although we have taken all sensible precautions, including monster spray (everybody knows that if a room smells sweet, monsters won't dare enter because it smells so repulsive to them - you can buy this at Bath and Body Works, but they've mislabeled it as "pillow mist"), hand moisturizer (monsters always nibble hands first, and if they're soft and sweet-smelling they'll leave the rest of the boy alone), and the old standbys of prayer and talking it through, Ben occasionally has some nights when it's tough to get to sleep.

On those nights, Steve and I come to bed and find a little troll under our own bed! Sleeping under a big bed in an empty room sounds a lot scarier to me than sleeping with your brother in your own room, but what do I know? Hopefully this phase extinguishes itself quickly, because it's a little eerie to be falling asleep and realize that there's somebody sleeping under your bed!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wall o' Love

We've had a busy five months since returning from Kazakhstan with the one and only Sasha Morningstar, but once I finally hung the dream quilts last month I knew it was time to finish up Sasha's room and display all of the wonderful keepsakes and presents we've received from friends and family. There's:
  • the cross stitch that my mom made (which she started when I was pregnant with Sam and has been waiting patiently with ever since for a girl!)
  • a darling embroidery piece from Laura
  • the quilled birth announcement from Sarah and her mom (they've made one for each of the kids)
  • Sasha's hand and foot impressions from her first month home
  • her first portraits
  • a picture that Shannon sent that she took a full year before we even met Sash
  • and the painting we bought for Sash from Karaganda
It's a wall full of love!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chornaya the Destroyer

Lest we be accused of only showing the adorable side of puppy ownership, of which photos abound, we thought we'd dedicate a post to a few of our home's recent casualties. Smith family, this post is for you.

In Chorney's defense, pretty much everything in our house looks like a puppy toy. How can Chorney be expected to know the difference between Ben's Croc and a ball? The ball she's allowed to chew and the one she's not? A Lego, Sasha's barrette, and a rawhide? A puppy's head spins with all of the rules to remember.

Here's an example of a "normal" view of the Morningstar lawn, strewn with treasures that Chorney has discovered and lugged outside to try nibbling. Many of these items are legitimately hers to chew... many are not. Notice the prevalence of Crocs in this post - I give Ben's Crocs another week, tops, until they're puppy food.

Fortunately we have a great puppy training book that explains what is going on in the puppy's mind and how to curb destructive chewing early on. We're trying!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Barrette Training

Before we dive into the fun of Sasha in barrettes, let's all take a minute to gaze in wonder at Sasha's fantastic flowered pants. These pants are definitely in the running for "coolest pants of all time," although the boys had a pair of striped pants when they were toddlers that are definitely still in the running for the cool pants prize.

Steve thinks I'm insane with all of this, by the way. He now doesn't even try to dress Sasha on Saturday and Sunday mornings because he knows that I'll just dress her again - which is probably true, but never because he did a bad job the first time, just because it's so gosh darn fun!

Anyway, this particular Saturday was cool, so I seized the opportunity to dress Sasha in her adorable flower pants and then I decided it was time to start barrette training. I dug around in her drawer and pulled out a few colorful barrette options, so of course Sasha then had to climb on her bed to dig around in her drawer to pull out all of the rest of her colorful barrette options. That's ok, I respect a girl's need to choose her own hair adornment.

After going through the cycle of Mommy putting the barrette in Sasha's hair, Sasha pulling it out, Sasha taking it to Mommy with her face turned upward at a perfect "you can put the barrette in now" angle, and Mommy putting the barrette in again, Sasha realized that one barrette simply wasn't going to cut it. If you're going to go colorful, that's a task that simply demands more than a solitary barrette!

It was hard to get a photo of the finished product - partly because the barrettes came out of Sasha's hair as quickly as I could snap them into place and partly because in every photo I took it looks like Sasha has giant plastic cherries perched upon her head in a variety of very vibrant colors... which is probably because that's an apt description of the giant plastic cherry barrettes. Oh well, I can't imagine any better way to accessorize vibrant giant flower pants!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

This Matters

We're involved in a really amazing congregation here in Utah Valley, and for the past year and a half we've been in the throes of a building campaign. It's hard work meeting in a high school, carting all of the equipment around each week for the 700-odd folks that we worship with, and we are eagerly looking forward to building on the land we purchased last year!

This spring and summer we kicked off a new phase in the building project and our staff put together a really beautiful website highlighting the stories and experiences of several members of our church family. We think they've done a great job describing the heart of this church (and Savior!) we love so dearly. The site is - check it out

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sasha's Slideshow Hobby

We all need hobbies, and Sasha's new obsession is watching iPhoto slideshows on the Mac. It combines all of her favorite things - pictures of herself, dogs, and chickens all set to music. Magic.

Unfortunately, she figured out that the spacebar pauses the slideshow and music, so in the ever-endearing toddler way she now exerts her control over the slideshow repeatedly and in rapid succession, making it less-than-fun to listen to while, say, preparing dinner. But I shouldn't complain, the slideshow gives us a few minutes in the kitchen with two hands - miraculous! God bless you, iPhoto.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Chorney Update

Chornaya is 13 weeks old now, and I can't believe how tall she is. Every day I come home and think, "you've grown another inch!" Her paws aren't super huge either, so I suspect that her poodle genes may be strong when it comes to her body-shape. That's cool, a tall and lanky dog would be a nice change after shaped-like-a-brick Nesbitt. And maybe that means that her poodle genes will also shine through when it comes to non-sheddiness!

We've been working with Chorney on sit and stay and she's doing pretty well, for a little puppy. We'll definitely need to hit the obedience school thing hard come this fall, but at least our early training is going reasonably well.

She has a lot of energy. A lot. I have no idea how to illustrate for you the abundance of puppy energy that courses through our home. We take her on walks and play in the back yard, but it's still not enough. Oh dear, I'm just realizing that perhaps she will prompt us to get off of our butts and actually exercise, if only just to work off a small portion of her exuberance.

Here is an example of puppy energy: If we're watching a movie, she will plummit down the stairs and leap, full speed, onto the Lovesac - the Lovesac we're lying on! And this is no small feat - look at her size in relation to the Lovesac! Between the toddler and the puppy, I have resigned myself to several more years until I can sit and watch a movie in its entirety. It's just not going to happen any time soon. It's a price I'm more than willing to pay.

Oh, and she's a chewer. We knew that the labradore genes would probably produce an orally fixated dog and she is not disappointing us on this front. We survived Nesbitt's chewy years, so I think we'll make it through Chorney's, but it certainly doesn't help that our house is full of trashy little plastic toys that look like dog toys. Sometimes I'm secretly happy when she destroys McDonald's toy number 497,000 because it means I get to throw it away. Shhh, don't tell the kids.

I'm collecting photos for a "Chornaya the Destroyer" post, so stay tuned for that upcoming treasure.

Overall, our first month with Chorney has really been fun. The kids are amazing with her and, despite all of the scratches she's received, Sasha is still jubilant every time she sees Chornaya. For her part, Chorney has reacted really well to all of the "love" she receives from the kids and is shaping up to be a really great dog. It's kind of crazy to think that we'll still have Chorney when Sam graduates from high school. Woah.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

First Day of School!

Do you remember that old Staples commercial with the dad prancing around the store while It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year plays in the background? I never thought it was that funny... and then I had school-aged kids.

Today was the first day of school for Ben and Sam - first and third grades, respectively. From the few details I could glean, the day seemed to go well for both of them. They even had lunch at the same time and got to play tag together at recess. Sam's a blue reader and Ben's a green reader. There, now you know as much about my children's day as I do!

Steve had trouble finding the right words to describe his day, but he finally settled on "blissful and quiet" - apparently his standards for both bliss and quiet have been eroded considerably this summer if a day at home with a two-year-old and puppy can qualify!

As for me, I'm still trying to adjust to the idea that Sam is in third grade. Third grade - it sounds so old, it can't possibly apply to one of my children!

I predict a really stellar year for both kids. I'm looking forward to Sam's second year at Walden - it took him a little while last year to remember what Montessori school is all about, and now that he's hit his stride I think he's going to do really well this year. Plus he's in the middle year of his bridge class (he's in a second, third, and fourth grade class) and I think he'll enjoy having kids in his class that are younger than he is.

And Ben's going to thrive in first grade (his class is a first, second, and third grade class). Besides , how can you have anything but a banner year when you get to eat lunch very day from a Mystery Machine lunch box? Sasha thought it was so cool that we almost had to wrestle it from her vice-grip fist to get the boys to school on time!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Six Months a Morningstar

Today, August 17th 2009, our amazing Sasha has been Alexandra Grace Morningstar for six months. Can you believe it?!?

In celebration of her six-month Morningstar anniversary, here's a little reflection on Sasha from each of us:

Ben: I think that Sasha is the best sister in the world and I really think that she is really talented, like at playing. That's all, bye bye!

Sam: Sasha is really really silly. She's a lot of fun to play with, but I'm not sure if she'll still be so much fun when she's older. [whispering] You know, cooties.

Mommy: I love how affectionate Sasha is. She loves to snuggle and give hugs and kisses and high fives. Watching her care for her dolls and stuffed animals shows me how very much she already understands about what it means to be a family - she's a fast learner!

Daddy: This girl is all about hugs and kisses. You can't get her to sleep without a thousand well placed kisses on her cheeks. But she's earned every one with her sweet behavior with the boys to the awesome songs that she sings (I still haven't figured out the lyrics yet). Our Sasha has shown she is Morningstar through and through and I can't remember how our family survived or functioned without her.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ben and Sam Climbing a Tree

[precisely as dictated by Ben]
Have you noticed that Ben has been working on his big boy skills? But - he has a new skill: climbing trees! They're The Climbing Tree Brothers!

Here are directions for the tree in our front yard. Every tree in the world should have a strategy and this is this tree's strategy:

Step 1: Grabbing the two branches

Step 2: Putting your feet on the tree

Step 3: Getting your foot around

Step 4: Climbing onto the branch

Step 5: Getting on the tree!

That's all for today's post, folks!

ps - This is from The Climbing Tree Brothers

[As we were talking about the finer points of dictation after this post was completed, Steve remarked that Ben didn't actually do all of the work since Mommy did the typing. With his usual style, Sam remarked, "That's how all the billionaires do it! Except that they pay the person." I guess I should be transcribing for someone who makes more than $6 per week]

Saturday, August 15, 2009

She's a Dead-Eye

Ben is a really extraordinary big brother. It has been beautiful to witness the love and care he's lavished on his little sister over the past six months, carrying her around like a really big rag doll, praising her accomplishments, and perfecting his sugary-sweet "who's the sweetest wittle giwl in the whole widest world?"

He also taught her many new "skills," the latest of these being sharpshooting. Fortunately she uses a little play shooting gallery gun, not the rubber band gun, so I don't think anyone will loose an eye... hopefully... maybe...

The show is hilarious - Sasha shoots Ben, Ben falls to the ground in agony, Sasha collapses in giggles, repeat. What a great big brother.

Friday, August 14, 2009

DDR Sasha Pirate Style

Who knew that the music that accompanies Sam's pirate shooting gallery game would be the perfect soundtrack to Sasha's neverending dance party?

She gets her moves from her brother.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Meteor, right?

Hating a good night's sleep as we do, we decided to spend Tuesday night out in the backyard to enjoy the Perseid meteor shower. Well, four fifths of us spent the night in the backyard; we let Sasha enjoy the comfort of her bed since the odds that she would want to be roused at 2 am to watch falling stars seemed remote.

Once we got past the initial "we're actually going to sleep outside" excitement, which included yoga (Ben thought that sleeping on Mommy's yoga mat was pretty much the coolest thing ever), a chapter of The BFG, and several rounds of Ben getting up and Chorney stealing his pillow, the boys actually slept pretty well outside. Judging by the amount of effort it took to wake them up at 2 to watch the meteors, they slept very well outside.

We saw quite a few meteors, but our attempts to catch them with the camera were less-than-successful. Here's the best of the 80 million 30-second exposures we took - see that streaky thing in the bottom-right quadrant? That's a meteor!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Granite Flat - A "Hike"

Once upon a time we used to hike - really hike. I remember this, and I don't think I'm manufacturing the memory. Now we consider a 2 mile round-trip walk, including multiple granola bar stops, a hike. This is fortunate, since without the granola bar stops I would be in danger of burning more calories than I consume, which would clearly be unacceptable.

Our weekend in American Fork Canyon included one such "hike" which, though short, was lovely - and not just because I had these three beautiful faces to keep me company!

I have to admit that although the scenery was perfect and the company fantastic, my favorite part of the hike was Sam's extraordinary outfit. Here he is, doing the robot dance in his brand new "If I were a robot I would brakedance all the time" shirt from woot, complete with striped hiking socks and ridiculously long zip-off pants. Oh, and if you're wondering about the little Scottish-looking bag at his waist, that's the special pouch made when the legs from his zip-off pants are tucked into their pocket and snapped to the belt loops. I think it really completes the ensemble. I'm giggling looking at the photo even now - I love my brimming-over-with-personality children.

This was Chorney's first long walk and we were all very impressed with her stamina and behavior. I expected to need to carry her at least part of the way, but her puppy legs did us proud and I only carried her for the last little bit of the longer loop that Sarah and I did - even at 12 weeks she out-hikes our kids by far! Watching Chorney and Ben repeatedly run ahead of the group and then turning a bend to find them sitting there in the path waiting for us is definitely a contender for the cutest scene ever.

It was a great campout - Sasha did wonderfully, we toasted some killer marshmallows, we got to spend some quality time with Aunt Sarah, and we even burned a (very) few calories. What a perfect way to introduce Sasha to the fun of Utah's great outdoors!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Granite Flat - Around the Site

Granite Flat is one of the coolest campgrounds around - the sites are pretty secluded but easy to get into with level pads and lots of bathrooms. Of course, they're not the flushy-type bathrooms, but the kids didn't mind... in fact, they were oddly transfixed by the concept of pit toilets. I'll add that to the list of things that should probably make me worry about my children.

We planned this trip up American Fork Canyon back in June and were fortunate that the dates coincided with Aunt Sarah's visit. Sarah is a dear college friend from St. Mary's and Sam's Godmother, thus earning her the title "Aunt" (we're certainly not ones to withhold a title well-earned simply because of DNA!). Sarah comes out once or twice a year, which is definitely not enough but will probably have to suffice for now since she hasn't yet realized that she's destined to move to Utah. Don't worry, we'll keep working on that one; another decade or so and I think she'll be convinced.

The van was cozy with five plus a puppy and I definitely didn't get my hallowed Saturday morning sleep-in, but we all got decent rest and I only had to threaten the boys lives if they woke their sister up a few times. Actually, that's not true, after the first few games of "football" in the upper bunk (no, I have no idea how they played football up there, or whether or not they actually know how football is played, but that's what they said they were playing) I simply explained that I would put Sasha to bed the first time for free and after that they would need to pay me a week's allowance to put her down to sleep again if they woke her up. The football games promptly ended and everybody got a good night's sleep - thank you Parenting with Love and Logic.

ps - I managed to get this fabulous shot of Sasha loving on Chorney during the campout - it's simply not a real kiss unless their noses are squished painfully together. Both Sasha and Chorney emerged from the trip with the requisite two eyes and a nose (each), you'll be happy to know.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Granite Flat - Sasha's First S'more

This weekend we took Sasha on her first proper campout. I know, it's almost too shocking to believe that she's been a Morningstar for almost six months and only just went camping for the first time (Creation doesn't count, that was parking among tents in a field)... my only defense is that it's been a busy few months.

At least she had a fitting and beautiful Utah setting for her first camping excursion - Granite Flat up in American Fork Canyon, one of our absolute favorite campgrounds. Sasha took to camping with her usual aplomb, which can be attributed in equal parts to her adventurous spirit and the prevalence of marshmallows.

We have far too many adorable photos for a single blog post, so you can look forward to several Granite Flat posts over the coming days. Today's post opens the series with the most important of topics - the campfire.

Sam channeled his inner boyscout this trip and took the lead on fire creation. Admittedly, it took a few attempts, but we ended up with a world-class fire. This is fortunate since Saturday's high was a mere 74 degrees in the valley, leaving us with some chilly temps up in the mountains. You'll note that this did not dissuade our children from dressing in shorts and t-shirts.

Sam was very proud of his campfire and he's still regaling us with his fond memories of his first fire ("Do you remembered that fire on Saturday night? That was a really good fire. I can't believe that was my first campfire").

The only downside to having such a high-quality fire was that, when we finally convinced Ben to don a fleece, a flying coal promptly burned a giant hole in it. Not to worry, thanks to Aunt Sarah's quick reflexes no child was burned in the melting of the fleece. There was a bit of a panic because Ben kept trying to pull the fleece over his head while the neck was still zipped up, but he eventually emerged unscathed.

Have I mentioned lately that our children are never boring?


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