Dream Shard Blog: The Scintillating Adventures of Our Household

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Jun '12

Big Girl, Tough Girl, Music Girl

Carissa is a couple months away from turning 2 and has more than enough massive curly hair to pull back into a pony tail.

Sometimes when she goes out to play she insists on wearing a hat–but it has to be Wesley’s baseball cap. It’s too big, so I put it on backwards so it doesn’t fall into her face.

She likes to play piano.


Father’s Day

Cards and gift from the kids (with plenty of help from Mom).

This year the Primary (children’s group at church) provided ties for the kids to decorate for their dads to wear to church on Father’s Day. I thought this was a great idea.

On Saturday morning I invited the kids to paint with acrylics.

Anything artistic is right up Carissa’s alley. You can tell how much focus she has by the set in her lips.

But Wes really likes to paint, too.

After the paint dried I took a stencil and cut out star and heart shapes from their pictures and then glued them to the tie. It’s not fancy, but it was something made with love.

And he had something snazzy to wear to church and teach Gospel Doctrine in. We love the Daddy of this home!


Summer Preschool

I enrolled Wesley in summer preschool this year, for the first time.

His preschool during the school year is actually a free service (because of his special needs; it counts as his therapy offered through the school district), and I have to pay for summer preschool, but my hope is that it’s worthwhile because 1) Wes loves school and 2) he gets speech therapy as part of the package. His speech is improving tremendously all the time, but the more help he gets, the better off he will be. Carissa is catching up to him pretty quickly.

He started this past week. The #1 awesome thing so far about this preschool is that it’s at a university, which means they do research, which means each classroom is attached to an observation room, which means I can sit behind a one-way mirror and watch Wes in action at school to see how he’s doing.

Before preschool started I met with the director, his teacher, and three aides (it was a little intimidating! I thought I was just going to meet with his teacher) and we talked about what they needed to know to help Wes succeed this summer. Their first question: “How does his regular preschool work with him?” My answer: “I have no clue.”

Which is absolutely true, although I wish it weren’t. During the school year Wes gets picked up by the bus, dropped off by the bus 2.5 hours later, and what happens in between is a total mystery to me. My only clues are the pictures he brings home and the quarterly speech therapy report.

I can ask Wes about school but he has no ability (yet) to feed me any information. I know he’s happy and I have to assume he’s learning. But WHAT he’s learning and HOW he’s learning it–no idea.

So now I can sit and watch. Also, the week’s classroom agenda hangs on the wall in the observation room. I can study it to see what books the class is reading, what themes they’re working on, and what activities they’re doing. That’s helpful.

(Oh, and in case you wondered, the other major questions the preschool people asked were, “Is he a runner?” and “Does he have a problem keeping his shoes on?”, both of which I answered with a big “Yes.” They’ve had other students with DS and know that they are masterful escape artists and, for some reason, hate keeping their shoes on.)

So far Wes has been given a lot of one-on-one time with an aide who has been shadowing him, although that probably will happen less and less. The director purposely kept the class numbers down a little to make the teacher/student ratio a little better so Wes can have extra help if needed. I appreciate that they’ve been keeping him in mind.

I’ve seen him push a toy train around, color on the white board, pet the class bunny (he liked that a lot), sing songs (also liked that a lot), sit in large group time (a little wiggly), and eat snacks. I did one time pass by the playground during outside time and was a little heartbroken to see him standing by himself, clinging to the bars of the fence, looking out instead of playing.

But I know he likes this playground because I’ve taken him around on it. It’s a nice set.

Wes seems to like snack time. It’s interesting to see him interact with and eat among other kids. In this picture he’s helping himself to another helping of yogurt. He was one of the last kids done eating.

He has six more weeks to go, a month off, and then he returns to his regular preschool for one last year before kindergarten.

I admit, while Wes is in school, Carissa and I–when not sitting in the observation booth–have been shamelessly enjoying some mother-daughter time. One day we drove to a bakery and got a piece of bread to eat. We sat outside and Carissa tossed little pieces to the birds on the sidewalk, which totally delighted her and was fun to watch. Another day we visited a bagel shop for breakfast and ate together while she looked out the window and exclaimed “Bus!” or “Truck!” every time one passed by.

And, yes, OK, one day we went shopping. Just for fun and no other reason. Carissa is the ideal shopping companion (UNLIKE Wes). She likes to touch the clothing and try on the sunglasses and bracelets.

Trying on maternity clothes (19 weeks).

I think this week we’ll hit the library, the animal museum, and take more walks around campus. It is summer, after all!

Jun '12

Our England and Spain Adventure, Day 6: BATH

On Tuesday we checked out of our London hotel and took a taxi to Paddington Station to catch a train to Bath. Taking a taxi in London is expensive, but it was a nice change to see the London streets from, well, street level instead of using the underground. We crossed the bridge we had been walking along on Saturday, right past Big Ben and the houses of Parliament.

The train to Bath takes just 90 minutes. The train actually had TV monitors on the seat backs that you could tap to see our location, elevation, etc. (as well as news and TV programs if you wanted to pay for it), and Wes had fun with that. Ever since John got a tablet Wes and Carissa have both learned how to tap screens to make them work magic, and they’re pretty good at it.

The scenery in England is lovely. Lots of green, hilly fields and quaint old buildings. We saw bright golden yellow fields everywhere but I wasn’t sure what type of agricultural crop it was. My mother-in-law asked someone and she said it was rapeseed, which we would know as the maker of canola oil. It was stunning.

Bath is a fairly compact area with lots of interesting things to see within near walking distance of each other, so we made sure our hotel (the Bath City Hilton) was centrally located and within walking distance of the train station.

It WAS within walking distance of the station, but it was a bit of a walk. John and I didn’t mind it but his parents didn’t appreciate the scenic stroll while lugging baggage. Bath really is a beautiful city to walk through but I felt bad that it was hard for them.

We finally arrived to the Hilton–Carissa was dead asleep by now, and Wes was winding down for nap time–and we were told that they had overbooked and moved us to a different hotel. This was probably the last thing my poor mother-in-law wanted to hear after walking all that way, just to be moved someplace else, and she made sure they knew it.

I didn’t mind, personally. The Hilton transferred us to a 5-star hotel called the Macdonald Bath Spa Hotel. It was a little further from city center, though, so the Hilton arranged for free taxi service during our entire stay in Bath. My mom-in-law was satisfied.

When we arrived we had to wait for them to sort out our room needs, as there was some misunderstanding between them and the Hilton. We requested adjoining rooms with my in-laws, and of course we needed a room with space for our two kids. We hung out in the lobby, Carissa sound asleep on my shoulder, and we chatted with the butler. Yes, there was a BUTLER.

At last our rooms were ready and I got to deposit both kids on the posh King-sized bed for their naps.

And then I had the most peaceful hour of our entire trip as everyone else left for lunch and I stayed in the nice and quiet hotel room for an hour of relaxation. It doesn’t take much, sometimes.

The hotel was nice, although maybe not quite five star quality. (Then again, have I ever stayed in a five-star hotel?) Our room was small but it had a nice balcony overlooking the front gardens.

At one point during our stay we walked from the city center to our hotel, and it was a nice walk. We walked along the famous road where Jane Austen once lived (in one of the homes on the left), and at the end of the road you can see the Holbourne Art Museum.

We turned down a side street before we reached the Holbourne, though, and walked up a steep-ish hill to our hotel.

It used to be a private school and was later turned into a hotel. The gardens were lovely and English.

There was a leafy garden house (seen here with John and Wes) out front that had a fountain.

The hotel’s exterior:

I didn’t think to take pictures of our room (and if I sound like a nerd for documenting our hotel in such detail, that’s just how I am about hotels. And I always write reviews about our stays on Tripadvisor.com), except for this picture of the kids playing, and the next picture of John doing laundry one night in the bathtub. We had bought some detergent at the grocery store in Bath and cleaned our clothes the old fashioned way and hung them all over our room to dry. No laundromat nearby, and it wouldn’t have been practical to go do laundry with our kids anyway. So we did our laundry twice this way while in England. (It worked fine, but I have to say, it was super nice to have access to a washing machine once we got to Spain.)

The very best part of the hotel, hands down, was the spa. Not that we used the actual spa ($$$$), but we did use the pool area each night we were there and it was the best I’ve ever seen at a hotel. The pool itself was nice and big, as was the indoor hot tub. But my favorite was the outdoor hot tub, which was big and had a waterfall thing.

(Not my picture.)

And instead of just a sauna, they had two sauna rooms at different temperatures. They also had an aromatherapy shower, steam room, salt room (where salt sprays from the ceiling and you sit in it a while; good for the skin?), and an ice room, which I walked inside once but didn’t dare try (you splash ice on yourself and take a cold shower; refreshing?).

Anyway, the pool and spa area alone made our stay at this hotel worthwhile.

But I digress. The afternoon we arrived in Bath, once the kids were awake, we took a taxi downtown to THE Roman Baths.

Bath is a beautiful, old city. Here is the cathedral that we didn’t have time to visit.

Ceilings in the Roman Bath Museum:

The museum didn’t allow strollers but they provided baby carriers. Carissa was not, I repeat NOT, happy to be forced into one of these. Poor John could barely hear the audio tour.

She was much happier once we finally abandoned the carrier and let her wander (and use my audio tour).

The main bath area:

Bath was anciently known as Aquae Sulis (“waters of Sulis”). Sulis was their goddess. People would come to the baths to bathe and to worship. There was a temple overlooking the baths. This is remnants of the pediment on the temple, featuring the face of the god Gorgon.

Another interesting tidbit was the curses that people would toss into the baths, believing that the goddess Sulis would read them and avenge them their wrongs.

The baths were famous and popular in part because of the natural hot springs they were built upon.

But some of the water still needed to be heated, so Romans came up with a heating system involving stones and hot air called “hypocaust.”

When we started our tour the weather was cool and wet.

But by the end the sun had emerged, warming everything nicely. When the sun shines in England, there is no place more lovely. Even the ducks came out to swim in the baths.

We enjoyed our time learning about the Roman baths and the ancient people who once lived there. By the time we finished it was nearly 6 pm—and, it turns out, the whole city of Bath basically shuts down at 6 pm. We were fortunate to find this coffee shop café open and willing to cook us food for dinner.

After stopping at the grocery story for snacks, laundry soap, and milk (which we were ever on the hunt for for our kids) we took a taxi back to the hotel. John and I ended the night with an hour at the pool before doing laundry and preparing for our next day’s adventure: an all-day tour of Stonehenge and the surrounding area.

Jun '12

Wet Kids

Today Wes and Carissa went from this…

…to this…

…to THIS!

Jun '12

To the Daddy of Our Home

You are loved.

You are adored.

You are needed.

You are our bestest sweetheart and daddy forever.

We love you!