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:

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.

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)

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.

2128

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.

DCIM113SPORT

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

DCIM113SPORT

DCIM113SPORT

DCIM113SPORT

And then, on the way home, this happened.

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

A Little of This, A Little of That

Friday morning, I went to The Help Group Summit. For those of you not familiar with The Help Group, it’s an organization focused on research about and support for autism and ADHD. The annual Summit presents a variety of topics for researchers, care providers, and parents. Because of some scheduling conflicts, I could only make it to one session. Fortunately, it was the one I wanted to go to most, about tactics for handling feeding issues with picky eaters.


Baguette’s appetite is expanding. This may be the perfect time to try out some of those tactics.


Afterward, we packed up the car (very full), picked Baguette up from day care, and drove up to Santa Barbara. The next morning, Mr. Sandwich left very early to compete in the Santa Barbara Century. Baguette and I left not very early to go to breakfast and the Santa Barbara Zoo, where she saw “wions, and ewehphants, and giraffe, and sheeps, and fwamingos, and penguins, and goats.” The next day, we had breakfast with friends, made another trip to the zoo, and drove back to L.A.


Baguette is sleeping on the couch. This has been going on for a few weeks. It’s not as magical as it sounds; often, one of us has to sleep there with her, sometimes for more than one stretch per night. But it’s still better–and we all get more sleep–than when the three of us are in the same queen-sized bed.

Next up, moving Baguette into a twin bed in her room. Mr. Sandwich is building her a bed.

Yes, you read that right.

But I can tell that I have more energy, because I’ve been wearing contacts on a semi-regular basis. Next up, I may actually manage to put on lipstick.


None of this keeps me from drinking a lot of coffee.


small girl leaning on elephant statue

 

Some Stuff About Some Things

There’s a lot going on, and while I really want to write, it’s hard to come up with a unified concept. So here are a handful of thoughts and recent developments that are not at all unified.

  • Baguette had a low-grade fever for much of the weekend. It turns out that when she is sick, she avoids negative constructions–she would not say “I don’t want Mommy to go,” but would say “I want Mommy to stay.” (She was better yesterday afternoon and hence is at day care today.)
  • I’ve been making simple syrup regularly this summer, and life is just so much easier when it’s around. Want to make that regular tea sweet? Want to make lemonade? Simple syrup to the rescue!
  • We finally caught up on Sherlock. Why are there only three episodes per season? Why is the next season not airing until 2016? Whywhywhy?
  • I need to write more, but my job doesn’t involve writing, but my bosses do give me the flexibility and support that I really do need right now. Yet still I need to write more. It’s a conundrum.
  • We really should get new passports, what with ours having expired and all. Not that we have travel plans, just that we should have them. But why are passports so expensive? Again with the whywhywhy?
  • Time to start working out. But how to find the time?

That’s it. For now.

Summer in Santa Barbara

I wish we could spend the whole summer in Santa Barbara, but I really can’t complain about having a week there. While Kauai is our top vacation spot, it’s a little out of our reach right now. Three plane tickets are expensive, and Mr. Sandwich and I agree that Baguette is not yet ready for the flight experience.

Fortunately, Santa Barbara is only about an hour and 15 minutes away by car (if traffic isn’t bad, which it often is). So for the last four summers, we’ve gone to Santa Barbara for our vacation. We prefer to rent a condo or other place to stay, and have had mixed success with that based on budget and timing (year 1–Motel 6; year 2–studio which I mistakenly thought had a kitchen; year 3–Homewood Suites in Oxnard, which was further away but a terrific place to stay; year 4–cottage behind the owner’s house, and dingdingding I think we have a winner).

As on prior visits, we went to the Santa Barbara Zoo (three times), destroyed sandcastles and splashed at Leadbetter Beach (twice), visited the ducks and the elaborate playscape at Alice Keck Park and the adjacent Alameda Plaza, and drove out to Ballard to see Sicilian donkeys at Seein’ Spots Farm.

Elephants

DCIM113SPORT

Ducks

Playground1

Playground2

Donkey

Because we had a kitchen, we ate breakfast in the cottage most days. While I like to go out to breakfast, I don’t like to have to go out to breakfast. We did get pancakes once at Garret’s Old Fashion, which is becoming a must-do on our Santa Barbara trips, but most mornings I was really happy with my toast and sunflower seed butter accompanied by yogurt and berries.

We did tend to eat lunch and dinner out, although even then we brought home leftovers that covered a few more meals. The standout new-to-us place was Eureka! In addition to excellent burgers, they had an array of beers and whiskeys.

By the way, in the past we’ve looked for bookstores in Santa Barbara. Apparently my previous Google searches failed miserably, because it turns out that there’s been an amazing one in our go-to neighborhood the whole time. It’s an independent store, and it’s got a children’s section that is large enough to be a separate children’s bookstore. So if you’re ever in Santa Barbara, stop by Chaucer’s Bookstore. You won’t be sorry.

Chaucer's Bookstore in Santa Barbara

And of course, we also paid a visit to McConnell’s.

McConnels

In the end, Baguette didn’t want to leave Santa Barbara–and, truth be told, neither did we.