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.

BookTalk: More Please, The Hungry Animal Book


Dorothy Kunhardt is famous for writing Pat the Bunny. She also wrote More Please, which we discovered via Baguette’s speech therapist and may be the most maddening thing we own.

Baguette calls it “Make a Doggie.” I’m not sure why, because you don’t do that. You “feed” tiny pieces of posterboard shaped and colored like various items into the die-cut mouths of animals.

From a technical standpoint, I’m impressed. This was not easy to create.

From a parental standpoint, ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME????

The tiny pieces of posterboard are really tiny. Every time we read this book (and when it’s in rotation, I’m talking four or five times a day), I have to do an inventory of the parts. The text is maddeningly simplistic and sing-song. And the illustrations are just bad.

But Baguette loves it, and it definitely plays into her affection for animals.

Oh, and if you lose any of those tiny pieces? Yeah, I can’t find a replacement for less than $65 (a month ago, that price was $150). Hence the inventory.

If I didn’t like that speech therapist so much, I’d feel like she owes us an apology.

Things Baguette Did This Weekend

I haven’t posted much lately; the past six weeks have been . . . well, let’s just call them “challenging,” why don’t we? We’ve all had a series of minor illnesses (I’ve had a sinus infection twice in the same month). My dad had quadruple bypass surgery–but we haven’t been able to visit because we haven’t been healthy enough. Work has been incredibly slow (thank goodness), except for when it’s been incredibly urgent. We’re going through the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) process with LAUSD, and that’s challenging and dismaying, too. We know what Baguette needs and how she’ll thrive, and it just shouldn’t be this hard to get that for her.

All of this at once? It’s a bit much.

But then there are the wins, and this weekend was full of them.

  • Baguette’s been signing the alphabet since Christmas 2013. This weekend, she moved on to words. And she teaches them to us, demonstrating and then saying, “What does that spell?”
  • Lately, when we read her favorite alphabet book of the moment, she grabs the stuffed animal that corresponds to the book. Friday, when we got to “T is for Tiger,” she said to the tiger, “Stay right here” and then ran to get the hat she insists that it wear.
  • Verbally, she’s been adding to her arsenal of stock phrases; today’s addition was “Want Mommy hold hands” while we were in the pool (which has opened! Huzzah!). Last night’s was “This is my penguin.”
  • She’s been improvising lines to songs and books. To my knowledge, Eric Carle never wrote, “Cookie jar, cookie jar, what do you see?”

And apparently it’s time for the tooth fairy to start coming to our house.

missing baby tooth being replaced by permanent tooth

Why I Don’t Wear Makeup*

  • I don’t have a lot of time in the morning.
  • I look fine like this.
  • I base my worth on abilities and accomplishments.
  • I forget about it.
  • The most I have time for is lipstick in the car, when I remember it and there’s a red light.
  • Seriously, I look just fine.
  • Mr. Sandwich doesn’t think I need makeup, and why would I care if anyone else did?
  • I’m not kidding. It takes too much time, and time is at a premium.
  • I’m not kidding. I look fine without it.

Do I think I’m a supermodel? No. Do I think I’m a horrifying troll? Also no.

*I will wear makeup to a job interview. Or your wedding.

Amending My Position

In 2013, the Rana Plaza factory collapse killed over 1,100 people who were just trying to get by, working in horrible–and ultimately deadly–conditions for horrible pay.

Since then, I’ve refused to buy new clothes from the stores that didn’t sign the Bangladesh factory safety plan. Most of them, though, have since agreed to compensate the families. So that’s something.

And selfishly, there are only so many ways that I can make my life challenging at once. Macys is one of the few places I can reliably find work clothing that fits me and my budget.

So while I’m not completely boycotting new clothes from those stores, I am trying to do a better job of reading labels and understanding what conditions are like around the world. Hopefully that way I can give my money to manufacturers that are, at least, not the worst of the worst.

I’m not entirely at peace with this, and I don’t think I should be. Maybe I should still be boycotting. But my energy is limited.

On Mother’s Day

I love Mother’s Day, sort of.

I mean, we don’t make a big production of it. We don’t have the time or energy to make a big production of much of anything. But I love being a mother, and I love being Baguette’s mother.

I wasn’t always Baguette’s mother, though, and Mother’s Day has an iffy track record with me.

My mother was great. But she passed away, which continues to be heartbreaking. I don’t remember a lot of Mother’s Day celebrations, although we always did something. Typically, my present to her was along the lines of a movie we could watch together and food we could eat together while watching the movie together.

My mom was really about togetherness.

But she died in 2002, and Mother’s Day 2003 was The. Worst. I went to church, which turned out to be a mistake. (Too many moms.) And that night I went to pick up Chinese food, which she had always loved. I could barely make it into and out of the restaurant–I was so glad I had decided to order ahead, rather than eat there. (Too many moms. Way, way too many moms.)

Since then, Mother’s Day has been bittersweet.

Frankly, I can’t tell you what I did for each of my Mother’s Days since becoming a mother.

Wait, maybe I can. (Looks at back blog posts.) Okay, I have no idea what I did in 2011. The other years, it was mostly casual dinner, with or without inlaws. One year, Baguette put stickers on my arm.

We know how to party.

But I do remember my first Mother’s Day. Mr. Sandwich said, “What do you want?” And I answered, “See’s Candies. Wait. See’s Candies and a chance to wash my hair.” And I got them.

This year, we went to Discovery Cube LA, a new science museum that’s opened in our general part of Los Angeles. Baguette found a few things that interested her, but I think it may be a better match in another 2-3 years. And Mr. Sandwich is out back, building me the charging station I want for our “office” that I want to totally reorganize and make less of an office and more of a reading/project/play space.

Nothing bitter about that. Today is feeling pretty sweet.

Anatomy of a Birthday Weekend

Or, What We Did On Our Birthday Vacation

Thursday (our birthday weekends start early, by necessity)

  • Tour a school that we might want Baguette to attend next year.
  • Decide that we do not want Baguette to attend that school (it seems like a very good school–just not what we want for her).
  • Clean the house.
  • Clean the patio and back yard.
  • Go to speech therapy and music therapy.
  • Go to Costco and buy food and birthday cake.
  • Clean the house.
  • Make items for party games.


  • Clean the house.
  • Clean the back yard.
  • Do some work that needs to be done even if I am on vacation.
  • Clean the house.
  • Clean the back yard.
  • Clean the patio.
  • Welcome grandparents and great-aunt, who are visiting from out of town.
  • Go out to dinner.
  • Clean the house.
  • Make party favors.


  • Make party favors.
  • Clean the house.
  • Clean the patio.
  • Make signs for food.
  • Clean the house.
  • Clean the patio.
  • Locate the Happy Birthday banner we bought two years ago.
  • Put up the Happy Birthday banner.
  • Locate more tape for the Happy Birthday banner.
  • Make the salad.
  • Put the Happy Birthday banner back up.
  • Welcome guests. Realize again that we have invited a really large number of people.
  • Abandon hope of keeping the Happy Birthday banner up.
  • Make sure parents and children are enjoying themselves.
  • Call the pizza parlor and confirm that the pizza is actually going to be delivered.
  • Make sure that Baguette has the chance to find some quiet time.
  • Put out the pizza, salad, and signs for the food.
  • Realize that I have left another parent supervising Baguette in the front yard for far longer than is reasonable.
  • Ask Baguette if she wants pizza. (“No thank you.”)
  • Ask Baguette if she wants macaroni and cheese. (“Yes.”)
  • Bring a chair we took outside for the party back inside, because Baguette wants to eat at the table in the breakfast nook like she always does, not at the table on the patio where her friends are.
  • Make sure everyone gets food.
  • Eat one slice of pizza and some salad.
  • Realize that, in spite of all the cleaning, the living room still contains a case of baby wipes and a 3-pack of contact lens solution.
  • Decide not to care.
  • Bring out the cake and put candles on it.
  • Try to light the candles.
  • Try to light the candles.
  • Try to light the candles.
  • Try to light one candle, which is the most that we may be able to keep lit with the breeze.
  • Abandon hope of lighting the candles.
  • Serve the cake.
  • Encourage Baguette to say “thank you for coming to my party” to as many children as possible.
  • Say goodbye to everyone.
  • Try to get Baguette to nap.
  • Abandon hope of getting Baguette to nap.
  • Regroup with grandparents and great-aunt when they come back from their hotels for dinner.
  • Order Chinese food.
  • Eat Chinese food (adults) and macaroni and cheese (Baguette).
  • Open presents from grandparents and great-aunt.
  • Accept that the most enticing part of presents is the paper, which tears interestingly and can be draped as a fetching hat.
  • Say goodnight to grandparents and great-aunt.


  • Have morning meltdown (Baguette, with collateral damage to Mr. Sandwich’s hearing).
  • Regroup with grandparents and great-aunt.
  • Caravan to 7-11 for coffee.
  • Caravan to L.A. Zoo, because it is the weekend and therefore we go to the L.A. Zoo.
  • Look at zoo animals.
  • Get in line for lunch.
  • Take Baguette for a walk, because the line is too long. (Mr. Sandwich)
  • Realize that Baguette is screaming, and Mr. Sandwich is waving energetically from outside the cafeteria.
  • Take Baguette and try to comfort her.
  • Realize that 5 feet away, a zoo docent is holding a small constrictor.
  • Consider one’s pathological fear of snakes.
  • Ask Baguette if she wants to touch a snake.
  • Confirm with Baguette that she wants to touch a snake.
  • Hold Baguette while she touches the snake.
  • Wash Baguette’s hands.
  • Eat lunch.
  • Leave zoo.
  • After Baguette falls asleep in the car, take advantage of the situation to trim her fingernails while Mr. Sandwich runs into the hardware store.
  • Go home and let Baguette unwind.
  • Make brownies for Baguette to take to day care the next day for her actual birthday.
  • Watch Baguette start to spool up again when grandparents and great-aunt rejoin us for dinner.
  • Try to prevent meltdown.
  • Fail.
  • Take Baguette into her room, comfort her, and tell her that she can take time to calm down, but that we will be in the living room so she doesn’t feel abandoned.
  • Give Baguette iPad when she asks for it. (Mr. Sandwich)
  • Be grateful that, this time, the iPad helps her come out of the meltdown instead of exacerbating it, because there is no predicting.
  • Send grandparents out for In-N-Out.
  • Welcome Baguette when she comes back to the living room, feeling better.
  • Feed Baguette one of her favorite noodle dishes.
  • Tell Baguette that we will be on patio, and that she can come out when she wants to.
  • Eat In-N-Out while Baguette plays with party games on back lawn.
  • Say goodbye to grandparents and great-aunt, who are returning to respective homes on Monday.
  • Give Baguette a bath.
  • Open a few gifts for Baguette and talk to her about what they are and which of her friends gave them to her.
  • Write thank-you notes to those friends.
  • Wrangle Baguette into bed.
  • Sleep fitfully.


  • Put brownies in car.
  • Take thank-you notes to day care, along with party favor for one guest who didn’t get one.
  • Give brownies to teacher.
  • Realize that Baguette would still really prefer to have some quiet time.
  • Recognize that at this point there is nothing to be done about that.
  • Drop off thank-you notes.
  • Wonder how ABA will go tonight.
  • Wonder how birthday phone call with aunt and uncle will go tonight.
  • Wonder if Baguette will catch stomach bug that is running rampant through her school.
  • Think about how, at this rate, it will take several days to open Baguette’s presents.
  • Go to work.
  • Really, really intend to write the rest of the thank-you notes.

Little girl in chair, covering face with "Happy Birthday" balloon

BookTalk: Petunia, The Girl Who Was NOT A Princess

Disclosure: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for writing a review. All views expressed are my own.

Looking for new books to mix up your child’s library? Baguette really likes to revisit her favorites, but we want to add to the mix without taking away her comfort zone. So let’s kick off a new series with a book about broadening your comfort zone while being true to yourself.

M.R. Nelson is a technology management consultant who has two young daughters, and her daughters love stories. Her second children’s book is Petunia, The Girl Who Was NOT A Princess.

book cover for Petunia, the girl who was NOT a princess

Petunia prefers sweatshirts to frilly dresses and mud pies to tea parties, and she can’t understand the girls around her who love playing princess. Then Penelope moves in next door, and Petunia realizes that she may have been misjudging princesses and the other girls she knows.

The book is about growth, but it’s not didactic; it’s fun and funny, and I enjoyed reading it (and I enjoyed Holly Liminton’s illustrations). I also like that Petunia and Penelope’s world is multicultural, and that the focus is on appreciating both similarities and differences, not on changing who you are. “Princess” and “NOT A Princess” are equally valued and valuable–which is just what I want Baguette to learn.

So if you’re looking for a nice read about nice kids who learn to appreciate one another, this book may be for you and yours. (Available in hardcover and Kindle editions. Also available in Spanish.)

I was not compensated for this post, however I did receive a sample for my review. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”