We don't go out to eat with the kids much. We might go to a family friendly restaurant 2-4 times in a calendar year. We generally prefer restaurants with an outside deck and play area, so KayTar isn't stuck at the table with us. Taking a food hater with a variety of sensory issues out to a noisy crowded restaurant to watch people eat can be problematic, so imagine my surprise when KayTar became exceedingly excited while passing an IHOP restaurant earlier in the week. "There is an IHOP! IHOP is my favorite restaurant!" I asked her, "Do you know what kind of food they have there?" She said no and I told her, "Bacon and sausage and toast!" which are all things on her acceptable list. This information sent her over the moon! I told Josh about it and we decided to give it a shot. KayTar has been looking forward to it all week and surprisingly, it was a success!
She told the server (who we happened to know) that we needed a table for four and when he asked is a booth would be alright, she said, with a bit an attitude, "Oh, I guess that will be fine." When it was time to order, she settled on a Dr. Pepper and a side of bacon (she specified "the tall kind" so she didn't end up with bacon bits). 2 pieces. She waited patiently for her food. She used the syrup (which she likes to pronounce "SY-rup") as a puppet and asked everyone at the table questions, for example, "Hi, my name is Syrup! Do you want to eat me?". She ate both pieces of bacon and then ordered two more, which she also ate. She was delightful and well-mannered, minus one small screaming outburst when she realized I had borrowed her fork without permission (in my defense, I thought it was Josh's fork). The highlight was that we went out to dinner and she ATE. Miracles do happen.
She's been eating well (for her) lately. This morning she had a sausage patty and a small powdered sugar donut for breakfast. At lunchtime, she had a serving of chips. For dinner, she had the four pieces of bacon at IHOP. The foods she will accept on a semi-regular basis are:
croutons ("those squares with the flavor grass on them")
jarred baby food veggies (mostly peas)
sunbutter "ice cream" (we keep the sunbutter in the fridge)
homemade cupcakes and icing
cold pizza (if we order a pizza, we have to put her slice in the freezer so it congeals)
It isn't a huge list or a healthy list, but it is a massive improvement. In addition to the expanded list, she is also accepting the foods on a more regular basis. Usually her school lunch consists of one the meats she likes, either chips or bread, and a baby food veggie. She usually eats a pretty good percentage of the food I send. She still isn't approaching anything near a typical four year old's eating schedule or diet, but she has been making steady progress. She still needs 3 tube feeds on an average eating day and 4 on a day she doesn't take anything by mouth, but she is enjoying the food she does eat a little bit more, I think. Most days she asks for a snack at least once, that in and of itself is significant. She's had many ups and downs in her sordid history with food, so I know this may or may not be a lasting improvement, but we're still glad to see her relationship with food evolving towards something that might one day be pleasant. For now, though, she has the freedom to eat what she wants when she wants it, and she is still getting all of the nutrients she needs. It is ideal and we could not be happier to see her thriving from the steady nutrition and also utilizing the freedom to explore the joys of eating at her own pace.