Holy shit, a spoon!?

Within the past ten minutes, Tristan has been a little thief. He stole my chicken soup – my rare chicken soup now that I’m dieting a lot these days. But that’s ok.


He ate from a spoon for the first time since about 12 months. Not even cashew butter, yogurt, fruit, or chicken rice could get him to do this in the interim. He came over to ask for some of my soup and with James manning the actual spoon, many of the noodles made it into Tristan’s mouth.

Even more impressive is what it is that he ate – noodles in broth. You may or may not recall, but Tristan has eaten things that resemble pasta about twice in the past, making this time number three.

I’m NOT surprised that this was his choice to accept on the spoon. This child seems to adore all of my favorite foods, which are foods that pretty much nobody else eats or likes. And he’s getting fairly picky about his preferences lately, too, so I don’t think it’s mere hunger speaking in any way. He just “cracks out” on certain foods.

In other communicationy news, Tristan has begun to grab my wrist to manipulate my pointing finger to designate something he’d like to have. Now, it would be neat if he just stuck out his little index finger and pointed as a next step!

Therapy. Monday. Interpreting the schedule for you as well as myself

We have made official contact with Stepping Stones and we have a schedule.

The first month is the assessment month. This is where people actually spend a month worth of work hours doing something with our child. This ‘something’ is generally ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) related, and for the first month others will be figuring out what Tristan needs in the way of ABA. We will find out if it means what we think it does, because everything is very “new job-esque” right now and I feel like I don’t know shit. Anyway, people shall come into our home and get to know Tristan and hopefully not be scary.

People? Five therapists and and a supervisor are listed on the schedule as putting in some 17.5 hours per business week. Most of those hours are in our home. We will also have to attend meetings, whereby I have no idea what we will do with Tristan if there’s not some sort of kid accomodation.

All righty. So, our days of therapy shall be sort of like this for the next month (until 6/4), with a holiday in there somewhere:

Monday: 10:15-1:30
Tuesday: 12-3
Wednesday: 9:30-1:45
Thursday: 12-3
Friday: 9:30-12:30

There seem to be minor variations per week, as well. I don’t feel like figuring them out now, as they’re all the same idea with maybe 15-30 minutes of difference.

Anyway, it’s been arranged for Tristan to keep going to playgroup, but he’s not going to have a lot of time to himself anymore. I hope for his sake that he doesn’t require intensive therapy to continue at this rate for so long unless either he needs it THAT desperately or he enjoys it. I’m going to start having to make park playdates at very concise times, but that even takes just about every moment that anyone I enjoy seeing is available.

I also don’t know how much of my participation is written into this yet. Of course the PLAN will receive my participation, but I’m not sure which parts of the program are parent- optional, required, or disallowed.

So, I suppose this post is more of “Tristan starts in-home preschool this Monday.”

The little food demon

Tristan is becoming far more opinionated when it comes to food – oh my!

First of all, he’s decided that he ADORES nuts. This is fairly stressful because nuts? Someone once told me they were choking hazards. Anyway, I’ve been nail-slicing cashews down to ice cream sundae size and he’s been gobbling them as quickly as I can break them. We have some chopped pecans that he’s also been demolishing whenever they’ve been added to his plate. The good news is that this kid obviously does not have any allergies to nuts!

Second of all, he’s getting persnickety on his fruit choices. He’s starting to recognize packaging at a ninjalike rate, and he’s rejecting foods based on it. His little fruit pouches – if the design on the front is GREEN (apples and pears) he’s been just tossing them straight aside in negation. He’s also been not a fan of grape, which he used to like before. He still gobbles up all of his old favorites – the berry flavored one, anything that’s primarily banana, strawberry. I suppose that we might have to alter our buying habits in order to not create so much waste if this continues. I’m actually not sure how to proceed, since he usually operates more like me with regard to food: “if it’s generally non-offensive and doesn’t contain certain things, I’ll eat and like it.” I have no intention of forcing him to eat foods he rejects, but I do want to stagger the offerings so I’m not throwing money in the trash at every mealtime. (I suppose this is something toddlers just DO, but in Tristan’s case, should I approach it like “toddler” or other, y’know?)

And we’ve been watching our weight around here as per usual, with the weight-loss portion of the diet back in full swing. This means that as an evening ‘meal’ I usually prepare a piece of cooked mozzarella that rather resembles the top of a pizza, complete with tomato powder ’cause I can’t handle sauce. Guess who eats this stuff as fast as I do? Did you guess Tristan? If not, I suppose Samurai would also be technically correct but I don’t indulge him as readily as I indulge Tristan. Anyway, Tristan loves the stuff so much that he sees me preparing it and tries to eat it AS I am preparing it, and then continuously asks for help accessing it from the microwave during the 3 minutes it needs to cook. After THAT, when it’s done cooking and needs to rest and cool the fuck off, he pretty much wraps himself around me much like any of the pets do when dehydrated chicken is available. I actually had to give him a bit of a time out for groping the stove in the meantime – see, stove’s off limits in all situations to him but he was holding it to get a better look at the cheese substance, and like any of the pets, you never feed as a ‘reward’ for misbehavior. (Think about it – would you tell your child “no, don’t do that” and “thank you for doing that” with regard to the same behavior? Food is a powerful motivator in animals, including humans.)

And he also actually asked me for a piece of chocolate a couple of days ago. Tristan notoriously does not care for chocolate much. He liked this piece, though (we’re talking half a fingernail sized piece, like the nuts) and asked for more. Since it was sugar-free chocolate (very useful in low carb dieting!), I didn’t really want to feed him much – that stuff notoriously causes the farts and shits. I shoved the rest of it into my mouth so he couldn’t “logically” ask for more.

How mom’s doing

You know what? I’ve been thinking this and telling people this, but not really taking the time to write it.

I’m fine. Better than fine, even.

I feel uncertain. Life’s about to change soon – we will have strangers up in our stuff very soon. We don’t know how that’s going to interact with everyday stuff such as living life and planning anything non-autism-centric. But I look forward to these changes with optimism. I know my baby and I know what I want to see in him and what I really don’t care about. And I know my baby needs help on a more consistent and focused basis than I know how to give yet. So yeah, a little bit of the “just got a new job that starts in a week” feeling.

But my kid is badass. And autism isn’t something he’ll need to have “cured” or even completely overcome. He needs learning skills, communicating skills, and coping skills. But I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve come across something mentioned in autism literature that is true about Tristan but that I thought was more of a feature instead of a bug.

Something I came across lately reminds me that “autism” is a rather a non-descript empty black box that is filled with ideas to become a concept. So is anything else, by the way. What this means is that you (our family on behalf of Tristan since Tristan is a baby) fill it with positivity. I’m never going to teach him that he MUST stop “autistic” behaviors in order to make friends unless those behaviors are actually disruptive or counterproductive. I won’t teach him to get angry at people’s stares or take offense at their comments. But I will teach him how to make use of his ninja skills.

What having an autistic baby is like?

I do a lot of thinking about this, mostly because there’s so much overlap between “shit toddlers do” and “shit kids with autism do.” This will likely be very ramblesome and probably repetitive – sorry!

The casual observer can tell that Tristan is very busy and/or high energy. He always has been a bit of both.

When he’s placed down in a closed room, the first thing he does is run and try all of the doors. If any of them open, he may try to run through but he will likely open and close it a few times. When placed anywhere, he gravitates to cabinets, drawers, and doors and will entertain himself by opening and closing them over and over. When he does this, I know I have a good 10 minutes where he’s not going to be getting into any trouble. Any “typical” baby I see past about a year old is curious about the doors for a good minute and happily plays with Tristan for some time but loses interest or is easily dissuaded by a parent. Tristan can be dissuaded from doing it, but he keeps trying over and over again as if someone’s pulling his strings and making him.

When he’s placed near people, he usually wanders toward an area of slightly less human concentration. He doesn’t seem to mind a certain amount of bodies and noise but in a crowded area, he definitely tries to escape – this trumps opportunities to climb, slide, bounce, and many other things he loves to do. Any “typical” baby I see past about a year old does this from time to time if allowed but like the doors, a good refusal by the parent will get their kid onto doing something else. Tristan will actually walk on and on for a mile or so, very rapidly, as if he has a destination or some landmarks in mind.

You can see how he eats the shoulder of his shirt like it’s candy. Most of his photos feature a fairly prominent wet shoulder. He’s now gnawing way past what is likely teething. This is behavior we wrote off as related to teething when it happened when he was teething. We all tease him about it in good humor and allow him to continue doing it. I actually prefer it over a pacifier or other object that is not usually attached to the person. That being said, I wonder if there is paradox if he goes shirtless for long!

He organizes objects, but only in situations he’s been praised for doing it or where we generally encourage it. At this point, it’s “weird” but not problematic. He tosses his blocks into the proper bin, but his dad made a huge game of that one night. He lines up bottles in the shower but I taught him to do that instead of taking them and throwing them all onto the floor.

He talks. He sounds a lot more like an infant than a toddler, though. He babbles, he seems to make up words, and he halfheartedly says words we know he knows. His speech is sort of like his high-five: he does both sometimes but sort of loses interest and starts doing it halfheartedly after about two tries. Sometimes he says “hi” on command and when he thinks he should, but it sounds like “ahhhhhh” even STILL. When he was very little and started saying it, it sounded just like it does now.

He makes eye contact and he smiles. He’s noticeably giddy when engaged. He shares back and forth interactions. He snuggles all of us, pets included.

I can see why it’s really difficult to diagnose this sort of thing in a child so young. He really just looks like a very intense toddler when out in public. Kids his age aren’t chatting about the weather or really even doing much more than quickly glancing at each other unless coached to do so. Kids his age open and close doors, and they wander off, and they want to be in the swing for hours on end, and they don’t always talk well if at all yet. Communication is subtle unless the parent is deliberately ignoring the child.

Hearing exam and vampire attack

This morning, at the ripe old hour of dick o’ clock (yep, you guessed it – about 8am!) we all started wandering out of our dark resting places and went forth as zombies. Tristan actually woke up “on time” (defined as 10 minutes before we had to leave, or about 8:35) without us having to do cruel things such as open his door and sic the pets upon him. Traffic was highly irritating, but other than that we made it in on time and to our appointment without further ado. The audiologist was friendly and the process was fairly quick – Tristan struggled to get up from my lap in this little booth about the size of two phone booths. Toys and speakers were assembled at focal points. The sound tests were noisy toys and the tester’s voice over the speaker at different volumes. Tristan was VERY, VERY unhappy to be held in my arms for this, because it probably looked like explorers’ heaven to him, but he was sharp as a nail when it came to attending to sounds. That is, when he wasn’t SO focused on escaping that it took him a moment to focus.

So, yeah. Tristan’s hearing is just fine. No surprise there!

We had lab tests to get done as well, so we decided to get them done right after the hearing appointment. Kaiser, despite all its faults, has some neat shit in place. One of those things is that we can come in any time during laboratory hours (usually business hours), hand someone our card, and have them prepare all of the necessary documentation for any outstanding bodily fluid tests within minutes. If we’re lucky and come at a time that’s not busy, we can be in and out there as immediately as one can with a toddler, which is probably about an hour (more later about that).

We went to the second floor lab, took our number, and waited behind one other person. Their business completed, we were called up and the process was started. We found out rather quickly that the vampires had quite the grudge against Tristan. Quite the stack of papers and stickers printed out of their paperwork-o-matic printers. We took our small booklet and entered the actual lab area, which looks like a vampires’ bar – row of seats with tables and arm rests all facing inward. James took the seat and assembled Tristan on his lap while Tristan guzzled the milk we’d brought as behavior insurance and/or comfort.

So, Kaiser lab techs tend to panic whenever they see a baby who needs blood drawn. They need two people to do the job, which is understandable. But for some reason, it takes about twenty minutes for that second person to be available, which means that the Ultimately Busy toddler is quite pissed off and out of food by the time they re-approach us to start the bloodwork. Ok.. so I get that people are in short supply. But there comes a point where I do not think he’s out of line for screaming, and that point is probably being held against his will for 20 minutes in a very boring chair. He didn’t scream, but I almost did.

I don’t really know if Tristan understands the concept of “this shit’s gonna hurt, so brace yourself.” I try to tell him that something’s going to be “owie” – I do believe in warning him that pain is coming rather than trying to surprise him with it. But I stroked his hair and held his right hand/arm while the techs worked on his left arm and James held him tightly in his lap. Of course, he screamed – but he was well into screaming while they were applying that damn rubberband tourniquet they use to help gather the blood. Thankfully, they found the vessel quickly so there wasn’t all of that painful and anxiety-inducing repoking they do whenever they need my blood.

So, the vampires took SEVEN (7) vials of blood from Tristan. And as they say, no news is good news. I guess I hope to hear only useful news if there is any.

He was quite over the pain of the vampire wound by the time I got him trussed up in the carrier, though. Hooray for the sling!

We went from the clinic to the park while James went to work in his car since we drove there separately. And we proceeded to have a lovely park afternoon despite the physical energy required to keep Tristan from exploring a 10 mile radius that includes everything EXCEPT for the park. Even better is that I believe I’m going to click “Publish” on this entry without having to stop once!

Last week and incidentals

* Last Sunday we met a nice mom and baby at Thamien Park.. I think baby’s name was Anya, but don’t quote me on the spelling. Anyway, I gave her contact information but I also ran off kind of spaztastically because I’d just slammed James’s middle finger in his trunk and we were going to head to the ER. Anyway, we did go to the ER that day but left after an hour when his finger reinflated to look like a finger again. He’s doing pretty well fingerwise – he tells me only the cut hurts still – and we all haven’t been to that park much until today (at all? can’t remember Monday) since then because the weather’s been shitty. Anyway, sorry to James for messing up the finger while I was chatting away at him, and sorry to Anya’s mom for what must’ve been a weird parting.

We were at the park in the first place to spend time with Madeline and Mateo as an outdoors playdate. As per usual procedure, James and I switched off so I could chat with Madeline a little bit, since the two babies wanted to play on opposite sides of the park. It was very nice to chat with her a bit and hang out with Mateo!

* Tristan is now using a stepstool to come help wash dishes just about whenever he hears the water turned on. He’s not great at actually positioning it, but he’s a ninja at staying up on it and actually playing. He can barely reach the faucet..

The very first time, daddy had to help him up and down from it. Only the first time. Now, Ninja Child is by either of our sides whenever the water is turned on in the sink for any reason. Hell, if we turn on the water so it can heat up for cooking (shhh, I made chicken soup, but accidentally made it too spicy to even offer to Tristan), he’s up on that stool expectantly.

Here at Casa de Long, we believe in using obsessions (in our child AND in us) to our advantage whenever possible. Suddenly we’re up to date on washing dishes (not necessarily putting them away or using the dishwasher, though) because there’s no more need to supervise Tristan to keep him from getting into trouble while you’re just trying to wash HIS damn drink cups. As long as he doesn’t trip and fall, and as long as we’re vigilant with the fucking knives (we have to lock up the damn KNIVES this weekend now!), this is a very good thing for our household. Plus, this is how we’re encouraging household chore participation – through the “water is fun!” principle.

(I’ll punt anyone who goes into any sort of description about literal knives used for that purpose. :P)

* Tristan seems to have gained mad skills lately. He’s obviously doing neat things physically, such as climbing into chairs and sitting nicely at the table, the aforementioned usage of a stepstool, walking up and down stairs independently (and holding like hell onto the rail, of course :D), and today he even almost climbed INTO his crib. But I also feel like I can trust him a bit more. We can actually get him to go up the stairs when we get home and not try to linger and need constant support. He’s starting to understand that people behind him need to go through the upstairs gate and just keep going instead of trying to shut the gate on us. After I close the gate, I can drop whatever I was carrying on the chaise lounge and go pee without fear that he’ll be an inch away from certain death if I don’t hurry with ninjalike speed. He’s also not compulsively joining me in the bathroom anymore, although I believe he is still joining his dad at night. It’s actually important that he joins his dad in the bathroom to observe the mechanism in adults – he’s had plenty of practice with me, anyway.

* I have some sort of community-esque project planned. Yah, I know, yet another project. I never finish any of them. 😉

[afternote: this entry was completed with NO SCREAMING BABY! Wheeeee!]