Dream Shard Blog: The Scintillating Adventures of Our Household

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Aug '14

Vacation July 2014: Day 1

Day 1: Wednesday, July 16, 2014

We packed up our car, packed up our kids, and stuffed everything and everybody into the car. This was our first road trip as a family.


Wes is 6, Carissa is 3, and Elizabeth is 20 months. John and I typically dislike spending time in the car and dislike driving, so we were planning for the worst when it came adding three young kids to the mix. John found some TVs we could attach to the car seats so the kids could watch DVDs. That was a major lifesaver again and again during the trip, at least for the older kids. There was not much that would keep Elizabeth entertained for long.


The plan: to leave in the mid-morning and drive about 10 hours to West Richland, WA.

The actual: We left around 10 am and got as far as southern Idaho when this happened:


I was driving and ran over some debris from a semi-truck tire. It was a HUGE piece and even though I tried to miss it, I didn’t. A few minutes later an alert came up on my dashboard indicating low tire pressure. We were about 8 miles from the next exit, and we took it.

Where were we? The middle of nowhere. Really! Look at the window of the gas station we stopped at:


Our flat tire happened in the most sparse portion of I-84 in Idaho. It’s desert. There’s nothing for miles and miles and miles and miles. We were truly fortunate that we were only 8 or so miles from a service station, and we were even more fortunate that our tire lost air gradually instead of blowing so we could make it to the exit instead of being stranded on the side of the road.

As we drove home after our vacation I took a picture of the exit with the gas station. Can you see it?


The gas station had a sheep and some llamas in front that the kids watched while they ate snacks.



I started out optimistic with the flat tire but with each passing minute and each additional thing that went wrong my hope gradually faded. We found out when we got to the gas station that we didn’t have cell service. There was a number posted at the gas station of a tire repair service but no way to call it. The gas station didn’t allow phone calls. There weren’t many people coming in or going out of the gas station (“middle of nowhere”), but I was able to ask an elderly couple if we could borrow their cell phone. John called the tire repair shop and got directions. It was in Burley, 45 minutes away. John had to change the flat tire and put on the spare. Did I mention it was about 1:30 in the afternoon, sunny, and 100 degrees?

He tried to take off the flat tire but the lug nuts were stuck. For a while it seemed hopeless we’d ever get that dumb tire off the car. Finally in desperation I stopped a man who seemed to work at or own the gas station. He was feeding the llamas, and I asked if he could help my husband. He went out and was able to help get the nuts loose so John could get the tire off.

He put the spare on, but then he had to find a place for the flat tire. It didn’t fit in the same space the spare had been. He had to pull out everything in the trunk and repack it around the flat tire. I think John should get a gold star.

Finally, finally, after a couple hours, we went on to Burley. We spent a couple more hours at the tire repair store getting the valve stem fixed ($100 for that tiny thing) and figuring out what to do next. The kids watched PBS Kids on the TV and ate free popcorn. There’s a golden lining to everything.



We had lost so much time we wouldn’t arrive at our destination until after midnight, and that’s if we didn’t stop at all. We pulled out a tablet and booked a hotel via Priceline.com in Twin Falls, ID.

It was the Red Lion Hotel, which isn’t really a 5-star place (really a 2.5 star that calls itself a 3-star joint), but it was a place to rest for the night. We took the kids to dinner at an OK Italian place next door to the hotel, and then we drove over to the welcome area by the bridge that leads to Twin Falls from the freeway. When you’re on I-84 driving past Twin Falls you have no idea about this river here. It’s totally hidden until you’re on top of it.


We stuck around to watch a couple people who were preparing to jump off the bridge. But they had parachutes. Even so, it was kind of nerve-wracking to watch them. Poor Wes couldn’t see but I took a video so he could watch it later.

Walking back to the hotel from dinner:


Elizabeth grabbing a cold one before bedtime:

Statue of the founder of Twin Falls. And Carissa:


Preparing to watch the parachuters:


I actually had wanted to stop at Twin Falls sometime during our trip to show the kids the waterfalls, which we had the opportunity to do the next morning before continuing our journey. It just happened differently than I had planned. And thus ended our first day of vacation.

Aug '14

We finally did something fun

We finally did something fun together.

After dragging my three kids to my physical therapy appointment I took them to a splash pad to play.

The personality of each kid is apparent:

1) Carissa: Put on eye protection and stay to the edge of the water.




2) Elizabeth: Run like a crazy woman through the water and get as wet as possible, as fast as possible. And then retreat to Mom for a snuggle in the towel.



3) Wes: Drink the water.


May '14

May Recap (Part I)

So we’re going backwards here.

I decided I wanted to get a grill. I generally dislike cooking but really like the taste of all things grilled. I wanted to learn.

John and I saw a Weber brand grill (which is a good brand) at Costco for over $100 less than regular retail price. We returned a few days later to buy it, after researching, and it was gone. All sold out here and at every Costco in the area.

I felt disappointed, but we decided to get a different, more expensive grill that was at least in stock. However, just as John was going to get the propane for it in the store we passed a special vendor that was selling Traeger brand grills. The company is based in Oregon and also has an office right here in the small town where we live. The price was right, about the same as the Weber one we had looked at. It’s not propane but fueled by wood pellets. Essentially it creates a little fire at the bottom of the grill and the heat is circulated by a fan. The wood pellets come in different flavors like hickory and mesquite and apple, and you can do additional things like smoke meat and make jerky or even bake pies and cookies. We went for it.


Today I became One Who Grills and made us some cheeseburgers, all by myself. I have to say, they tasted great! Nice and smoky and yummy. And it wasn’t hard.



I even tried a batch of cookies. The first batch I burned but the second came out just right.


My parents recently moved into the area. We’ve seen them a lot in the last week and a half, and my kids are in heaven. I think they think Grandma and Grandpa’s house IS heaven. Where else do you get tractor rides on the riding lawn mower?

(Elizabeth didn’t love it.)

(Wes liked driving.)

(Carissa loved everything.)

(Just look at her huge grin.)

Tonight at G&G’s I lost Wes and then found him and his cousin in the back of Grandpa’s truck.


The cousins played “house” together (which Carissa happily played with her cousins, making pretend dinners, while Wes tried to find ways to climb out of the truck). Savannah helped the four of them pose for a formal picture or two.




…and then a couple silly ones.



Meanwhile Elizabeth sat in the wagon, just hoping someone would come along and pull her in it. She sat there a long time.


(I think it is funny to watch these cousins playing “house” together. Wes isn’t really into playing pretend but he tried. I think the funniest parts to me are watching Carissa make noodles and hearing Ashleigh say, “Ok, I’ll be the mom” like it’s the worst job ever.)

Carissa finished her first year of preschool. This is the same preschool Wes attended. It’s taught by a special ed teacher and includes a mix of kids with special needs and “typical” kids like Carissa who can lend examples. She did so great at school. She started when she was just barely three years old, and she was a little shy and timid. She was too afraid to use the big potty at school for months (it flushes loud), and the teachers had to coax her with m&m rewards. She not only got over that, but she also lost her shyness. She loves preschool. At the start of the year she would come home and not say much (I figured because she was tired), but by the end of the year I would pick her up and she’d launch into telling me what they learned about or what she ate for snack. Her writing has improved a million-fold. She learned to write her name all by herself, then she reverted to writing it backwards all the time, but with some more practice she writes it perfectly now. I remember one time near the middle of the year she told me how she can write her name, but she’s not so good at S’s because they all come out like Z’s. But she’s got it now. She’s also become quite the artist, and her teachers would use her drawings as examples to other kids of how to draw people.

The end-of-year party was a cookies and milk gathering for parents to come and recognize the kids. Wes and Carissa loved the cookies!


When the class gathered for a photo, every time I looked into my camera to snap a picture there was Wes, front and center. I kept pulling him away and he kept sneaking back in while I picked up my camera. It’s amazing I don’t have a picture of Carissa’s class with him in it.



Meanwhile our Wesley graduated from Transitional Kindergarten. This is a special ed classroom where all the kids have an IEP (a specific contracted plan with the teachers) and some special need. Wes has done really well at school this year. He went from barely being able to write the letters in his name (they were very wobbly and never in the right order and usually all over the page instead of in a straight line) to writing his name really well, in a straight line. He usually plugs a “6” on the end because he’s “Wesley 6 my birthday.” He’s learned to sight read a bunch of words and was maybe the best kid in his class at reading sight words. His teachers told me that he is sweet, happy, and sociable, saying “hi!” to everyone. Sometimes I’d get bad reports about him wrestling or pushing, but overall his teachers had very positive things to say. Next year Wes enters mainstream school and regular kindergarten.

John and I went to his kindergarten program, and my parents came too. Wes looked so handsome and did a GREAT job singing (which he loves), dancing (ditto), and reciting “Humpty Dumpty.”





Hot weather calls for swimsuits and the wading pool.



Carissa likes to paint her nails. One day we both did our toes the same shade of green.

…and she did her own nails in sparkly purple (her other favorite color besides pink).


A typical scene at our house during summertime. All are holding a form of frozen treat in their hands.


Also a common sight in the summer: eating lunch on the front porch.


Carissa on her way to preschool.

One day Carissa’s class learned about stuff from the movie “Frozen” and she came home withe makings of a snowman like Olaf. I helped her put it together. And then faster than snow can melt, it was gone. Yummy.


Carissa drew this picture of me and wrote my name “Mom” all by herself. I think it’s the first word I’ve seen her write independently besides her name. Since then I’ve also seen her write “go.”

I don’t know what Elizabeth is doing. Probably following the example of her older brother and sister.

Didn’t I say that heaven is at Grandma and Grandpa’s? This was the first time we took the kids to visit after my parents moved here.



Aug '13

The Happiest Day

Wes started school this week. Carissa starts next week. So as a final Summer Hurrah I took the kids up to Salt Lake City for a fun afternoon outing.

And–surprise!–it was really fun. (Sometimes you never know what toll an outing with three little kids will have on your patience or level of tiredness.)

I took them to the Children’s Discovery Museum at the Gateway Shopping Center. We started by walking across the sky bridge to the mall’s food court and grabbing a bit of Sbarro for lunch.




Then back to the museum! We went there once, two years ago, when Wes was barely four and Carissa one. It was a busy day then (must’ve been a Saturday). But this time, on a Tuesday afternoon when school has just started, it was not busy at all. The main room’s capacity sign read 304, but I think there were maybe 30 people total, kids and parents.

I appreciated that because it made it easier to keep track of Wes. I always worry when I take him places where he’s “loose” that I’ll lose him. But this was manageable.

Oh, the kids had fun! Even Elizabeth. I let her out of the stroller after a short while, and she was one of the kids, climbing and crawling everywhere.

The first area is the ball garden. I think we spent an hour here. The kids could’ve spent all their hours here. There are lots of things kids can do with the balls–holes to drop them in, tubes to watch them travel in. The most popular thing is the vacuum tubes that suck the balls up through a series of tubes and then pop the balls into a giant bucket at the end. I liked watching the kids’ eyes full of wonder as they watched the balls travel. Magical!








After a while I talked Wes and Carissa into moving on to the next area, which is the main discovery area for young kids.

There’s a gas station with a car:



Wes found his way to the construction area and really enjoyed it, even trying on the hardhat:




Carissa was in love with this car and tried to park it close to herself when she was doing other activities so other kids wouldn’t take “her” car. I later had to tell her she had to share, and it wasn’t her car anyway.


Wes really liked the water area. (Although I had to keep an eye on him and remind him he couldn’t climb into the water and to keep his feet on the ground.) Elizabeth liked it too, since there was a lower section that was the right height for her.





There’s an area just for kids 0-3. Carissa and Elizabeth both liked it here. Elizabeth found the walker toy and had fun with that. Carissa has quite the imagination and can make anything, even a mini rowboat on a blue mat, her “house.”






At 3 o’clock there was a storytime/craft activity right next to the water area. Wes wouldn’t be moved from the water but Carissa was interested in the activity (I knew she would be; that’s right up her alley and so not up Wesley’s). She wanted to sit right next to the storyteller. They read a book about a gingerbread man, and then the kids (there were three or four) got to glue crafty items onto a foam gingerbread man. Carissa loved this part and decorated her man until he was truly beautiful. She was the last kid to finish, but she wasn’t done until she was done. I thought she did a good job. The teacher was an artsy person and pointed out how Carissa was making patterns with the colors (red/yellow/red/yellow).





And here’s where I earn the prize for Worst Mom. Because when we came home I decided she wouldn’t miss the gingerbread man and I threw it away. But I forget sometimes how very good Carissa’s memory is. The next day she started asking to see her “brown thing” and I had to finally confess that I put it in the garbage can, and when she went to open the can I had to explain that it was garbage day and did she remember the garbage truck that came earlier that morning? She did, and when she asked where her brown thing was now I had to say, “The city dump.” And I felt like the Worst Mom Ever.

But, moving back to The Happiest Day. At this point it was after 3:30 and I felt a break was in order. The cool thing about the museum is that you can come and go as you please as long as you have your wrist bracelet on, and there’s lots to see and do around the Gateway Mall. So we went to Bon Bon, an ice cream/gelato/crepe place. Because what is an outing without ice cream, I ask you.

It was pretty fantastic ice cream. Wes had chocolate, Carissa had vanilla gelato, and I had a mix of Snickers and Chunky Monkey ice creams. Oh, and Wes finished off Carissa’s when she decided she was done after a few licks.

The ice cream shop overlooks the Gateyway’s splash pad, so we had a water show while we ate.



I almost can’t believe it, but I actually got to do a little shopping. I had a $10 gift card for Old Navy, which was right by the splash pad. Shopping with three kids is usually NOT my favorite thing. But this actually worked. I put Elizabeth in the shopping cart. Carissa sat in a separate cart, and Wes pushed her around. They had great fun trolleying up and down the aisles (where I could see them always), pausing at the mirrors to make funny faces at themselves.


And then the natural thing to do was to let the kids check out the giant splash pad.

We have a couple splash pads down by where we live, but they are tiny in stature compared to the Gateway. Carissa was too timid and careful to get wet, but not Wes. He stood and watched at the side for a few minutes but, not surprisingly, before long he made his entrance to the water. He was the only person enjoying the splash pad, and boy was he enjoying it. Imagine a five-year-old running with arms wide open through the water, face up to heaven, a huge smile of joy on his face. That was Wes. I noticed people in parked cars watching him and smiling.










Wes was soaking wet. Fortunately I brought a change of clothes and some towels in the car, just in case. So we headed back to the parking garage, got cleaned up, and went back to the Discovery Museum for one final hour of play. They liked the helicopter.


Then we headed home. We hit a big rainstorm in our hometown that added even more excitement to the end of our day. The kids, and I, had a wonderful time. A nice end to summer.

Aug '13

Swim Lessons

Instead of putting Wes into summer preschool I wanted to make sure we had time for lots of summery things. Like swimming lessons. Wesley started swim lessons when he was three at a local home with a swimming pool in their backyard. The classes are taught by the homeowner’s adult children. I like it because the lessons are 45 minutes with two kids per teacher. Wes likes it because he has time to sit on the steps of the pool, splashing and just being in the water while the teacher takes a turn with the other student, plus at the end of class he gets to go down the water slide and jump off the diving board.

I’d say Wes likes EVERYTHING about being in the water. When it was time to get ready for swim lessons in the morning Wes would stop whatever he was doing and miraculously start doing whatever I asked him to do. He just wanted to get in that pool. He especially loves splashing and would yell, “SPLASH!” (“SPWASH!”, actually) on the way to the pool.

Last year, because Wes was in summer preschool he only had time for one week of lessons. This year in June I kept him in for three. Wes was in heaven.

At the start of the first week I observed Wes in the pool, and observed the other kids in the pool, and I wondered if Wes would ever really learn to swim. He loves being in the water, no question, but I didn’t see him making progress like the other kids were. He mostly liked to look over his shoulder as his teacher pulled him across the pool so he could watch the splashes his feet made as he kicked. He also liked splashing bystanders.


In the middle of the second week Wes started putting his eyes in the water. This was progress!


I bought him (and Carissa) goggles, but he would not wear them. Carissa wore them more than he did, and she wasn’t even in the water. They were her accessory of choice.


At the end of the second week I told his teacher I was signing him up for one more and that I hoped that was OK with her. Her response surprised me. She said that she was glad because Wes was one of her favorite students and a joy to work with. I guess I had thought that since Wes wasn’t making a lot of clear progress that he wasn’t a star student.

In the third week Wes started jumping off the diving board by himself. He used to sit on the edge and wait for his teacher to pull him in. This was progress!



As the third week neared an end his teacher said she really enjoyed working with Wes because he was willing to do whatever she asked him to do and was very sweet. (This is true; I saw some kids throwing fits and crying, but Wes–fearless as he is–was willing to do whatever his teacher asked.)

So swim lessons were a success. Wes had so much fun.


Aug '13

August Already

Only August 3rd and here’s what we’ve done.

Elizabeth is almost 9 months old. In the past month she’s started, and gotten reeeeeally fast, at army crawling. I don’t recall either Wes or Carissa army crawling, just crawling. I think Carissa started around 10 months, and Wes was slightly older. Elizabeth gets on all fours sometime and rocks back and forth, and I’ve seen her take a few short legitimate crawling movements forward before falling back to her tummy. She can push herself up to sitting. She likes to play peek-a-boo and can even pull the blanket off her face herself to play. She’s super curious. She wants to touch everything, eat everything, and she definitely puts everything into her mouth that she finds. Daily I’m pulling something out of her mouth. She also seems very social, preferring to be around people and crying if she’s left alone. Her demeanor seems calm and sure. Wesley loves her, and both he and Carissa delight in grabbing her by the feet and pulling her backwards on her tummy, away from things (they think) she shouldn’t be getting into. She also recently acquired two bottom teeth.

Some newer advances include pulling herself to standing, such as on this toy.



Today I found her, for the first time, sitting up in her crib when I went in to get her.



And, today we discovered she can climb steps. ALL of them. And the fun continues.

Oh yeah, I had a birthday yesterday.



This morning I visited and guest-taught at a Zumba class, and on the way home I saw a yard sale. I stopped and now we’re the proud owners of two new Easter baskets and a green tent that looks like a turtle. All for $5.50. Elizabeth didn’t have her own basket, and I know Carissa just likes having the baskets out to play with all year round.

Like so:


(With Pingu, of course. That’s Wes in the background playing in the rocks like he does.)





Ritual bathtime is every Saturday night. All three in the tub. Elizabeth only recently joined the other two in the big tub, which she considers tremendous fun and likes splashing in like a crazy person.

Not going to lie, bathtime is not my favorite time. It is a hard job to bathe three non-independent people, some of whom (*cough*Carissa*cough*) put up a big fuss if any water comes in contact with their eyes/face/ears/body. Lately it’s been starting to get a little better as Carissa gains a little pride in being independent and trying to get the ends of her hair wet herself after shampooing. I just have to be really careful to keep the water off her face. Her hair is a big job to clean. Wes is pretty brave and can dump water on his head himself to get most of the shampoo out.

Nonetheless it’s a physical and time-consuming thing, bathtime. Good thing they smell so good and have such shiny hair afterward.

Wes found my camera as I got things ready.






Can you see her bottom teeth?





When Carissa comes out of the tub we have pamper time. I set her on the counter of my vanity, smooth oil and mousse in her hair, brush it all out, and then blow-dry it. She likes this time. Her hair always turns very straight, which for some reason makes John hopeful it will stay straight forever, but within a half-hour the curls come out of nowhere. Those curls are here to stay.