Remember when I talked about how routine is important, but disrupting the routine is, too?


That’s okay. Here’s a link. But you don’t necessarily need to read that, because I’ve got more examples from this weekend.

  • Mr. Sandwich read one of her “Touchy Feely” books using the adjective written on the page, but not the one Baguette prefers. She didn’t get upset, and she didn’t repeat the original phrase. Instead she corrected him, saying, “They are prickly.”
  • We were in the car, and she started to get a little fussy. She asked for her book (she has a sequence in which she reads the Touchy-Feely books, which are firmly in rotation. I asked, “Do you want Mommy to read That’s Not My Dragon?” And she answered, “I want Baguette That’s Not My Dragon.”
  • She’s been playing with the apps for The Monster at the End of This Book and Another Monster at the End of this Book. On Saturday she made up her own chant based on phrases from the apps: “Grover is furry, Grover is furry, YOU! Elmo is cute, Elmo is cute, YOU!”
  • As usual, we went to the zoo. Elephants are her favorite animal, and the demonstration enclosure is always one of our first stops at the L.A. Zoo. But the male elephant sometimes trumpets loudly and scares her. Yesterday the females were doing the demonstration, and she sat on my lap. Almost immediately, she said, “Time to say bye-bye elephants.” I said, “Are you sure? Don’t you want to watch them eat carrots?” She looked at me and said, “I want to go see giraffes please.”
  • When we reached the carousel, toward the end of our visit, I asked if she wanted to ride on one of the animals (she never does–we only ride on the bench seat). She answered with “I want to ride peacock, please.”
  • Last night, she handed Mr. Sandwich one of her stuffed animals and unilaterally changed one of her common Baguette-focused phrases (“I want Daddy take elephant”) to a straightforward instruction: “Daddy, take elephant.”
  • “Frozen” is also back in rotation, and she’s memorized even more of the dialogue. She’s also tailoring it to her own preferences, as in last night’s pronouncement: “It was an accident. She was scared. She didn’t mean it. She didn’t mean any of this. Tonight was my fault–I should be the one to go after her. Bring me my elephant.”

She’s been in school for three days. It hasn’t been easy, and it hasn’t always felt good. But it is good.

Little girl with a big stack of books


For the past several months, we’ve been working to get Baguette into a certain school with a certain autism program. It’s been an exhausting, nerve-wracking process. After refusing our requests in the spring and seemingly lying dormant during the summer, the school district managed to make and rescind several offers over the past week.

“Emotional rollercoaster” may be a cliche, but wow, is it also true.

So yesterday we finally got the offer, which was signed by all parties. It placed Baguette in the school we want with the help we want, and it arrived just before we needed to leave the house to pick her up and take her over for enrollment.

She is enrolled. She’s in a Transitional Kindergarten class, which is a two-year program designed for students who are a little young for kindergarten. I have no idea how it’s different from Pre-K followed by K, but it is a thing that exists in the world, and it is the thing we are doing.

We’re not done–there are aides to identify and work schedules to coordinate–but one big piece of this educational puzzle is in place.

whiteboard with date and "First Day of TK" written on it

Oh, and in Los Angeles, school started on August 18. So it’s her first day of school, but it’s everyone else’s third week.

Book Talk: Station Eleven

Emily St. John Mandel’s novel Station Eleven is the book that really, really convinced me to stop reading post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction.

Sure you might think that The Road would have done that. But while I found Cormac McCarthy’s father-and-son novel to be incredibly sad (and some of it to be horrifying), most of it didn’t dismay me in the way that this book did.

Since my second miscarriage, I’ve found that I have to be more careful about what I let into my head. While I once read innumerable true crime books, I find that now I can’t handle the cruelty. (I’ve read Game of Thrones and its sequels, yes, but there are passages that make me take breaks, and there are things I skip entirely in the HBO adaptation.)

Mandel’s book hooked me from the start. It’s really well-written, and the characters are interesting. I’ve had a long-standing interest in pandemics, so her story of the world after a particularly devastating flu seemed right up my alley in many ways.

But it got in my head in ways that were troubling. The idea of being plunged into a world without infrastructure is frankly terrifying. The death toll from Mandel’s “Georgia flu” would mean an end to existing family and friendships for any survivors. And while the idea of losing either Mr. Sandwich or Baguette is heartbreaking, the idea of losing both was almost insurmountable. (As I told Mr. Sandwich, “I’m not saying I’d just sit down on the side of the road and give up, but I really don’t know why I would choose to keep moving.”)

The book is not all bleakness, though, and I’m glad I finished it. It looks like Mandel’s other books are not as dystopian, and I want to read them. And I do recommend this one. Just not to myself.

cover of novel "Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel

If Waze Could Talk

Interactively, I mean, not just reading its script. (Oh, and while we’re on the subject, Waze, could you bring back Terry Crews?) But if Waze could talk, this is how our conversation would have gone today:

Me: Navigate to home.
Waze: This way is fastest!
Me: Are you sure? That seems unlikely.
Waze: It’s definitely fastest!
Me: I don’t know. I feel like it’s going to be slow.
Waze: Absolutely the fastest way home!
Me: Well, you seem pretty sure. I guess I’ll give it a shot.
Waze: Oh. Huh. This way is really slow.

So I guess crowd-sourcing isn’t always the answer.

It’s a Lot All at Once

First we had ants, and caulk and Seventh Generation Granite & Stone Cleaner and a little bit of Black Flag came to the rescue.

And then as soon as we got rid of the ants, the back yard was overrun with fleas. And I do mean overrun. We’ve tried so many things. Mr. Sandwich (who is doing most of the combating–neither Wicket nor I has gone out back in days) and I woke up one morning and compared notes to realize that BOTH of us were having dreams about diatomaceous earth. Last night was Midnight Dog Bath. This seems never-ending.

It’s also very hot.

The floor tiles in our eat-in kitchen (extending into the back entryway and 1/2 bath) are starting to come loose. I am not a fan of tile–it’s too hard to stand on at length. But what’s good in the kitchen and bathroom? I asked Twitter, and as usual, Twitter was practically no help at all (although apparently laminate is not the answer).

Oh, and since Wicket has been bitten by fleas a lot, we need to take her to the vet–and also have him look at the weird bump on her side and what is either pinkeye or a reaction to the flea shampoo, or something else entirely (what do I know? I’m not a vet).

Santa Barbara: The Ugly

We were in a restaurant. It wasn’t Denny’s, but it wasn’t Ruth’s Chris, either–your standard American fare, in an attractive but not terribly trendy setting. It was late, particularly for Santa Barbara, which is a town that closes early.

It had been a big day. We’d taken Baguette on her first train ride, and had spent several hours at the beach (where a stranger had asked us to move our beach chairs and umbrellas because they blocked her open view of the water–from her third story condo). Baguette napped late, and had eaten, but Mr. Sandwich and I still needed dinner. I’d gotten her a new app on her iPad, and she was playing it happily and describing what was happening and what hat the monkey was wearing from one moment to the next.

Baguette likes her iPad on full volume. We tend to be immune to it, but we are aware of it in shared public spaces. We know it’s loud, but we also know what happens when we try to lower the volume. And she was talking, and happy, and we really hate to interrupt that when we don’t have to.

So when the woman at the booth next to us said, “Could you please turn the sound on that down?” Mr. Sandwich said, “I’m sorry. I’ll try, but she may scream,” and leaned across the table to try to make things a little more quiet.

As she turned away, she said something that I couldn’t quite make out, but I could see Mr. Sandwich’s face. It went a little feral, and he turned back to her and said something that is not our go-to approach.

“No, actually, that’s where autism comes in.”

We don’t hide Baguette’s diagnosis–we talk about it quite openly. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed by. But we also don’t use it as a defense or a come-back. It’s an explanation, but not a justification. So I knew something had happened.

I managed to get Baguette to shift the iPad down to her lap, where the speakers were a little muffled. Mr. Sandwich and I had one of those wordless couple exchanges that meant that we would discuss it later, and we went back to eating our dinners. And while Baguette went back to talking about the monkey and its hats, we were silent. It was awkward.

Then the woman stood up, walked over, and faced me–carefully standing so that Mr. Sandwich could not make eye contact with her. She said, “Excuse me, have you ever considered treating your daughter with essential oils?”*

It was 9:40 p.m. I was exhausted. I didn’t know exactly what had transpired a couple of minutes before, but I was not so tired that I couldn’t tell that this woman was determined to make some kind of point. And I just didn’t want to talk about it. So I said, “I’m sorry, I’ve looked into essential oils as an autism treatment, and I don’t believe in them.”

She said, “But have you tried them?”

I said, “Excuse me?”

She said, “You said you’ve looked into them, but that doesn’t answer my question of whether you’ve tried them.”

So in rapid succession, we have:

  • Criticism of our child’s behavior
  • Criticism of our parenting (presumably, at this point)
  • Criticism of my thought process and word choice

This is when I got the expression that Mr. Sandwich describes as “a cross between a police bloodhound and a Stinger missile.”**

A series of responses flashed through my mind like slides in a carousel, and then one–informed by my time in the blogosphere–came into focus. I asked:

“Do you sell essential oils?”

And she saw fit to answer, “”Yes, I do sell them. I have a sample here, I can just wave it under your daughter’s nose and let her smell it, I think you’ll find it soothes her.”

Sure. Why not? I’ll just take some unlabeled vial of some poorly identified substance and wave it under my daughter’s nose.

But I didn’t say that. I said, “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested in giving her essential oils.”

And finally, she went back to her table. I don’t know if she could relax, but we couldn’t. Dinner was over, no matter what we had or hadn’t eaten.

It turned out that what she had said to Mr. Sandwich, when he said he would try to turn down the volume, was this:

Ah, well, that’s just where parental authority comes in, isn’t it?

No, lady. That’s where autism comes in. I think you missed the parental authority part; it happened when I said “no” to you multiple times, because Mr. Sandwich and I are the best judges of what Baguette needs or does not need.

*The correct answer: Yes, I have tried essential oils for a variety of purposes. I believe that they have some helpful properties. I also believe that their efficacy is limited. For example, I believe that lavender can be calming, and that it has some antibacterial properties. But I would not use it to treat pneumonia. And yes, I am aware that there is scientific research into essential oils and autism. I also know that the study in question uses essential oils as a sensory tool. In other words, it’s something for kids to smell, used in conjunction with other senses such as touch.

**I consider this a compliment.

Santa Barbara: The Bad

Baguette had a fantastic time on our trip. She enjoyed her train ride, in both directions. She loved going to the zoo. She could not have been more thrilled with the beach–walking, wading, castle-stomping.

Also she screamed a lot.

Baguette’s screams are like some kind of air raid siren. She screams like a banshee. It’s piercing. I’d like to say that only dogs can hear her, but that’s not true.

All of us can hear her.

It was a big week, and that’s not always easy. She was off her routines. She had a bit of a tummy bug. One of her teeth is loose. She had a lot going on.

She did enjoy the things we did. But I think we’re in a phase where it is hard for her to be away from home. It’s important, because disrupting her routine–while disruptive–tends to result in gains for her. We’re pretty sure that after this trip, she is thisclose to truly reading.

But it’s not easy–for us, but even more so for her. Our girl works so hard, and it can take a lot out of her. I’m so impressed with her persistence and her determination. I really want to focus on the positive, while helping her find new ways to deal with things that are hard. So I don’t want to give up these trips, but maybe we make them shorter, at least for the near future.

I know there’s a lot out there about angry diner owners and parents who were or were not paying attention to their child’s behavior. I don’t know the truth about what happened in that situation, or what any of those people does or does not face on a daily basis. But I know how much Baguette tries, and how much we try. So please, please, when you see a child out there having what looks like a tantrum, please keep in mind that maybe they’ve just had not enough, but too much. And that’s nobody’s fault.

More on this later. Because of course I have a story for you.

Also, I’m using this title for effect. Baguette was not “bad” and I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I think she was. But let’s face it, this aspect wasn’t “good,” and I mean from her perspective as well as mine. She doesn’t enjoy feeling this way.

Santa Barbara: The Good

Back again from Santa Barbara, which has become our summer tradition. It’s not that we aren’t willing to travel anywhere else, it’s just that Santa Barbara is so nice, and so easy–easy to get to, and easy to be in. We got to see friends and family, and we revisited some greatest hits:

I know what you're thinking. We packed too much stuff.

I know what you’re thinking. We packed too much stuff.

Although we did need an awful lot of it.

Wait, where's Baguette?

Wait, where’s Baguette?

Rug removed, not for aesthetics, but for marker avoidance

Rug removed, not for aesthetics, but for marker avoidance

Baguette's first train ride, to Carpinteria 15 minutes away

Baguette’s first train ride, to Carpinteria 15 minutes away

Baguette's second train ride, returning from Carpinteria

Baguette’s second train ride, returning from Carpinteria

The goats will eat food handed to them through the fence, but that is not how Baguette rolls.

The goats will eat food handed to them through the fence, but that is not how Baguette rolls.

We found a new-to-us restaurant–Kyle’s Kitchen, which each month donates a portion of their proceeds to special needs organizations in the community.


And also makes very tasty burgers.


After years of driving by and saying, “Next time I want to check out that place,” we explored Tri-County Produce.

Featuring a Brussels sprout the likes of which I had never before seen

Featuring a Brussels sprout the likes of which I had never before seen

Of course we went to the beach, again and again and again.


Where Mr. Sandwich made sand castles, and Baguette destroyed them.




And then, on the way home, this happened.

Like Christmas in July for drought-stricken Californians

Like Christmas in July for drought-stricken Californians

Cars (Not the Movie) I Have Owned

My family (mostly) buys new cars. Mr. Sandwich’s (only) buys used ones. My theory? It depends on what you can do with cars/if you know a good mechanic, and how long you’re going to drive the car. And also why you want the car.

My first car was a new 1990 Toyota Corolla. It was also the worst Toyota I’ve ever encountered, because it would not drive uphill. Not without significant protest, at least. I didn’t notice this for the first few years, because I was driving it in Tidewater Virginia, which is very flat. But I did notice it when I moved to Austin. (Also, in the first year I owned it, it needed all the weatherstripping replaced, which is not good.)

It got irritating, and I wanted something with more cool factor. I was in my 20s and single, so it seemed like the sensible time to be frivolous. I bought a 1995 Ford Mustang. It was slightly used, with around 7,000 miles on it. It was much, much cooler than the Corolla. And also it drove uphill.

I moved to New Jersey. The Mustang was not a fan of winter, it seemed. The third winter I was there, we got strange snowstorms. Strange in that they would dump 5 inches of snow in a few hours–always the ones during the evening commute. On one occasion, I had to pull over four times to clear the windshield and back window from the overhang of snow that the wipers could not reach. (I probably should have done that six or seven times.) On that same occasion, even driving carefully, I spun donuts. Twice. The second time in front of a semi.

That’s when I decided to replace the car. I’d already been looking ahead to that, but I had been planning that purchase for two or three years out. (Turns out that mostly I needed new tires, but still.)

So the next fall, I bought a 2002 Subaru Forester. I tried to buy a low-mileage one, but when I called a dealership to ask about such an option, they laughed at me. Because there is no such thing, at least not in New Jersey. Once you buy a Forester, you keep that Forester.

Turns out that’s true for me, too, because I’ve lived in California for over a decade now, and I still own that Forester. In fact, we also own a second one (purchased used, in the Sandwich fashion, from one of Mr. Sandwich’s lifelong friends). I’ve owned the first Forester for longer than I owned the Corolla and the Mustang put together, and the new-to-us car is only one year younger. I hope we’ll own both for years to come, and there really isn’t a reason why we can’t.

And these cars have lots of stories. We’ve driven them around the state more times than I can count, to visit family or to go snowshoeing in Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. We brought Baguette home from the hospital in the car that came from New Jersey. That car left New Jersey when I married Mr. Sandwich–starting with a road trip to San Antonio (where we got married) with my dad, and continuing with a road trip across the Southwest to Los Angeles with Mr. Sandwich after the wedding.

This post inspired by Duffy.