This has been weighing on me for some weeks and is a big part of why I haven’t been blogging again, like I said I would. What is a “typical toddler?” Does your almost-2-year old listen at all? Do they participate in circle time at The Little Gym, Gymboree or your local library program or Y? When you call their name, do they turn their head to look at you? Can they speak in sentences, even if only two words. Do they say something to get your attention or do they point and grunt?

My toddler doesn’t usually turn to look at me when I call his name. Though I’m pretty sure he can hear (and am having a hearing test on Friday to confirm that). My toddler says many individual words in response to something–like if Dora says “Who do you ask when you need to know where to go?” and he’ll say “Map!”  Or he’ll point out the hippo as the mouseketool in the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse cartoon. But he won’t TALK to me.

And the tantrums. He’ll flip out if he A) Can’t do something he wants to do, B) Doesn’t want to do something, C) Is unable to do something (like put a square peg in a round hole) and D) if overtired or hungry. D doesn’t worry me so much. But A-C do. And the lack of speech. And the NOT participating at ALL (or barely) in his Little Gym class. So on June 21, 2011, I called New Jersey Early Intervention.  They took a lot of information over the phone and an intake coordinator called me and after our phone conversation, scheduled a free evaluation.  That was on July 13th. Little Man qualified.

The two evaluators, a speech therapist and an occupational therapist, found that Little Man has delays in 1) Communication, Speech & Language (which I expected), 2) Social/Emotional Development and 3) Cognitive ability. I had my first meeting with EI last week to go over the plan in general and my cost participation, as it has not been free in over 7 years and there is a copay based on annual salary. My next meeting is to set up my IFSP (individualized family service plan) and set up what type of therapies Little Man will receive. Once I’ve signed off on the plan, services begin within 30 days. So by the end of August.

So since then a lot of thoughts have been going through my head.  Are there JUST developmental delays going on or is something else wrong? Little Man has, in my opinion, some red flags for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Though it could be typical toddler behavior. Maybe? I’m no longer sure of “typical.”  I’ve bolded the ones I’m worried about.

  • The child does not respond to his/her name.
  • The child cannot explain what he/she wants.
  • Language skills or speech are delayed.
  • The child doesn’t follow directions.
  • At times, the child seems to be deaf.
  • The child seems to hear sometimes, but not others.
  • The child doesn’t point or wave bye-bye.
  • The child used to say a few words or babble, but now he/she doesn’t.
  • The child throws intense or violent tantrums.
  • The child has odd movement patterns.
  • The child is hyperactive, uncooperative, or oppositional.
  • The child doesn’t know how to play with toys.
  • The child doesn’t smile when smiled at.
  • The child has poor eye contact.
  • The child gets “stuck” on things over and over and can’t move on to other things.
  • The child seems to prefer to play alone.
  • The child gets things for him/herself only.
  • The child is very independent for his/her age.
  • The child does things “early” compared to other children.
  • The child seems to be in his/her “own world.”
  • The child seems to tune people out.
  • The child is not interested in other children.
  • The child walks on his/her toes.
  • The child shows unusual attachments to toys, objects, or schedules (i.e., always holding a string or having to put socks on before pants.)
  • Child spends a lot of time lining things up or putting things in a certain order.

Little Man does line things up, but I wouldn’t say a LOT of time. But there are a few things that worry me.  I’m on a wait list with a developmental pediatrician to evaluate him fully–not just for ASD but for his development in general. Though I’m hopeful that some of the behaviors are just toddler quirks or due to his delays.

Honestly, I am becoming bitter about how “typical” (because I won’t say normal) others’ toddlers are. I have lots of mom friends from the internet and I love their cyber friendship and counsel. But when I see how well they are doing. Talking. Interacting well with others. Even singing songs. I feel like I’ve failed. I feel so worried that my son will not go ahead in life. And he’s not even 2!

Little Man is still SO affectionate–even though he won’t give kisses. He likes to snuggle. He likes to play with me and his father. He loves seeing his cousins. He mostly always has a smile on his face. But he’s not adjusting well to new situations (ie. daycare, that I started him in 3 times a week for a few hours) and the tantrums are getting worse, probably due to that.

I know I need to get over myself. There are children with REAL special needs and this could be NOTHING but a minor glitch. But I seem to obsess over things (always have) and it’s hard to get past this.

Little Man is my only child and I want the best for him.  And I want him to be typical. Once he’s there, then I’ll look towards exceptional.

Yesterday was July 4th and we have a friend who is a volunteer firefighter.  So Dude and I took Little Man to take a ride in a fire truck.  They sat in the front seat (I was in the cab) and they had a fantastic time. Dude mostly.  Men are just big boys, right? But I’m glad they had fun and it was a nice way to celebrate the 4th.  Here is Little Man wearing his new fireman’s hat!

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So after we left, around 11 am, Little Man fell asleep in the car!  We didn’t expect that, and Dude needed new sneakers so we were headed to the Reebok outlet nearby. So I stayed in the car with our son as my husband shopped for shoes. After about 35 minutes (including the time to the store), Little Man woke up. So we decided to have lunch at Panera before heading home. We had yogurt for the kiddo and we got stuff there.

After our meal, Dude was in the men’s room and Little Man turned bright red and started grunting. I knew EXACTLY what was happening. Oy vey!  He then started screaming in pain. So I got him out of the high chair and he finished pooping–or so I thought–on my lap.  Dude came back from the bathroom and I let him know that I had to change the boy.  So off I went, hoping for little or no struggle.

WARNING: GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION OF A MESSY DIAPER CHANGE AHEAD.

AGAIN, I WARNED YOU.

OK, HERE WE GO.

In the bathroom, the changing table was in the handicapped stall.  I got Little Man situated, putting a disposable pad under him, and I pulled off his shorts (left his shoes on) and opened the diaper to one of the biggest poops I’ve seen! He hadn’t pooped since Saturday, so I guess it was 2 days worth. It filled the diaper and was still coming out of his tush. As I pulled the diaper back, more poop came out.   I managed to wipe a lot away but still saw some poop just hanging there.  Like half in/half out of his tush.

I had to pull away the dirty diaper, because he began kicking and put his shoe IN some poop. Ack!  Got more wipes and put the dirty diaper and used wipes in a plastic bag (for used diapers, Munchkin brand). They he PEES all over himself and his clothing.  Starts SCREAMING!

So I’m trying to wipe him off and he then shits all over the table.

There is crap everywhere.  I had to wipe it off the table and him–and ME, since it was on my hands!  Then a wipe, with poop on it, fell on the floor!!!  Ack!

I’m not sure how I managed to get a clean diaper on him and bag his dirty clothes in another scented sack and also get most of the poop and his diaper in another. But I did.  And I tossed the refuse in a trash bin and tried to wash my hands, while my screaming toddler was attached to my hip.  Then I walked out, with my son only wearing a diaper and shoes, to tell the staff at Panera that they have a problem in their handicapped stall (ie. poop all over the changing station and the floor.) The woman doesn’t seem to understand, but I couldn’t linger and walked through the restaurant to where Dude was waiting.

“Take him!” is all I manage to say at first.

Then I shared with him, what I’ve just shared with you.  Dude helps me dress him in his “emergency outfit” and Little Man settles down and actually eats a bit more. I guess he had room, finally.

I use hand sanitizer to make up for whatever I missed during my futile attempt at washing my hands.  And then I have to pee. I am mortified and don’t want to go back to the bathroom. But I do.  And when I’m done–and have noticed the poop is still all over that stall–I let the manager know what happened.   Soooo embarrassed as I say it. But they’re nice and say they’ll take care of it.

We leave quickly.

So I’m not sure we’ll ever be welcome in the Panera on Route 202 in Flemington, NJ. Hopefully the other locations don’t know of my reputation.  Mom of the killer pooper.

Oh well, shit happens.

All over the place.

Yuck.

I’m sitting on the sofa, next to my husband and my sleeping dog and I think how much I love them both.  And it’s funny how I am not really discriminating. Casey is a dog.  But he is MY dog and my first “baby.”  He’s very annoying at times. Ever since I had Little Man, he’s been needy—even when I pay attention to him—and he’s acted out by stealing food and barking.  But I adore him and lately, watching him slow down, I realize how much my heart will ache when he is no longer with me.

Hopefully he’ll be around for a few more years.  I’d like Little Man to have memories of him.  Heck, I’d like Little Man to call him Casey and not just “Da Daw” (the dog).  But I do worry how it will affect him.  My friend’s daughter still feels the effect of losing her dog at a similar age (almost 3) and she is 5-1/2.  And I know I should get these thoughts out of my head since he IS healthy. But I guess I realize that I’ve had him for nearly 11 years now and he’s almost 12 years old.

I hate that I snap at my dog.  He’s a DOG.  He doesn’t know how annoying he can be when he’s underfoot or barking up a storm or nudging me for food.  I guess it’s because I’m under a lot of stress from caring for Little Man, trying to be a good wife and help out my parents. I lash out at the one being who TRULY loves me unconditionally.

I’m a dog person.  One day I’ll have another dog—because I can’t count my brother’s dogs (formerly my in-laws’ dogs)—that is MINE (and I guess my husband’s too) but for now Casey is my only furchild and I adore him.  I loved my husband’s late dog, who died when I was newly pregnant, and my heart broke for him when she died at the age of 15 (with him for the last 10 years). But for now I have to figure out how to just be calmer around mine since I do adore him.  He is such a sweet, fun dog—even if he IS neurotic.

He is.

But that’s another story.

I know my kid isn’t the only one.  I have several friends, both online and in person, who comment how their 2-year-old (or older/younger) is flipping through apps on their iPhone or iPad. Obviously it’s common or why else would all these developers make apps for toddlers?  But it’s also kind of crazy how tech-savvy today’s toddlers are.

Little Man doesn’t really say much but he does know “on” and “off” and can name basically every character in The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Dora the Explorer cartoons.  He says map and bappap (backpack) and Mou and MeeMee and Dasiy and Duck Duck.  I’ve mentioned that I allow him to watch TV and have admitted that I feel I let him watch too much. But it keeps him busy while he’s at work with me (my not-so-ideal situation) and it cannot be helped right now.

I actually made my iPod Touch toddler friendly. Basically Little Man has free reign with it.  Though if there is no Wi-Fi available, he gets mad when he can’t get his apps to work. I’ve created a monster!

I guess that’s it for now. I’m trying to get back into the groove of blogging.  I like writing and maybe one day I’ll be more attentive to this site.  I’ve considered returning to another blog site (with nice follower links) but then I’d have to figure out how to move this one. Not gonna happen anytime soon.

I fully admit that I’m slacking on the veggie front. Little Man only eats peas. Frozen peas. Not fresh because I’m a lazy ass who hasn’t bought fresh vegetables for my son. He used to eat vegetable purees and LOVED sweet potatoes. But since he started self-feeding, he has eschewed all vegetables for unhealthy alternatives like potato chips and french fries.

I know it’s my fault for not offering him better meal choices and I want to change that. But how? And with what? How do I introduce new foods to my nearly-two-year-old? How do I undo what I have done? Will he ever eat well?

And don’t even get me started on milk.  He LOVED milk when he first tried it and when it was in a bottle. But when we cold-turkeyed the bottle for sippy cups he refused to drink milk in it. I feel badly that he won’t drink it. And it’s not that he doesn’t like the taste. I think it’s the consistency. I’m going to have to try flavoring it again. I really want him to drink something besides water.  Not that he needs the empty calories of juice, but it would be nice if he’d try it.

Since he’s growing and thriving, I shouldn’t worry TOO much. I know of children who survived on pasta with butter for years and he eats better than that. Little Man likes chicken. Loves potato. Loves macaroni & cheese. But my goal is to expand his diet. I just need to come up with a menu and purchase the foods.

Joy is seeing your child’s face light up when he sees you.

Joy is hearing him say “Mama, ___” when he wants to share something with you.

Joy is the cuddles you get from your loving son.

Joy is knowing you are doing SOMETHING right in your life.

Joy is watching your little one discover how something works.

This is me and my pride and joy!

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In the last month, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on things. My father had surgery to close an abdominal abscess from a hernia surgery back in 2003. This abscess was infected with MRSA (now resolved) and the surgery was complex. My father is currently recuperating at home. It’s pretty intense. The visiting nurse service is coming 3x per week as is a physical therapist. Though he has the go-ahead to get back to most normal activities, he cannot come back to work for another 3 weeks–though he may stop by to supervise (as it is his company). And my mother’s Parkinson’s Disease has also worsened. The day after my father’s surgery, I took her to her specialist in NYC. The visit was good and bad. Good in that I have a better understanding of what’s going on. Bad in that I’m not entirely sure my mother is completely lucid all the time.

So a lot of stress for me as most of this falls on my shoulders. My brother, who lives in the family home, is not able to help me. His business is not to share here, but I can say that I’m alone in this. And my husband has a long, stressful commute to his job in NYC and when he is home, things still fall on me. Add taking care of a chronically cranky toddler (maybe not chronically, but definitely often), I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Therefore I let a lot of my worries about Little Man’s speech go for now. He is now 21 months old and he still doesn’t say that much, but I have noticed an increase over the last week. I’m hoping that over the next 2.5 months I see a major language explosion so I can go to his 2 year well visit in August confident that he is progressing as he should. But if he is not, my focus WILL shift back to my son’s speech and I will get him any and all aid he needs.

I’m still hoping he’ll just suddenly say to me “Mama, yogurt please!” or “Dada, more berries.” We’ll see.

Little Man is my joy. He really is. Even when I complain about the tantrums (the ones for no apparent reason are the worst) and how hard it is to change his diaper sometimes, he makes my life complete. Not so long ago, really, I thought I’d never get married or have a child. I’m glad things turned out as they did. And even though once upon a time I thought I’d have two children–a boy and a girl–I am content with just my boy and hope that one day, he will marry a fantastic woman who will, in some way, become a daughter to me.