Zoe is really getting back to her old self -- weaning is psychologically stressful and can make kids needy and discombobulated.  She was "pretty much a train wreck there for awhile," says Shannin.  "She just wanted to read books for a good month or so.  She didn't play with toys.  She's been back to playing for two or three weeks now and has been really happy."  It didn't help that Zoe began cutting all her eye teeth and two molars at once after she began eating.  (This happened to Heath too -- the mouth says 'Hey, we need choppers, STAT!")  Zoe is back to babbling, playing, crawling and cruising in between eating turkey and cheese sandwiches, quesadillas from the drive-through, string cheese, pizza, scrambled eggs with heavy cream,  french toast, whole cupcakes, and whatever is on the kids' menu when the family goes out.  Which is easy to do, since Zoe doesn't vomit anymore.  Ever.    

Life is becoming so ordinary, Shannin is returning to her former passion for the first time since Zoe's birth: costume design!  A former professional costumer in L.A., Shannin will oufit an army of Von Trapps for the Sound of Music  on Bainbridge Island this winter!   "We are just being a normal family," she said, "which we've never been able to do.  It's very special to be at that point."  

Because she is still adding a range of healthy foods to her diet, Zoe continues to picnic with her friends at Holly Ridge, where she recently accomplished a first:  chewing and swallowing each of eight foods on her plate! 

Sweet Caroline too has become a triumphant eater!!!


A gentle soul with a precious, impish smile, Caroline was tube fed from eight weeks of age, when she contracted respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).  She was already struggling to eat due to a VSD, a hole the size of a quarter between the ventricles of her heart.  The added burden of a dangerous respiratory illness made her too weak to carry on eating.  An uncomfortable nasogastric feeding tube and other hospital traumas "put her over the edge" as Leslie says, and Caroline became 100% tube dependent. By the time she had recovered from surgery to repair her heart last summer (during which the hospital suffered a power outage! Thank goodness for backup generators....), all interest in food seemed to be gone. 

Perhaps because Caroline was nauseous and not hungry, she did not progress beyond food-refusal in feeding therapy, but in spring began to explore touching and tasting food "in secret" with her babysitter, Jillia, who employed a zero-pressure approach to playing with food.  Guided by Leslie, Jillia always asked Caroline's permission when offering food or engaging in games like face-painting with food.  If Caroline indicated, "No," then her wishes were respected.  Like Heath and his other tube-fed friends, Caroline was caught between two warring impulses -- self-protection and the urge to eat -- but with this gentle therapeutic approach she began to let down her guard and make progress in tasting.


When I met Leslie last fall, Caroline was vomiting up to 15 times daily, from reflux as well as tube-related discomfort.  Heath was vomiting up to 8 times a day.  Leslie and I were bleary-eyed, soldiering on in sweatpants and determined to find a way out of the tube-feeding trenches.  We soon learned how to add blenderized "real" food like vegetables and meat to the tube diet, which helped calm our kids' uncomfortable tummies.  Since then, we have laughed through the ups and downs and celebrated so many milestones.  During Heath's wean, Caroline's sweet, serene presence was a real gift at Baby Picnic.  She was already drinking tw0 or three ounces daily and tasting a variety of foods, so she was a fearless pioneer compared to the other kids! 

After watching Heath, Kai, and Rosie became eaters, Leslie knew she wanted to give Caroline a chance.  A speech-language pathologist herself, she did lots of research and thought hard about the best way for their family to approach a wean.  Caroline had endured so much, as had Leslie and her husband Mike.  If it was possible for Caroline to make her breakthrough without going to zero calories and dehydration, then they wanted to try that first.  Since Caroline was already an enthusiastic taster, a nudge might be all she needed.  Markus Wilken, the German psychologist who helped Heath, observed Caroline carefully at picnics and encouraged Leslie: "I think Caroline really wants to eat. She just needs to feel hungry."