Nothing’s Ever Easy

That’s my father’s saying. Mine is “It’s always something.”

Baguette’s IEP includes bus transportation between home and school. Because she is now able to attend the after-school program (this is a whole story of its own), she only rides the bus to school in the mornings; Mr. Sandwich picks her up in the afternoons.

At the beginning of the year, I called the Special Education department, which is where you’re supposed to call to let them know this.

Her bus comes at about 7:15 each morning, except for when it doesn’t–usually because there is a substitute bus driver, or because there is some sort of maintenance issue. Usually (but not always) we get a robocall about the latter.

Baguette, meanwhile, loves the riding the bus. She is ready ahead of time, can hear it 1/2 mile away (I am not exaggerating), and is almost frantic to get the front door to the house open when it pulls up.

little girl boarding school bus

Today, the bus did not arrive. We waited on the porch for almost 20 minutes. There was no robocall.

So I called the Area Bus Supervisor, who was not there, and left a voicemail. Then I called Dispatch, which required a lot of time on hold before I spoke to a person, and many more short times on hold while that person talked to other people before finally let me know that Baguette was not on the route sheet.

Which is weird, because she was on a route sheet YESTERDAY.

Then I got Baguette into the car and called Special Education, who confirmed that their records showed that she was to be picked up in the morning and said that her “profile is active,” but that they did not see any routing information.

And then I called the Area Bus Supervisor again, and actually got a person. She remembered talking to me earlier in the year (when I was trying to get Baguette’s pickup time changed because I refused to cut into her inadequate sleep even more by waking her up before 6:00 a.m.), confirmed a.m.-only pickup, and said that the only thing she could think of was that sometimes “when you make some changes, the system goes ahead and bumps kids off of routes when it’s not supposed to.”

You know what? That’s not a system.

But she did email the person in charge of routing and get them to reinstate Baguette’s transportation starting tomorrow, and she called me to let me know it was fixed.

So that’s good. But to get it fixed, I had to make multiple phone calls to multiple offices for a total of 45 minutes, be late to work, and find breakfast out in the world (thanks, McDonalds!) because I hadn’t been able to eat at home the way I usually do.

This is going to happen again, because this is how it “works.” Nothing’s ever easy, and it’s always something.

Endings and Beginnings

Friday

Today was Baguette’s last day at the school she’s gone to for the past year and a half (almost). We fought hard to get her into that school, and in the end we succeeded. She spent last year in TK, and overall we were happy.

Pros: The special ed teacher was amazing. She really cared about Baguette–and all her kids–and went the extra mile (and then some) for them. The kids were welcoming to Baguette, and didn’t mind when she screamed, and kept reaching out to her even when she didn’t seem to respond. The parents were friendly and supportive and made sure that Baguette was invited to birthday parties. The office staff was delighted by her, and repeatedly told us how much progress they saw her making. The principal always said hi to her, and made sure she was included in the morale events he sponsored, and told us how much change he was seeing in her.

Cons: The TK teacher didn’t want Baguette in her class. It was obvious, and if we could tell, Baguette surely could. Seriously, I don’t think this teacher said a single positive thing about Baguette all year.

At the end of the year, they tried to get us to move her to a special day class in another school, instead of staying in the mainstream classroom. The original plan had been to give her two years, so we insisted on staying for kindergarten.

This year is kindergarten.

Pros: A new classroom teacher, and several of the children from her TK class.

Cons: A new special ed program and a new special ed teacher, neither of them a good fit. A new principal (she could be fine–I don’t know her–but it is change). A classroom teacher who didn’t seem resentful, but who didn’t connect with Baguette either.

The real problem was that Baguette wasn’t fully participating in the class, and wasn’t demonstrating mastery of the curriculum. I need to point out that I think the key word is demonstrating. Baguette is constantly learning, but she knows when she’s being tested, and she does not cooperate. It’s a challenge. But it doesn’t mean she isn’t learning what you’re teaching her.

The thing is, it was clear that the staffing changes at the school meant the school had changed. The parents and kids and office staff were still great, but the teachers and the assistant principal (who runs the IEP process) are going by the book, and their book doesn’t include Baguette.

You know who knows that? Baguette. She didn’t take to the new teachers. And like a lot of us, she performs better when she knows you want her around.

So we agreed to move her, and move her now, because hopefully there’s enough of the year left for her to adjust to a new classroom. If we like it, and she does well, we can keep her there next year. And if we don’t, we may be able to find another school for her. We’ll spend the spring looking at how to do that, so that we know what our options may be and how to make the most of them.

We’re sad about leaving that community, and we don’t really want to take this step–but since we’re taking it, we hope it will be a good one for Baguette.

Monday

So Long, 2016

I wrote 14 posts this year. Sometimes I wonder if I’m still a blogger.

What can I say? It’s been a hell of a year. A lot of this is known to people; we all heard about the election, and no matter how you feel about the results, it was a big damn deal. We all know about the celebrities who died; Carrie Fisher’s passing hit me particularly hard.

For us, we’ve had a triathlon to train for (Mr. Sandwich) and support (Baguette and me), multiple IEP meetings, changes in leadership at Baguette’s school, lost teeth (the sixth came out this week), family drama that warrants assessment, and lice.

Oh, the lice.

We were supposed to travel to visit my dad and stepmom for Thanksgiving. But I had a bad cold, and based on much prior experience of making that trip sick, we decided not to. As it turned out, that was a wise decision. Because on the day we would have been driving, I discovered that Baguette and I had lice.

We called a service to come over to the house that night and comb all three of us, and scheduled the follow-up for the Monday after the holiday. But as it turned out, we couldn’t wait that long, so we also went to a lice-combing salon on Friday for an additional come-through.

There are, by the way, a lot of businesses providing this service in Los Angeles.

That was our hair; we also commenced on an astonishing amount of laundry, washing and drying on hot things that we often don’t even put in the dryer. We vacuumed and lint-rollered and bagged and froze and did everything we could think of to halt this in its tracks.

It was exhausting. It was not a vacation. It was not a break. But ultimately, we were successful–although we now are completely fixated on checking our heads on a regular (and probably unnecessarily frequent) basis.

We delayed our trip, planning to visit the week after Christmas. And then I got bronchitis. So we didn’t go. But we did have Christmas dinner with Mr. Sandwich’s parents, as planned. That was nice for a bit, and then discretion is the better part of valor, and also of family harmony on Christmas.

Now we are two weeks into Baguette’s three-week winter break from school. In case you were wondering, three weeks is too long. It’s not that I don’t love and value the time with her–it’s that we don’t have any other care for her, which means we have to take more days off from work, and it means that her routine is significantly disrupted in ways that are very difficult for her. And with my bronchitis that first week of the break, we didn’t do a great job of creating a different routine. We’re getting into one now, but that still doesn’t keep us from having rough days.

Long story short? I am ready for a new year. So Happy New Year to all of you!

And know that while I may not be able to stay up the whole time (among other things, Baguette got me up at around 4:00 this morning), I am definitely feeling this:

Happy Halloween, 2016

Baguette has never been that into trick-or-treating. From her perspective, Halloween is when you knock on your neighbor’s door, and they answer it–but then they don’t let you in. What’s the point of that?

It’s always been a struggle. Not because it particularly matters to us whether she wants to, but because we want her to understand what it is, and see if she can find a way to make it fun for herself. There would be a parade at her day care that she had to be wrangled through–the teachers made those costumes–and then in the evening we’d try to get her out into the neighborhood.

Each year, it was harder than you’d think. There was the time she refused to wear layers (shirt and tights were fine, but not the elephant part of the costume). After many tears, she decided to wear all of her Elmo clothing. It worked. The next year, she rejected the costume we’d bought her AND the one from day care, finally settling on my shirt worn backward. The year after that, we laid out every costume and clothing item we could think of, and she chose soccer ball fleece PJs–although once she was done with her abbreviated neighborhood circuit, she added Anna’s ball gown from Frozen.

This year, we looked at the restrictions required by the school and settled on gray leggings, gray t-shirt, and elephant headgear (we bought two headbands with ears and a hat). But yesterday I pointed out that she’d spent the week saying “I am a fire fighter” and “I am a doctor,” following a LOT of viewings of Elmo’s World DVDs. And I remembered that at some point, someone had given her a doctor costume. So I unwrapped it, and she instantly fell in love with the idea. She wore it all afternoon, and tried to sleep in it, and put it back on enthusiastically for this morning’s parade at school.

Small girl in scrubs costume running
Paging Dr. Baguette

She was still wearing it when Mr. Sandwich picked her up, and didn’t take it off until they were in the store looking at fire fighter costumes. They brought one home, but its velcro fasteners proved unacceptable. Out of all of the costumes we’d spread across the couch, which one did she pick?

The elephant-ear headband.

So we headed out with our elephant for trick-or-treating, but it turned out that Baguette had no interest in that–she just wanted to go for a walk around the block.

The whole point is to have fun, and for the first time, Halloween was really fun for her.

I couldn’t be happier.

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.

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.

________________________

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

________________________

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.

________________________

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.

________________________

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.

Made-Up Rules for Our Imaginary Children

When Mr. Sandwich and I were married, but before we had Baguette, we made many pronouncements, as you do. Some of them still hold, like leaving the restaurant when we cannot keep her quiet and calm. Some of them remain untested (we are not fans of demanding MORE candy from people when trick-or-treating, and yes, we’ve seen that happen, but she’s not really a fan of trick-or-treating). Others have fallen by the wayside.

“No junk food before age 2! There is plenty of time to eat french fries later, but they don’t need them that young!”

At just under a year, Baguette reached up and pulled a french fry from Mr. Sandwich’s mouth and ate it. She loved it. Now I just wish she’d eat fries, because that would mean one more thing she eats.

“No TV before age 2!”

At about six months, she came home from day care with a fever. She felt awful and was exhausted, but could not quite tip over into sleep. I looked for something age-appropriate and stumbled across Yo Gabba Gabba. I thought, “Wow, this show is awful.” A minute later, she passed out on her own lap, and I thought, “This show is GREAT.” From there we found Pajanimals and Sesame Street (well, I knew about that one) and Wibbly Pig and Stella and Sam. We have never watched Yo Gabba Gabba again. That show is awful.

“We will never get a portable DVD player or own a car in which one is installed, even if we have to take a hammer to it. Our children can look out the window and play the Alphabet Game like we each did.”

We are seriously considering buying a portable DVD player for the car.

Change

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

No?

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