Friday, September 14, 2012

Gluten-Free Living: AKA Sacrifices We Make for Our Children

Two of my sisters have children with celiac disease. They were diagnosed this year and I've been impressed with the sacrifices and changes they've made to get and keep their children healthy. My youngest sister came to visit me this past week. Her husband and one son can't eat gluten. Which, turns out, is in a heck of a lot more stuff than just bread and pasta. She read me an amazing thing that she wrote about what it means to live with celiac disease, which I'll link to once I convince her to post it (or maybe I can even post it here too).

Hosting them here gave me a tiny glimpse into what my sisters do for their families every day. They brought their own bread and crackers and I planned meals that simply didn't usually depend on anything with gluten (though they had to bring their own soy sauce for a recipe because most brands have wheat in them). I made something with pasta once and bought a brown rice pasta for those who couldn't eat gluten. So on top of making the sauce I made two kinds of pasta in different pots, stirred with different spoons. And I timed it so I could drain the gluten free pasta first.

Cross-contamination can be a serious problem so they brought their own toaster and their own condiments. I put away all wooden utensils so that I didn't accidentally grab them (my sisters have thrown theirs out). I wiped down my counters and table and even used a toothpick to get crumbs out of the crevices. I swept and mopped and vacuumed. I wiped up after my daughter ate her food and before her son sat down to eat his. I found myself worried about every crumb, even though they were most often crumbs from harmless things like the tortilla chips that we were all eating.

Our preparation went beyond food. We put the play dough away and I had to tell my daughter no when she wanted to play with it. She has a beloved giraffe given to her by her favorite aunt. His name is Macaroni and Cheese and he is filled with wheat (one of those that you can put in the microwave and cuddle with to warm up on a cold night). So I hid him before they came. Soon after I hid him, my daughter came to me in tears because she could not find Macaroni and Cheese. I assured her that he would show up in a few days and distracted her with a smaller stuffed giraffe whose name is Tiny Macaroni and Cheese.

They are gone now and my daughter is playing with play dough like most kids can. I can go get Macaroni and Cheese out of my closet. I can put my wooden spoons back by the stove. And I can and have let all the crumbs in my house sit on the counters and the floors since they left. (Not that I love stepping on Cheerios, but the laundry that I neglected while they were here was more pressing than my dirty floors.) My life is back to normal, but theirs is an added challenge every day. They have to think about what they put in their mouths (and what else it might have touched) all the time.

I so admire my sisters for the sacrifices they are making for their children. It's not something that will go away either. It will become easier with time, but they will have to be vigilant about what touches their children's mouths until their children are old enough to advocate for their own health. Yes, I think just about any mother would do the same, but not every mother has to. Today at least, I'm grateful for my picky eater who won't be harmed if she eats fish crackers.

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