Does it rain in Seattle? Does Buffalo get much snow in the winter? Is water WET? Here on Planet Josh a sillier question could not be asked. In fact, hold everything else and just give us the fries. Aside from Blue's Clues, the other big piece of Josh's world is his obsession with french fries. Specifically, fries that we obtain either via fast-food establishment or actual restaurant. Doesn't matter where we go, as long as there are fries available, he's good. Steak fries, curly fries, shoestrings, and everything in between, it's all the same to him. It is, in fact, all he will eat when we are anywhere but home and even at home now, potatoes in every form except mashed essentially comprise the bulk of his diet. When he is with me at the grocery store, he knows where the fries and other frozen potato entities are and will head straight there. I tell him to pick what he wants, he opens the freezer compartment door and with careful and quiet deliberation he will examine all of the options. When he has decided which brand and variety of potato he wants this week, he takes the package out of the freezer and puts it in the shopping cart. I will then go in and grab a couple more of what he's chosen so that we will have enough for a few days. My making them at home however, is a poor substitute for what he really wants which is to get them from somewhere else. When he asks for them (yes, that's the other counter) he means going somewhere else to get them. Which we can't and don't do every day, but we ultimately do quite often because of this. I think at this point the various fast-food outlets and restaurants we go to somewhat regularly are getting used to it. Drive-through isn't so much an issue though there is always the unspoken question in the voice of the employee taking the order, "is that really all you want?" It's the wait staff at restaurants that I feel obligated to provide some sort of explanation to when all we ever order for him is a big plate of fries.
It wasn't always like this. This is something that has developed over many years but is now at a point where it is fairly extreme. When he was little, he would eat whatever I was feeding Zach. Perfect! But after his official diagnosis his father and I decided that one of the things we would do would be to put him on a Gluten and Caseine free diet. This is something that at the time had just come on the scene as an intervention that seemed to help some children with autism. He happened to already be caseine free since he had a cow's milk allergy as a baby, so I just eliminated the gluten as well. Anyone who has tried this with their child, has Celiac disease or is simply gluten intolerant, knows this is not such a simple task. But at the time and for about 3 years, we did it. There was not a tremendous amount that I could get him to eat while he was on the diet so the variety of foods he would eat decreased significantly. When I tried taking him off the diet to see if it was really making a difference and discovered that it wasn't, I thought great! now he can get back to eating all the things he used to eat. Not so much, it turned out. Couldn't get him to eat things he had been eating before the diet and over the next several years, he systematically eliminated almost everything from his diet with the exception of things that come in boxes or bags (ie. cereals, crackers, cookies, chips - basically anything dry and crunchy) and potatoes. I am, as a parent and former health care professional, pretty horrified by his diet as is his father, who happens to be a pediatrician. But as Josh's mom, I know that I've tried. I know he simply won't eat otherwise (you can try to argue with me all you want about if it's all you are willing to give him, he WILL eat when he gets hungry, I'll tell you that you don't know Josh very well) and I also come back to the picking our battles concept I mentioned before. It's been the philosophy in our family for a long time that all we really want for Josh is for him to be happy. He lives in a world that he doesn't understand, that doesn't understand him, with so many obstacles, this is all I can give him. He does not have the ability to communicate with others, he cannot take care of his own day to day needs, he is not even toilet trained yet (an issue for another post... ). He will not grow up to function independently in any way, have a job, go to any kind of post-secondary schooling, or have relationships outside family and caregivers. So if eating various forms of potato and a lot of cereals and snack food makes him happy? So be it. Hey, he takes his Flintstones vitamin every day :P It may be hard for some of you to really get this, but all I can say is if he was your child, you would probably feel the same way. As a family we adapt. We can still go out with him, the only caveat is wherever we go, has to have fries. Fortunately, most places do. My mother, bless her heart, loves to remind me that a large percentage of people in Ireland survived on little else but potatoes until the big famine. Let's hope that doesn't happen here!
Potatoes are actually more nutritious than you might realize, and Josh is really quite healthy despite this one-track diet. His small stature is genetic - his big brother is also very small for his age. No, you cannot slip sweet potatoes or yams past him, he knows the difference. He is highly suspicious when it comes to his food. I have tried tempura, thinking that since he likes crunchy things, if I simply coated and fried other veggies and some meat he might like that. Nope. I can get him to eat bacon sometimes (hahaha, such a healthy alternative!) if I cook it so that it's really crunchy, but it usually requires a great deal of prompting and usually a bribe - he asks for something else, I tell him to eat his bacon first. This only works with bacon however, nothing else that I have tried so far. If I make chicken taquitos, he will eat the chicken filling ONLY if I remove it from the rolled corn shell (odd, since it's just like a giant Tostito wrapped around the filling) AND feed it to him myself... why, I have no idea. It's pretty strange, but then again this is Planet Josh.
It's really all about the fries though. He pretty much exists from day to day asking for them often and knowing that every couple of days we will in fact, hit that drive-through or go out to eat. If you follow this, and pay attention to the counter, you can usually tell when he's had some from somewhere other than my kitchen as the requests will fall off for a bit (not counting the time is is at school Mon-Fri). But they will pick up again, they always do. He is Josh. It's what he does.