Dream Shard Blog: The Scintillating Adventures of Our Household

Choose a Topic:

Jan '15

Bits of December

In December we went with some extended family to Tucanos. It is such a nice place to visit during the holidays because of the amazing lights outside.


We tried to get family pictures but they didn’t really turn out; these are the best two, and they don’t include everyone.



We enjoyed walking through the Christmas lights after dinner, and we discovered a free sleigh ride in a wagon pulled buy two horses with bells on. We stood in line about 15 minutes, and then it was our turn. Just as we were walking up to board Elizabeth suddenly threw up. So I stayed with her on the sidelines while John took the other two kids for a ride. They loved it. Elizabeth was fine, by the way.

We took the kids to the annual United Angels Foundation Christmas Party, which is for families who have kids with special needs. We ate dinner and then played games and stood in line to see Santa. I like to get pictures of the kids with Santa to help document Christmas year-by-year, but this year wasn’t a great year for pictures.




Oh, well.

John and I attended a BIP meeting for Wes at his school. “BIP” means “Behavior Intervention Program” (I think). It’s part of his IEP program, which helps with academic goals. This covers behavior-specific goals. We met with six or seven other people who work with Wes and school and talked about ways to help him do better. Carissa was with us, since she had a slight fever and we didn’t want to leave her with a babysitter (like the other two kids). It was a long meeting, almost 2 hours, so to keep her busy I gave her my camera. And voila, we have pictures of our meeting. Mostly of Carissa.








One morning I thought I’d make a quick coffee cake, and that it wouldn’t take much time at all, but then all three kids wanted to help and it wasn’t so quick anymore. I like it when they help me in the kitchen, though.

sm12.12.14 breakfast kids

Grocery shopping with Wes. I made him put the Utes hat back.



Playing with umbrellas.


I noticed that Carissa had taken our family picture (from 4 years ago) and updated it herself.


Jul '14

May, Part 2

Still going backwards, approximately from the middle of May back to its beginning.

This is Carissa. True Carissa.




Homemade beach time.

Sometimes if I’m feeling down all I need to do is watch my kids fold laundry to remember that in spite of all my many failings, I have taught my children how to do one useful thing.



If I remember right, the night this picture was taken Elizabeth came down sick. Happy to have a happy memory of the day before she turned ill. This picture was taken not too long after I found her in the corner unscrewing the lid of my mascara and clearly knowing she wasn’t supposed to be doing that. That is true Elizabeth, mischievous to a tee.


For Mother’s Day I took Carissa to Sunroc to buy my annual gift-to-myself-but-really-from-John that is my Mother’s Day flowers. Carissa was the ideal shopping partner at a flower store, and she selected a couple small pots of petunias to bring home in addition to my big pots.




We also celebrated with lunch at Tucanos. I got a pink carnation. Elizabeth really liked the Brazilian lemonade.




I took Wes and Carissa (and Elizabeth) to the haircut place that I always take them to, 30 minutes drive but so worth it for the fact that they specialize in kids’ haircuts and I don’t have to do it myself. John and I used to cut Wesley’s hair at home but it was so awful, with one of us holding him down and the other cutting as fast as possible. This place has been helpful. BUT the last two times I’ve taken him here Wes had total meltdowns. This particular time was his Worst. Ever. EVER. These pictures are the calm after the storm. Wes is super sensitive to noises and the sound of clippers is terrifying to him. I only just realized how bad it is so I think from now on it will have to be scissors only.


Carissa just had her bangs cut. I can’t really take her without letting her get something cut, even if she doesn’t need it, because she likes it so much. Total opposite of Wes.



After the haircut I took the kids next door for a much-needed break and lunch. Wes wanted to sit at the table by the window, and he sat there all by himself on the tall stool while I sat at a lower table with the other kids. Mmmmm, Cheetos.



Carissa’s preferred outfit for enjoying cake.

Fried PB&J. Saw it on the Food Network and YES, that is a bath of butter, and YES, it was sooo good and sooo bad at the same time.


Carissa painted a picture of her preschool teacher to give her at the end of the year. I thought the brown hair was really good! She’s painting herself next to her teacher.


Dinner party. Only the finest guests.

In May Wes’s transitional kindergarten class made a visit to the BYU duck pond. I went and took his sisters, too.





Me and my Carissa.
5.29.14 Shan and Carissa

On May 1st I took the kids to the Salt Lake City Zoo. Naturally it was the first day of their summer season, which means the prices were higher. Oh, well. It was a good day to visit.

I started by trying to get my kids to give me a nice pose and smile at the entrance. So much for that.




Our favorite spot was the elephants. The caretakers were out feeding the mama and baby elephant and had the elephants doing tricks for us. They even sprayed water all over us. Twice. Kind of gross if you think about it but the kids thought it was great.



Sea otters. (?) The kids loved watching them swim back and forth and trying to find them in the water.

A break at the top of a very steep hill at the top of the zoo.

My expert navigator.

Wes likes to stop at every grate he sees, no matter where it is, even if it’s in the middle of a street, to see if there’s water in it and if he can toss rocks inside.

Of course we went on the carousal. This was Elizabeth’s first time.


How else to end the day than with ice cream cones?

On our way home I stopped at SLC’s Trader Joe’s. I love that place, and you can only find it around here in downtown SLC, but it was NOT my favorite visit this time. Elizabeth was in the front seat of the cart and Wes and Carissa were hanging off each side. They were all over the place and not listening or obeying and when one of the kids pulled on the side of the cart the whole thing fell over, groceries and Elizabeth and all.

Elizabeth wasn’t even strapped in because the strap was broken in the cart. I knew this but just wanted to hurry through the store anyway because obviously the kids were tired and acting like it. She was OK but I was a hot mess of tears.

It turns out that Trader Joe’s has some angelic employee whose job it is to make everything better. She came over and immediately helped us get a new cart with a working seat buckle, transfer everything over, and then she showed Wes and Carissa how in the store there’s a stuffed seagull hidden, and if they could find it they would get a treat. So she helped them find it and gave them each stickers and a sucker (all-natural, of course). And while I’m standing there in the aisle trying to mop up my own tears she comes over with a beautiful bouquet of flowers that she said I could just take home.

So that was not our finest hour but I still love Trader Joe’s.

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.



Apr '14


Carissa’s preschool class at their Easter Egg hunt. I asked Carissa if she knows why we celebrate Easter, and she said “So the Easter Bunny can come.” There’s a little boy in her class with Down syndrome. I know the boy’s family because his older brother is autistic and was in Wes’s preschool class. I asked Carissa about this boy and she said, “He is silly. He doesn’t listen to the teachers or help clean up.” Sounds just like Wes!
Carissa preschool Easter party

Carissa’s winter gear in spring.

I bought Carissa this book that she picked out from the BYU Bookstore. It came with an ink pad. She makes fingerprints, and then follows the directions to turn the fingerprints into cute animals or objects. I was unsure if she was mature enough to really get it, but trust me–she really got it. I love looking through the book and seeing her creations. Carissa is very creative and getting more creative all the time.

She gets a little carried away sometimes, though. I’ve also noticed Elizabeth starting to draw on herself, which I’m sure she’s learned from her big sister.

One day we made blue Jigglers from a zoo Jell-O mold.



Elizabeth has learned self-reliance. She is often seen toting a chair around so she can reach something she’s expressly not allowed to get into. I’ve started stacking the little red chairs on tables out of her reach so she can’t do this anymore, but she can still push the big kitchen chairs where she wants them.


One day I needed to get out of the house so I took the kids to Kiwanis Park near BYU. The kids had so much fun. There was a little neighborhood girl who was selling Otterpops, but she was giving them away free to kids three and younger. So Carissa had a little treat.






Carissa loves goggles. And all accessories. She also loves her swimsuit. Sometimes she’ll wear it to bed, either by itself or over her pajamas.




John and I had this crazy idea to take our kids backyard camping. We wanted a practice run before we go real-camping.

Wes and Carissa were BEYOND excited. Carissa helped Dad set up the tent.




We put Elizabeth in the playpen in the tent for bedtime. Which didn’t work at all, but Carissa took care of her without me asking her to by running back and forth between the other tent (the “toy tent”) and the playpen, getting toys she thought Elizabeth might like. When it came time for her to really fall asleep, John held her until she did. The kids slept really well in the tent, even though it was a chilly night.



Once it was dark we gave the kids new little flashlights and explored the backyard. It was so cute to hear them say things like, “Look! A rock! Mom, check out this stick!” Everything is cooler in the dark, with flashlights. Wes kept saying, “Spooky!”

Then we roasted marshmallows.

This was their first time making and eating s’mores. I even found pink marshmallows for Carissa.


We sang a song together (“Row, Row, Row Your Boat”–in a round, even!) and then it was bedtime. We will probably do this again sometime. The kids loved it.

The day after camping was our annual Easter egg hunt at BYU with Wesley’s Down syndrome group.









Carissa knows she’s allergic to nuts (or, at least, that they “make her sick” and she can’t have them). So with every egg she opened she showed me the candy and asked, “Does this have nuts?” Good girl.

Carissa loved chasing the ducks in the stream. There was a mama duck with about fifteen ducklings. Fifteen!

We walked through the Wilkinson Center and posed by Cosmo Cougar on the steps. Wes loves BYU football.


Then we got ice cream at Baskin Robbins and ate it outside. Good times.

The big news around here is two new scooters. John took Carissa for her inaugural ride down our street.




The park by our house on another day when I just needed to get out.


Carissa has great poses.


Native American Baby. Carissa says she didn’t do this, but I’m not so convinced.



Eating cereal.



Carissa made this lion. I think it kind of looks like one, too! She’s getting better with scissors and glue and tape.

Easter! During the Easter egg hunt Carissa insisted on only collecting purple ones. She helped Wes find all the rest. Wes and Carissa both got watches in their Easter baskets. Wes’s is Angry Birds (his favorite game) and Carissa’s is…well, can you guess? Hello Kitty.














Carissa has finally mastered writing her name. I thought she had it down a while ago, but in February when she was signing her name on Valentines I discovered she writes her name backward. It was perfect, just backward (even her S’s were backward). Her preschool teacher says it’s really common, and they worked on it at school. This week is the first time I saw her write it correctly (even her S’s!), so I snapped a picture. (Then, the next day or so I saw her write her name backward again. But now I know she can do it forward.)

Oh, and check out her picture. She told me this is a picture of herself. She has bangs, and a rainbow on her shirt like the one she’s wearing. What a great artist!

Elizabeth enjoys the sandbox.

Wes is really liking bubbles lately. This is great because blowing bubbles was a really hard skill for him to learn. But he can do it now all by himself!


Three kids on a couch.


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.