As we enter the fresh reality of having a child who actually eats, we have uncovered freedom in many areas of our life, some that are more obviously substantial and others that could be perceived as seemingly insignificant, but for us are monumental. We no longer have to plan our days and our outings in four-hour increments to accommodate timely tube feedings. We are not consumed with the stress of running late, tube feeding Francesca in public, and covering someone else’s house, restaurant, office, or store in vomit (which sadly happened more times than I care to admit). We have ceased being paranoid about getting caught in a natural disaster (like a flash flood) and being faced with the potential of running out of enough tube feeding supplies to nourish our infant (which also unfortunately happened).

Instead, we have found the joy of grocery shopping, cooking, and exploring food together. Many of Francesca’s friends have joined us for our “play picnics” and from each of them Francesca has learned a little more about the value of food. Some of these lessons have been quite overt, as Francesca watches and then immediately mimics. Others have been more covert, as Francesca observes, processes, and then finally embraces something new, hours or days later. Sophia gets the honor of having been there for Francesca’s first breakthrough in trusting food. They played mommy and baby. Sophia handed Francesca snacks (pretzels, goldfish crackers, and cereal) and she finally decided to swallow. Maddy and Sophie introduced Francesca to ice cream. They spent an evening making homemade ice cream and decorating sundaes. Frankie did not try any that night, but the next day, ate six cones.

To help us explore our new freedom, Uncle Blake suggested we attend a Steelheads hockey game on Friday night. Rather than feeling consumed by my old fear of tube feeding Francesca in public and suffering while she threw-up all over the person in front of us, I was just a little hesitant that her new skill of eating might not be honed enough for the social world. We went anyway. The highlight for Francesca was meeting Blue the Bear (the Steelheads’ mascot). She is still talking incessantly about how he gave her a high five, had a tail, wore a hat, skated on the ice, and had big toes. Amazingly, she could spot him anywhere in the stadium. During the moments where Blue was out of sight (but not out of mind), Francesca sat on our laps, eating Kix cereal out of a tea cup, like she had been doing it all of her life. Maybe the next time we go, she will even join the world of sports fans and eat a hot dog.

Aunt Kelly came to visit for the weekend and we spent Saturday showing her some of our favorite places. We browsed the aisles of the Boise Co-Op, admiring all of the lovely food. Francesca spent her time adding things to our cart, shoving Annie’s cheddar bunnies into her mouth, and making friends with everyone we saw. For lunch, we decided to go to the unique Donnie Mac’s Trailer Park Cuisine, a local, edgy burger joint. Both Francesca and Kelly were impressed with the decor of moving flamingos, brightly patterned couches, and old fashioned cars. As we reviewed the menu, it occurred to us that we actually had a reason to read the kids’ menu. After some consideration, we decided to order Francesca the miniature corn dogs with french fries. Even though she did not actually eat any of it, this was a hugely memorable meal for her parents.

For us, disbelief still lingers as we process the reality that Francesca eats: dried cranberries, sourdough toast with butter, chocolate covered gummy bears, cheddar bunnies, Elmo crackers, cheese, apples, peas, ice cream cones, plain butter, Chex mix, bananas, chocolate bear cookies, frosting, fruit loops, Kix, Cherrios, carrots, pear juice, pretzels, candy corn, raisins, cucumber, ranch dressing, grapes, and fruit leathers. For the first time in Francesca’s life, I rocked her at bed time (and nap time) while she enjoyed a sippy cup of (soy) milk. I tried not to cry tears of joy and disbelief in front of her while she willingly drank five ounces in one sitting, an unprecedented amount. Tonight, I put Francesca in her crib not only with a gummy bear, but also with a cup of milk. Our life is truly transforming into a life we had previously only dared to imagine.