Dream Shard Blog: The Scintillating Adventures of Our Household

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Apr '14

March Lookback

Grandpa visited in early March and repaired a clogged drain. The kids watched.


Grandpa showed them his new shop in their backyard.


And Grandma read a book to them.


Wes is 6 1/2 years old. He likes to do things by himself. This teaches me much patience, as it is always easier and faster to do it myself, but not better for him. Lately he has been practicing making his own bagel in the morning. I help him put it in the toaster, but he can get the plate, knife, and cream cheese out himself and spread the cream cheese (with a little help). I’m proud of him.


Recently Carissa wanted breadsticks for lunch. I told her we’d have to make them, and she said that was OK with her. Thankfully I have a nice 1-hour bread recipe. She liked helping shape the breadsticks and putting them on the pan to bake. She likes to help in the kitchen and sometimes comes in while I’m cooking dinner and says, “Mom, can I help?” She especially likes stirring and tasting (especially when I’m not looking).


We made some no-bake cookies (which usually have peanut butter in them) from Biscoff cookie spread, which is nut-free.


Elizabeth likes to eat but it is messy.


In March we visited a yummy cupcake shop with Aunt Tara.



Elizabeth is 17 months today and what a wonderful handful she is. Bright, robust, and talking with a million words of her creation. She loves to say “bye-bye” to everyone and everything, and she squeals whenever she sees our cats outside. She gets really excited to see buses (because Wes rides a school bus and we look for it five days a week) and calls them “Ba ba.” Also known as “Ba ba” is her favorite crocheted blanket. She can identify the nose and calls it “no.” When she wakes up at night crying John is really diplomatic (and more patient than I am) and gets her to calm down by asking her what she wants, going through “no, no, no” until he gets a “Yes!” and problem is solved.


There’s a garden plot in our backyard that serves as a hole-digging paradise.


Also a place where the kids can explore for wriggling worms.



We found a cheap remote-controlled Angry Birds balloon that the kids enjoy flying in our living room.


One day Carissa started crying hysterically, saying her thumb hurt. She said she pinched it in the DVD case. It took a lot to calm her down and she refused to use her thumb all evening. But by nighttime I saw her using it again. The next day the same thing happened (not sure how she hurt it this time). And then it happened the next day a third time. We didn’t know if there was something wrong, so John took her to instacare (wish we had insurance). They took xrays and wrapped her hand in a pink bandage. Nothing seems to be wrong, although she might have had a strained tendon. John said Carissa was an absolute ANGEL at the doctor’s office and the nurses loved her–until it was time to go home and she still had the pink bandage on. She cried and cried that she wanted it off, but we wouldn’t let her. She pulled it off herself after bedtime. We put it back on the next day, but she pulled it off again. As far as we can tell her hand is fine.


I took the kids swimming a couple weeks ago, which is one of their most favorite things in the world. Especially Wes. Usually transition times (like when it’s time to stop doing something and start doing something else) are REALLY HARD for Wesley. And for me, getting him to transition. It is like dragging a donkey through the snow. But all you have to do is say, “Wes, wanna go swimming?” and he is 100%, perfectly compliant and willingly goes potty and puts on his swim trunks and runs to the garage door saying, “READY!” all by himself without any push from me. And once he is in the water Wes is as happy as in heaven, swimming and jumping and splashing and doing everything that brings him joy. This time he met a boy there about his age and they had so much fun running around the pool together. It’s a great toddler-sized pool that even Elizabeth can stand in and walk around. After about an hour Carissa got up courage to go up the stairs to the slide area (because water rains down on the steps–she was nervous to go through that). But I couldn’t get her down a slide because of the water that periodically dumps from above. I can understand that, but I sure loved going down those slides, and so did Wes. We stayed a couple hours and got ice cream on the way home (which is literally the only way to help Wes transition happily from swim-time to go-home-time). I tried to get a good picture of them before we left for the pool but this was the best I got.



This is a game in the lobby of the rec center where you try to touch lights that move.


Wes on the way home from the pool.



Some artwork:

Carissa recently learned how to make rainbows.


Carissa also recently discovered eyebrows.


Wesley doesn’t love coloring like Carissa does but sometimes he gets into it. He is getting good at writing letters.


Playing at a friend’s house.




Wes got to hang out with the BYU cheer squad. They played red light/green light and Wes had fun. Usually the BYU athletes tower over the people with Down syndrome (because they’re typically short) but these cheerleaders were just the right size.


In Feb-March Wes played in a basketball league for kids with special needs. To say Wes loved it would be an understatement. He lived for that every Saturday for six weeks. He was the only 6-year-old who could make baskets in the tall regulation-height hoops. At the end of the six weeks he got a medal.


Wes is really good at writing his name. This a sign of great progress from the start of his school year. However, he did it with permanent marker on our coffee table and I haven’t been able to get it off yet.


We went bowling with his BYU Athletic Connection group one week. Wes loves bowling.



Wes cheering for himself.

Carissa had more fun in the arcade section. We spent a few dollars playing Ski-ball (I played, she watched and collected tickets) so she could “win” a red slap bracelet. She also won some bouncy balls. Afterward, naturally, we got ice cream from the Creamery and visited the BYU Bookstore. We bought a couple Pinkalicious books, which are some of Wesley’s current favorites.


Dec '13

Winter is Here

With the holidays fast approaching we’ve been enjoying the season.

I tried taking photos of the kids for a potential Christmas card but they all basically turned out like this. No Christmas cards for us.







We bought a pile of hot chocolate for a church activity. Wes and Carissa liked using it to build a giant tower.


Wes is really improving at his art and writing skills. As his mom, I am Super Impressed and Proud. And so I share:

He did this picture AND the word all by himself. ALL BY HIMSELF. (I just told him how to spell “spider.”) Did I mention I’m Super Impressed and Proud?




Elizabeth is 13 months going on 13 years.


This afternoon the sun was shining and it was above freezing, so when Carissa asked to play outside in the snow I couldn’t object. For the first time, both kids got to make snow angels. Carissa did one and was happy (“Just like Kipper!” she said, referring to the dog on one of her favorite shows from Netflix), but Wes made about six. He really liked it!


Carissa was my helper decorating our goodies for neighbor gifts. She was in her element and did a good job. She helped decorate, Wes helped eat them.



Sep '12

Twins Baby Shower

Today I had the privilege of throwing my sister a baby shower for her soon-to-come twins.

Arriving for the party.

I set up a welcome table where guests could take a size 1 diaper and write encouraging notes for my sister to see later when changing her babies’ bums. She’s thinking of two names that start with “N” and “K.”

Then there was the food. She’s having a boy and a girl but instead of blue and pink I opted for teal and purple (her favorite color). It was fun to put this together.

Her mother-in-law made the salad and our cousin brought the fruit salad.

In addition we had sandwiches, cupcakes, cake truffles, and chocolate.

I can’t ever have a party without displaying quotes. We had two: “Twice as much to love, two blessing from above” and “There are two things in life for which we are never truly prepared: TWINS.” The one I left out was a Chinese proverb: “It is not economical to go to bed early to save the candles if the result is twins.”

I couldn’t resist these candy jars when I saw them.

I made these cake truffles from this recipe.

I made the mini cupcakes, too. Secret: It was just a French vanilla cake mix. But the frosting I made using this recipe. (I had to triple the recipe to cover the whole batch of cupcakes.)

Wes only ate the frosting.

That was the setup, but the party was all about…

…and the “you” was my sister, Tara. She’s about 32.5 weeks pregnant.

We played a mad lib game called “The Birthing Adventure of Twins.”

And then we got down to business: PRESENTS! People were very generous and brought Tara a variety of diapers, meals to freeze, and other baby items (especially for boys, since this is her first boy).

She got some really great loot!

Meanwhile the kids… Well, they were actually rarely here, in front of the TV, which was too bad. More often than not Wes was where he shouldn’t be, such as inside the horse pen tossing rocks into the horses’ water trough (NOT allowed).

Carissa was good, often reading or playing with cars or the baby stroller and doll.

And that’s a wrap! I hope Tara had a fun baby shower and that she felt loved and supported by the many friends and family who came.

Jan '12

Healthier Dinners

So, in November I started cooking dinner for my family most nights of the week. Overall it’s been a wonderful positive experience, sitting down together most nights and sharing food. And sometimes when I’m eating the fruits of my labor, like homemade bread or delicious soup, I’m kind of proud.

(And, of course, I’m not mentioning the huge cost of time and labor involved in putting dinner on the table at night; between prep time, eating, and clean up time sometimes I feel chained to the kitchen for hours. But, yes, it’s a worthwhile sacrifice.)

I’ve been trying lots of new recipes to see what works for my family and what doesn’t. I haven’t been paying attention to the nutrition side of dinner; making dinner was work enough!

Now I’m making more effort to monitor what I eat, which includes keeping my daily calories at a reasonable level. I would like to aim to keep dinner in the 300-400 calorie range per serving (although I don’t care if John or the kids eat more).

This week’s challenge: To find food that my family might like that fits the healthier bill.

I’ve taken a couple things I’ve made and entered the ingredients into myfitnesspal.com to get a nutritional breakdown so I can see approximately how many calories are in each serving. Ideally you’d do this before making the dish so when you serve it you know how much you plan to eat.

Last night I made homemade tortillas (first time) with grilled chicken and black beans, and we had soft tacos.

(Oh, and YES you should click on the link for the black beans recipe because it was dang good. Best beans ever.)

This week I’m going to try some recipes courtesy of another mom I know who is very dedicated to living healthfully and feeding her family quality food.

Tonight: Hawaiian Haystack with Caulrice
Tomorrow: Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Apples
Thursday: Turkey Taco Salad

All run around 300 calories per serving. And I’ve heard wondrous things about making caulrice (cooked crumbled cauliflower) instead of using regular rice. Excited to try it.

I made out my grocery list, and it is wonderfully heavy on fresh produce. It looks like this:

milk–whole (Carissa), 2% (Wes), 1% (me and John)
string cheese
lowfat cottage cheese
plain greek yogurt (for me)
regular yogurt (kids)
fat free sour cream

1 loaf wheat bread
corn tortillas
canister Quaker Oats oatmeal

snow peas
pineapple/mixed fruit

ground turkey breast (93% lean)
1 lb chicken breast

kidney beans
98% fat free cream of chicken soup
pineapple bits

taco seasoning
buttermilk ranch mix

fresh salsa
4 sweet potatoes

I love to see my cart loaded up with healthy things!

And as for the cost of eating healthier foods, it’s like I told one of my Zumba students last night who decided to start coming back to class after feeling down without it: “It’s cheaper than therapy later.”

Jan '12


On Saturday I usually plan out my dinner menu for the upcoming week, and then I get groceries for it. If I’m organized, I try to compose my grocery list by section: produce, dairy, cans, frozen, etc. Then I walk around the store with my list and pen in hand, crossing off each item when I put it my cart.

This weekend I couldn’t make it to the grocery store until 10:30 pm Saturday night. I went through each section, starting with the dairy and working my way around the store. Finally I had just two more stations to visit: meat and produce.

My week’s menu revolved around chicken: a fauxtisserie chicken (whole chicken cooked in the crock pot) for Sunday night, then using the leftover chicken in a white chili the next night. Later in the week I was planning to make chicken tacos with homemade tortillas.

Chicken was very important.

So when I showed up to the meat department at quarter to 11 at night with a nearly full cart and discovered that the store was completely out of fresh whole chickens and chicken breast, I was pretty put out. I wandered around for a little bit, trying to work out some way to adjust the menu in my hand to work without chicken, but it just wasn’t happening.

I finally settled on a bag of frozen chicken breasts to use for the chicken tacos, an already cooked rotisserie chicken to use for the chili, and, at the very bottom corner of the freezer case, I discovered a row of Cornish hens that I decided to try instead of the Fauxtisserie chicken.

I’ve only cooked a whole chicken once, and you know how that turned out. I hoped I could pull off Cornish hens all right.

I pulled them from their wrapping (and I have to say, they are so cute!) and wiped them with a damp cloth. I mixed a couple tablespoons of soft butter with 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley, and a little dried rosemary and basil and then I smeared it over and inside the hens, trying to get it under the skin. I popped a little bit of chopped carrots and onions inside the cavity and rubbed the hens with a lot of salt and pepper. Then it cooked for a little over an hour at 350 degrees until the meat registered at over 170 degrees inside.

When it was time to eat John admitted he was nervous that the hen would be more like rooster, which he had too much of when he served a mission in Central America and didn’t care to ever taste again.

Which made me nervous, of course.

But, to my relief, the Cornish hen tasted exactly like a miniature chicken, all tender and garlicky and buttery and yummy.


This might not be the most flattering angle of the hens, but I had to document. (And, yes, I think I accidentally cooked the chicken upside down again.)


This is Carissa eating her own dinner. No qualms about messiness.

Nov '11

Live and Learn

So, continuing the cooking theme, tonight I made oven roast chicken with gravy, buttered carrots, and mashed potatoes. This is the first time I’ve ever attempted to cook a whole chicken and make real gravy from meat drippings.

Let me tell you what I learned:


Oh, there’s a right-side up?

Yes, it turns out that the chicken should cook breast-side up. In my defense, I was just following the recipe that said to “place the chicken in the pan” without indicating HOW to place it.

I should have referred to the picture of the finished chicken in the cookbook, maybe.

Anyway. It took 2 hours to cook instead of 1.25-1.5 hours, and when the temperature finally registered in the right range and I pulled it out and started carving, I couldn’t figure out where the meat was. I kept cutting into bone. As I verbally expressed my frustration for the leanness of the poultry my brother suggested that maybe I got a defective chicken.

Finally, finally the lightbulb turned on and I realized my mistake. Flipped the bird over and voila! Perfectly cooked breast meat.

I took pictures, but I will spare you. My first attempt at gravy turned out good, I think, and I had no complaints on the mashed potatoes or buttered carrots (which were baked in the oven an hour, then dotted with butter and sprinkled with sugar, salt, and pepper).

Lesson learned.