Oh how I miss restaurants

Oh how I miss restaurants

I have always been a weekly menu planner.  I would sit down each Sunday after church, plan my menu, my grocery list, and then pretend to be busy so Nathan would do the shopping:). He probably laughed out loud seeing me admit this in writing.  Anyway….it never failed that we always steered away from the plan.  I would leave work late or traffic was bad or the day wasn’t a happy one, so we’d make the decision to stop in at a restaurant. It made those lazy days so much easier. Not so anymore. 

Yes, restaurants have added more gluten free items, but with a shared kitchen full of gluten it can still be extremely risky for a kid with celiac. Being the Tucker family control freak, I just have not been comfortable venturing outside of a controlled kitchen. However, with vacation quickly approaching I had to try something. 

Our first trip was to Pei Wei. My pediatrician raved about their gluten free practices and tons of websites/blogs said the same.  We went after church, thankfully arriving about 5 minutes before the rest of Brentwood decided to eat.  Immediately I became a little nervous…..they have a limited gluten free section and nothing on the kids menu. However, after mentioning to the cashier that Pierce had celiac she made a recommendation on how to make a kids meal gluten free. It was obvious there had been some training on the subject. Pierce loved his food and had no adverse reactions. 

Since then, we have tried Mellow Mushroom and Zoe’s Kitchen.  He ate like a pig at both and didn’t feel sick afterwards at all. Mellow’s gluten free crust isn’t bad at all (leftovers do leave something to be desired). Zoe’s doesn’t have any kids meals that are gluten free so Pierce and I shared the Power Protein Plate. Everything that is gluten free is clearly marked on the menu which is helpful. I should say I felt like a bad mom after leaving Zoe’s. I didn’t even mention that our son had celiac or request special attention to our meal. I must get better at that. I think after two good experiences I felt more comfortable, but it is important to continue to stay focused on keeping him well. 

There are many days I miss the local Mexican restaurant….our little gluten filled haven around the corner. Although, the last time we were there Pierce puked ALL over me (day before he was admitted to the hospital) so it’s probably best I steer clear. I do look forward to getting more comfortable with the idea of dining out with the kids. Mostly I look forward to getting back to my lazy ways of not cooking:). 

Look at this happy face at Mellow! 

 

I have to share this last little nugget.

In mid March, we stopped by the neighborhood park one afternoon to swing and play.  Pierce had yet to be diagnosed and was sick every day, so we thought some fun was needed. We arrive and walk over to the swings. After being in the seat for less than 2 seconds, Pierce screamed bloody murder. I tried to push him to remind him how fun it was, but he kept screaming. I, so upset and frustrated, picked him back up and proceeded to sit in the cornet watching other kids play. I remember wanting to cry in that moment, wishing my son would get better and feeling like it would never end. Last weekend, we went back to the park for first time. That once sick and sad little boy had the BEST time. He went down the slide, ran around and laughed hysterically while I pushed him on the swing. It was the best feeling in the world. The best. 

   

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The Reason Behind It All

The Reason Behind It All

if we haven’t had enough crazy in our lives lately…I start a new job on Monday.

For those of you who have worked with me in the past, you are probably thinking “didn’t you just start a new job?” and my answer would be “yep”.  Last year, I left my field marketing position at a company I had worked with for 6 years to embark on a new role with a new company.  At the time, I wasn’t necessarily unhappy at my job.  I loved the team I worked with, I loved the franchisees I worked with, and I was super passionate about the brand and its direction.  It’s a smart company led by smarter people.  BUT, to advance we would have to be in Ann Arbor.  And this SEC lovin, sunshine craving, Southern girl couldn’t do that again:)  To grow I was going to have to leave.  I came to that conclusion, but had yet to really start looking when a recruiter called.

Almost a year later, I sit about to make another change in my career.  Prior to this job, I spent 6 of my 12 years at one brand and the previous 6 at another.  I’m not big on jumping jobs.  I’m not big on jumping in general…ask my personal trainer about days she brought out the jump rope.  BUT, I was leaving work unhappy.  I was mad, I was frustrated and I felt underutilized because the role I was in wasn’t challenging.  I love working.  I love having a career and I have large goals for myself.  I’m also a mom.  If I’m going to choose to work and be away from my children every day, that time away better be well worth it.  And being unhappy, frustrated, and mad was not only unfair to me, it was unfair to my family.  I spent much of the last year being mad mostly at myself….why did I make a change so fast?  Why can’t I find a way to fix things?  It was hard to see, through the frustration and stress that I was in this position and this job for a reason.  Seems easy to say now, but it is important for me to remind myself that the journey I am on in life is a purposeful one.  Had I not worked here, I would never have been introduced to an organization, CWJC, where I now serve as a mentor to a woman working towards obtaining her GED. I would have not have an education on the inter-workings of a smaller scale franchise operation.   I would not have learned what I really want to do with my career moving forward.  I would not have met the few people who I hope will actually keep in touch with me:)  It was frustrating and crazy, but it was worth it. I’m sad to leave some of my coworkers, but couldn’t be more excited for my next adventure.

We may not see the reason behind the happenings in our life immediately, but at some point down the road, we will clearly see. Just like Pierce’s illness.  People ask me all the time if I am mad at the doctor for not testing for celiac earlier.  If I’m upset that things had to get so bad before finding a fix?  The answer is no.  How can I be mad at a doctor who has loved on both of my children?  I look back knowing he was doing what he thought was best, having never treated a child so young for celiac disease.  I believe Pierce’s diagnosis has opened the eyes of the doctors in that office to younger children showing symptoms of the disease, and I hope that what we went through will help other moms and dads in similar situations down the road.   The situation opened my eyes to the strength of my intuition and a drive to always trust my instincts.  It has shown me how much the people in our lives truly love us and love our boys.  And heck, it has even made me shop at Aldi’s ūüôā

People, places, things and circumstances are put in your life at a certain time for a very particular reason.  It’s never random, and it will always be worth it.

Gluten Free…..a marketer’s dream

Gluten Free…..a marketer’s dream

I’m a marketer.¬† I’m a food marketer at that, so¬†I get it.¬† The people who CHOOSE to eat diet food are happy to pay a higher price.¬†¬†Now, I could turn this blog into a 4000 word rant on the obesity issue and the cheapness of a quarter pounder, but I’ll refrain.¬† This is more about how¬†I find my way around the high prices, since I didn’t CHOOSE celiac and this food is a necessity.

I knew going into this lifestyle change that our grocery bill would increase.¬† I am sure¬†it¬†is more costly for a company to open a certified gluten free facility.¬† I am positive there are fees associated with continuing to be certified, blah blah blah.¬† Long story short, I was prepared for the cost of¬†bread to double.¬† Being prepared doesn’t mean¬†I don’t want to scream every time¬†I open that $5 loaf of bread, only to find half of the slices you would get in a “normal” loaf.¬† And¬†it doesn’t mean I don’t find¬†it SUPER annoying that¬†my people, the genius food marketers of the world, love slapping that $5 price point on the bread bag.¬† This is why I spend most of my time eating gluten free by doing it naturally, and not with gluten free replacements.¬† BUT, I dare you to try to pack a 15 month old’s lunch every day with fresh veggies and protein.¬† Every now and then you need a good gluten free cracker and some sunbutter so he doesn’t starve to death.¬† I decided I needed to put my competitive nature to good….to find a way to defeat those sneaky food marketers and get a deal on gluten free goodies.

This morning while chatting with my husband I mentioned I needed to find out when Aldi’s opened….he laughed saying he never expected those words to come out of my mouth.¬† I guess I am a stuck up grocery shopper.¬† Or it could be that Aldi’s isn’t nearby, so I go to the store that¬†is close, but let’s stick with the first reason.¬† I’ll admit I’m pretentious.¬† I decided today was the day I was going to give the weird “pay a quarter for a cart” store a try.¬† And I’m so glad¬†I did.

The gluten free options, cheeses, produce, and soymilk prices almost made me fall on my face.¬† Yes the store’s display shelves leave something to the imagination, the aisles are narrow, and I had to bag my own groceries.¬† Yes I had to drive past my normal Publix, and another Publix before I could get to the Aldi’s. And I had to insert a quarter to get a cart.¬† But the fact of the matter is, those are the things that help to jack up prices at other grocery store chains.

After shopping for about twenty minutes and just finding more and more LiveGFree (the Aldi’s gluten free brand) items to try, we headed to the register.¬† The cashier completed ringing up the ridiculous amount of crackers, frozen items, bread, soymilk, looked up and said “That will be¬†$74.12”.¬† $74.¬† All that for $74.¬† Inside of¬†my loot below is a bag of chocolate covered pretzels, two bags of regular pretzels, frozen ravioli, gluten free pasta, bread, gluten free wraps and two things of milk….not¬†to mention turkey breast, corn, and some fruit.¬† I feel like I pay $74 for milk at Publix. If you need gluten free items, you are crazy not to stop by Aldi’s.¬† It is absolutely worth it.

The Aldi's Loot
The Aldi’s Loot

In other news, the Tucker household has been crazy stressful the past few weeks.¬† Nathan was interviewing for a job that would move us to Charlotte, and at the same time I had been approached about a Director of Marketing position with a national bakery chain based in Nashville.¬† Thinking about moving had sent me down the crazy river, and I’m going to guess on several occasions Nathan thought moving without me sounded better than ever;)¬† In the end, the Charlotte move didn’t work out.¬† And you are reading the musings of the new Director of Marketing of a brand I’ll talk about soon;)¬† The best part…they sell gluten free items.¬† My mom said when they diagnosed Pierce that somehow gluten free would be a part of my next career move.¬† She might be a prophet!

Pierce continues to get better, which allows my crazy to shift to things like freaking out about moving:)¬† He is walking, blabbering all day, and his appetite is out of control.¬† Can you imagine how good food must taste now that it doesn’t make him sick every time?

Feeding himself breakfast
Feeding himself breakfast

Well, back to enjoying the two free hours of life called “nap time”.¬† Although today it shall be known as the two hours I will spend listening to Ford refuse to nap and instead, make up stories about super heroes.¬† And laugh at his own jokes.¬† A boy who takes after his mother:)

Adventures in Travel

Adventures in Travel

One of the things I have been most nervous about with Pierce is travel.¬† When we are home or he is in daycare, I have full control over all food provided to him.¬† I do believe a gluten free lifestyle can be pretty painless inside the four walls of our comfort zone, but venturing out to someone else’s home or on a trip is when you lose control.¬† We knew we’d make a trip to Kentucky over Memorial Day weekend to see family, my cousin and her kids would be in from St. Louis, and my parents would have opened the pool.¬† As soon as we nailed the trip down, my mom sent me a text:

Mom: Can you provide me easy ideas on what to feed Pierce?

Because I’m in the thick of the lifestyle every day, the answer to this question seems so easy.¬† But I’m sure, to everyone else it can seem daunting….you don’t want to risk the possibility of the child getting sick on your watch or in your home.

My #1 tip is to focus on the outside aisles of the grocery.¬† You’ll hear this a lot from people with celiac, but its easier to cook¬†a meal without gluten than it is to find tasty gluten alternatives.¬† Meats, veggies, fruits are all game.¬† Spices, like oregano or cumin, are fine…watch out for spice blends.¬† Many spice blends include a non-caking agent which can be gluten so I always take the route of mixing my own.¬†And¬†because I tend to lots of Asian marinades,¬†make sure your Soy sauce is gluten free or use Tamari sauce¬†ūüôā

Wheat is one of the top seven allergies in the nation so on USA nutritional panels, it is must be called out if contained within the product.¬† You’ll be able to easily identify wheat, but barley and rye can be a little trickier so if you aren’t living a gluten free lifestyle every day, its best to just not risk it.¬† If you question whether or not its in there, steer clear:) If you are dying for some good old pasta or bread, I like the corn/quinoa pasta, Udi’s hamburger buns and Kinnikinnick sandwich breads

There are several really helpful apps for iPhone and Androids to help lead to you gluten free products.¬† I personally love the ShopWell app.¬† Upon registration you enter what you are trying to avoid (gluten or sugars, fats, etc) and then you can scan the barcode of any product…you’ll immediately find out if the product is for you or not.

Lastly, just¬†ask.¬† I would rather someone call me 40 times asking if particular foods are ok for PIerce than feed him something questionable.¬† No one wants to be around Pierce after he’s eaten gluten…you don’t sleep and the diapers are the most awful thing on the planet.¬† If you get nervous about a particular product or particular meal, ask.¬† Or google….lord knows I still google ” is XXXX gluten free?” about 10 times a day.

He¬†did great in Lexington.¬† He played, laughed and ate up a storm!¬† We visited Gluten Free Miracles in Lexington….a fantastic gluten free bakery so if you live there, stop by and support them on Burt Road.¬† And have a lemonade cookie.¬† I dream about those things.¬† Or visit their website for delivery to your home www.glutenfreemiracles.com

Next stop, Holden Beach NC for a week in July.¬† I’m not as worried about the food since we are surrounded by fresh seafood and amazing produce stands, but cross contamination is the easiest way to get Pierce sick.¬† Little things like making him a sandwich on gluten free bread after making a sandwich for my mom….just wash up and use a different knife and cutting board. I certainly don’t want to force everyone around me to go gluten free, just force everyone to be a little more aware.¬† No one would want to make this face sick, right? ūüôā

Happy As a Clam
Happy As a Clam
Playing at his great-grandmother's house
Playing at his great-grandmother’s house
Brothers in matching suits
Brothers in matching suits
Is my baby behind?

Is my baby behind?

You know those emails you sign up for when your pregnant.¬† The ones that tell you each week that your baby is the size of a particular fruit or vegetable?¬† Well, they keep coming after your child is born, alerting you to all the milestones your child is hitting.¬† They are great, until your child isn’t hitting those milestones.

I’m competitive by nature.¬† I have to win at everything…. which is hilarious because if you watched even 5 seconds of me playing a sport in my younger years you’d know I lose A LOT.¬† Typically this beautiful piece of my character comes out while driving as I race random people from stop lights.¬† It also appears while cooking when I need my food to look better than your food.¬† Do I sound like a 7 year old yet?¬† Well, this craziness also appears with my children.¬† I want them to be successful in everything, never feeling the pain of being second¬†(flash forward 10 years from now when some coach somewhere will tell me not to come to anymore games!).

Ford was always that kid.¬† He knew his colors so fast, he ate with utensils super early,he started walking early…basically he was a child genius:)¬† In all honesty, he has always just been a fast learner and I pray that continues.¬† Now, enter Pierce.¬† Pierce lost a good 9-10 weeks of development in a very important time frame.¬† Kids his age were mastering walking, talking,¬† being able to identify their nose, etc. when he got sick.¬† He lost a ton of weight and was very rarely at school interacting with teachers or other kids.¬† He’s behind those stupid email milestones.¬† And it breaks my heart daily.

I know it shouldn’t matter.¬† I shouldn’t get upset when I see kids around the same age walking perfectly, talking, looking older than Pierce.¬† But, I’ll admit it.¬† I do.¬† It doesn’t help that¬† apps like Timehop remind me daily of pictures of Ford at this age…he was walking and wearing 18-24 month clothes.¬† 18 month shorts have to be rolled up at the top to stay up on my skinny little guy.¬†People constantly ask “is he walking?”, “what has he learned today?”.¬†Others will say “oh, don’t worry,¬†kids all develop differently”.¬† But, when he just crawls across the floor at school around all the other kids who are walking, I feel the eyes of parents and teachers on me.¬† When someone posts a picture of Facebook of their child who is the same age…and she is dancing or he is walking to his dad, I break inside.¬† “Why can’t Pierce do that?” and¬† “Just hurry up and learn” secretly rush through my brain.

These are all such selfish thoughts, I know.

The blessing is that he has no idea.¬† He doesn’t have some mental scorecard¬†saying he’s behind.¬† He is just thrilled his joints don’t hurt anymore, that he can eat without vomiting and he can go to school daily.¬† So¬†I have to quiet my crazy.¬† I have to¬†do my best to hide my stress.¬†¬†I remind myself daily that there are far worse situations in this world and that we are blessed with a diagnosis we can control.¬† But it is still painful.¬† It’s still sad sometimes.

Celiac disease will always make him different.¬† Friends will want to go to¬†a fast food restaurant¬†and he won’t be able to eat.¬† He will be limited on what he can eat at birthday parties.¬† Hilariously enough I met a woman whose son with Celiac had to break up with his girlfriend because kissing her was making him sick!¬†¬† I don’t want to watch him not only struggle with Celiac, but also being behind in learning and development.¬† So, for now, I quiet my crazy with cookies (Wow! Baking Company’s Lemon Burst cookies are AMAZING!).¬† Soon I’ll quiet my crazy shopping for new pants.¬† And one day down the road, when Pierce is walking next to me, my crazy will be silenced….or will have at least shifted to trying to beat you off the stop light.

If at first it tastes awful, try try again

If at first it tastes awful, try try again

Two blogs in, and I need to make a confession.¬† I have no patience, none at all.¬† My entire being is built around immediate gratification…it’s a character flaw that I acknowledge yet spend no time trying to fix.¬† Something I’ve learned over the past few days is there cannot be a baker on earth¬†with this¬†flaw.¬† Patience is the key to baking, especially bread.¬† You might wonder how I learned this.¬† Well wonder no more and¬†take a gander at this “beauty”.¬† It ties in my book with brown rice bread¬†for grossest thing I’ve tasted.¬† I should have saved it to use as¬†a boat anchor.¬† It might have actually weighed more than Pierce.

This was supposed to be sandwich bread, not a sponge
This was supposed to be sandwich bread, not a sponge

Lesson learned: let the yeast due its thing.¬† I vow to try again soon, but I’m letting my pride heal first.

So, one failure in, but lots of great gluten free meals and treats have been had at the Tucker household.¬† I’m one of those cooks who doesn’t like “basic” meals, an issue¬†I blame on Pinterest.¬† If I had never discovered this website, I know I’d be content eating sandwiches, tater tots, and chicken nuggets.¬† Stupid Stupid Pinterest. I should like basic meals….I have approximately 23 minutes to get food on the table before one of my children (husband included) erupts in a hangry fit.¬† But I always try to bring new flavors, new meals, and great looking dishes to the table.

I stressed when we went gluten free thinking we’ll just be eating basic meat and veggies every night, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised.¬† We’ve enjoyed roasted veggies (parsnips and carrots were delish), maple glazed salmon, bbq pork in the crock pot, Italian quinoa bites, gluten free tacos and many many other items.¬† All thanks to that stupid stupid Pinterest.¬† I do my best to “pin” new delicious ideas each week, so if you need any gluten free meals feel free to follow along:

https://www.pinterest.com/emilyjtucker/gluten-free-planning/

And the meals are working.¬† Pierce is growing like a weed.¬† He is¬†still having to drink Elecare in place of milk (a prescription formula that will help him build up the walls of his intestines).¬† It is extremely expensive, but we are covered under insurance, at least for a little while.¬† His next GI evaluation is in August so fingers crossed at that point he can transition off the liquid gold.¬†Although if it keeps him happy and healthy, I’ll pay for it until he’s 18.

I told Nathan the other day I truly think we forgot what his personality had been.¬† He spent so long being sick, it was almost normal for us to have a child that didn’t smile or play or want to interact.¬† It is an understatement to say we are¬†thrilled to watch his personality return. Even teachers at daycare have raved about the thrill of seeing his smile and watching him play with other children.¬† The boy below is our boy and we are so happy to have him back!¬† Well off to another adventure in gluten-free life!¬† More bread baking¬†horrors and life stories to come…..thanks for following along

Spending time with his big brother.
Spending time with his big brother.
Riding on his horse Benny....no fear Daddy is standing by:)
Riding on his horse Benny….no fear Daddy is standing by:)
Life without gluten is going to be so hard!

Life without gluten is going to be so hard!

Once the diagnosis of celiac came from our doctors, it felt as if everyone needed to tell¬†me how hard life would be without gluten.¬† I am sure from the outside looking in the transition from wheat bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, etc. to “cardboard food” would be daunting. However, if life without gluten would keep my son from ever feeling like that again, I knew it would be smoother than anyone imagined.¬† Plus, after being in the hospital and seeing children much more ill than my sweet boy, removing gluten seemed like child’s play compared to serious battles with cancer and lives spent in surgeries.

I immediately decided our family would totally transition to a gluten free lifestyle (at least when I am not near Joe Bologna’s).¬† I couldn’t imagine 1)having to cook two meals when I can barely get one on the table in a timely manner¬†and 2)being the mom that says “oh sorry Pierce, I can eat this delicious food, but you need to sit over in the corner and gnaw on that brick of rice bread”.

I should mention now that during the two weeks of hospital stays and our transition home, my mother in law and mother were amazing.¬† Thank the lord for retired teachers!¬† It didn’t matter the time, the length of stay, the request, or any other requirement….they were there.¬† I have an IMMENSE amount of mom guilt.¬† I practically drag it behind me in a suitcase each day to work.¬† I hate being away every day, but I’d never¬†felt¬†the amount¬†guilt as I did having to go into the office two days when my son was in the hospital.¬† My mom was right there, driving across Nashville in rush hour traffic to sit with him all day, so that I could be away.¬† My mother-in-law came and took Pierce to¬†a doctor appointment and lugged him all over¬†Vanderbilt while I was stuck in a photo shoot.¬† My mom guilt was still there, but their presence allowed me to keep it slightly under wraps.

My mother, fondly known as Dee Dee¬†in our home,¬†also spent time one afternoon buying what I believe is every single gluten-free item she saw.¬† Not only did she buy out Kroger, but she discovered the slew of Bob’s Red Mill items at Big Lots, so if you are desperately looking for pancake mix and they are all out…check my pantry!¬† We learned that some things are terrible, like Brown Rice bread.¬† I think about that and gag.¬† There must be people that eat it because it is still being stocked at the store.¬† To those people…I salute you.¬† Your jaw strength must be second to none.¬† I couldn’t make it through one bite without struggling to chew through.¬† We have, however,¬†discovered¬†many other gluten free items that¬†are not so bad…Bob’s Red Mill pancake mix, corn/quinoa pasta, Kinnikinnick white bread, and I had no better news then discovering Peeps were gluten free.¬†¬†Dee Dee also took note of my complete panic attack about cross contamination and bought a few new skillets and pots….side note, unless the item is porous, you¬†should be¬†fine.¬† Baking stones and things of that nature are risky, and toasters should definitely be replaced, but you don’t need to scrape and rebuild your kitchen:)¬† In other words, don’t be crazy like me.

What makes this transition easier is watching the daily improvement in Pierce.  Removing the feeding tube was exciting and watching him start to walk again was even better.  Hearing him laugh, watching him play with his brother, and actually enjoy food again is the icing on our gluten free, white rice flour and xanthan gum cake!

changes in Pierce
The change in Pierce from before hospital and the week we were discharged.

 

 

 

 

 

Pierce and chex
Chowing down on some Chex cereal
taking steps again
Building up his strength
without tube
Right after the feeding tube was removed!