Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Racing Through February

Oh my goodness, Feburary is just racing by!  I know, I know, a ski vacation, a yurt adventure, Lunar New Year, 2 birthdays, and Sasha's 5-year Morningstar Anniversary make a crazy month an inevitability.  If we're going to be this busy, at least we're having a great time doing it!

This month we've spent plenty of time enjoying the Utah snow (even when there wasn't much Utah snow to be found!).  We finished up the Nordic race season with a freestyle race at Soldier Hollow.  It was Ben's first skate race and Sasha's second race ever, so they were both pretty excited to hit the snow.

This was Ben's first year on skate skis and he's taken to them well.  He really likes the speed of skate, although he admits that it's a lot more tiring than classic. Mom and Dad say that's a good thing since Ben has more than enough energy to burn!

Ben comes in to the finish after his 2K loop
Sasha ready to start!
Sasha coming in after her 1K loop

February also brought more downhill racing for Ben on the Sundance Downhill Team.  This week Sundance hosted a Youth Ski League (YSL) race for kids under 12 from all over the state.

As you can see, Ben totally had his game face on.

The race was a lot of low-key fun with 140 kids participating - that is a lot of little torpedoes rocketing down the hill as they "warmed up" before the race.

WanYing waits patiently for her brother to race (iPhones help with patience)
Here comes Ben looking all Ted Ligety cool
Dad had the brilliant idea (or perhaps made the strategic error, the jury's still out on that one) of giving Ben 5 minutes of play time for each gate he hit on the way down.  The idea was to give Ben incentive to get close to the gates rather than swinging his turns wide.  In practice we think he just went slower so he was sure he could whack each gate with his pole as he went by. The first thing he told me after the race was, "I hit all the gates!  That's 46 gates!" so for better or for worse the incentive worked.  Ah, well, at least he was proud of himself and stayed reasonably tight on course.

Our final February racing adventure was an afternoon spent at Soldier Hollow.

First we did a few kilometers of cross country skiing with WanYing looking uber cool (I asked her to make a movie star face and this is what she offered!) and Sasha skiing like a champ on some pretty tough terrain.  That gal has grit, I tell you!

And after our cross-country adventures at Soldier Hollow we hit the tubing hill for some real racing! CenterPoint Church rented out the whole facility and we spent a fantastic afternoon tubing with our church family.  Nothing beats sledding with 300 of your closest friends and a rope tow to carry you and your tube up the hill.

So, there you have it, all of the Morningstars' adventures racing through February.  I would like to say that March will be a little slower paced but who are we kidding?

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Recipe for a perfect Morningstar family vacation? One yurt, three days, six Morningstars and plenty of snow!

In celebration of Sasha's Gotcha Day, Sam's 13th birthday, and just because it's so gosh darn cool we rented a yurt up in Wanship Utah (halfway between Park City and Wyoming) for a few days of quiet family fun.  It was the perfect getaway. Seriously.  Perfect.

It was a mile ski from the parking lot up to the yurt.  It turns out that having two adults pack in six peoples' gear, clothes, and food makes for some seriously heavy pulks!  I mean, we needed a lot of Pop Tarts to keep this crew going for three days of winter romping!  Good thing Mom and Dad are super strong.

WanYing and Mommy on the way up to the yurt
Daddy hauls up the last of our vacation necessities (more Pop Tarts)
We made it!  Let the vacationing commence.
Our Kaz kid celebrates her 5th Gotcha Day in a yurt! Perfection.

You're probably wondering to yourself, "Won't an active family six get bored spending three days in the snowy wilderness in a giant tent?"

Not this family!

We spent the first couple of hours getting settled. This involved a lot of competition over who would get which bed followed by the obvious next step of luring/tugging/carrying the dog into the hard fought victory bunk.

The dog was not thrilled about her place in the top bunk. WanYing and Ben, however, as normal bottom-bunk dwellers, were exceedingly pleased with their lofty positions. That is, until the wood stove got cranking and the temperature in the yurt soared to just short of ten billion degrees.  Then we all competed for comparatively cool places to lay on the wooden floor.

We passed our evenings playing games, with Steve's childhood favorite of Water Works topping the list. The girls really like Water Works (or "the pipe game" as it's called in our house) because it's a strategy game that they can play independently.  The boys adore the pipe game because early on we established a rule that they are allowed to swear while playing this game (and only this game!).  We'll do what it takes to get the whole family to play a game together!

And we spent a lot of time reading.  Sam finished up book 2 of the Mistborn series (no spoilers, please, Ben and I are still working through the series!).  And we all enjoyed taking turns reading Superfudge aloud.  With siblings in Kindergarten and 6th grade, Superfudge ended up being the perfect book for our family - full of zany sibling rivalry and just a little tenderness, just like our kids!

And, of course, we spent time celebrating our fantastic kids!  I think that chocolate cupcakes plus plenty of reading time may be Sam's complete birthday wish package. Oh, right, an Xbox would probably be in that equation.  Well, at least we hit 2 out of 3 essential elements.

We also spent lots of time snowshoeing through the mountains and enjoying great family time and Utah's astounding beauty.

Steve tries out his new sliding snowshoes (nice job, Jamie, best Valentine's gift ever!)  
Admittedly, the sliding snowshoes would be more fun with more powder, but we had a good time nonetheless

We had an amazing couple of days of yurt adventure, capped off by the astounding wilderness stars.  My Valentine's gift from Steve, only slightly less awesome than the sliding snowshoes, was an intervalometer for my camera.

Now we just need to figure out how to get the batteries to last longer than 20 shots in the frigid cold so we can make time lapse video that lasts longer than 3 seconds :)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Happy 13th Birthday to Sam!

Happy 13th birthday to Sam! The eldest Morningstar kiddo has entered teenagerdom!

Although it's incomprehensible to me that Steve and I have a teenage son, upon reflection I have to say that if the current pattern persists (i.e. our children getting cooler and more fun with each passing year), then I welcome the era of the teenager.

What's cool about being 13?  Here's Sam's list:
  1. I could have a Facebook account if I wanted to
  2. I'm technically a teenager
  3. I've been sighing dramatically a lot more
Sam enjoys his stylish and functional 90-degree mirror glasses for convenient bedtime reading.  The perfect gift for every new teen!
Here are some of our favorite things about Sam:
Dad: He's kind and compassionate and not afraid to be who he was made to be.  Sam is amazingly curious and loves to tell corny jokes or spout facts about the world around him.  He is extraordinarily honest and maybe this year we will start seeing some tact.

Mom: I love Sam's analytical mind - whether he's playing strategy games or working on a new programming project it's so fun to watch him pull a problem apart and solve it piece by piece.  And I love it that he still occasionally needs me to help him debug his programs :)

Ben: Are we being honest?  It's that he doesn't fight back. (that one earned a sign from Mom)

Sasha:  Well, everything!

WanYing: He's nice.  I like to play games with him.  He's smart
Happy birthday, Sam! We sure do think you're swell, prolific dramatic sighing and all.

Monday, February 17, 2014

5 Years a Morningstar!

Five years ago today an overwhelmed, joyful, frazzled, and relieved Steve and Jamie rushed from the courthouse in Karaganda Kazakhstan back to the Botakoz Baby House to officially welcome Alexandra Grace to the Morningstar Family! And as long as the road to that moment was - 13 months of paperwork and waiting followed by 4 weeks of orphanage visits in Kazakhstan waiting for our court date to be scheduled and finally arrive - we knew that February 17, 2009 wasn't the end but rather the beginning of a whole new journey.

And what an adventure our lives as a family of 5, and now 6, have been!  Sasha continues to add spunk, sass, and sparkle to every day.  We are so glad and grateful for all we have learned from her tenacious spirit, exuberant affection, and passionate persistence.

Happy Gotcha Day, Sasha.  We are so proud that you are ours.  And we are grateful that we are yours!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Mom, I Have a Knot

I suppose that I should be grateful my daughter thinks I can solve any problem for her.  I mean, everybody wants to be their kid's superhero, right?

However, there are some problems that are beyond even Super Mommy.  This uberknot is near the top of that list.  I have no idea how she accomplished such a feat, but in all my years of parenting this may be the most extraordinary knot I have witnessed.

Fear not, we resolved the issue by cutting the knot out and tying together enough strands that WanYing could still reach each balloon when it floated to the ceiling.  So I guess Mommy really could fix it after all!

As for how that giant knot happened in the first place, I'm pretty sure it was the result of WanYing's explosive frustration at her failed attempts to send Baby Bob aloft.

But I give WanYing an A for creativity - don't we all want our babies to "soar"?  :)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Utah Ski Tour, continued - Seeing Bryce by Cross-Country

Our final stop on last week's epic ski tour was a day nordic skiing at Bryce Canyon National Park.

Bryce is always magical, but I don't think anything can beat the beauty of Bryce in the winter.  And combine the vistas of Bryce with the solitude of a winter visit and 7 of my very favorite people and you have a recipe for one fantastic day.

Thank goodness there was enough snow for a family Nordic adventure! It's so much fun to have 3 generations skiing together.
WanYing works hard to keep up
We made it to Fairyland Point! The formerly exhausted children immediately shed their skis and start hiking.
Ben surveys his domain
Sash and Grammy speed ahead
Mommy and Sasha pause for a quick (beautiful!) snapshot
Ben and Sasha decide to race ahead to scout out picnic spaces
This may be our loveliest picnic spot ever
The hiking was great!  Cleaning the sandy icy mud out of our cleats, not so much.
One happy family at the end of a great trip.  Thanks for great snow and great memories, Southern Utah!


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