One for you, one for me: feeding strategies 

There’s no doubt that Brenna’s tube wean has been a huge success, and that eating has become a bit of her love language. I think half of our conversations revolve around what she’s going to eat that day, and she’ll wake up asking what’s for dinner that night.

However, we hit age three, and picky came into play.

I could name at least a dozen different types of foods off the top of my head this very second that she loves and eats with no hesitation. But when it came to dinner time, the battle field would open up.

When we sat down to the table together as a family each night, we were faced with either this:
“If I drink long enough, maybe he’ll go away.”

Or this:“I can’t believe they’re trying to make me eat GRILLED CHEESE.”

Dinner time usually ended much too quickly because of fighting and frustration – and we would be left with trying to figure out if we should stand our ground (after all, we need to develop positive eating habits, treat our kids both the same, and let Brenna know that she doesn’t get special eating treatment) or if we should give (after all, she needs to eat, much more so than the average child).

So we called in our feeding therapist that graduated us 6 months ago for back-up.

And she helped us develop a dinner time strategy using “reward food.” One bite of dinner means Brenna gets one bite of her preferred food.

So now, we typically have a small bowl of summer sausage joining us at the dinner table. Brenna gets to choose her bite of dinner – usually one of three different options – and once she’s eaten that bite, she can have one bite of summer sausage. Once she decides she’s done with dinner, the “reward food” goes away too.

(Then at the very end, she can also choose to drink a high-calorie drink like Boost or Pediasure – which she will usually drink about half. It makes us feel better because it’s not her preferred choice, but she likes it and it adds a lot more calories on.)

This new strategy has turned our dinner time around. I won’t say that Brenna is gobbling up everything I place in front of her, but she’s eating SO much more than she ever has at dinner. The other night she polished off her applesauce and had some bites of chicken pot pie – which never would have happened prior to using “reward food.”

Our feeding therapist also suggested that for new foods, a quarter-sized serving size is appropriate for Brenna’s age – so I also now feel like her plate is less full and it looks less intimidating. Another good strategy.

She may not be as happy as when she gets chicken nuggets, but there is much more peace at the dinner table, not to mention better eating habits being developed!

If you subscribe to my email list, you can download a list of my favorite children’s books about differences and disabilities!

Follow me:  Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

Traveling with Special Needs, on the road

We are so lucky to have one of the best dermatologists we could imagine, and he has always encouraged us to do anything we “normally” would as a family, even if we have to plan extra or get creative.

One of those things is traveling.

Even though traveling can be challenging figuring out the logistics for Brenna’s skin care and working around the various weather conditions (we couldn’t believe how much the dry state of Colorado affected Brenna’s skin – we had to apply nearly twice the usual amount of Aquaphor!),  we are grateful for the chance to show our kids some other parts of the country and give them new experiences. Since Brenna’s first vacation two years ago, she’s now been to 11 states! We haven’t flown yet, but that’s coming next year.cIMG_3995

Here’s what I’ve learned about taking on the open road with two small kids and caring for a medical condition along the way…

1. Always know where the closest children’s hospital is. A physician we saw in Chicago made this comment to us after Brenna’s g-tube was place, and it was one of those obvious statements we had never considered before. We researched surrounding hospitals on Brenna’s first trip, and we actually had to stay overnight in a children’s hospital with Connor on last year’s vacation.

2. Alert your physicians/specialists and work out plan for contacting them after hours if necessary. We’ve called our pediatrician’s cell phone from the road, and we’ve text photos of Brenna’s skin to our dermatologist from the road – and coordinated a prescription to be picked up at a pharmacy at our next stop. Things always seem to pop up on vacation, but when you’re dealing with a serious medical condition, it’s really important to be able to contact your doctors.

3. Bring way more than you think you’ll need. If you have the luxury of traveling by road instead of plane, you can pack the trunk full of anything you think you might need. Of course, you can always purchase many things while on vacation, but if there are special products, prescription meds you use only occasionally, or specifically favorite foods, bring it all. That also goes for any extras, like a back-up g-tube or any other medical items.

4. If there are special accommodations that need to be made at a hotel, restaurant, theme park, etc., call ahead. Keep a clear record of the agreement of those accommodations and have a plan in place to carry them out if necessary. We haven’t had to do this yet, but I’m already anticipating some contact with the airline before our trip next year to the FIRST family conference in California.

5. Let it go. Care might not be the best that it is at home, and that’s OK. I think that “good enough” is much easier for traveling. We always look forward to a great bath after a trip, but Brenna’s skin has been fine when we let her enjoy vacation, even if it’s not at its absolute best.

6. Realize that it may be tiring, but very worth it. And I think traveling with small kids/special needs gets easier the more you do it. I thought our first vacation would be miserable, but the kids rode more than 5 hours without stopping and very little fussing, and the whole week was much less stressful than I had imagined. Practice with smaller, more frequent trips. I’m glad we had some 3-6 hours trips under our belt before we drove across the country last year.

cIMG_4057Do you love to travel with your family, even with the extra challenges of special health needs? What would you add to my list to make travel easier?

If you subscribe to my email list, you can download a list of my favorite children’s books about differences and disabilities!

Follow me:  Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

“An Extraordinary Purpose”: my guest post on (in)courage

20150720-Westlake-Beauty

I often hear the word “wrong” to describe my child.

“What’s wrong with her skin?”
“What’s wrong with her face?”
Or, simply, “What’s wrong with her?”

As it turns out, not looking like everyone else means that our daughter receives daily stares, pointing, comments and questions — questions about “what is wrong?”

So her skin appears different than most, and it doesn’t function like most. But wrong?

To be wrong is to be mistaken. And I don’t believe that mistakes happen with our awesome God.

Today, I have the honor of sharing a piece of our story over at the wonderful website (in)courage. Please go here to read my guest post!

If you’re here visiting from (in)courage, you can read more about our story here.

026

You can subscribe to my email list and download a list of my favorite children’s books about differences and disabilities! And to receive a daily email of encouragement from the writers at (in)courage, you can sign up for their email list here.

Follow me:  Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter