Lauri had a great post on her paid blog
about Livi and eating. Her post got me thinking about Pickle and food issues we have faced since becoming a family. This is one of the areas I had most considered and "prepared" for before bringing him home. Partly this was because of posts Lauri made while they were still in Russia, stories I'd heard from other families and the experience we had while on our trip to meet Alexander.
I'll give you a little background. Alexander was in the baby home across town from the one Pickle was in. However, the care received was just about the same. The orphanages both gave great care to the kids and the facilities were both fantastic. When we visited Alexander we were able to feed him lunch the two days we were there. So we were privy to his groupa. This is not always the case with all orphanages or regions. Alexander was 10 months when we met him so the experience was much different than with Pickle. Sasha was served a substance that looked similar to a runny cream of wheat with a big chunk of meat paste. The smell... I remember it to this day. I was given a giant tablespoon and instructed to feed him. I did like any mom and sat next to him and fed him slowly. The look on his face was like, "um lady, hurry the hell up." I watched the caregiver feed the little boy across the table. (who happened to be my girlfriend Ciarai's little boy) Here is how 2 caregivers can feed 15 children in under 30 minutes.
- Caregiver grabs child and dumps him in a seat attached to the table.
- Caregiver whips a rag around the child's neck and stands behind the child
- Caregiver holds bowl of gruel under the child's chin with bib underneath and shovels the food into child's face with a large table spoon. Child is fed so fast they are almost gaging.
- Caregiver then grabs tea cup full of sweetened tea and pours it into child's mouth while child frantically sucks and gulps.
- Caregiver wipes the chunks of food off the child's face and whisks him away to the "cleaning room" where they are doused with water and giving a nappy change.
Given this experience I was prepared for a food hoarder. Our facilitators in Khabarovsk did everything they could to get us to the orphanage to see Pickle's meal time first hand. Unfortunately, we never made it in time. We always saw the remnants. On our first trip to meet him the doctor told us he would scream if he was not in the first group fed. So we again expected a food hoarder.
When Pickle first came to live with us in the apartment he was timid. Shell shocked as many call it. He ate what was given and rarely spit anything out. He didn't try to snag the food off of our plates or demand more. (We worked for months to teach him the concept of more.) Eventually he learned that when Mama went into the kitchen it was to prepare food. He would come with me and if the food was not immediately ready he would scream. I finally had to start cooking with the kitchen door closed. I was doused in sweat by the end it got so hot. There were few foods he would not eat, chicken was one. But of course we were feeding him Russian food so he was used to the smells and tastes.
On the flight home he went almost the entire time without eating. He ate the ice cream, some noodles and maybe a cracker or 2. He didn't eat in Moscow except some eggs and yogurt. In Zurich he refused the french fries we gave him. He finally ate fries from McD's upon arrival in the good ol' USA.
Since coming home we have had our fair share of food issues. It began with the refusal to eat any meat. He would spit out everything we gave him. He still didn't demand food. We moved from spitting out food to throwing food. This is where I lost it. 2 1/2 days he went without eating once. I even tried bottle feeding him. I finally resorted to feeding him myself. I did that for 3 weeks and it worked. After the first of the year I started letting him feed himself again. But, I bought the suction cup bowls and plates so I could hold onto the bottom and he had less of a chance of ripping it out of my hand and hucking it at my face. He also just recently started having milk or juice in an open container again. For almost a month and a half it was a sippy cup only. Now we have gotten to the point where he doesn't need me to hold the bowl anymore.
What am I feeding him? He eats what we eat. For dinner we had crab wontons last night. He loves those. He's had white chili, red chili, Moroccan Chicken, Chicken pot pie, and nearly everything we eat.
What we discovered was the meat thing was a texture issue. The food he was served in the orphanage was mashed and had no texture. He didn't have to chew. I give him things like apples and *gasp* carrots, chips, crackers, and other crunchy things to work on the chewing, but I chop the meat. I mix meat in with rice or potatoes and he happily eats it. He loves fried rice, but is less thrilled about potatoes these days. Mac n' Cheese is still a staple. Oatmeal or Cream of Wheat and yogurt are our standby breakfast foods, but he will get scrambled eggs or cottage cheese fritters on occasion.
We are working through food issues. Ours are different than some and not exactly what I expected, but from my observations of orphanage mealtime behavior it helped me know what I might expect. We still have the occasional screams if he asks for food 5 minutes before meal time and we tell him no, but for the most part it is getting better.