18 months old

We have made it to that coveted moment, the 18 month mark!

And with our joys, there are some fears. We were given a routine screening exam called the M-CHAT. It helps detect autism in toddlers. He failed enough of the questions to be referred for a specialist interview. It’s on March 22nd.

Without further ado, the M-CHAT and my pondering through it..

The M-CHAT is validated for screening toddlers between 16 and 30 months of age, to assess risk for
autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The M-CHAT can be administered and scored as part of a well-child
check-up, and also can be used by specialists or other professionals to assess risk for ASD. The primary
goal of the M-CHAT was to maximize sensitivity, meaning to detect as many cases of ASD as possible.
Therefore, there is a high false positive rate, meaning that not all children who score at risk for ASD will
be diagnosed with ASD.

Phew. False positives. That’ll be us, right? Ah, but I see evidence of BOTH possibilities. So I can’t put aside the fear.

Pretty much, “yes” is the answer you want. Except for 11, 18, 20, and 22.

1. Does your child enjoy being swung, bounced on your knee, etc.? Yes (DEAR GOD yes, we are going to get a rocking chair because he loves it so much)

2. Does your child take an interest in other children? Unsure. He seems to interact with people well, but he does not seek to get to know them very often. He plays cooperatively with other children more often than not. He is rude to other children and has grace when other children are rude to him. He does not actively offer toys to others. He is often the one off apart from the group with his own agenda. He is physically kind to children, other than almost tripping over them a lot and removing their hands from toys. He touches others gently when he does – he’s been observed petting people VERY softly (ooh, pretend play too! maybe?). He sort of reflects inward with his rage when he does get pissed about conflicts – throws a tantrum instead of biting/hitting/pulling. He’s a pusher, but more in the “get out of my way” sense.

3. Does your child like climbing on things, such as up stairs? Yes (DEAR GOD yes. To a very cute fault)

4. Does your child enjoy playing peek-a-boo/hide-and-seek? Yes (DEAR GOD yes. To a very cute but very incompatible with civilized walking fault)

5. Does your child ever pretend, for example, to talk on the phone or take care of a doll or pretend other things? Unsure. The trash thing aforementioned is likely pretend. He puts his toys into the refrigerator at times when we have the door open. He has a weird way of doing it, but he hugs and kisses his stuffed animals and dolls. He does not pretend to talk on the phone (we rarely do talk on the phone), he does not pretend to take care of a doll or eat or feed a doll or anything like that but he will feed people upon request. So.. yeah. I need more input as to whether these things he does do qualify, or whether we’re shitty parents who don’t display very good social behavior (we did quit spoon-feeding him at 12 months when he refused spoon feedings; he eats finger foods and has since then.. perhaps he feeds his finger foods to dolls/etc. He does feed them to the real dog!).

6. Does your child ever use his/her index finger to point, to ask for something? No. This is a big concern. This is one of those cases where I wonder if our good (or at least in my book) parenting is at fault. See, he’s always been a screamer demanding instant gratification and falling to pieces when it was insufficient, so we are always a step ahead of him with food and drink. We feed him freely; we pick foods for him and let him eat as much of them as he likes. He reaches out to grab what he likes from the carrier. He rarely sees the world from a stroller. I know he tries to ask for things when we are slow, which we try to do deliberately this past month or so to train him to ask. But this asking/failing causes a lot of his tantrums, too. He really has no words or gestures to ask for food or drink that we understand, with the exception of him going up to where the containers for food and drink are kept and either trying to get one or melting down. ALSO, I am sure he understands what “point” is to an extent. It is a word he has heard daily for most of his life.

7. Does your child ever use his/her index finger to point, to indicate interest in something? No. This is a big concern. This is also one of those where we wonder if his other ways of indication “count.” He taps with his feet to indicate little sprinkler boxes outside of our complex. He grabs at things he wants and is usually successful at getting them. He respects locks and inaccessibility – either he’s satisfied he can’t have something or he’s able to get it himself.

8. Can your child play properly with small toys (e.g. cars or blocks) without just mouthing, fiddling, or dropping them? Unsure but I think yes. I think most of what he does with toys is considered fiddling because it’s improper usage, but he uses his toys to conduct experiments and he can build/stack blocks. He was always a bit slow to learn to use toys “correctly” even when the correct use was modeled, or we tried to physically guide him through motions. But he uses his toys innovatively. He has this musical gear thingie that he puts all kinds of shit on to see what happens – the central piece spins like a little platform. But for the first few months, he instantly removed the gears from the toy any time he found them on and he was instantly obsessed with the damn thing. Now sometimes he puts gears on it, but more often he tests other things. He won’t roll cars, even though we demonstrate it often with the many wheeled things he has. He does stack large blocks but usually just futzes with them or knocks them over/takes them apart.

9. Does your child ever bring objects over to you (parent) to show you something? Yes, but a bit later than other kids did

10. Does your child look you in the eye for more than a second or two? Yes but like what seems like a normal toddler, he is distracted a lot and not interested

11. Does your child ever seem oversensitive to noise? (e.g., plugging ears) No, in fact he is totally fascinated and motivated by noisy things.. shit, is this “oversensitive” expressed positively? This is driving me nuts damnit!

12. Does your child smile in response to your face or your smile? Yes, unless he’s actively upset, he always does. He has the grinnypaws. He expresses his glee openly when he feels it.

13. Does your child imitate you? (e.g., you make a face-will your child imitate it?) Eh.. Poorly or slowly. He does with the smiling. But I think that’s emotion. He is starting to put toys in the fridge and trash. He very rarely tries to kiss me, and he always passively hugged me until about 16 months but now he sort of embraces me too. Sometimes seeing me eat a food will be the “ok” he needed to try that food himself, but shit – usually he shows no interest in what we’re eating at all and can take or leave offerings. He DOES cackle evilly and laugh at “appropriate” points in conversation.

14. Does your child respond to his/her name when you call? Yes but I do not feel it is reliable or that he’d stop his own quest to respond to me if he were on one (this is something I think is normal toddler behavior). In his defense, I didn’t start really referring to and calling him by name until way after good mommies did.

15. If you point at a toy across the room, does your child look at it? Yes but this is recent behavior and I may just feel retarded doing it and been an insufficient teacher

16. Does your child walk? Yes hahhaa he walks, runs, bounces, takes steps with a good handrail.. doesn’t jump well yet, though ;p He was interested in walking as soon as he figured out how to crawl and did not let me rest until he could do it alone!

17. Does your child look at things you are looking at? No. Unless I am talking and pointing at it, and this is fairly recent behavior as well. That being said, I blame me for that one. I wear him all of the time. However, I am on my own quest and he’s looking around at what he is interested in.. we don’t really “talk.” I was told early today that he WAS looking at what I was looking at, when I did not solicit the particular comment, so I have hope that I’m the one off in La La Land.

18. Does your child make unusual finger movements near his/her face? No – I’ve seen far more “normal” kids doing it more than I’ve seen him doing it

19. Does your child try to attract your attention to his/her own activity? Yes but not as often as other kids do, I think. I’m hoping that any deficiency here is because we’ve taught him to be independent both through security and plenty of solo playtime.

20. Have you ever wondered if your child is deaf? No, in fact he is extremely motivated by sound and by music. Incidentally, I am fairly sure he has some form of interesting pitch recognition already.

21. Does your child understand what people say? Yes, probably a lot more than I was about to give him credit for heh

22. Does your child sometimes stare at nothing or wander with no purpose? Unsure. Never caught him staring at nothing (I am alert for that because of seizures!) but he wanders a SHITTON. A metric shitton. But is he wandering with no purpose or exploring? He’s VERY explorative. He chases airplanes. He examines the ground and indicates imperfections by sitting down and examining them. He picks up rocks, wood, etc to examine them.

23. Does your child look at your face to check your reaction when faced with something unfamiliar? I think no? but he does look for me when I teach him he may only do something with help. He honestly seems kind of fearless or trusting that I will be there. He DOES look at me if he expects me to force assistance, like climbing down these days, before proceeding (YAY! This is a MAJOR good thing – he’s pitched down steps before out of excitement)


Ok, now that I have all of that out of my system, Tristan is growing very well. He is officially 26 lb 12.8oz – he lost weight from the beginning of February (when I brought him to the doctor for fever/lingering cold that went away by the time we got in) when he was 27 lb 9.6 oz. Either way, he’s about 27 lbs of very snuggly baby. He’s 33.5 inches tall – he must get that whole tallness thing from NOT ME! And not most of our family, either.

Even though he is teething and getting over yet another cold, he has been delightful for the past couple of days. Routine at-home tantrums are easy and predictable. He does get frustrated when I try to make him ask for things when before we were pretty much just on top of things with the food or drink or responded to the crying with such when we were not on top of things. I think he treats me pretty fairly most days, though.

I just wish I weren’t caught up in the shit he can and cannot do right now. Either that, or that I had a mentor in real life who can help me teach him things that we’re not good at. I’m not looking forward to such a mentor being in a medical setting. I just want a friend who’s different from me to help me teach him to point at stuff like they taught their kid.

But I digress yet again! In every respect other than any possible delays and my fears, he’s doing wonderfully. He seems to be learning language and understanding directions at a rapid rate. We can’t understand him well when he speaks – many words sound all toddlery – and I think he feels insecure about speaking, because we’re normally way more in tune with him. He’s a happy kid most of the time and that makes me happy.

Better day

The day before yesterday, Tristan put a plastic set of eggs and cereal in the fridge while we were getting his milk out. We left them in there until last night.

Today has been much more pleasant. I think we’ve actually gone tantrum-free thusfar! I also feel like my warm fairy-godmother self, so we had fun at playgroup, went shopping at The Container Store, and then went on to take a 45-minute-long shower. He went down for nap peacefully and is asleep right now. I have also, incidentally, been quick and ready with the Tylenol. He’s got a canine coming in for sure, and teething always crankifies him, but Tylenol is the magic elixir for that.

Tristan re-learned how to high five, kind of. We’re working on the particulars, but he recognizes the command and goes for the handslap. His Mema and/or Aunt Angie taught him how when he was a year old but then he decided he wasn’t doing it anymore at that point. I also taught him to knock down and stand up bottles in the shower. I have hope that he enjoys following directions to prove his awesome skills to us or something pridelike of that nature.


* I was told that Tristan has begun to climb on dining room chairs and lie across them. I am looking out for this so I can get pictures.

* Tristan’s sick again. So are James and I this time. We all seem to be on the tail end of it. Tristan’s still cranky as shit. When he feels bad, he throws doozies over very insignificant things. Seriously, I think this evening he threw a 10 minute tantrum because (I think) I did not screw the cap onto his sippy cup and hand him the milk fast enough. I am proud that I managed to cart him off to his room before handing him said milk to let him get the screaming out of his system (and not teach him to scream to get things!). We’ve had a few more instances of him breaking down, in public and at home. I am sick of this aspect of toddlerhood.

* I am working the bugs out of myself; I am ill-equipped emotionally to handle toddler tantrums. They make me panic and need to escape.

* For the first time, he is showing interest when I point to stuff and say what it is. He actually seems to be studying it when I do that, rather than the typical disinterested look he usually sports when we try to get him to pay attention. He’s also been saying “Hi!” (or ahhhhhhhhhhhh! in Tristanese) upon hearing people approach, because he’s started doing that when he thinks we’re going to come get him from his crib.

* Tristan and daddy have had lots of fun playing with both Duplo and Clipo blocks together. Daddy puts them together and Tristan rips them apart and then puts them in the center of his gear toy to see if they spin.

* I don’t feel like we’re making much progress on the “Come with mommy/daddy” command. I feel like he understands it but is compelled to explore instead (or is being sweetly defiant? or is a typical toddler?). He will perform well when he wants something out of the transaction, like a cup of milk.

* He does not point with his fingers, but he does indicate with his feet by tapping on an object. He does this to the little transmitter boxes outside (they’re round plastic things that look like Smurf manholes). Any imperfection/change in a floor has always fascinated him, so this does not surprise me.

* I personally am struggling with the “Attachment Parent” part of me and, well, the opposite aspect. I suspect that seasoned parents would giggle at this. I will giggle at it when Tristan’s older, too.

* We are well on our way to making it to 18 months without having pooped in the bath or shower, by the way! I’m sure that calling it out will jinx it, but fuck it. That’s a milestone! Now, if he will start to request diaper changes or at least be more than reluctantly cooperative, I will be stoked.

* I am in desperate need of toddler stories and advice. I need to read about daily life with a toddler. And more than just the sweet stuff. I need to read that people went through bullshit, and that it’s expected and normal bullshit, and everyone came out OK.

Thoughts and baby lately

I’ve figured out why it’s advantageous to stay in school: to become educated enough about the financial world to make yourself serious money. To do that, you also need to be smart enough to know how to make a deal, manage life, research the answers, and make/keep friends. If you don’t do some or all of those things, stay in school so you learn a trade.

Anyway, we are coming out of a funk. It’s been rough since he got sick and then really until yesterday. He is still having moments, but I’m OK with moments. Moments are very toddlerlike and I can maintain my composure and discipline in a proper and friendly way.

We both got new rain boots in anticipation of wandering squishy, muddy fields. He refused to wear them. I was not in my best of grace, but I was trying to teach the lesson that he puts on the shoes or he doesn’t get to go outside. My mistake was in thinking he was going to be much better or worse for going outside, so it was a bad fight to pick. However, his moods have worn me to the point where I am just now being able to recover and act like a proper adult (well, where discipline, marriage, and paying the bills are involved! That’s it :D). So over and over again for a good half hour at two different parks, we played the “Hi! Put on your rain boots and let’s go outside!” *bloody murder scream* *shut door, wait 20 seconds, try again* game. Based on the fact that he started the screaming when the boots were imminent, I am certain that either he’s scared of them or he finds them uncomfortable. (If he pulls this shit about wearing a bicycle helmet in about a month, that is going to really suck because we absolutely can’t compromise on that one.)

I suppose I viewed the boots as protective equipment, helmet-style, and I think I have a reasonable right to expect him to wear clothing I put on him at this point. I am mistaken, of course – he’s letting me know that everything he’s wearing is because he agrees to wear it and he generally likes our taste. He’s already protested the helmet but not to the point of refusal to comply.

Digressing onto cycling, we have a little Radio Flyer trike that we received from a neighbor at North Park when her kid grew out of it. Tristan loves riding on it these days; back then (before winter, really) and last week he’s sat willingly (with a ghetto belt for then and now) and even excitedly. The trike has been popular – all of the kids clamored for a turn. While it was thankfully unoccupied, it sort of.. disintegrated. The wheel and handlebar attachment disengaged from the body and it collapsed. I really like the damn trike and I’ve since fixed it according to the assembly instructions, but I feel a bit superstitious because that was kind of fucking scary. Sigh.

Tristan’s main interest is climbing stairs lately. This is a bit of a pain in the butt because he wants to do it at home and is starting to throw tantrums when removed prematurely from the activity. Oh, and it’s a pain in the butt because a parent is required for fall control still. See, he wants to experiment with how adults climb stairs – he knows how to crawl up them and scoot down them, but instead of getting good at the scooting, he prefers to practice stepping. And I still don’t trust that he will not go down stairs headfirst given the opportunity, since he’s that excited about getting to climb them. He is really cute how he holds out his hand for help when he’s about to take a difficult step (like a curb) or stair, though. I wish I could take the chance to just trust him in that he’d be prudent, but that’s a bit of a risky one to take if you think your kid might not use caution.

I’ve kept our activities toddler-friendly, which is pretty easy. Tristan is happy when he is:
– walking where he wants to go
– playing a combination of peekaboo and tag
– at any activity involving water or climbing
– worn in a carrier, preferably outdoors
– playing with his own crap at home independently whenever it’s time for nap or when dad is home and not busy

Therefore, it’s pretty easy to make an easy and leisurely, pleasant (or purposefully errand-tastic) day out of hanging out with Tristan. It just takes effort, because most of his favorite activities require a parent running to keep up with him, if he is not strapped to a parent. Oh, and he doesn’t like to do other adult things such as things that involve sitting (reasonably, for a toddler – I’ve seen it in toddlers his age, I swear it!) quietly if he’s not eating, moving passively, or sleeping at that moment. Diaper Days movies are great – they’d be actually doable if there were rocking chairs or when we walk around with him constantly.

Still haven’t gotten the rocking chair; still considering getting one.

He enjoyed the hell out of the Children’s Museum today. I let him lead me from activity to activity and it was fun seeing what he chose to return to. It was far more interesting that way, but that’s probably because he didn’t climb the stairs forever. Ah, I suppose him asserting the will to have fun and being interested in stuff he remembers is quite neat, as well. 🙂