The Marvelous Mr. Potato Head and Ice Cream

Potatoes.  They are fantastic and very versatile. In fact, I bet you thought of at least three different ways to eat them just now.  Let’s see, mashed, baked, and french fries.  Yep, the most common incarnations of the potato, all of which A detests with a passion.  Actually, she detests potatoes in pretty much any form, even soup.  I make a pretty good potato leek soup – I’m not bragging, it’s a fact since leftovers rarely last more than 2 days around here (I make a lot).  I thought that maybe, possibly she might go for soup.  Smooth texture, no chewing required, just swallow.  I even let her try it with a straw (hey – it works with yogurt!).  Sadly, no luck.  So that sound you just heard was my hope of getting her to eat veggies and other things by pureeing them into soup going splat.

Food has been tough recently.  A got past the teething thing (2yr molars = no fun) and I thought (silly me) that things might get a bit better without the sore mouth.  WRONG!  It seems like she’s more sensitive than ever.  Even peanut butter (one of her favorite foods) is giving her trouble most days.  Although, the one thing I am guaranteed that she will always eat is vanilla ice cream.  No, not chocolate, strawberry, or any strange flavor, just plain vanilla.  Ask A what she wants to eat and she runs to the ‘frig’,points up to the freezer, and says “Hiiii dere nella!”  She then proceeds to laugh, clap, and dance in a little circle.  It’s actually quite funny to see and hear.  Doesn’t matter the meal, she wants her vanilla.  Yes, I have to admit there have been times out of sheer desperation (i.e. – she hasn’t really eaten much of anything that day) when ice cream is part of her dinner.  Totally healthy? No, not at all.  But I have learned that sometimes you have to throw what’s accepted as unhealthy out the window and find a way to make it healthy.  Granted, I would not let her eat ice cream for every meal but I have learned that on really bad days a small amount with lunch or dinner encourages her to eat the rest of what’s offered to her (even if it is only a peanut butter and jelly sandwich).

Does this make her brother jealous?  You bet.  But he understands, in his own way, why we let her have ice cream as part of her meal instead of after.  In all that we have to go through with A, it can seem like G (her big brother) is getting slighted.  We try very hard not to treat A differently than you would treat a “normal” (i.e. – a child without special needs) 2 year old.  Sometimes it’s difficult though when she’s having a bad day and I am desperate to get her to eat something or to stop biting and hitting and banging her head on the floor or wall.  Strangely enough though G understands.  He came to me when A was having a particularly rough day several months back and I was feeling incredibly frustrated and helpless and worried that he would think I was ignoring him and told me, “It’s okay Mommy.  A just has sensory problems like I have allergies.  Not much you can do when it’s a bad day.”  I almost cried.  Sometimes kindergartners are smarter and more intuitive than a room full of adults, even on bad days.

Bad days.  Sometimes it seems like the week is nothing more than onelong bad day.  It can be almost impossible sometimes to tell what kind of day A is having or what is going to set her off.  Until I discovered the Mr. Potato Head-Sensory correlation.  Yes, Mr. Potato Head the toy.  I have not dressed up and named an actual potato for my daughter to play with in the hopes that she will eat a potato…yet.  Actually, what I discovered after watching her play with a potato head over several days is that the way she builds it reflects whats most sensitive that day.  We stumbled on a Mr. Potato Head Silly Suitcase in a thrift store with a ridiculously cheap price attached so we now have lots of eyes, noses, mouths, arms, and other parts for our potato head.

Now, A knows where all the parts (eyes, nose, mouth, etc) should “traditionally” go, but I noticed something funny one afternoon when she was playing with it.  She put nothing but ears all over the potato head.  That particular day she had been falling apart if there was any excess noise around her (i.e. – TV, music above a certain volume, toilet flushing, sink sprayer, loud car, you get the idea).  The next day it was the same thing.  The day after that she covered the potato head with arms.  That day she didn’t like being touched, hugged, or any other form of contact unless necessary.  Noticing a pattern here?  I was slowly beginning to see it myself (hey, blame lack of sleep – it makes things register slower).  How she built the potato head seemed to correlate to the sensory special of the day.  Covered in eyes?  Couldn’t handle too much visual input.  Ears?  Skip the loud music and redefine the phrase “I’m all ears.”  Mouths?  Be prepared for major food refusal.  Some days she builds it with all eyes then takes it apart and rebuilds it with all ears.  Those days are rather scary. Actually, any day that involves multiple Mr. Potato Head incarnations is scary.

I do have to say it’s getting easier though since I have learned to pay attention to little things like the Potato Head fashion of the hour and A is getting better at communicating with me, even if it’s not always verbal.  She is biting and hitting less and her tantrums are shorter, which is always good.  Hey, it’s been almost 2 months since she bit someone!  The progress we see now after a year of therapy gives me hope that by the time she transitions to school I may not have to be known as the parent of the class biter or something equally as unpleasant as that particular title.  Now if only potty training could be so easy!

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