Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Gluten-Free Bracket

During the month of March in my house, it is hard to find a flat surface or a table that doesn’t have a printed out bracket on it. We are college basketball fans and every March, Madness is alive and kicking for us as we cheer for teams that we don’t know and watch games that we never would watch during the regular season for the sake of how each will affect our selections. I’ll admit, we go pretty hardcore. Cam is in a bracket pool with boys from his class. My wife is part of one for her work. Our immediate family has our own pool where the winner gets to choose what we are having for dinner one night. We even filled out brackets for six of the tournament championships that happened a week before what most consider March Madness so we could get in some extra practice. Every night produces jubilation or heartbreak and every morning consists of logging in and checking the standings. Yes, we’re bracket-junkies.

Last night, after a long evening of watching the tournament and seeing the teams that I needed to win fail miserably, sleep escaped me. During these bouts with insomnia, my mind races and thoughts fly in and out of my head until I eventually doze off. I started thinking about this blog and how I felt it was time for some more feedback from Cam when is comes to the foods that he enjoys. He participated in one earlier post about his favorite pizzas but he does eat more than that (I promise). My thoughts must have also still been on the basketball games as the crazy amalgam that became the idea for this blog post popped into my head from out of nowhere. With this in mind, I present to you the first annual Gluten-Free Food Bracket sponsored by CeliacTeenDad! This is just for pure fun so please, no wagering.

Here’s how this works. Since the March Madness tournament is now in the Elite 8, I selected 8 foods that Cam has had more than once and put them into four categories. These categories are Breakfast, Fried, Starches and Pizza. The winners of Breakfast and Fried will meet in the 2nd round and then take on the winners between Bread and Pizza in the championship. How are the winners selected you may ask? Advancement in this tournament is based solely on the knee-jerk reaction of a 12 year old celiac. Without any prior knowledge on his behalf, I will read to him the two foods and ask him which one he likes better and why. I will paraphrase his answer below along with the food that he selected. At the end, a champion will be named. No, there are no trophies or banners that will be hung from the rafters after the winner is declared but the food will hold the title of gluten-free favorite for Cam until another worthy contender is found. Without further ado, let’s start with the Breakfast portion of our bracket.

Breakfast : Simple Truth Homestyle Gluten-Free Waffles vs. Kinnikinnick Chocolate Dipped Donuts

Winner: Kinnikinnick Chocolate Dipped Donuts

Cam Commentary: After a long deliberation consisting of deep breaths and a small moan, “The donuts because they are easier to make and an enjoyable treat in the morning.”

 

Fried: Homemade Corn Dogs vs. Perdue Simply Smart Chicken Breast Tenders

Winner: Perdue Chicken Tenders

Cam Commentary: “I don’t know. I mean I know which one but I don’t have a reason. I’m not sure why? Maybe because they fill you up more”

 

Starches: Homemade White Sandwich Bread vs. Mom’s Homemade Mashed Potatoes (in my opinion, the number 1 seed)

Winner: Mom’s Homemade Mashed Potatoes

Cam Commentary: (Squirming) “Mashed potatoes because they’ve always been my favorite and I’ll always eat any type of potatoes. And, when they’re buttery and warm, they’re delicious.”

 

Pizzas:  Donato’s Gluten Free Pepperoni Pizza vs. California Pizza Kitchen Gluten Free Pepperoni and Cheese

Winner:  California Pizza Kitchen Gluten Free Pepperoni & Cheese

Cam Commentary: “Oh no.” (closes his eyes, bows his head and thinks). “California Pizza Kitchen Pepperoni because it’s a treat but when we get it the crust is more crunchier and tastes more like a regular pizza.”

 

To the second round!

1st Semi-Final:  Kinnikinnick’s Chocolate Dipped Donuts vs Perdue Chicken Tenders

Winner:  Perdue Simply Smart Chicken Tenders

Cam Commentary: (Scratches his head) “Perdue Chicken Tenders just because I like chicken tenders better.” (Sorry Kinnikinnick)

 

2nd Semi-Final: Mom’s Homemade Mashed Potatoes vs. California Pizza Kitchen Gluten Free Pepperoni and Cheese

Winner: Mom’s Homemade Mashed Potatoes

Cam Commentary: “I love them both. California Pizza Kitchen is one of my favorites but there’s nothing better than homemade mashed potatoes” Note: The boy is half Irish.

 

The Final Two!

Championship:  Perdue’s Simply Smart Chicken Breast Tenders vs. Mom’s Homemade Mashed Potatoes

Winner: Mom’s Homemade Mashed Potatoes

Cam Commentary: “This is actually tough and fun. Can I say both in one meal?” (I answer “no”). “Ok, there’s not a clear favorite but mashed potatoes. I don’t know why. Just because they’re mashed potatoes.”

So there you have it. Nothing beats a good old-fashioned, homemade serving of mashed potatoes in my son’s mind. I’ll be interested to see if a contender emerges as we continue trying gluten free foods and as his palate changes. But for now, Mom rules.

 

 

 

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Acts of Random Kindness

Evan_Almighty_Ark

One of my daughter’s favorite movies is “Evan Almighty”. I thought about this movie when reading the news this week concerning the backlash over the upcoming “Noah” movie and it’s perceived inaccuracies. If you haven’t seen it, “Evan Almighty” is a light-hearted family film that follows the main character as he steps outside of his comfort zone and builds an ark after speaking with God. The lesson that the movie teaches is that you can’t save the world or change everything in one, single swoop. The main character learns, with some divine guidance, that saving the world takes one “Act of Random Kindness” (or ARK) at a time. It’s a good lesson to keep in mind when teaching the benefits of patience to my children, not to mention one that I keep in mind through my own personal tribulations.

Sometimes it is hard to find any kindness when looking around social media outlets and blogs. It seems that not speaking with someone face to face and hiding behind a computer generated persona has provided the green light for a total absence of decorum and respect. A perfect example of this is displayed for comedic value on the Jimmy Kimmel late night show in a segment called “Mean Tweets”. Celebrities are filmed reading derogatory tweets that have been written about them by anyone with a Twitter account. You can find several of these on You Tube but be warned that it is NSFW (not safe for work) material.  While most of the celebrities take the comments with a grain of salt, you can see genuine pain on some of their faces as they question why someone that they have never met would write something so hateful about them. By no means am I sticking up for celebrities as they too are guilty of spreading misconstrued information for the sake of causing their statement to go viral and bring more attention to themselves. There have been a couple of examples of these celebrity statements that have raised the tempers and concerns of the gluten-free community in the past few months. First, Rachel Ray proclaimed on a talk show that gluten-free was a fad. Recently, Dr. Oz during an interview stated that gluten-free was a scam. Arguments of how these statements are harmful for the validity of the gluten-free movement filled the message boards, only to be counter-argued by supporters of these celebrities stating that their statements were misinterpreted and taken out of context. Honestly, it got quite nasty. I understand that everyone has an opinion but when did it become o.k. to dismiss kindness and respect to get your point across? In our situation, and likely the situation of many involved in the gluten-free community, understanding and kindness are hard to come by. What some dismiss as a trendy lifestyle choice is a matter of life and death for my kid and others who need to be gluten-free. The recognition of the disease is still fairly new and just now are we seeing the looks of acknowledgement replacing the stares of incomprehension when we say that Cam is celiac. We cherish when an Act of Random Kindness presents itself as it did to us this past Saturday.

As I mentioned in my last blog entry, we attended a family get-together last weekend to celebrate lives, young and old. The whole experience had a “play-it-by-ear” feel to it, as not much was planned outside of all of us being in the same town at the same time. So, when it came to finding a restaurant that could host 11 people with various ailments (celiac, hard of hearing, etc.) in short notice, my hopes did not hold much optimism. It was decided that Italian was the style of choice for the evening and a favorite location from past dining experiences was selected. Safe to say, Cam wasn’t too excited about the pick. He loves Italian food but never had we found a quality gluten-free menu at a small, non-chain establishment. Add to this that his celiac journey started in this same town and I could see the reasoning for his trepidation. I called the restaurant to confirm that they had a gluten free menu. The positive was that the person that I spoke with said that they did have gluten free selections and assured me that this food was prepared in a dedicated kitchen. The negative was that they were booked for the evening. After some pleading, I was able to speak with the manager who found a way to reserve a time for us and accommodate our needs. And, wow, did they ever accommodate the needs of this family. First, we were put into a private dining area that was quiet and allowed for everyone to participate in the conversation. They did this with only three hours of notice. Second, our waiter was the best. Once he found out that Cam was a celiac, he brought out a gluten free menu for him and answered his questions. He even suggested that he save room for the flourless chocolate cake, pointing out this one gluten free desert option that they had available. When dessert came and no one else was ordering, the waiter brought the chocolate cake in one “to go” container along with an accompanying side of ice cream for the road. Did he need to do this? No. Could the restaurant have said that it was too difficult for them to serve us as they needed the room for an event later? Yes. Will this night displaying numerous “acts of random kindness” stay in our memories for a lifetime? Definitely.

It is these days and these moments that I look forward to as we move forward with Cam’s journey. I already know of several adventures that will be taking place this upcoming month that are all results of someone’s kindness and generosity towards us as we learn this new lifestyle. I can’t wait for these moments to happen and to have the opportunity to share these times with you. I think that you will be as moved as I am with the kindness that can still be found in this world.

Back to the Beginning

Like many people, I love a good mystery. Whether it be an attention-grabbing yarn weaved by a talented storyteller or a well-crafted tale on the silver screen, mysteries often have many of the same, satisfying components.  You have the hero / detective who is trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle to solve the crime. There is usually one main clue that breaks the case open and ties in all of the leads and brings into focus for the hero and the audience the answer to “whodunit”. And, almost always, there is a time when the story returns to “the scene of the crime”. I wouldn’t call any part of my personal life a mystery and there have definitely been no crimes committed but this coming weekend, I do consider myself returning to the “scene” that provided us the main clue in answering the question of what was bothering my son. I briefly touched on this “discovery” in my very first blog that I posted several months ago. My children are very lucky to have three great-grandparents still alive and thriving in their 90s.  My wife’s grandparents, at 97 and 93, are still going strong and living independently in the same town that she grew up in. Not able to travel on their own, we make it a point to go and visit them every four to six months. It was during our visit last September that we had the night that I’ll always associate with turning point in our family’s and my son’s life.

Cam had been going through various bouts of stomach related problems for almost three months. We had visited his doctor several times over the summer and had a variety of tests completed with no definitive answers (no testing assigned was a blood marker test). We went to a specialist and was prescribed probiotics with a fill cost close to $500. We purchased a generic version which had limited success but we were never convinced as parents that a pill was going to be the answer to his problems (in hindsight, money well saved). We kept a limited food diary but our untrained eyes never discovered a pattern that pointed to gluten as the prime suspect. Every time that he had an episode, we were back to square one. So, with the mystery still unsolved , we ventured on our road trip.

On our journey, which I can now almost drive in my sleep, we have a designated stop at the halfway point. At this stop on this particular trip, Cam had a sausage biscuit for breakfast. Once we arrived in town, we stopped and picked up lunch before checking into our hotel. For lunch, Cam had a chicken sandwich. Dinner that evening consisted of three more types of bread. As many of you know, as a parent you have an instinct that kicks in when there is something wrong with your child. When our kids were babies, I was the one who would hear them wake up in the middle of the night. It could have been just a whimper but something in my head constantly kept me in tune with their needs. So, on that night in the hotel room when I woke up at 4:00 in the morning, I knew something was wrong. The light was on in the bathroom so I got up and lightly knocked on the door. When I saw Cam’s face, I knew he was hurting. He filled me in on how he felt and what had occurred before I woke up (I guess my instincts aren’t as sharp as they were when he was younger). I had him try to rest with my wife and I in our bed but laying down only made his pains worse. After a ten minute attempt at distraction, it was back to the bathroom. The next 30 minutes of sitting on the cold floor were not for the faint of stomach but through tears, hand-holding and support, the pain passed and he practically collapsed in his bed from exhaustion for the rest of the night.

That evening, I promised Cam that I would make his “nightmare” stop but looking back on it now, I realize that I was clueless as to how to make that happen. The next day, thinking that bread had something to do with his issues, I still allowed him to have half of a sandwich bun for lunch. I actually thought that this would help. I had never heard of cross-contamination and had no idea how many food products were causing my son’s body to attack itself. How quickly things have changed. We approach this trip to visit Cam’s great-grandparents with an entirely new perspective. Six months of immersing ourselves into the world of Celiac disease and gluten-free options, we feel we are ready as we can be. We know the extensive efforts that need to be taken with his foods and have pre-planned an entire, long weekend’s worth of menus, snacks and drinks. We return with our own silverware and plates to avoid possible residue contamination. We have looked up restaurant options and have back-up itineraries just in case his needs can’t be met. We have even been bold enough to book our room at the same hotel; the scene of the “crime” and a memory that will not go away any time soon. Admittedly, Cam is a little nervous, and rightfully so. But, if anything does happen, he knows that six months has provided us with more than enough experience to solve any mysteries that come our way.