Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gluten Free Family Meals

So, does your husband eat gluten-free with the rest of your family?

I am asked this question so very often.  Much of what we eat as a family is naturally gluten free; salads, fruit, stir-fry, potatoes, rice & bean dishes, and soups; however, there is the pasta issue.  No matter what pasta I have cooked, it doesn't quite have the same texture as the wheat noodle.  Thus, spaghetti style dishes result in two pans of boiling water, two pasta ladles, two strainers, two serving bowls, and tons of leftovers.  I've learned to cook two different shaped noodles to keep straight which noodle is which.   I am so thankful that my husband, Rick, jumped right on board and has been so supportive of the gluten-free diet and lifestyle changes that come with having a child that is celiac.  

Early on we knew something was not quite right.  Our happy child, a cheerful toddler of two, traveled with us on a family vacation through Europe to visit family and friends.  We worshiped in grand cathedrals and small parishes throughout Germany.  Lit candles in Notre Dame, Paris.  We spent hours circling castles, museums, and churches inside and out.   Many of my friends with toddlers could barely get through a homily in our home parish, and here Nate sat through masses and tours.  Nate was all for the experience.  I think Nate found this all one grand scavenger hunt and just enjoyed searching for the German stone-carved lions; everywhere we went we found the grand beast guarding gates and doorways.  

Two weeks after returning, Nate became increasingly sick.  Grey-green complexion, constant diarrhea, and an immediate change in temperament and personality.  No happy child, rather, one that was irritable and angry with the world.  Family and friends pointed to our parenting or congratulated us that our child had skipped the "two's" and arrived at the "terrible three's".  

Several months later, a series of events led us to the diagnosis of gluten intolerance.  At that time, we also removed all dairy from his diet, hoping that after healing from the gluten free diet, he might reintroduce dairy to his diet with success.  Within days, Nate's gut was beginning to heal.  His bowel issues resolved, his skin returned to a healthier pink, and his constant irritability lessened.  

Years later, I was asked if I had prayed for Nate to be healed of Celiac Disease.  I don't think it ever crossed my mind.  Pray for Nate to be healed from gluten intolerance? Allergies have always been a part of my life, from a toddler-aged anaphylactic reaction to aspirin, to a 48-hour stomach-convulsing response to seafood as a youth.  I just assumed this was an idiosyncrasy of our family gene pool.

I do remember praying for patience and direction.  Before the diagnosis I needed lots of patience to get through the days that were filled with a crying and frustrated child.  After the diagnosis, my prayer energy was directed towards praying for myself and making it through each experimental meal, each gluten free scavenger (grocery) shopping trip, and each pain-induced toddler tantrum.  

I realize that I still don't pray for a miraculous healing for Nate.  Everyone has their cross to bear; this is Nate's, this is mine, this is our family's.  Instead, I have prayed for support, patience, and understanding. For some reason, my prayers have not been focused on eliminating the disorder.   In one way, my prayers have been answered, through the easy acceptance of our new lifestyle, through close friendships that have developed with supportive celiac friends, and with compassion for helping Nate travel through childhood with a positive attitude.  

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