45 Good Things

My 45th birthday is coming up, and while I don’t think that 45 is any kind of a milestone at all, I wanted a way to mark the occasion. So between now (January 8) and my birthday (February 6), I’m going to do 45 good things. I figure these can be pretty much anything that helps someone else, be the effort large or small. I’m not saying I’m going to save anyone’s life, but maybe I can make their day a little less crummy.

So here goes:

1) January 8: Bought a sandwich and a bottle of water for the homeless woman outside of Starbucks.

I’ll keep a tally on the 45 Good Things page, and will use the hashtag #45goodthings on Twitter. Want to join me?

Instagram

I’m on Instagram. Again. I was on a year and a half ago, and I couldn’t find any of you, and it was lonely. So I closed my account.

Now I have a new account! With one picture! (Don’t worry. I’ll add more.)

So follow me. Make me feel validated. And leave me your Instagram name, so I can do the same for you.

Yes, I know it’s strange that my post about a photo app has no photos.

The A to Z of 2013

I am totally stealing this idea from Lindsay of A Design So Vast. And as with everything, I couldn’t have done this without Mr. Sandwich–and I’m referring to getting through the year and coming up with all the items in this post.

A is for Autism Spectrum Disorder and ABA. Baguette was diagnosed in August, but really we’ve known it for a while. Her Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) finally started in November, and we’re already seeing progress–as are her regular teachers.

B is for “Bike ride!” Baguette loves riding in the bike trailer.

C is for . . .

D is for diet; Baguette is a very picky eater. Most days, we’re happy that she eats.

E is for elephants. They are Baguette’s favorite animal, and seeing one–actual, stuffed, in pictures–makes her day better.

F is for fingernails. We can only cut hers when she’s fast asleep. And we need to, because they are like daggers.

G is for “Good job!”

H is for helmet, which Baguette knows to put on before climbing into the bike trailer.

I is for insurance, which covers the ABA.

J is for jumping, which Baguette now does with enthusiasm.

K is for kicking, which she does a lot in bed.

L is for LAUSD, which provides services that we’re exploring.

M is for macaroni and cheese; Baguette eats this several times a week.

N is for napping, which Baguette does not like to do–at least, not when she’s with us.

O is for outfits, of which she has many; we are fortunate that Mr. Sandwich’s mother is a genius at shopping for used children’s clothes.

P is for pool, which is one of her favorite places in the world.

Q is for quetzal, which is the best word for q that we’ve seen in an alphabet book–and Baguette learned it with just a couple of tries.

R is for running on the grass, the very best thing to do in a park.

S is for sign language, which she just started to teach herself.

T is for tablet. Baguette loves the iPad we bought her, and uses it to play matching and sorting games, read books, sing songs, and learn the aforementioned sign language.

U is for umbrella, which Baguette would like to carry all year long, regardless of the weather.

V is for vacation. We could use more.

W is for water, which Baguette finds invigorating whether it is liquid in pool or snow on a slope.

X is for xylophone. X is always for xylophone.

Y is for yelling, of which she does a lot. But she’s getting better, little by little, at using her words.

Z is for zoo. We bought a membership to the Santa Barbara Zoo, which we all enjoy. And we don’t even live in Santa Barbara.

So what did 2013 spell for you? And what does 2014 hold for all of us? Happy New Year, everyone!

Disruption Can Be Good

We spent the last week visiting family out of town. For Baguette, routine is king–but this morning, I was reminded of why disruption can be good.

The trip was great, and I’ll write more about it later. But it was also exhausting, because we were constantly on the move, seeing new places and spending time with people who Baguette doesn’t know all that well yet.

Last night, after we got home, Baguette used more full sentences than we usually hear in a week. And they were new ones, like “Mommy, get the ball” (it had rolled under a piece of furniture) and “Mommy, I want green Play-Doh” (more typical is simply “Green Play-Doh”)

This morning, she started reciting the alphabet. This is not unusual, but here’s what was: She was also signing it. All that time this week she spent playing with the Baby Sign and Sing app we’d bought her?

She’s been teaching herself ASL.

Keeping the Holiday Stress in Check

Impossible, you say? A lot of people would agree with you; the Washington Post reports that holiday stress makes this the most challenging time of year for many women.

I have wonderful memories of childhood Christmases. There were always lots of gifts.

There were decorations–lights on the house, and a tall, full tree festooned with ornaments, and tinsel. There were cookies–my mom’s shortbread cookies remain some of my favorite Christmas cookies, even though I haven’t had them in years. There was a big meal–roast prime rib, Yorkshire pudding, creamed spinach, and baked potatoes, with gingerbread for dessert.

But none of that was what made those Christmases special. Fun, sure, but not special.

No, what made them special was the love. The time we spent together, taking turns exploring those gifts. Making dinner. Watching movies. Playing new board games.

That’s what I want to give Baguette. And I want to make those elements part of her childhood, too. But that doesn’t mean I have to make it stressful. My secret? Setting boundaries.

Christmas tree, Baguette, and Ernie

Tree: I want to have a tree. But it doesn’t need to be the 8-foot-tall Balsam I grew up with. We’re just as happy with a 4-1/2 foot Noble fir (Mr. Sandwich and I like trees that have layers of branches, the better to hang ornaments). In fact, we only had a tall tree once–and that was because we were so late in buying our tree last year that the tree lot was out of the small size we’d hoped for.

Decorations: Mr. Sandwich strings lights on the house each year. I love them. But we don’t need to go all Clark Griswold in the process. (I have plans to make a door wreath of buttons. I’ve had this plan for years. Someday, it’ll happen.)

Gifts: We don’t need to give a lot of them to each person. We just need to open them together.

Food: Well, I do like that traditional meal. But, really, it’s not that hard to make, and it’s pretty easy to plan it so that everything comes out hot at the same time.

Cookies: I don’t make Christmas cookies. I want to, but what I really want to do is make them with Baguette, and she’s not quite ready to do that. Maybe next year. I feel like next year’s going to be a big one.

So our Christmas may be smaller-scale than many, but we’re spending it together, with our focus on each other. And that really is all I want for Christmas.

Sunday Snow Play

It rained in L.A. yesterday. With the colder temperatures we’ve been having, that means that the mountains got snow. And that means that today we went to the mountains.

Little girl in the snow

Little girl in the snow

Little girl on a sled

Man pulling little girl on sled

Baguette even had her first snowball fight. Which she started.

A good time was had by all.

Fall Cooking: Apple Bread

One year, when I lived in New Jersey, my alumni club went apple-picking. It was the first time I’d gone, and I went a bit overboard in terms of variety and quantity. In an attempt to put them to use, I began baking. And since I lived alone, I took what I baked to the office. After a couple of days, one of my co-workers sent me an email that said, “This is a lot of baking. Is everything okay?”

I answered, “Yes. I just have a lot of apples.” And she said, “Well, then, keep baking.”

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I found a couple of recipes that I liked, including an apple walnut coffee cake–I should make that again someday–and apple bread. And it turned out that I wasn’t the only one who liked it. I sent a loaf to my brother at his office (the most reliable destination for packages at that point). And when I called him to ask about something else, the department assistant said, “Are you the one who sent him that apple bread? Every time I walk by his office, it smells so good.”

I said, “Tell him I said to give you some of it,” and she said, “You know, I think I will.”

She did, and it turned out that my brother liked it so much that it’s become a fall staple. If we’re together for Thanksgiving–unfortunately, we weren’t this year–I make a loaf and take it with me. I’ve been known to send it to him and my sister-in-law, although this year we’ve had so much going on with Baguette that I didn’t manage to get that done.

However, it turns out that the mother of one of Baguette’s friends is having Baby #2 a little ahead of schedule–but with enough time to share some freezer food with her. So today, I’m making apple bread.

Apple Bread

Ingredients
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
cinnamon and nutmeg to taste (I use a lot)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup peeled and chopped apple

Instructions
1. Grease and flour a loaf pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
3. In a bowl, mix oil and sugar. Add egg and vanilla.
4. Combine dry and liquid ingredients.
5. Stir in apples. Pour into prepared pan.
6. Bake 50–60 minutes.

Cool completely on wire rack before removing from pan.