I finally have a few minutes to address some of the Frequently Asked Questions that I've received!
The top question seems to be:
Some of your kids are on special diets. What do they eat, and how many different meals do you make each day?
Well... here's my attempt to answer that question :) And at the same time, to update on the kids names and ages! LOL
I'll start with the youngest and work on up.
Lynae is 2 and eats pretty much a normal diet. Because of her small size and small appetite, we supplement with some Pediasure. She's also on soy milk, though she gets other milk products (like cheese and yogurt). Straight milk upsets her stomach, though.
Micah is 5 and doesn't have any food restrictions, however he can't chew well, so he eats only soft-solids and very small pieces. His diet is mostly the consistency of spaghetti o's, though it's much more varied than that. Almost anything can get put into a blender and made to be a chunky consistency! He also is on only thickened liquids, so he can't have any liquids that haven't had thickener or a baby oatmeal or something like that added to them. If he does get thin liquid, he aspirates and often ends up with pneumonia. So... that's a biggie. With food that's not prepped correctly, he'll choke but 'recovers' well, thankfully!
James is 5 and is allergic to Casein. It's the protein in milk and makes him throw up. He just started on purees and soft solids on a very regular basis after a year of really struggling with him throwing up, finding out if he had anatomical differences inside (he doesn't!) and then learning that he is allergic to the casein. James gets most of his calories and nutrients through a liquid blended diet now, but he does eat all kinds of stuff... just in smaller quantities than 'normal'. I'll put some ingredients below that we use to make his 'smoothies' :). James needs his liquids slightly thickened to avoid choking as well as to keep it from leaking through his g-tube (which is not currently in use... he has a 'mini' button).
Brianna is 5 and eats just about everything, however she's a tiny eater as well. She probably has more freedoms in what she eats than she should, simply because there ARE so many diets going already, that it's easy to adapt stuff to make it a little more "Brianna friendly" in order to encourage her to eat more and get the much needed calories.
Wesley is 6 and loves to eat! Unfortunately, due to his spasticity it's very difficult for him to chew, so in the time that everyone else eats a full meal, Wes will eat 3 bites of a hot dog, or one chicken nugget. He now is able to self-feed!! Which is helpful and he is starting to eat a bit more that way since he can get another bite even if I'm not right there waiting to feed it to him. However, he's still very small! He gets most of his calories through a liquid blended 'smoothie' just like James. Wesley requires slightly thickened liquids or a small diameter straw for him to be able to control liquids well. He otherwise coughs and sputters, though he clears it well. We use infant oatmeal to thicken some of his drinks.
Kristopher is 7 and eats any and everything, though he does occasionally complain :).
Emma is 8 and eats very well. She will pick the vegetables out of ANY meal, no matter how mixed in they are. She also doesn't handle bread well. She'll take large bites, not chew it, and choke. When I say choke, I mean Heimlich maneuver, blind scoop, and scare you with 5 minutes of difficult breathing before we get it back up... SO, no soft bread for Emma unless it's cut into small pieces and monitored closely. She does better with 'crusty' bread or tortilla type breads. We also blend some veggies and 'sneak' them in to her meals. Adding a can of peas to a jar of spaghetti sauce, or corn to macaroni and cheese is easy if it's blended up smooth!
Aleksa is 8 and eats VERY well! She doesn't have a "stop" button yet, and will eat and eat and eat. This is where it makes things interesting with our family, since some kids we are constantly pushing food on to, and others we have to monitor. Because of Aleksa's past, she thinks that if someone else is eating and she isn't, that it is punishment. She will stand and cry, tears and all, if someone else is offered to finish the rest of their lunch after nap time and she isn't given a snack as well. Or if she finishes before others, and they get their 'seconds' ten minutes after her seconds... it's as if she's being deprived. She would literally sit at the table and eat all day every day if allowed. And drink... We recently had quite a difficult time going to my parents' church festival because people were eating in the food tent the entire time. Others were walking around with snow cones and giant lollipops. To her, she was missing out, even though we purposefully ate once we arrived so she would 'have her turn'. She literally cried the ENTIRE time we were at the festival, so anxious that everyone else was eating and she wasn't. Aleksa can eat anything, and will eat everything except has a tendency to avoid raw vegetables. We have many hurdles to jump with Aleksa in the food department, but it's because of connections, and "baggage" that she has related to food which we will need to overcome together.
And... that's our crew :)
As for the smoothies, here is one idea of what we'd put together and another set of 'substitutions' we may also use: (*Note, we make most of the smoothies dairy free so they are casein free for James, however there are some ingredients we use to occasionally make one that has dairy for Wes)
1 cup cocoanut milk
1 T cocoanut oil
4 T olive oil
2 whole bananas or 1.5 cups applesauce
1 can of green beans, peas, asparagus, carrots, zucchini, sweet potatoes, or other soft veggie
2 cups soy milk
1 cup oatmeal
We will also use whole milk yogurt, whole milk cottage cheese, and just... whole milk. I choose to use canned veggies right now because they are already soft and easily blended into a very pureed texture that will make it through the small openings in the cup/straw that the boys use. I also will substitute other fruit, such as pureed berries, or even canned fruit that was originally packed in light syrup, like peaches or pears. I started off using baby food that is already pureed for fruits and veggies, but both the cost and the annoyance of opening 6 packets of babyfood for each blender full made us decide to switch to canned veggies, at least for the time being. I also add seasoned bread crumbs (high in calories!), instant potato flakes, or butter to a smoothie for consistency, flavor, or calories.
In general, I need to make 2 blenders full each day, and generally I make them at the same time. Each of the boys takes 32 ounces of smoothie to school and we use 'leftovers' as well as fresh for dinner.
Since James cannot have Casein, he cannot have Pediasure. He also doesn't do well with the high sugar content in pre-packaged drinks, so even the soy varieties we don't buy for him. He is 100% on a blended diet with supplemental feedings to try to teach him to 'eat normally'.
Wesley, however, CAN have Pediasure, we just decided that since we were doing a blended diet for James, we wanted to do it for both of the boys that would benefit from it. Wesley does occasionally get Strawberry Pediasure, and he LIKES it, so it is almost a treat to him if I didn't make enough blended food for the day :).
There's our "dining plan"! It keeps things interesting around here for sure, but once we got in to the routine of things, it really isn't as "much" as it seems to be when it's all listed out :)