Today was Noelle's very first day staying at school for lunch! Now to most parents, this is pretty normal. You pack a cheese sandwich, a baggie of crackers, a pear, a juice box, and a cookie into their Shrek lunch box- send them to school and assume that most of what you packed will be eaten (if not by your child, then by someone else's kid who bartered for it.) It seems simple. We, however, are not "most parents." It took us, along with the school, three weeks to plan and prep for Noelle's integration into the lunch room. Her occupational therapist had to come and asses the school and make recommendations on what equipment the school needed to get to accommodate Noelle's dining needs. Then the school had to put in a request, wait for confirmation, and then get everything: think little chair with a built in booster seat and strap to keep her sitting, a table to go with the chair, a heavy wooden tray and plastic bowl of contrasting colors so that Noelle can see and differentiate between the two, large bibs in neutral colors (we didn't want babyish ones...not that Noelle gives a shit), and having Noelle's E.A being re-certified in first aid. Noelle does not bite or chew her food or drink anything; we're used to it now. She eats everything that we do, we just have to make sure everything is cut up small or mashed a little bit, and we introduce her liquids through her food. The biggest worry is choking. Both Nick and I have had to perform the Heimlich maneuver on her [Nick is a former volunteer firefighter so he knew it already. I learned on the fly out of sheer panic and terror...] So we cannot rely on the lunch box staples such sandwiches, crackers, cheese, etc...her meals will be pastas, goulashes, Shepperd's pie, soups, meatloaf...stuff like that. Paired with nutty apple sauces, pudding, fruit laden yogurt, and/or thick smoothies. Equipment: check! Menu: check!
I went to the school at lunch time today to show them how we do things at meal time and tricks we use with Noelle. Apparently the adults at her school are not idiots, and I had nothing new to teach them. But the lunch date was not a waste of time. I love seeing Noelle with all her little friends. They were sooo excited that Noelle was staying for lunch and recess- it was hilarious. They were yelling and high-fiving each other and fighting to see who got to sit near her. The teacher informed me that they were going to make a rotating schedule of who gets to sit at Noelle's table every day to eat lunch with her. My face hurt when I left from smiling; these kids are adorable and amazing. Noelle ate her lunch, stayed for recess and took her van home at noon. She was fast asleep when I opened the van door to take her out- she continued snoring as I carried her upstairs to bed and napped straight through until supper time.
I'm feeling very blessed and appreciative to be able to celebrate and bask in these simple milestones that at one time we feared we would never know with Noelle. Eating lunch at school by herself with some friends...check!