Spring Break! And Then a Bit More

This is Baguette’s first year in school, which means that we just had her first Spring Break. No, we did not take her to Mazatlan or South Padre Island or the Bahamas.

We went to Mammoth with some friends! There, we got to enjoy the cold weather.

Sled

Village

And we also got to be cozy.

Fireplace

Blanket

But why stop there? Why, indeed. Because this is possible in California–and because Mr. Sandwich had signed up for a half-Ironman triathlon–ten or so days later, we also went to Oceanside and Carlsbad.

Mr. Sandwich drove down early for registration, and Baguette and I took the train. She’s enjoying our train trips.

Train

She also enjoyed the beach, as she always does.

DCIM114SPORT

And we got to cheer on our racer of choice!

DCIM114SPORT

Places to eat in Mammoth

Burgers (amazing patty melt)
CJ’s Grill (splurgy, but some of the best fish and chips I’ve had)
Looney Bean Coffee Coffee!
Shea Schats Bakery (the roast beef sandwich is basically a slab of prime rib with bread and condiments)
Erick Schat’s Bakkery–Bishop (the lemon blueberry shortbread bites are amazing)

Places to eat in Oceanside/Carlsbad
Banana Dang (sweet coffee)
Bobby’s Hideaway Cafe (meatloaf)

Doing What Works, Because It Works

Today, Baguette’s Daisy troop had an outing to a UCLA Gymnastics meet. I’ve been thinking about taking her to see a gymnastics meet, so this seemed like a great opportunity. She’d get to see some of her friends and have a new adventure.

gymnastics meet warmup at Pauley Pavilion, from stands

We made it through the warmup, and Baguette was done. There were two factors.

First, she didn’t want to sit in the stands. She wanted to go down onto the floor with the college teams, because clearly they were doing something active and fun, while she was just sitting there.

Second, apparently now every athletic competition is a concert. My gymnastics viewing is pretty much limited to the Olympics, during which I can hear the equipment flex at moments of impact. But from well up in the stands in UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion, we got an overwhelming combination of music, announcements, cheers, and more. As we learned later, it was a bit much for the neurotypical girls, too.

So we left our seats and walked around the concourse for a bit, to see if we could cajole her back in once the actual meet got underway. Turns out? We could not.

Fortunately, we had a Plan B: UCLA.

Baguette loves the campus. We’ve taken her there any number of times over the years, and she runs around it like she owns the entire place. She seems to be learning her way around; often, it’s clear that she knows where she wants to go and how to get there, and we just follow her lead.

So we did that. We went up staircases and down walks and through buildings and plazas. We watched the marine layer come in, bringing the fog ever closer from the west, even though the campus itself was still bright and sunny. And after a couple of hours, she asked to go for a ride in the car.

It was a great afternoon. Maybe not the one we expected, but great nonetheless.

It was what worked, and it worked well.

Naming Rights

When we first met Butch and Sundance, they were named Bert and Ernie. Those weren’t their original names–not that anyone is aware of, anyhow–but that’s what the shelter had named them.

They’re fine names. But as far as Baguette is concerned, those names are taken (even if she doesn’t have a lot of time for Ernie).

The dogs were definitely a pair, and they needed names that reflected that. So on our way home from our first time meeting them at the shelter, we started a list. What was on it?

Strunk & White
Romulus & Remus
Butch & Sundance
Briggs & Stratton
Pratt & Whitney
Tango & Cash
Rocky & Apollo
Castor & Pollux
Teddy & Franklin
Standard & Poor
Asterix & Obelix
Traipse & Gallivant
Serenity & Firefly
Jayne & Mal
Spock & Bones
Han & Chewie
Proctor & Gamble
Holmes & Watson
Plunket & Macleane
Flotsam & Jetsam
Felix & Oscar
Troy & Abed
Jake & Elroy
Watson & Crick
Bass & Treble
P.B. & Jay
Currier & Ives
Coulson & Fury
Hell & High Water
Pomp & Circumstance
Funk & Wagnalls
Banner & Stark
Indy & Sallah

I feel like you can tell a lot about us from this list. But the next morning, I woke up thinking about the names Butch and Sundance. They just seemed right.

So when we went back to the shelter a couple of hours later and met the boys again, we tried out the names–and they just seemed to fit. Apparently the dogs felt so, too, because they were learning their names in just a few days.

Also, they take turns keeping watch, just like a couple of outlaws.

Also, they take turns keeping watch, just like a couple of outlaws.

Occurrences Of Late

Mr. Sandwich: I’m developing legal arguments regarding why Ariel’s contract with Ursula isn’t binding.
Me: Because she’s a minor?
Mr. Sandwich: That, and Ursula keeps employing metaphors that Ariel cannot be expected to understand, like “Rake ’em across the coals.”
Me: When Ariel doesn’t know ‘what’s a fire, and why does it–what’s the word–burn’?
Mr. Sandwich: Yes. And she talks about how “if you want to cross a bridge, my sweet, you’ve got to pay the toll.’ Ariel has no bridges in her life.

[pause]

Me: This is based on our extensive knowledge of Law & Order. But have you considered maritime law?
Mr. Sandwich: Good point. After all, my Opa did sign a contract and go to sea at age 12.

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Baguette has two loose teeth. They’re her top front incisors. This will be interesting.

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In the “nothing’s ever easy” category, we’ve just changed Baguette’s aide at school. We thought that having the aide who was with her at day care would be a good transition, and offer some continuity, but it didn’t play out the way we expected. First, it took a month and a half to resolve all of the communication issues between the district and the private agency, so the need for continuity was pretty much gone by the time we were up and running. And then it turned out that there were persistent punctuality issues, and we stopped getting our daily reports (which are kind of important when you have a child who’s not yet able to tell you about her day). The aide had to be out for a week and a half for a family issue (this was valid–we have no issue with the week and a half, just all the rest of the time around it), and that meant we had a sub.

The sub was amazing. As of tomorrow, the sub is the permanent aide. Fingers crossed, and moving forward.

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Baguette has a new iPad Air. The old iPad ran out of memory, and there was really nothing to do about that–just because she hasn’t played with an app for a year doesn’t mean she won’t start again in 10 minutes. And the apps were starting to hang up due to the lack of available memory, so the solution we came up with was a new device.

New to her, anyhow. We went with refurbished. We’re not insane.

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Los Angeles got rain today! I was really hoping for a solid day of rain, and there were a couple of sunny hours in the afternoon, but I’ll take what I can get.

Kindness

We took Baguette to the doctor yesterday, to check on a minor concern. While we were there, we decided to get her flu shot–none of us has gotten it so far, because we’ve all been sick through the fall and into the winter, but she’s pretty healthy at the moment.

As always, Baguette screamed a lot about the shot. And this year’s shot is a doozy, so it had an even more extreme effect than usual. She and I waited outside the pharmacy while Mr. Sandwich went in to pick up her prescription. It took about 20 minutes. She was still in pain, and screaming.

People moved in and out of the courtyard where we were waiting. I tried to calm her, offering her distractions, singing to her (that definitely didn’t help), and walking around while holding her. After a while, I noticed a young boy looking at us and smiling.

He said, “Hi. Is it okay if I come over and talk to her?”

I said, “Yes, but she may not talk in return. She doesn’t talk much sometimes.”

He said, “That’s okay,” and came over.

He never lost the smile. He talked to her, and suggested games they could play, and put “pixie dust” on her arm, and let her play with his tablet.

After a couple of minutes, I said, “Do you have a brother or sister with autism? Because you really seem to know what you’re doing.” He answered, “Oh, I just really like little kids.”

Eventually his mother came up, and I introduced myself and told her how helpful her son was being. She said he was in a peer support program at his school, where he helps kids with ADHD and autism. I told her that it showed, because he was really good at it. She said, “I heard your husband mention it in the pharmacy, and my son asked me if he could go talk to your daughter. I said I didn’t know, but apparently he did anyhow.” I smiled and said, “He did ask first!”

Apparently Mr. Sandwich had to endure a long stretch of snarky, irritated, and exaggerated comments from the other adults in the pharmacy, several of whom seemed to feel that 15 minutes is the same as an hour, and that no one was doing anything about the upset child in the courtyard.

But let me tell you, that 12-year-old was a real grown-up.

Book Talk: Things I’ve Read Recently

Your definition of “recently” and mine may not be quite the same. Whatever. It’s my blog, so I get to pick.

Anyhow, here are some books I’ve read, with the occasional thought attached.

The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
This was a hard read, but I’m so glad I read it. Lilith’s story is compelling from the start, and heartbreaking and painful throughout. It’s a powerful illustration of how slavery is brutal and corrupting.

The Martian by Andy Weir
I’m never going to see the movie. I accept that. But I did enjoy the book, even if I wasn’t particularly surprised by how the story developed and played out. But I liked the fact that Mark is a problem-solver. Because he encounters a lot of problems.

Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris
As a tween/teen of the 1980s, I have fond memories of Choose Your Own Adventure books. Clearly, so does Neil Patrick Harris. This was a fun read. Maybe he’s a little too diplomatic. But it’s fun.

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
I don’t like horror, and didn’t really realize that’s what this was until I started reading it. It was an interesting story, and it held my attention, but I didn’t buy the ending. Also, in poking around on Amazon, I realized that I had read another one of the author’s books and didn’t care for it, but I had no memory of her name. Hopefully I’ll remember it going forward.

Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel
I thought Station Eleven was really good (if something I should not have read), but this book didn’t come together for me.

Valley of Ashes by Cornelia Read

I like the Madeline Dare books, even though they get weaker with each entry. This one had a really cliched villain, but if she writes another, I’ll read it.

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney
“Why are so many recent books set in the 1980s?” asked Mr. Sandwich. “Because it’s recent enough to feel modern, but you don’t have to worry about cell phones,” I answered. I remembered liking The Tenderness of Wolves, and Penney’s next book–which is completely different from its predecessor–is also worth a read.

Tomorrow They Will Kiss by Eduardo Santiago

Santiago has written two books about Cuba and Cubans. I hope he writes more.

Roughing It by Mark Twain
This book is taking me forever to read. I guess maybe that’s fitting.

So that’s about six months worth of books. Clearly I’m off my game. Please leave recommendations in the comments.

Book Talk: The Emerald Key

Sponsored: I received a free Advance Reader’s Copy of The Emerald Key in exchange for writing a review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

So one of my friends has written a book! Co-authored, actually.

The Emerald Key, by Mark Frederickson and Melora Pineda, is the story of a group of friends who discover a journal and accidentally open a portal to another world. The main characters, Penny and Laci, are life-long friends who anticipate a dull vacation and an unwelcome family wedding, but find themselves transported to another reality filled with danger and dragons.

EmeraldKey

I enjoyed the book–it’s fast-paced, with lots of action, and the characters are likeable. And while Penny and Laci and their friends go through a number of trials throughout the story, it seems like an adventure that tweens might actually imagine they want to have.

I was curious to get some of the story behind the story, and Melora granted me an interview.

1) What was your inspiration for The Emerald Key?
Both Mark and I have tweenage daughters. His daughter is extremely athletic, and I have on occasion, had to threaten mine to get her to put her book down and meet basic needs, such as eating and showering. Our goal was to write a story that would entertain their age group, but also have a little bit of each of them in it.

2) What made you decide to write a book as a co-author, and how did you develop a process that made that work?
Mark and I had worked on a treatment for a children’s show a few years prior to starting The Emerald Key, so we knew we worked well together. Originally we decided to write a screenplay aimed at a middle-grade audience, but by writing it as a book, we created the source material first. Our process was countless hours on the phone hashing out ideas. I took notes and wrote the first version of each chapter. One by one I sent them to him and he expanded them. Next, we spent an entire weekend reading the book aloud and laughing at some of our blatant mistakes, such as the repeated use of our characters “starting” to do something instead of just doing it. I edited per our crazy weekend and then submitted to various publishers.

3) Laci and Penny have a close and supportive friendship, in spite of–or perhaps because of–the many ways in which they are different. How did you develop the characters?
We wanted an unlikely pair of friends to create more contrast in their skills and more challenges in getting themselves out of the mess they landed in. We began with qualities from each of our daughters, but these are fictional characters, so added more differences than actually exist between them.

4) I noticed some references to Norse mythology throughout the book. Were there particular legends or features that inspired you as you wrote?
Although Hallvard’s village was not seafaring and the Norse dragons are more serpent-like than the ones found in Botkyrka, we used a lot of Norse mythology to relate to popular culture (thanks, Marvel). We mention Thor and the mythology surrounding him frequently, but Beowulf is an Old English poem and wyverns are considered to be from European mythology, so we clearly played around with various dragon-based myths. By having Hallvard familiar with the same mythology the kids knew, we could bridge the gap between the cultures and create a camaraderie.

5) What would you like readers to take away from The Emerald Key?

I hope this book reminds our readers to search for and have faith in their own strengths instead of comparing themselves to others. As well as believing in themselves, they should never forget the importance of trusting their friends, and that in the end, it’s a combination of strengths working together that can overcome obstacles. And beat the bad guys!

Finessing Christmas

When I was young, our Christmases were extravaganzas. My parents weren’t Clark Griswold/Christmas store-style decorators, but we had lights on the house and a big, full tree that was overdecorated and surrounded by piles of presents. On Christmas Eve, we’d don pajamas and curl up on either side of my father so that he could put his arms around us both as he read The Night Before Christmas.

On Christmas morning, we’d get up as early as my brother and I could persuade my parents to wake; make tea and coffee; go through stockings; have breakfast; go to Mass (when we were very young–later we switched to Christmas Eve Mass); come home; and open presents.

When we lived within driving distance of grandparents, we would spend the afternoon with my mother’s parents and the next day or two with my father’s. When we didn’t, my mother’s parents often traveled to spend the holidays with us (this is its own story).

We would spend the whole day at home with each other and our new gifts, playing board games and reading books–and watching movies, once VHS technology had been invented and acquired. And we’d cook our traditional Christmas dinner.

Times have changed, as they do. Most years we trade off holidays, so that we’re spending one with my side of the family and the other with Mr. Sandwich’s. Our own trees are smaller, often in height and always in diameter. I keep forgetting to locate the copy of The Night Before Christmas, and I never remember to buy stocking stuffers. Mr. Sandwich goes on an early run, as is his family’s tradition, and we eat some breakfast. We haven’t been to Mass in years.

The presents don’t all get opened on the same day. Baguette enjoys opening a few, but then loses interest, so we open one or two of hers a day until we’re done. Or we don’t. So far? Not done.

But there are 12 days of Christmas, right? So I figure there’s no rush.

Butch and Sundance

So we really miss Wicket. We probably always will–she was a phenomenal dog.

But she left a dog-sized hole in our hearts and our home, and there was only one thing to do about that.

Butch and Sundance

Fill it with two more dogs.

Butch (on the left) is a 10-year-old Crested Chinese. He is very chill. Sundance is an 8-year-old Miniature Poodle who gets kind of anxious whenever Butch isn’t around. Apparently they were brought into the animal shelter together, and they were so clearly bonded that there was no way we could imagine splitting them up. So we didn’t.