Tag Archives: Family

How We Celebrate: The Pros and Cons of a Celiac Thanksgiving

Today is a great day. It’s a day to spend with family and friends. It’s a day to sit back in your favorite easy chair and watch some football. Most importantly, it’s a day for us to count all of our blessings. Thanksgiving is the official start of the holiday season (don’t tell that to the retail stores) but it is also one of the only days that we center our lives around food. Yes, we have Memorial Day picnics and Fourth of July cookouts but Thanksgiving is different. It’s all about the turkey, the stuffing, the pumpkin pie. It’s a day to gorge ourselves, feel guilty about it, and then shop off our guilt the next day.

Our day will be like many of yours. We are lucky enough to have both of our immediate families living close to us so we will split our day between two locations. We will go to my wife’s parent’s house first and then go to my aunt’s, where I will see my parents. I only plan on eating at one place as I’m getting old and my body doesn’t accept the challenges of multiple Thanksgiving meals that well any more. But when I was Cam’s age, I would eat on Thanksgiving non-stop. Whenever I walked by the table, I would grab a roll, a piece of turkey, whatever I could get my hands on. Cam doesn’t have that luxury, of course. While many things that we traditionally eat for Thanksgiving are “safe” for him, he still needs to be careful. Many of these are hidden dangers so, for a better understanding, I’ve decided to highlight the pros and cons of the Thanksgiving that he faces.

Food: Turkey = gluten-free. Mashed potatoes = gluten-free. Sweet potatoes = gluten-free. Cranberries = gluten-free. Man, I love this holiday! – PRO

Stuffing: Fortunately, Cam wasn’t a huge “stuffing guy” anyway so this one doesn’t affect him as much. What does affect him is if the turkey is stuffed with stuffing. That turkey is thus cross-contaminated and not safe for him to eat. – CON

Pre-planning: Knowing that the turkey will be stuffed, we purchased our own turkey. We cooked it yesterday, carved it this morning, and we’re bringing some of the turkey breast with us for Cam (and whomever else) to enjoy. We’re also bringing our own gluten-free rolls and pumpkin pie, one of his favorites. – PRO

Kitchen item worries: Was the pot that the potatoes were boiled in also used for any type of wheat pasta in the past? Was a fork used to take that piece of “stuffing turkey” also used to grab his “safe turkey”? The chance that he gets contaminated by things such as this are small but, as a parent, you still are worried and no one likes to worry over the holidays. – CON

Our Blessings: He gets to see both sets of his grandparents, possibly one of his great-grandmothers, two aunts, one uncle, multiple great aunts & uncles, cousins. On top of that, our CeliacTeenDad site on Twitter hit our 1,000th follower yesterday. That’s 1,000 people that is living this with him, listening to what we have to say, and becoming aware of the gluten-free lifestyle. We have so many things to be thankful for and there’s not better day than today to remember that – PRO 

Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving everyone!

 

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From A Sister With Love

I’ve written in prior posts about how our entire family life changed when Cam was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. From how my wife reinvented her cooking style to how our evenings going out to eat now involve more research and a certain level of trust, everyone has been affected. On a social level, I have often been the voice of the family, taking on a role of advocacy and teaching others. I have found that it helps to fulfill my internal urge to do something against a disease that I ultimately can not control. Cam is finding his voice and my wife expresses herself through the creation of safe and delicious food for him. But the other day, the fourth member of our family voiced her desire to talk about her experiences in our shared journey. She may have more to say than any of us.

Caroline just turned 10 years old and Cam is her only sibling. They squabble, as all brothers and sisters do, but they get along with one another more often than not. Caroline has a zest for living, makes friends & socializes easily and does not have any dietary concerns. She has shown no signs of having Celiac or any type of gluten intolerance. She loves to try new foods and has a very distinguished palate for a girl her age. So, when our eating style changed to benefit Cam’s condition, it affected her as much as anyone else. When talking about Celiac Awareness Month and what we could do as a family, Caroline asked if she could write a blog to talk about her feelings. Of course my answer was “absolutely” and I invited her to come up with something for this entry. Opening a new Word doc, I handed her the computer and let her do the rest. What she came up with is nothing short of amazing and heartfelt.

” Today, me, Caroline, Cameron’s 10 year old sister, will be writing about what it’s like being Cameron’s little sister. So, first of all, it was hard for me to take in that I will have to go somewhat Gluten-Free. At first I didn’t like it because honestly most of the food did not taste good to me. But over the last couple months I have learned that the Gluten-Free things tasted different but can still be good. For example the Gluten-Free pasta tastes different than the normal pasta. I also feel really bad for Cameron because I thought just going partially Gluten-Free was bad but then I thought about how Cameron feels. I mean not being able to have your favorite pizza ever again, And then I thought how many people are experiencing the same thing me and my family are. I was inspired almost instantly to share around my class, and even my entire school about what Celiac disease is. So that’s what I have been working on at school right now. Secondly it’s very hard for me to wake up in the middle of the night hearing my brother crying and crying in pain. I can’t go back to sleep without thinking how hard it would be to have Celiac disease. Thirdly I hope you all would share this blog post to any of your relatives and I hope you can share this around your work or school. Bye, thanks for reading this. Hope you enjoyed it!”

I am so proud of my children. Cam, of course, for what he has to do daily to keep himself healthy. Caroline, for doing things like this. She had never spoken with me about anything that she expressed in the paragraph above. I did not know that she was telling her class and her entire school about Celiac Disease and being an advocate to the elementary school community that she’s part of. I did not know that she heard Cam’s cries during his gluten episodes. I did not know that she had such strong interest in the feelings of her brother. I talk about Cam’s maturity in adverse situations but she deserves praise for her attitude as much as he does. Could you imagine being 10 and having the same life change happen to someone in your family and not feeling anything but selfish? How she puts his concerns and feelings on the same level as her own is a testament to her character and the individual that she has become. She is such an important part of our family and the advocate that Cam will have by his side for the rest of his life. He will grow to learn and appreciate her as he gets older. As for now, let them squabble and have their disagreements, for that’s what siblings are for.

Support Groups

Have you ever stopped to think about how many social groups you are a part of? It really is a fascinating thing to do if you have a few minutes of time. As I sat down to think about all of the groups that my family is blessed enough to be a part of, I kept having “Oh, yeah, forgot about that one” moments. Just think about all of the circles of friends you have and you’ll understand how well-connected you actually are. College friends, neighbors, kids’ friends’ parents, church friends; the list doesn’t stop. I’m not going to go through all of the groups that I came up with but the number surprised me.

When Cam was diagnosed in September, we became a part of several more community groups. Some were forced upon us, others we joined voluntarily. Cam became a part of a small but growing group of people diagnosed with Celiac (currently 1 out every 133 people). It’s not a group that he’s a member of by choice. In contrast, by choice I have become part of a wonderful group of people sharing their Celiac and Gluten Free stories out there in the Twitterverse. Learning of their ordeals and following their stories has reiterated to Cam (and myself) that we are not alone with this new challenge. But we were never alone. During the past week, there have been several enlightening moments that have reminded me that we’ve had the support that we’ve needed since day one.

It started at a conference that my wife and I asked for with Cam’s teacher team. We’re not concerned about his grades or his behavior at school. After the “Oreo Lab” incident, we wanted to make sure that the teachers were understanding of his situation. (Side note: I know in the past day that there has been quite the stir up with a post that a school mom made about not being able to have birthday cake in the class room. While I disagree with most of her flawed statements (read the Gluten Dude’s response for feelings that are similar to mine), this conference was not about chastising the teacher who used the cookies in the class. Cam is mature enough to know where gluten is and is not. Our meeting was more about how he was personally adjusting in an environment where we were not with him.) The meeting with the teachers was great. They listened, asked questions and had a genuine concern for our son’s comfort levels while under their watch. Signs for support continued later in the week when we went to a surprise birthday party for my godfather. Here, among relatives that we see maybe once or twice a year (and that we haven’t seen since Cam’s diagnosis), caring and considerate questions were asked. The hostess of the party asked if they could provide a GF pizza specifically for him, the one person among the group of 40 or 50 present that would need this. A beautiful and non-selfish offer that was definitely noticed. From friends asking us how they can help accommodate our needs to make Cam “comfortable” when inviting us over for a simple get-together to his orthodontist assistant revealing to us that she and her daughter are both Celiac patients and sharing some of their stories, the number of supporters have been shining points during this past week. These are the signs of compassion that makes what we are doing just a little bit easier.

And we hope to continue to find support in the days to come. This next week, we will be going to our first meeting of the local Gluten Intolerance Group. The group in our town is affectionately known as the Gluten Free Gang (Cam asked if he could get a GFG tattoo, I shot that idea down quickly). He’s looking forward to meeting other kids who has what he has (he’s the only one in his school with Celiac). My wife and I are looking forward to meeting other families who have experienced this lifestyle change and sharing tips and suggestions with them. We all are looking forward to a positive experience and the chance to add one more group to our list to count on.