Recently, mealtime at our home is starting to resemble a scene from Oliver Twist.

“More. More, please?” “More hummus.” “More yogurt.” “More omlette.” Just “More.”

Though it is quite exhausting, our son has happily graduated to Real People Food (TM). We were understandably concerned about transitioning our little man from his baby food purees to new textures as soon as we got the green light from our surgeon. Considering all of his food was in liquid form until about a month ago, Alexander has warmed up to table food with incredible ease! We made a few attempts with soft foods during Alexander’s post-surgical healing to see if he would try to self-feed with his hands. His response was usually to try and use his spoon to scoop whatever was on his tray.  We had our nutritionist, occupational therapist, and feeding therapist at the ready, and we counted down the days to a normal family meal.

You can imagine our surprise when a few weeks ago during lunchtime, Alexander looked at the falafal and tabbouleh on my plate– then back to his pureed turkey/sweet potato mash. He pointed his spoon at my plate, and tried saying “More.” At that point, the floodgate was opened. I figured though it was a little early for solids, I’d give the softer foods a try because he was so eager. He immediately ate most of my lunch, and then finished off his. I decided to continue introducing new foods to him, and now he’s expanded his new little palate to everything from eggs benedict to baked tilapia and quinoa.

My compliments to the chef!

My compliments to the chef!

Since then, Alexander has yet to refuse a food. I’m sure a good chunk of his enthusiasm is the result of novelty and sheer excitement of trying new flavors, textures, and smells. It feels rather surreal to sit down to dinner with Brian, Alexander, and I all eating the same thing at the same time. Though we’re still waiting to give him steak (ha!), he devoured almost a quarter of my banzai burger at Red Robin for his birthday dinner.  For those of you who’ve shared a meal with us recently, you’ll attest to the passionate “More!” Alexander conveys, mostly through signing, for more of whatever food we’re willing to share. He enjoyed an entire slice of ice cream cake for his birthday, then longingly looked over at the remainder of my piece. It’s almost comical to watch him– while we don’t want him to get sick from overeating, I have NO IDEA where he’s putting it all. Clearly, this boy is making up for lost time and is in a growth spurt.

As far as feeding himself, Alexander is making great strides in utensil use. He’s able to scoop softer foods from a bowl on his own, and he makes short work of his beloved greek yogurt. We’re still working on him loading his fork, but he’s trying more and more to eat like a big kid. Watching him enthusiastically eating a forkful of salad– and returning it to us empty with the request for “More!” is really exciting.  (In all fairness though, he has tried removing green beans from his fork a number of times and pretending like he’s chewing them, but he’s not very good at hiding them on his tray!) Though I’m sure we’ll have many dining-related challenges ahead, for now, it’s all “food, glorious food” to him!





Dude, where’s my bib?

It feels as though this day would take forever. Finally… after months and months of continually washing bibs for Alexander, our little man can finally show off his adorable toddler clothes in their full glory. If you do a quick peruse through the photos shown on HSWT, you’ll notice that in almost every picture, Alexander is sporting a terry cloth bib over his clothing. So why this, and why now?

The good news, which we found out last week during Alexander’s post-operative appointment, is that his hard palate repair was successful and is continuing to heal nicely. It’ll take some time for all his tissue to heal and fill in all the gaps, but the sutures have held.  Our surgeon was thrilled to hear that not only is Alexander eating well, but that he’s gained an incredible pound during the month of surgery! (Normally, cleft kids have an oral aversion after the surgery, which is understandable considering all the pain and swelling in the roof of their mouth–which results in a long hospital stay and significant weight loss). To add to the good news, Alexander has continued to try vocalizing, which is often delayed from post-surgery trauma.  Our speech therapist was just thrilled when Alexander began mimicking some fairly complex words the week after surgery!

But why the bib? Well, as you might guess, before Alexander’s multiple surgeries, he didn’t really know how to handle the saliva– so rather than swallow it, it just sorta flowed out of his cleft. At the risk of being too graphic, the combination of saliva plus everything that came out of his nasal cavity (earlier open to his mouth) was enough to keep a bib on Alexander full-time. Also, after each surgery, as his mouth healed he was the drool king. Alexander’s speech therapist said that as his mouth muscles got stronger, he’d be able to start to suction and control his saliva, and with that would come the ability to control airflow and articulation.  True to her word, a few days after Alexander’s last surgery, his normal multiple bib changes reduced to one a day, and even then it was pretty dry. Finally, I just pulled the plug on bibs, and he now roams free and mostly drool-less.

Now, our little man is truly starting to look and act like a toddler. Brian took him for a haircut, and they both returned with smiles– Brian proudly commenting that they were able to use clippers this time–  “He’s a 5!” (Believe it or not, getting near Alexander’s face with a buzzing instrument was met with significant trepidation last time…)  Though he’s still a skinny guy (his waist is 12 months still), he’s getting longer and in need of 18 month length– I am SO grateful that a lot of little boy clothing comes with adjustable waist buttons!  Though we still think he’s growing fast, we’ve been warned that with the full repair, he’ll be eating like crazy and will be growing even faster. I’m trying not to purchase clothing for him in any one size, as it seems as though he’s sprouting up like crazy.  Although the surgeon said to keep with a soft/pureed diet for another week, I caved and let him have some of my falafal last week. That, as you might guess, has set off his awareness that there is more to meals than pureed slurry. Even today, it wasn’t “more yogurt” he was asking for, but for some of my own chicken stir fry!

As we rapidly approach Alexander’s birthday on the 11th, it’s just amazing to watch how quickly he’s picking up more words, both in signs and in spoken language. He tries to say “I love you” and is quite good at identifying the items in our home not to be picked up by pointing and saying “No no no!”– all while smiling.  Just yesterday, during a therapy session, I watched him proudly parrot some great animal sounds; it almost made me sniffle.  It’s just incredible to watch a little boy who was so limited in his communication  blossom and delight in his own accomplishment.

At the risk of sounding too much like Pollyanna, the process isn’t all sunshine and roses. A big challenge as Alexander learns to speak is getting him to articulate loudly and clearly– apparently, it’s fairly common for children with delayed speech to almost whisper when talking because they’re “trying out” new sounds. Though he’s got plenty of loud “la’s and na’s,” you need to have an ear close by to hear him sing along to familiar tunes.  Similarly, though he has tested fine for sensory processing, we’re trying to increase his sensory tolerance, especially in light of all the new textures he’ll encounter in food. So far, we’ve played with sand, pompoms, play dough, and finger paints, and he’s slowly warming up to varying textures in rapid succession.

Though we are growing increasingly exhausted every night (I know, welcome to parenthood, right?), we are so grateful that Alexander is growing by leaps and bounds.  After all of the medical appointments, surgeries, consultations, and continued therapy sessions, there is nothing better that watching our little man running around with his artist’s smock on asking for more crayons. All we have ever wanted for him is the chance to be a rollicking toddler, and he certainly seems to be doing that with fervor! Onward and upward… to your 2nd birthday! We will greatly celebrate, and we continue to thank you all for your support and love in helping our little man truly flourish!

And now, the adorable Alexander photos you’re waiting for….

Loving his new Adirondack chair. When we ask him to smile, we say "Say lactose!"

Loving his new Adirondack chair. When we ask him to smile, we say “Say lactose!”

The young artist at work

The young artist at work

Occupy living room!

The little man’s 5-man/bivalve luge team (which also serves as his mama’s daily exercise