Category Archives: Parenting

Familiar Faces

Over the past month, with the start of school for both of our kids, we’ve been busy with curriculum nights, school meetings, and several other types of community events. It seems like during this first month of school, we have had something going almost every night of the week. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Let’s get the bad out of the way first, since it’s quite obvious. Having something every night of the week is very taxing. Juggling who takes who where, determining what we’re having for dinner let alone when we have the time to sit down and eat it, etc. can lead to one looking at the calendar and saying “Where did that month go?”. And we only have 2 kids! How did the Brady’s do it?!?

But we manage to find a way to make things work which leads to the good part of having such a busy schedule. Attending all of these activities, especially those related to the beginning of the school year, allows us to reconnect with people that we may not have seen for three to four months, if not longer. This is especially the case when we go to activities related to Cam’s school. These are parents there that, in some cases, we have now known for nine years. We’ve watched their kids grow up right alongside Cam and even if we’re not the closest of friends with them, they are familiar faces in the crowd. They are people that I would trust if my son (or my daughter with her friend’s parents) needed to interact with them. Like most people, I’m more comfortable in a situation when I am surrounded by things familiar to me. It’s that internal fear of the unknown that, when removed, allows us to relax and be ourselves. Seeing these faces, smiling at us when we enter a room, brings me a sense of comfort. I’ve never been one to shy away from meeting and speaking with a stranger but, admittedly, it’s that much easier when you know the person.

There lies the challenge when you are part of the Twitterverse. You communicate with others but are you truly ever comfortable? We are blessed to have so many followers of our Celiac Teen Dad blog on both Twitter and through WordPress. We are part of a worldwide community that is helping to raise awareness for celiac kids and the gluten-free lifestyle. It shows how small the world has become through  the introduction of new technologies when some of the people that we speak with and consider our good acquaintances are people that we have not even met face to face. But, thanks to a few special ladies in the gluten-free community, some of these barriers have been removed. The event was a gluten-free fair in our region and these voices of 140 characters or less became familiar faces to me.  When I met Pam (I’m a Celiac), Jen (GGF Gourmet), Cindy (Vegetarian Mamma) and Lauren (EpiFamily) in person, it was as if I was attending a family reunion. They welcomed me with open arms (literally) to the event and as a part of their community. They took down any uncertainty that I had built up and put a sense of comfort and confidence in its place. More importantly, they asked about Cam. They wanted to know how he was doing and if he was going to be coming to the event that we were all attending. Unfortunately, he was not and in hindsight, I wished that he had been there. For these wonderful ladies are a part of his community now, too. They are the advocates that understand what he is going through and people that I would trust for him to ask any questions of if needed. They, along with so many others that I have been lucky enough to meet within the gluten-free circles, are the new familiar faces for us in this journey. And that brings me nothing but comfort.


A Reason to Celebrate


One year ago, through tears of pain, Cam asked me to “make it stop”. One year ago, we were introduced to a challenge that will affect our family for the rest of our lives. One year ago, Cam was confirmed a Celiac. Not many families will celebrate an anniversary of the discovery of a “disease”. But we don’t see what we have been challenged with to be anything but an opportunity. One year ago, we were given the chance to help our son; to allow him to feel better and to provide him some freedoms that had been lost to him. And from what we have discovered over the course of this past year, we consider ourselves lucky.

Did you know that 83% of the people who have celiac disease don’t know that they even have it? Did you know that this number jumps to 95% when the demographic is children? Think about that. Only 5% of children who suffer from celiac are properly diagnosed. With over 300 symptoms, ranging from intestinal issues to brain fog to even partial blindness, celiac patients are often given the wrong answer to their question of why they feel the way that they do. We are lucky.

But in hindsight, looking back over the past 12 months, we have been lucky in so many other ways. Every day, I remind my son of how blessed we are to have my wife be his “personal” chef. She has embraced the challenge presented to her, changed everything that she had traditionally learned and has made herself a tremendous maker of gluten-free meals. In our house, everyone has the same dinner. There is no separating what is being served based on someone’s likes or another’s dietary concerns. The pressure to produce is on her every meal and she knocks it out of the park every time. I didn’t fully appreciate how special she truly is until we were participating in a gluten-free Twitter chat last week.  During the course of the chat, she remarked how she could feel the difference in the gluten-free flours and doughs that she uses in comparison with wheat flour dough. Yep, she feels the difference between the two with her hands. Not only did she win the admiration of the chat participants, she further solidified my belief that she is my son’s greatest asset. We are lucky.

Speaking of chat participants, that is another area where we have been lucky. Through this blog, participation on social media channels such as Twitter and in experiencing random acts of kindness, we have met and become part of a caring and thoughtful gluten-free community. The support that we receive from people, some that we have never even met in person, has been tremendous. These relationships have not only showed Cam that he’s not alone in this journey but it has led to memories for him such as his life-changing week at summer camp and the awe-inspiring experience we had at the Final Four. Even my life has changed as there have been doors opened for me, professionally, to become a bigger part of this community and to continue to advocate on his behalf. We are lucky.

But aside from all of this wonderful support, in both our personal and our professional lives, my wife and I realize that where we are the most lucky is with Cam himself. Time and time again, he has proven to us that he can handle a situation such as the one he has been given. He knows that these are the cards that he has been dealt in his life and, with this in mind, he focuses on the solutions rather than dwell on his problems. He knows that he is his biggest advocate and we could not have asked for a better kid.  We are lucky.

So, on this one year anniversary of his diagnosis, I am not celebrating his “disease”. I am celebrating him. I love you, B.

Not Now

If you couldn’t tell by everyone’s Facebook pages in the past week, school has started for many kids around the country. It seems that posting the first day of school picture has become an obligatory step in being a part of the social media world. And I won’t lie. I do it with my kids and I think that they are fun to look at. From afar, you get to watch your friend’s kids grow up year after year. You find yourself nodding your head as you look at the pictures and you recognize that the smiles on the parents’ faces are a little wider than that of the kids on that first day. But behind that large smile for the cameras, the parents (if they are like me) are wondering where the time is going and saying to themselves, “I can’t believe I have a (fill the blank) grader”. It’s a bitter-sweet day.

We treat the first day of school in our house as a big day. The kids recognize that, much like my full time position and my wife’s employment, school is their “job”. We tell them that we expect them to take school seriously and that they need to put forth their best effort on a daily basis. In order to achieve this, they know that they need to be rested, well-nourished and prepared. So, last week, before the first day of school, we took our kids to one of their favorite restaurants for an “end of summer” dinner. It was our way of celebrating the start of another year and letting them know how proud of them we are. We were going to nourish them and then they would get a good night’s rest before their “big” day.

We went to dinner at our local wing place, a restaurant where we know the servers and have spoken with management about Cam’s dietary needs. He had been there multiple times this summer and never with any negative consequences. It is a restaurant that we consider a “safe” place. Cam got his typical order, traditional wings that do not have breading and are prepared in their own separate fryer. He was six or seven wings into his meal when he suddenly stopped and said “Uh oh”. I looked across the table at him and there was a genuine look of worry on this face. We asked him what was wrong and he reached into his mouth and pulled out what looked to be a crumb. “I think I just ate a piece of breading”, he said, looking at the crumb he held in his fingers. When I asked him if we was sure that it was a breading, he said, “It tasted different than the rest and it had more flavor, like I haven’t had in a while”. It was my turn to say “uh, oh”.

I never want to show panic when I think that Cam has been cross-contaminated. I feel that I need to be the confident figure, someone who he can look at and know that “if Dad thinks it’s ok, I’m going to be ok”. I put up the same front that evening, letting him know that we weren’t sure what it was that he ate but if he pulled most of it out of his mouth, he was going to be just fine. Inside my head, I wasn’t so sure and my own inner-confidence was showing some cracks. Not now, I thought. If he starts having a “bout” in four hours, which is similar to what has happened to him with prior cross-contamination issues, it will start at almost midnight. When finished, his body would be wiped out from both physical and mental exhaustion. That’s no way to go into your first day at a new “job”. Thinking about that first day with new teachers and new schedules can already be stressful enough. I didn’t want him to feel even more pressure in the last few hours of his summer break in thinking of whether or not he would be getting sick later. Not now. So, with a nod of my head, I let him know it would be ok and not something that he needed to worry about. Did he believe me? Maybe. Did the anticipation of possible stomach issues stay in his head until he went to sleep? Probably. But did we let it consume the rest of our evening. No. And that’s a mind-set that we have adopted as a family. We will not let this disease consume any of us in what we do. We have and we will continue to adapt. It’s how we “win”.

It turned out that Cam did not have any issues that evening. He had a good night’s rest, woke up replenished and smiled for the obligatory picture. My smile was bigger than his in our picture, but not for the reasons that usually are associated with a first day. I felt relief. Our “no panic” response to what happened the night before paid off this time. We succeeded by not allowing the situation to dictate our actions. It’s something that I want to make sure never happens; not now, not ever.