Rushing Back

Rushing Back

It is amazing thinking back that Pierce’s diagnosis was just under 4 months ago. It seems like a lifetime since all the stress, angst and worry started around his “mysterious illness”.  I rarely feel the pain in my heart anymore….the nagging one I felt each day, all day, when no one could give me an answer.  This week it all came rushing back.

On April 15th, there was a photo shoot in our home. Pierce had seemed even worse that particular week….increasingly lethargic and vomiting almost every meal. Nathan was traveling to Charlotte and I was juggling a stressful work schedule. Thankfully my wonderful mother in law stepped in and took Pierce to the pediatrician. I tried not to let most people at work know what was going on (I am not one for sympathetic stares or the awkward questions) so I desperately needed to pretend all was fine. After his appointment, I got a text from my MIL saying the doctor was very concerned about Pierce’s weight loss and he was sending them to Vandy for blood work and other tests.  I rushed upstairs to my bedroom, pretending to take a call….and honestly I went to hide and cry. “What kind of mother isn’t there for those tests?” I asked myself. After 5 minutes of sulking, I sucked it up and went back to my pretend world and the photo shoot.  Luckily, that trip to Vandy led us to Dr. Moulton’s office, in the GI clinic at Vandy, the following day.  Sitting in that waiting room, praying that once behind the door we would get answers.  Pierce moving from my arms to Nathan’s arms and back, completely uncomfortable and exhausted from fighting. It felt like hours before we saw the doctor. And then, just like that…he provided an answer.  I remember his soft, sweet voice saying “your son is in celiac crisis and I would like to admit him to the hospital”. It was scary.  Scary and calming.

Thursday, Pierce had his first follow-up at the GI clinic since the hospital. He has moved from the 3rd percentile in weight to the 57th. He walks, talks, and actually prefers for me not to hold him. The kid I took to the doctor four months ago and the one who returned this week are so far apart…and I am so thankful. At the end of the appointment, the nurse practitioner said “he looks great.  You are doing a fantastic job, mom”.  Weird how one comment that probably seemed so small in her world, made my heart almost explode with joy.  We are on the right track:)

But don’t   worry….I didn’t leave the appointment too high on my fancy horse. She brought up gluten free make-up, shampoo and a whole slew of other things I had honestly not researched. So Thrive Market has that appointment to thank for my rash order of baby shampoos, vitamins and cleaners. And due to my google searches on GF make-up, my Facebook feed has never looked so pretty:). One day, I will know all the ends and outs of where gluten hides….right???  Until then, I will keep making random purchases, trying crazy recipes, and watching my buddy grow!

got to hang at mommy’s office before the doc
playing peek-a-boo on my knee
he wouldnt even touch this toy before
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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
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:)