Today I bring you Laura Suskin and her son Max. I recently met Laura through the Gluten Intolerance Group in the Greater Chicago area. Laura is one of the Branch Managers for the whole chapter. She also has a great blog site at Gluten Free Lake County, Illinois. She has really dove into the gluten-free world due to her son having Celiac Disease and I can’t wait to get to know her better, she is really a sweet lady.
With that being said, I now bring you Laura Suskin…..
Thanks so much to Andrea for asking me to take on a letter in her alphabet blogging series! I am honored to represent letter L! I am Laura Suskin, my son Max was diagnosed on June 2, 2009 with celiac disease. At that time he was 18 months old. He now is a very healthy 3 year old. Over the past 2 years I have made myself into an expert on Max living GF. As a GF Mom, I have involved myself with the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America and am currently the branch manager for the Greater Chicago chapters. You can check out the GIG website at www.chicagoglutenfree.com or my own blog at www.glutenfreelakecountyillinois.blogspot.com. Continue reading
Last week I met a mom who had just learned of her daughter’s celiac disease. I remember that day for myself so clearly. I put together this list of the top 10 things that I wish I had known then and I am glad to know now.
1) Not the end of the world: Although it may seem that way, gluten intolerance is not the end of the world, nor is it the worst thing that could happen to your child.
2) Use the Internet: There are so many blogs and websites full of information. I find more helpful and practical information online than I do from the registered dieticians and doctors. Find the bloggers who write the recipes and tips that you need and bookmark those sites.
3) Talking & disclosing: Tell everyone you know that your child is now gluten free. I cannot count the number of times that a casual acquaintance has contacted me to notify me of some gluten free thing that they noticed. At this point, most of what I get told I already know, but there are those awesome hidden gems that I just love learning about! Find a support group to join; we know so many things we can teach you!
4) Amazon.com: Gluten free eating can get very expensive. I buy a lot of dry goods online. I regularly buy Pamela’s cake mix & cornbread mix, Glutino’s pretzels, and Bob’s Red Mill AP flour & pizza crust mix from Amazon.com. The prices cannot be beat and shipping is free with an order over $25.
5) Baking: If you have a young child, you will need to learn how to bake GF. There are 2 methods to GF baking—1st is that you buy many different types of GF flours and make a blend yourself. This is expensive and time consuming. The 2nd method is to buy an all-purpose GF flour blend (I like Better Batter) and you can substitute this product into most conventional recipes. This is less expensive and you will end up with a familiar tasting and looking product. As an aside, beware that when you bake with bean flours that the raw batter will taste awful! If you want to lick the bowl with your kids, stick with the AP GF flour blend.
6) Parties: You will be bringing food to birthday parties for your child from now on. Take a cake decorating class at your nearest craft store and learn how to make your child a fabulous looking cupcake. It is less sad when your child has something as fun looking as the forbidden birthday cake. Ask what else is being served at the party so that you can duplicate the other food. And have a stash of candy in your bag to replace goody bag loot as needed. IF a host does anything to accommodate your child, praise and thank them greatly. It is good public relations on behalf of the GF community.
7) Plan ahead: You cannot just grab a bite to eat somewhere convenient. Meals out need to be researched in advance. Many restaurants can offer a GF option that may be OK for an adult but that your child will not eat. Call ahead and check online. Ask the hostess to not bring the breadbasket to your table to avoid any losses. Bring your own box of breadsticks to fill the gaps. Once you find some places that work stick with them until you feel more comfortable trying a new GF friendly restaurant.
8) Have a stash: Always have some liked snacks with you. I keep some in my diaper bag and my glove box. I don’t ever want to be caught in an emergency situation where I have to scramble to find my child something to eat.
9) Expect to be surprised: Just as I mentioned the well-intentioned people in numbers 3 & 8 above, know that you will be pleasantly surprised by the people who will go out of their way to accommodate your child. Completely on your own you will find a restaurant very eager to keep your child safe. For me, these discoveries are always exciting and I am sure to offer up grateful thanks afterward. It certainly helps if your child is very cute!
10) Advocate like your child’s life depends on it: You are the best advocate for your child. When Max is older I will teach him to assert himself, question menus, and keep himself safe. Until that day comes, it is my number one job in any dining situation to keep him safe. That means that certain restaurants we will not eat at (sometimes we lose out on an invite because of it) because I do not find that the staff has a clear understanding of all GF entails. It also means that I stopped buying Trix cereal for Max, despite how much he loved eating it. And although the first 3-4 weeks there was crying I do not regret my decision. It means that since Frito-Lay revised their GF product list that I am seriously considering banning Max’s very favorite honey BBQ corn chips. All very difficult decisions, but it is my responsibility to make decisions for my child. Since there is some ambiguity about which products are actually GF due to the non-existent labeling laws I need to do my research, ask around, and remain diligent at all times.
So that’s my top 10… I admit that there are moments when I feel so sad for what we have lost by Max’s diagnosis. I have great hope that a treatment or cure for celiac disease will be found during Max’s lifetime. I intend to keep him safe and healthy until he is old enough to manage his restrictions himself. At that point, I will teach him all I have learned and feel confident that he will continue to live a healthy and safe life.