My name is Keri and I am married to a wonderful husband and am the mother to three amazing children. Our life changed in 2007 when our middle daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease. It is my hope that this site will be helpful to others who are on this journey. I will give special emphasis to dealing with childen who have celiac disease because I believe it provides its own unique challenges. Hopefully you will find useful information, helpful tips and of course recipes. I prefer recipes that are family friendly and that kids love! Some are good and healthy and some are just plain good and deserve moderation. Many of the recipes are original and some are favorite recipes I have stumbled across. I will try to give credit where credit is due.
So, for those of you who would like to know the rest of the story…
The gluten-free diet has been a gift to our family in many ways. First, it has given the gift of life to my daughter. Plain and simple, without the diet, she would not be here today. Second, it has been a gift to our entire family as it has forced us to slow down, cook together and eat at home more often. Eating together as a family is something our children have come to expect. We have learned a new way of eating and have come to see that much of the success of the diet is driven by our positive attitude about it.
In July of 2006 it seemed our life was finally fitting together. At last, we finally had our three beautiful children whom we had prayed for, given birth to and adopted. Everyone was happy and healthy and we were excited about the next phase of our life; raising our three children. Then, things suddenly began to change as our once chubby, energetic, happy, playful daughter was changing before our eyes. Within just a few months time, she was lethargic and no longer wanted to play. She wanted only to sit in front of the tv and watch cartoons. She began to get a huge distended tummy while the rest of her body withered away before our eyes. I would walk into her room and see her brother and sister playing with her toys and I would find her laying in bed complaining that her tummy hurt.
She also suffered with horrible muscle spasms in her hands and legs. She would wring her hands in frustration and grab her legs in pain. One of her first symptoms strangely enough, was actually constipation. Later, this was replaced with terrible diarrhea. She was literally starving to death and was suffering all the symptoms of malnutrition even though she was eating constantly. I spent my days standing with her in the kitchen. At her sickest point, she wanted to eat at least every 15 minutes and had self-regulated the foods that she would eat. I would offer her a list of choices and she would only eat the same three; gummy fruits, Rice Krispie cereal and coke floats. Of course, these were hardly the healthy diet a mother wanted for her child. On the other hand, I was just desperate for her to eat…anything. It was a vicious cycle of her wanting to eat and trying to come up with new things for her to eat. I was exhausted.
Over time, we had made a couple of visits to our pediatrician, she immediately had a hunch what was wrong with our daughter and sent us straight to a pediatric gastroenterologist. She was loosing weight, and at 26 months old, she now weighed only 21 pounds. After much testing, in January 2007 she was diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease where the body in unable to digest gluten (wheat, barley, and rye). I had never even heard of it. One of the test done was a biopsy. They took 5-6 small biopsies of her small intestine. In doing this, they are looking for the presence of, or damage to the villi (the small hairs that line the intestines). Her body was actually attacking itself and destroying the villi in her body. The doctor was not able to find any villi in any of her biopsies. She was indeed, a very sick little girl.
We were told that she would probably be extremely sensitive to gluten due to the fact that her biopsies showed such damage to her intestines over such a short period of time. Over time, we have certainly found this to be true. The initial diagnosis was a relief. We now knew what was wrong with our little girl and what we needed to do to help her. A gluten-free diet for life.
In the days following, the stages of grief began to set in. I believe this is the case with many who have a child diagnosed with a chronic illness. As a mother, I knew how to do the most basic thing for my child, I knew how to feed her. Suddenly, I didn’t even know how to do that. The problem was compounded by the fact that I didn’t know how to cook gluten-free and that by the time she was diagnosed, she had stopped eating almost entirely. I remember just days after diagnosis, crying as I put chicken in a pot of hot water to boil not knowing what I would do with it once it was cooked. I was completely lost and still trying to find anything that she would eat. As many celiacs, she was also lactose intolerant in the beginning and could not tolerate any milk whatsoever. I resorted to buying lactose free ice cream and giving her coke floats in sippy cups. For the first day, this was the only thing that she would eat.
Miraculously, within days of being on the diet, she was more herself than she had been in months and her tummy was already beginning to look less distended. The transformation in her health and attitude was unbelievable. I knew that God had given this child specifically to me because He knew that I could handle this diet and the needs of this child. That is the one thing that kept me going even when I felt so overwhelmed. I dove in the only way that I knew how, completely. At first, I planned out each and every meal down to every ingredient that would go into making it and making sure all ingredients were gluten-free. The gluten-free diet has a very steep learning curve and coming up with child friendly meals and snacks was not easy. True, there were several gluten-free cookbooks out there, but a toddler with celiac was a different story. In addition, I had to transform my home into a safe place for my daughter. I was fortunate to know other mothers who helped answer my many, many questions. I will forever be grateful for the help I was given by those who already had mastered the diet.
After the initial shock of the diagnosis and the task of learning the diet, I made the decision that I would have a positive attitude about celiac disease. I have met people with great attitudes about the gluten-free diet and those with lousy attitudes. I believe that children often mirror the image that is shown to them by their parents. I did not see any benefit in having a negative attitude about something you can’t do anything about. Everyone is given different types of challenges in life and this was ours. I was determined to handle this with a positive attitude and ensure that my daughter would have a very normal childhood. We have learned and adjusted and it is just part of who we are. I enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to make new gluten-free foods. The smile on my daughters face each time I make her a new treat is a gift that is without words…