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.

Three Fall Dinners

I love roasted vegetables. Love, love, love them. It’s not quite cool enough for that yet (although we did have a delightfully fall-like First Day of Fall). With temperatures in the 90s this week, I think I’d rather hold off.

But I do have a few fall dinner dishes that are easy to cook and don’t make me feel like I’ve heated up the entire house. Some of them are soups. There’s very little measuring in these recipes.

One of my standbys is black bean soup. I once had a co-worker who ate black bean soup every day. I’m not at that point, but I do like to have the ingredients for this one around: diced onion, diced carrots, a can of black beans, vegetable broth, and a variety of spices. I saute the onions and the carrots in olive oil, rinse and drain the black beans, saute them with the onion-carrot mixture, add the broth and some water, season, and simmer for at least an hour. Then I blend it with the immersion blender.

It’s not very photogenic, so there’s no photo. It is delicious, though.

A new introduction is corn chowder. This may sound like it should be a standby, but I haven’t made it regularly in the past. This month, though, I came up with a recipe that I love and can easily make after I get home from work. Saute onions and then carrots in olive oil, dice a couple of small potatoes and mix them in, add vegetable broth and water, simmer until the potatoes are done, lower the heat a bit and add frozen corn and some half-and-half, and continue cooking until those ingredients are heated through. Somehow this winds up tasting buttery. I don’t know exactly why, but it does, and I’m happy about it.

Blue bowl with corn chowder

This next one I cook year-round. It makes me think of fall in the fall, but it is also a great summer recipe, so whatever. There is no sauce easier than Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce. If you haven’t made it, you may be skeptical about it: A can of whole, peeled tomatoes; half a stick of butter; an onion sliced in half; a bit of salt. Remove the onion and blend the remainder. That’s it. You think it needs basil and oregano and pepper and more. It doesn’t. You just put this on top of pasta and eat. I’m not saying you’re going to replace your regular recipe with this one–but, actually, I did.
Oh, and one more thing. Read labels and buy the low-sodium version of everything. You can add your own salt.

Bowl of rotini with Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce and parmesan

Beyond these? I’ve got a whole Pinterest board of recipes I hope to actually try, whether or not it’s fall. Maybe someday.

Summer Recap

I haven’t posted in a while. Or much this year at all. Turns out, life’s exhausting.

Baguette finished TK in June, and we promptly left for a week’s vacation in Santa Barbara. Where I drank a lot of coffee, we went to the zoo manymanymany times, and she lost a tooth! We don’t usually go that early, but it turned out that there was a week-long gap between the end of school and the start of summer camp.

label on coffee dispenser reading "Obama Blend: an optimistic blend of Kenya, Indonesia, Hawaiian"

small girl sitting on small statue of elephant, with a hat on its head

Naturally, she was sick for the first few days of summer camp.

Then, after not-a-week of camp, she started summer school. This was by virtue of a revision to her IEP. In theory, fine. In practice? We weren’t so sure.

The challenge was that summer school only ran until about 12:45. That’s far short of the end of the workday. Neither of us works nearby, and it would be really hard to drop her off mid-day anyhow.

That meant Baguette would need to take the school bus from summer school to camp.

This was not her actual bus.
This was not her actual bus.

We had severe doubts about this. It just didn’t seem like something that would work. She’d never been on a bus of any kind, and she’d never been in a vehicle without one of us or a grandparent (and, let’s face it, that mostly means us).

The first couple of days were rough, as they worked out the details of the route. The ride was too long, and Baguette would arrive at camp screaming and crying. But she never balked at getting on the bus, and we started packing Dr. Seuss books so that she’d have some entertainment.

She decided she loved the bus. She started telling her aide that she wanted to ride the bus, long before it was time to leave for the day.

After four weeks, summer school was over, and it was back to all day at camp. No bus. Baguette was disappointed, but she rallied.

And after another three weeks, it was time to start kindergarten. So here we are, in kindergarten. We’re still trying to figure things out, primarily because there has been a lot of change–new special ed teacher, new principal, new classroom, and more.

Fingers crossed.

School bus photo by dfirecopy, via Flickr. Public domain.

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.

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And we got to cheer on our racer of choice!

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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)

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.

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 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.

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And also makes very tasty burgers.

2133

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.

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

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And then, on the way home, this happened.

Like Christmas in July for drought-stricken Californians
Like Christmas in July for drought-stricken Californians

Baking with Baguette

Earlier this week, we were in the living room. Baguette came around the corner from the kitchen, waving a wooden spoon and saying, “Let’s bake a cake.”

From that point on, she refused to bake a cake. I would ask, and she would reply, “No, thank you.”

But tonight, I asked again, and she said, “Yes. YES.”

So she mixed (turns out she’s pretty good at mixing), and I poured the batter and put the cake pan in the oven, and then I frosted and she helped with sprinkles distribution.

This is either the BEST idea ever for Share Day at day care, or the WORST idea ever for Share Day at day care.

Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and multicolored sprinkles

UPDATE: Good news! Her teacher was totally cool with getting a surprise cake. (I made sure to take in as many paper plates and plastic forks and spoons as I could find, so that she didn’t have to scrounge.)

What Comes To Mind

  • I’ve read Tuck Everlasting more than once and have no idea what happens in that book.
  • Ditto Wide Sargasso Sea.
  • I also don’t understand the appeal of ripped jeans as attractive fashion. I didn’t get them last time, either.
  • ┬áIs there a way to eat meringues gracefully?
  • Why am I eating this meringue?
  • High temperatures still are in the 80s in our part of L.A. Hello, November!
  • I baked pumpkin bread anyway.
  • We are entering the world of LAUSD. I’ll admit it, just like everyone else does–I’m apprehensive.
  • But, hey, at least there’s pumpkin bread.

 

loaves of homemade pumpkin bread

Leaf Bag List – Fall 2014

Illustration of bag full of autumn leaves

This summer my goals were to go to the beach (we made it two or three times), go to the pool (we went a lot), and learn to make a really good hamburger (turns out the answer is fry, don’t grill).

So what’s on my Leaf Bag List for this fall?

1) Use the slow-cooker more.

2) Set aside weekend time for batch cooking–I may start with this breakfast recipe.

3) Inventory the kitchen freezer and chest freezer so that I can effectively store what I prepare while pursuing goal #2.

4) Learn to make a good pot roast. (Any recipes to recommend?)

That’s a food-heavy list, but, hey, I like food. And I want to come up with more Mom-Friendly Meals. So let’s see what happens.