Calvin has never sat down for a meal with us. Ever since he began eating solid food he’s been spoon-fed which requires our complete attention and, for one reason or another, he’s never been able to eat the same foods we eat. Calvin can manage finger foods, but we must dole out the morsels one by one, otherwise he’s liable to put an entire handful of blueberries into his mouth all at once and choke. And he can't use a spoon by himself.

For the past four years he has been on a couple of special diets aimed at curbing his seizures, and though we saw an improvement in his persistent crying we haven’t seen a reduction in seizures. However, for fear of increasing seizures, plus our need to change only one variable at a time—at this point being his seizure meds—Calvin remains on the diet.

Every food Calvin eats is weighed on a scale to the tenth of a gram, which is equivalent to about one drop of olive oil. I refer to a grease-stained, water-marked print-out of the meals I’ve created online. His dietitian gives me precise goals for fat, carbs, protein, calories and ratio of fat to carb/protein.

First, for Calvin’s Omega-3s, I pierce two fish-oil gels with a paring knife and squeeze the contents into a small bowl that has been zeroed-out on the scale. I top off the oil totals with olive oil. Next I add yogurt, a particular high-fat Greek strained yogurt for which I scour nearby stores buying six or seven tubs at a time just to keep us in stock. Stevia, a carb-free sweetener, gets sprinkled into his yogurt then it’s all stirred into a creamy emulsion. Every meal includes this yogurt-oil mixture, spoonfuls into which I put his various medications.

For dinner Calvin almost always eats chicken with avocado and fruit. Again, I zero the scale, chop and weigh the pre-cooked chicken thighs, chop and weight the avocado then add the mayonnaise and warm it in the microwave for fifteen seconds. Lastly, I wash and chop strawberries into finger food-sized pieces and, voilà! I’m done. Except, of course, for his meds.

Twice a day Calvin gets a compound of potassium citrate to prevent metabolic acidosis and kidney stones while on the diet. I shake the clear red bottle vigorously, invert it and draw up the fluid into a 5ml syringe. The pink liquid goes into the water he drinks out of a baby bottle or sippy cup. He also gets his seizure medicines twice a day. The first, a cousin of Valium, is a small white round scored pill. I carefully mount it on the razor blade inside the pill cutter, close it carefully and tap until the pill breaks. He takes one and a half of these. The second is a new anticonvulsant. He gets two and a half of these oval salmon-colored gems.

So, on the rare occasion that the three of us go to a deli or a diner (we pretty much have to bypass any other type of restaurant except a drive-in) Calvin sits in the high-chair, drinks his water and plays with toys while we eat, having already had, or about to have, his precisely calculated and weighed meal at home.

I dream of one day taking Calvin to a restaurant for dinner, ordering burgers, fries and chocolate malts all around, leisurely enjoying the atmosphere while crayon coloring lobsters and maps of the United States printed on thin scalloped-edged paper placemats. 

photo by Michael Kolster

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