Friday, May 20, 2016

Celiac Awareness Month: What's for dinner?

Eating gluten-free isn’t easy. It forces you to do research on what is safe to eat and isn't. It forces you to research menus online before hitting a restaurant. It forces you to cook. It forces you to be healthier and get creative.

Since my son’s Celiac diagnosis two weeks ago, we have been out to a restaurant as a family only once. This is a big change for us. While I love to cook, I work full-time and therefore have limited time to cook on weeknights.  A couple of nights a week, we'd opt for pizza or go out to eat on a whim. 

Overly indulgent, I typically make two meals a night –  sometimes three meals – because the kids don’t fancy quinoa; and my husband and I don’t like eating hot dogs and Mac N Cheese. When I have had a particularly stressful day at work, going to a restaurant and being served is an enormous treat. Impulsively deciding to go out to dinner on a random weeknight is something that we have had to curb as we discover which restaurants (that we actually like) have options that The Boy can eat.

The website and accompanying app Find Me Gluten Free has been helpful when trying to identify restaurants that offers gluten free options although it is not ideal. Often chain restaurants are listed or placed listed as offering gluten free however as a pick kid who likes pancakes, pizza, and cheese burgers, the menu items at this restaurants are not the right first. If he were a 30 year old yuppy, they would be perfect.

Instead of going out to eat as much as we have, I have opted to make some of the foods that they would typically order at a restaurant, like chicken fingers and french fries, at home using gluten-free ingredients. I've also tried baking using GF ingredients, which wasn't too difficult. Thankfully there are lots of GF options and I have been able to buy a lot of transitional food items that the boys like to eat, things like donuts and waffles. So far, no one has noticed anything.
This is often not gluten free or Celiac friendly

One major issue is that GF foods are expensive, although I have read that you can save by buying things online and making things from scratch is even cheaper. Realistically thought this is not going to happen. I am going to get my food items where I typically get them and I frequent stores like Whole Foods Market more frequently. It is all a journey and it is all a part of the process.

Gluten-free day two for me? So far. So good.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Celiac Awareness Month: Trending: with Celiac, gluten, and a toddler

It is Celiac Awareness Month. Celiac Awareness Month is an event held throughout the United States each May and is supported by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (and other relevant organizations) and for this reason I share my journey to learning about Celiac Disease.

It has been two and a half years since I wrote a blog entry. It feels like both a very long and short time. Today is May 1. The date is significant because it marks the beginning of Celiac Awareness Month.  You will not see the word “Celiac” previously in this blog because it was not even a blip on my radar before two weeks ago.

Besides watching Elizabeth Hasseleback, controversial and former co-host of The View, confidently refuse certain baked goods on air, I never knew of anyone who had this condition. What I know is that gluten has become a buzz word during the last few years. I have a few friends and family members who have chosen to go gluten-free for “health reasons” or as a new dieting regime.  Admittedly, I didn't take this seemingly odd preference all that seriously except to revel in how annoying it was to eat with them. Sorry guys.

It was two weeks ago when my youngest son, who just turned three, was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. He has been sick for a while.  My family and I did not know what was causing his incessant diarrhea and related symptoms. I was at my wits-end trying to find out what going on. Why did he have a bowel movement after eating and drinking anything – sometimes up to 10 times a day? Why was he always getting stomach bugs? What was going on with my sweet little boy?
My baby

After surmising that food allergies may be to blame, I took him to an allergist. Tests did confirm a couple of allergies, including one to apples and to dust mites. The allergist also tested him for milk and wheat allergies, which came back normal. I took him off apples and apple products (which are in everything by the way) but to my chagrin, there was no improvement.

Still not knowing what to do but knowing that I needed to do something, I decided to eliminate ­­dairy because some internet “experts” opined that dairy is linked to ear infections. My son has had many ear infections, requiring tubes along with the gastrointestinal issues. I figured ... maybe.  Again, not much seemed to change.

Our once voracious eater was no longer interested in eating anything. He would play at the dinner table with his beloved Thomas the Train engines rather than eat. It was his older, skinny brother whose dining habits worried us, not Mr. Boy. Mr. Boy was a tank.  His dad referred to him as
Bam Bam. But Bam Bam was starting to lose weight.  He was often tired and his constant movements resulted in brutal diaper rashes that would cause him to scream out in pain while being changed.

Nothing helped. We were at a loss. Me. His dad. His Nana. His daycare provider.

When he turned three earlier this month, I took him for his annual exam and brought up the issue once again. Our pediatrician said that he had Toddler’s Diarrhea, which may have been causing the issues. She asked about his diet and I began to list his favorite foods: waffles, pancakes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and it dawned on me – gluten. Damn-it. Gluten, that trendy little bugger. It was one of those "come to whomever" moments. How could I have not thought of this earlier!?  I should have known.

Immediately, I stopped the medical student who was training with our pediatrician and excitedly shared my revelation. I asked her to tell the doctor the connection I made. The doctor came back into the exam room and said that she had the very same suspicion, but thought it was unlikely. She would run some tests.  A few days later, the blood tests were in … Celiac Disease.

While in a daze, I wrote down what the doctor was telling me on the phone - "Celiac", "gluten", "small intestine", "endoscopy" ... "Children's Hospital" - while The Boy ate something that may or may not have had gluten in it in the kitchen with the rest of the family.

She explained that she was going to schedule an appointment with the Chief of Celiac at Boston Children’s Hospital and less than a week later (this past Tuesday), we had our appointment.The specialist confirmed that Celiac is to blame for many of my son’s health issues and in order to confirm the diagnosis, he would need to do a biopsy.

This surgery will happen in the next week or two and then we will forge full-speed ahead into a gluten-free lifestyle – for The Boy and likely for the rest of the family as well.

We have already started him on a GF diet, although we were advised to keep some gluten in his diet, so that the endoscopy can do what it needs to do and confirm the disease. It is so counter-intuitive to knowingly give a child, your baby; your baby who has been suffering for so long, something that we know is hurting him. But … doctor’s orders.

As soon as I learned of my son's Celiac, I did what people do I started researching the topic online. I came across a tweet from the National Association for Celiac Awareness and that in acknowledgement of Celiac Awareness Month, they were looking for folks who want to blog about their experience, so here I am, two and a half years later.  Ready to embark on yet another journey.

Friday, March 6, 2015

California - Ten Years Later

Los Angeles has not changed much since I lived here ten years ago. I have have changed a lot since my (now) husband and I moved back east a decade ago. The Angelinos seem younger now - many of them were just kids when I, too, considered this city my new home. While it has been a lifetime ago when 90025 was my zip code, it feels like just yesterday.

I have visited Los Angeles only once since moving back. During this visit, my husband and I brought our son who was just over a year at the time. We spent Christmas on the westside with our family and friends. Like now, it was so great to be back. It has been less than three years since we moved, so we still felt relevant. We were newlyweds and new parents. It was fun taking our kid to the Santa Monica Pier on Christmas eve morning to ride the caraosel and hanging out on Christmas night drinking wine by the fire pit.

Add six more years to the equation, another kid, almost ten years of marriage, and we enter Los Angeles county early this week. We made the long anticipated trip back to our California, our westside, our Santa Monica and West Los Angeles.

My husband and I still *feel* like we live hear even though we know we are just "playing house" with the past. We rented an AirBNB and are staying in a cute flat in one our old haunts. Our kids are older now - only one left in diapers - and they are soaking *it* all in. Well, we are trying to *make* them fall in love with this place where mommy and daddy fell in love and began our lives together. In reality, they are more mesmerized by their gadgets and the fact they get to eat pancakes everyday.

Day three and we have barely left Santa Monica. With confidence, we traipse the kids around town showing them exciting landmarks like our old apartment, our old Ralph's grocery store, our favorite coffees shops and bars; you know, things that little boys love to explore when they are 3,000 miles from home.

Not much has changed. Santa Monica Place is new. There are more fancy vehicles parked in enclosed car dealerships. If possible, LA is even more health conscious than before with an superfluous amount of juice shops and pressed juice options adorning menus. Especially in Santa Monica there seems to be more people riding bikes. Billboards still adorn the streets promoting films and television programs. And, Angelinos wearing shorts and T-shirts walking alongside folks wearing jeans and puffy coats still pass by one another each comfortably temperate in the southern California sun.

While LA has not changed, we have changed a lot. Gone are the relatively care free days when our to-do lists included items like find a new brunch spot and bar. Traveling with young children require that we consistently wondering about things like when did we apply sunblock and which restaurants offer gluten-free options for our little Celiac?

Style and fashion have not changed much, but my fashion and style has reverted to east coast cool - lots of black, boots, sweaters. Our here I stick out like a sore thumb with folks hanging in their yoga pants, fashion sneakers, and white tops. Leaving Boston after the epic winter we have been having I do not think flip flops even floated into my consciousness - for me or for my kids. My husband is another story - he is a Californian at heart and brings his California cool everywhere even the frozen tundra of winter in Boston early 2015.

Regardless of the trends or the forecast, it is so great to be back - to be back home - or where we once called home and to be back in this perfectly odd city with our kids. It truly feels like we never left. This place will forever be our place and this is rad.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tales from my last 30 minutes ....and good morning!

I love coffee, any coffee. Except coffee that's really sweet and milky or creamy. I like coffee: Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks, Trader Joes, Folgers, whatever. With gratitude and anticipation, I enjoy every cup of coffee I drink. Well, until this morning. 

This is a cup of coffee.

After one very confusing sip of coffee this morning, I thought, "This stuff tastes like WATER!" Literally, water, warm, caramel colored water. What the ...

Feeling like I had absolutely no choice in this situation, I was forced to walk back to  the kitchen and empty my cup into the sink."This is crazy!" I thought. "Now, I am going to have to *make* coffee in a coffee pot!?" "But .... *this* is so much harder than using a Keurig. Isn't this why I have a Keurig, so that making coffee can be even easier than the 30 seconds it used to take? For God Sakes, it's Saturday morning, I just woke up. It's 10:45 AM.", I passionately implored to no one in particular.
Option number two.

As I resigned myself to the task at hand, I noticed the culprit, an unused K-cup just sitting there on my counter, staring at me (snob). Regardless, there it was, chilling out next to Keurig."Magic?", I thought. I then realized that I accidentally used the K-cup that was in the machine from the previous use and never used the new K-cup to make my first cup of coffee of the day. Mystery solved. But this is still a lot of work and it's 11:04 AM on a Saturday morning right now!  "Who do these machines think I am? Superwoman!?"

This is the culprit.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Roller coaster of good intentions, european chocolate, HBO, and skin care products

Today is Thursday. It is 7:24 p.m. Typically, I would be knee deep in the most hectic time of my day, dinnertime followed by bedtime. My husband and I both work full-time and have two young children. The minute I walk in the front door from my workday, I go into marathon mommy mode. The kids are beginning to transition from positive energy to frantic energy. I quickly whip up two meals, one for the kids (which has to be gluten-free) due to my youngest son's Celiac Disease and something for my husband and me.  Then it is clean up time, bath time, story time, and clean up time - again. Then there is peace and hopefully quiet - and if I am really lucky a Netflix binge session and a Ritter Sport chocolate covered biscuit to be savored.
My favorite 

Wednesday night was no different except that I agreed to go to a friend's house for what I thought was going to be our once usual pizza night with our families only to learn that the gathering was not our usual family play date but was going to be a launch party her new business as an Arbonne consultant. I had heard of the Arbonne brand and its business model through a co-worker who embarked upon selling these products to make extra money earlier in the year.

My friend profusely reiterated that I need not buy anything at all, but to allow her the opportunity to learn her business with the support of a few friends. Understanding this and in addition to the fact that I am consciously trying to save money, I felt little pressure to buy products.

In the less than two hours I spent at my friend's house, I offered to not only buy products with my next pay check, but I found myself offering to host an Arbonne party to help grow my friend's fledgling business and agreeing to schedule a call with the VP of Regional Sales for Arbonne to discuss my new part-time job as a consultant.

Although the VP that was training my friend was good at her job, I am also very impressionable, in a good way. I get excited about things easily, I get motivated very easy, and I often bite off more than I can chew - and then I get sick and throw up.

Initially, I fell for the allure of the savvy VP who drove a huge white Mercedes SUV, the green and clean product lines and the women helping women angle. I also fell for the $2,000 per month income that was promised to part-time consultants.  With my husband and I both working at nonprofits, the added income was an enticing option to say the least. Plus, I like white Mercedes SUVs.

When I got home from the launch party,  I attempted to tell my husband all about my new and fully imagined and very successful business, but he was too involved in watching the pilot of HBO's True Detective while hypnotically folding piles of laundry. Not to be deflated, I decided to do some research on Arbonne to determine if it was as wonderful and green a product as I was led to believe and to figure of this whole new business thing might actually be a reality for me.

Within seconds of my Google search, I came upon this blog post by Meghan Telpner. In this entry, Ms. Telpner examines the Arbonne's product line and explains that the products are not all that they are cracked up to and the company  (which is owned by a board of directors and who was founded by a man) is engaged in green washing. While reading the post, I could feel the air being sucked out of my unbridled enthusiasm and optimistic hope for a fancy and looming vacation. By the end of the episode of True Detective, I had decided to not launch my new business and hesitant about hosting a product party on my house, but I was intrigued by the HBO series and really wanted to eat a Ritter Sport.
My new binge series

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Tiger Runs.

Litters in his homeland could be up to twenty per birth. His mother had just short of this number. He never fully bonded with his siblings or anyone else. Maybe this why he first began to run.

Tigers are active; they run, jump, leap, and stalk. The Tiger was no different except that he excelled as a runner - his speed and precision were beyond any of the others in his village.  He loved the give of earth below him, the accent and decent of mountains and valleys, and the way his mind felt when he was running - alone or a part of pack. It was clear, crystal clear.

One day he started running and didn’t stop. Eventually he could not stop.  He ran thousands of miles away from his homeland through valleys, rivers, over an ocean, through city streets and country roads.

Lost in a haunting maze far from where he started, years later, he is still trying to follow the curves of roads, find the mountains and valleys that once sheltered him, the smell of the sea that once calmed him. Instead he is stuck in this place - this conforming structure he can't escape. Is he too old to escape, to run away, to go back home?
Once he travels back,  he will choose another path to follow. He will lead the way. He will choose when to stop, when to sleep, when to chase, when to let go. 

Right now he tries to find this path back wherever he goes.  He looks for creaks and crevices and freights and people to help.  His body is tired and weak. His mind is weaker. It has been a long time since he has been home and he is thirsty.  But, he keeps running.