In the very few days since my last post, our girl has learned to clap her hands (more or less effectively...she still has to focus pretty hard when getting started, then she builds momentum) when she's accomplished something or excited about something, "give me five" to mommy and daddy when asked, play ball by bouncing a rubber ball back and forth with one or both of us, and (drumroll please) lick an icecream bar!!!!
Now, this last one may not seem like the most worthy of goals to most parents...but we've been working on it basically since we met QQ. I knew ahead of time that orphanage kids can have sensory issues (including major issues with food textures). It was also very clear that, with her wide cleft which had not been repaired in her early months, she was very, very guarded about what went in her mouth. This she made plain to us from the start, and it is a hard, fast rule she's maintained ever since. She wants to be in complete control of anything that goes between her lips. If you put a spoon (or teething buscuit, or piece of banana, or an-ny-thing) to her mouth, she instantly gags (long before it can even reach her tongue). She will eat anything I put in her smoothie (even things like spinach, broccoli and brussel sprouts which many kids wouldn't touch with a ten-foot-pole), but if there are chunks or fruit skins or strings of vegetable in evidence, if the smoothie is less-than-smooth, if the texture is out of her comfort zone for swallowing purposes, she will make a very expressive face and hand the bottle firmly back to me. It's plain as day that, as an infant, when she had to teach herself to swallow food without choking, she became very self-protective that way.
We have not pushed her hard on this front. The good part was that (with the exception of paper, which she does eat, always well and thoroughly masticated) she has never been in danger of choking on anything or swallowing anything dangerous.
We have experimented with her at regular intervals from the beginning, but haven't forced the issue. Honestly, I just can't get all that worked up about it. I know she'll try solid food when she's ready...and in the mean time, I'm willing to bet that very few 16-month-olds are getting as varied and nutritious a diet as ours. I mean, how many toddlers eat broccoli and spinach every day? For breakfast, she has mangoes, raspberries, blueberries, soy milk and Greek yogurt. What do I have to complain about? Frankly, I'm thrilled.
And, just as I anticipated, when she was ready, she started to experiment.
First, it was a tentative lick from the back of a baby spoon. You could see her struggling not to gag, but wanting to give it a try.
Then, the other day, as I was eating a vanilla icecream bar, she consented to have a lick or two. At first it was a struggle, but I could see in her face that she was warming to it (in the past, icecream has always elicited a look of pure disgust). After five or six licks, I found her actually grabbing my hand to pull it back to her mouth.
The following day, she still had to struggle with her gag reflex when I tried it again, but once she registered the taste, she let herself give in to temptation once again.
I see this as a positive step on the road to experimenting with foods of different textures and/or temperatures. I think she will be more willing to branch out.
I was also glad to see, btw, that she had no adverse reaction (that we could see) to the dairy product after that first serious icecream session. Her behavior remained sunny, and she did not have trouble sleeping. We've kept her on soy products with the exception of the yogurt up until now, just in case - like some Asian children - she has an intolerance to cow's milk.