Monthly Archives: May 2014

Green is Good

If you’re an 80’s kid like I am, you know who Gordon Gekko is. Michael Douglas’s performance as a conniving, billionaire tycoon in the movie Wall Street is best known for a speech made during the film that included the line “Greed is good”. It kind of became the mantra for business people during the decade; take what you can when you can. I don’t agree with this motto, as I feel you need to also give as much (if not more so) as you take, but I can’t help to think of the slicked back hair and expensive suits of Mr. Gekko when I hear the word “greed”. It’s undeniably a part of those formative years for me.

To play on these words, my wife and I have been continuing to find ways for Cam to expand his palate and to convince him that “green” is good. It’s hard for me to preach to him about the benefits of fruits and vegetables since I was a very picky eater growing up. Green was not my favorite color to see on the dinner plate either but I did eat more fruits and vegetables than he is currently willing to try. My tastes developed as I grew older and I now enjoy many foods that I wouldn’t touch as recently as 10 years ago (still going to say no to that broccoli though). My hope is that Cam’s diet will also change as he gets older, as I’m sure that it will. But his Celiac has made this need for taste development a little more urgent. Many Celiac patients suffer from vitamin deficiencies due to their lack in ability to absorb nutrients. Common nutrient deficiencies include iron, calcium, vitamin D and zinc. Iron is the most common deficiency due to the absent of wheat flours, which are fortified with this nutrient but obviously absent from what a Celiac can eat. These deficiencies can be replenished with supplements (which Cam does take) but we also need to infuse different sources of these nutrients into his diet. Thus, we have gone to the garden for help.

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My wife’s parents have always had a garden. A couple of years ago, due to the presence of hungry wildlife and a need for easier maintenance, they transformed their garden into a series of raised beds surrounded by rabbit and deer-proof fencing. In exchange for helping to tend to the garden, we get a raised bed to plant whatever we want. This has been a great learning experience for the kids as we encourage them to get involved and help maintain our bed. In turn, they get to see the process and time that it takes for these foods to grow (it gives you a whole new respect to the work that our farmers do around the world every day). Last year, we asked both of our kids what they wanted to plant and grow for our family’s personal consumption. Our goal was to have them choose something healthy and experience the flavors that can come from non-processed foods. My daughter wanted carrots and strawberries. My wife and I planted peas, beets (which was our most plentiful crop) and peppers. Cam opted for potatoes. Really? Potatoes? This was supposed to be a way to get more greens into our diet, not a method to produce more of what was already a menu staple in our house. We didn’t want to discourage him from the garden idea though so we purchased and planted potatoes. In hindsight, they did produce a nice yield and generated a level of excitement from him but I still feel that somehow, he outsmarted me.

So this year, we return to the garden for round 2. We picked up 1/2 a bed since my daughter’s strawberries were still going strong in last year’s spot. Finally getting a sunny day, we went out yesterday to tend to what we have already planted. The peas are looking good. The carrots are coming in and we are just beginning to see sprouts on the cantaloupe and watermelons. We didn’t plant potatoes this year but Cam was still a big help, assisting his grandfather in planting a slew of tomatoes and packets of green beans. I was impressed with his work and thinking that, this year, maybe he will want to enjoy the fruits of his labor (no pun intended). Last year, Celiac was not a part of his daily being and it’s only a matter of time for him to discover that with fruits and vegetables, supplementing his diet both at home and at restaurants is going to be a whole lot easier. His choices will multiply and the nutrients he is missing will be regained. Does that mean that he’s going to be happy with this year’s garden yield? Honestly, probably not. But, who knows? He has outsmarted me before with potatoes. Maybe this year, he surprises me with greens.

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The Social Food Network

I want you to do an experiment the next time that you are in a restaurant. At some point during your meal, stop and take a look at the other patrons around you. How many of them are eating alone? Probably not many. Now, for the ones who are there with friends, families, business consultants, etc., how many of them are looking at their mobile device and not at the person who is sitting directly across from them? I bet the number is much higher than those patrons who are there and eating by themselves. Chances are many of you had to put down your own mobile device to perform this experiment. If that is the case, make sure to count yourself too.

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I’m as guilty as the next guy. My device gives me a notification buzz every time that I get an e-mail. When that happens, my instinct is to grab my phone out of my pocket and check the message, regardless of where I am and what I am doing. 9 times out of 10, it’s a useless e-mail that I either throw away or respond to later. I joke with my wife that I need to program my phone to just inform me of the “important” e-mails but, in honesty, I just need to stop. Many times, I’m sitting across the table from a beautiful woman and there I am looking at a digital screen. The 20 year old version of myself would have died for this opportunity and here the 40 year old version is taking it for granted, opting instead to read about the latest job opportunities posted in my area. The 20 year old version thinks I’m an idiot.

The art of being social has become very skewed in the past 10 years. Knowing how to speak to a person and have a congenial conversation has been replaced by knowing how to find out how the person’s day was from posts on Instagram or Facebook. Technology has been a great asset in connecting us with a far, wider range of people all throughout the world but it has diminished our ability to communicate face to face. Right now (if you’re still reading) you’re all saying to yourself, “OK, TeenDad. We’ve read it before and we get it. What’s this have to do with your kid?”. Well, it has to do with the impact that food has on all of us.

Remember growing up and going out to eat? It was (and still is) a big deal for some. My dad worked a later shift when I was growing up so it was always special when our family went out to eat and had a chance to be together. Memories of shooting straw papers at your siblings, toddlers at other tables making us laugh by asking for beer, and me falling through the front window of a restaurant (yes, this happened) have just produced smiles on the faces of three people that read this blog; my mom, dad and sister. All families have memories like these; heart-warming remembrances from holiday dinners to favorite restaurants to weekly family potlucks where everyone brought a pie. Before the smartphone, our social lives centered around food.

I want Cam to experience what we had. Sure, it will be different because of technology but these opportunities are still going to be there.  Social-eating is such an important part of being a teenager and it’s something that I don’t want him to miss out on. Gatherings at family and friends houses are important for him, a chance for him to make his own memories to smile about when he gets older. Thus, we ask questions and we continue to advocate. We want the restaurants to know who we are and to think about their standards every time we walk through their doors. We want to continue to show newly diagnosed people that there are good recipes out there and provide them with homemade food that blows their mind and shatters the misconception that all gluten-free food tastes terrible. We want our family and friends to learn more during this Celiac Awareness Month and to not be afraid to invite us to their homes because of Cam’s condition. He’s a smart kid who knows his own parameters of safety. So, let’s again use food to be social. Learn about his condition. Ask him questions.  He’ll be happy to answer them over a meal if you want, as long as you put down the phone.

 

 

It’s Time for the Truth

I can’t take it anymore. For months, I have been burdened by guilt and knowing that I wasn’t doing the right thing. But, despite my inner feelings, I kept on doing it. As with most fibs, it started as a little thing but it continued to grow. The attention was great but we had started the momentum behind a false identity. Each day, week and month it became a bigger part of what we were and soon became impossible to stop. It had become it’s own entity. Celiac Teen Dad was doing wonderful things in terms of gluten free advocacy but, the truth be told, the name chosen was inaccurate. Celiac Teen Dad should have been Celiac Tween Dad. It just didn’t sound right to me. Tween has a vague definition as to what ages are actually covered by the terminology. Is a ten year old a tween? I don’t know either. So, I lied to everyone. Cam, my oldest child, was a 12 year old Celiac, not officially a teenager. I am ashamed to have mislead you during these past few months, feeling that I have somehow tainted the writer/reader blog relationship code. But when I woke up this morning, it seemed as if a heavy weight had been lifted. I felt it was time for me to share this truth and I have one person to thank for providing me this opportunity. Today, Cam turned 13. Today, I feel no guilt in calling myself Celiac Teen Dad.

Of course, the above paragraph was written in jest. I chose the name that I did knowing that I wanted to provide support and advice for Cam throughout his teenage years. The aforementioned guilt caused by misleading my readers was a joke but there are two things that I mentioned above that are the truth. First, yes, it was Cam’s 13th birthday today and we did all the things that a 13 year old wants to do. He got birthday wishes from his friends on Instagram. We saw all four of his grandparents who showered him with gifts and off-key renditions of “Happy Birthday”. He played countless games of ping pong on his new table and watched a movie about boxing robots. Throw in his favorite meal (still can’t top Mom’s homemade mashed potatoes) and a gluten free chocolate pudding pie and he’s going to bed tonight a happy boy.

The second truth was my thank you to him for providing this opportunity. I know that it’s weird thanking him for being one person in 133 to get an auto-immune disease that causes heart-breaking discomfort but I think of what we have witnessed in these past eight months. Becoming a part of the gluten free community has allowed us to meet so many people and learn that he is not alone in what he feels and that my wife and I are not alone with our questions. Having this condition has given Cam a voice and, though unwanted, an identity that allows him to build his confidence going into his formative years. And most importantly, our journey so far has shown us that there are so many good people out there wanting to help us.  From doctors to food service staff to fellow bloggers, we have seen the best of what society has to offer. And to me, that’s one of the best presents that Cam could ever receive. For when his life hits tough moments (and we all know from experience that some of these moments come as a teenager), hopefully he will remember the good he has seen and it will remind him of the support system that he has. From friends to family to complete strangers, it’s this gift of love and comforting that I hope he gets every day. Happy birthday, Bubba. Dad loves you.