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We’re plowing full steam ahead with the solids thing, introducing a new food every few days and slowly but steadily adding to her meal choices.  Since we had to go on an all-fruit diet for her constipation, vegetables fell behind a bit and she’s definitely got a preference for the sweeter foods.  So we’ve been on a veggie binge, adding green beans after peas after pumpkin.  I have to say again that Wholesome Baby Food has been a great website, helping me navigate the “what foods when” minefield.  Madeleine seems to dislike most any food that’s not a fleshy fruit when she first tries it; I serve it every day during the allergy testing phase, then work it into her food rotation, and I find that a week or so out she begins to like most things.  Peas, alas, are still the exception, but we’re working on it.  Fortunately for Maddie, her repertoire is big enough that peas only show up on her chart every couple of days.

Yes, my daughter now eats such a wide variety of foods – granted, they are all fruits or vegetables or oatmeal, but still – that I cannot keep up with what she eats when; so, in an effort to keep all foods rotating through (no pun intended) somewhat regularly (ditto), I’ve gone into my typical over-achiever mode and created a meal chart for her.

Rescuing a magnetic dry-erase board from our basement, I used electrical tape to lay out a weekly menu grid on it, then filled in her “menu” choices across the top with an erasable marker.  She’s got a fruit category and a veggie category, and every time a new food passes the allergy test we add it to the list.  In addition, I’ve got notes about what she should be eating daily, such as, “PEARS AND/OR PRUNES EVERY DAY!!!  Cereal for breakfast!”  That sort of thing. 
Then you’ve got the actual chart; seven days with three meals marked off.  Every morning, I plan what she’ll eat at each meal, taking into account things like which foods she hasn’t had recently, how the constipation factor’s going, whether or not she’ll be eating in public (very necessary to bring foods she likes when that happens – much better for everyone I promise), and so on.  By leaving three or four days worth of meal plans up on the board, I can see that I’ve given her avocado too much and squash not enough, and it satisfies my obsessive-compulsive side.  Maddie and I stand in front of the board most mornings and as I mentally calculate how many ice-cube servings of prune I have left and whether or not I should serve the papaya with mango (her favorite combination) or with peach (slightly less enthusiastic over that combo, but it saves the mango – her all-time favorite food - for the end of the day when she’s tired and harder to feed), I look at Madeleine and see her solemnly studying the board, for all the world as if pondering her menu options before turning in her order.
For Madeleine, you see, every meal is a restaurant experience.  And we’ve been doing this long enough now that she knows the signs and her excitement builds as we get further into the process of assembling her meal.  Standing at the board, there’s the studious decision making.  Seeing me write on the board, she leans back in satisfaction, as if handing me her folded menu and saying, “That’ll be all, thank you.”  As I dig through our freezer, 90% of which is now Ziploc bags of frozen food cubes, she begins to look slightly interested:  “This is a nice place!  Good ambience!”  Then comes one of her favorite parts – the microwave.  I put her cubes in to defrost, and when the microwave turns on I swear it’s as if she can see the finish line.  Her face lights up and she stares excitedly at the microwave like a die-hard shopper the morning after Thanksgiving:  “Open!  Open!  Open!”  As I gather her bib, wipe towel, spoon, and bowls, her excitement’s unbearable and she’s driven to help me carry something – anything – to make the process speed up.  After dragging her bumbo sitter to the middle of the floor and sitting her down, I see her arms start waving wildly – “Waitress!  Waitress!  Is our order next?  Over here!  I’m starving!”  When the bib snaps on, she often can’t control herself and starts talking excitedly. 
We’re trying to teach her a few words of sign language, by the way, and one of the words we’re working on is “eat”.  You’re supposed to make the sign as you say it, preferably right before she does the action and definitely with eye contact.  Catching my daughter’s eye at this point, however, is impossible; it’s the moment the waiter finally comes out with your food and he could be wearing a dress for all you notice; you’re too busy grabbing your steaming plate from his hands.  So who knows how well that’s going to catch on . . .
At any rate, the moment between the bib going on and the first bite going in is Madeleine’s happiest of the whole process.  It’s so filled with possibility; the bowl could have the baby equivalent of chocolate in it instead of peas – you just never know!  Unfortunately, she comes to her senses right before the first bite.  See, she’s learned that I introduce a new food first in the meal, when she’s hungriest, and always serve the veggie before the fruit.  So the whole process comes to a screeching halt mere centimeters away from fulfillment, the tongue pokes cautiously out to sample the wares, and more likely than not a face is made and the wares rejected.
And thus we move from the happy restaurant goer to the disgruntled customer – “Waiter!  There’s a pea in my mango!” – and it’s all downhill from there.  Fortunately, we usually move through the “This is not what I ordered” phase to the “Well I’m starving so I guess I’ll eat what you cooked me even though it’s wrong” phase somewhat painlessly, though not always cleanly.
She wins in the end, though: management always buys her a dessert (fruit cube) to make up for her inconvenience.  It almost guarantees she’ll return again.
We restaurant owners are crafty that way.


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