...with a husband and 5 sons, I am truly outnumbered....stories and thoughts on life from a mom in a houseful of little men!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gluten-Free Thanksgiving....Coming to a Home Near You

The cooking and baking skills of this mama have needed to be stretched and honed, big-time. I am so thankful for where God has taken me in this arena through the last few years.

I remember, very clearly, praying in January 2002 that God would give me wisdom in nutrition and preparation of foods. With my first two pregnancies, I was learning a lot about these things, was trying to make positive changes, but was also painfully aware of how much I needed to learn! I prayed that He would teach me how to best care for my body and to serve my family in this area as well. He answered YES in the fall of that same year, when our sweet Eaglet was born. It took us awhile to figure out, but our then-newest little guy had severe food allergies. That year was hard, hard, hard...in so many ways. Baby Eaglet struggled with intestinal upset, poor sleeping, severe eczema, infections, anaphylaxis, and many general discomforts. His mama and papa struggled with watching him hurt....and with the stress of carrying around an Epipen for possible anaphylaxis. We struggled with mean, judgmental comments from strangers. We struggled with feelings of inadequacy; it seemed that no matter what we did, it was not enough. Eaglet's problems were still apparent no matter how many appointments, how many treatments, how many prayers. I personally also struggled greatly with the food issue. Upon Eaglet's allergy testing, I was told I needed to give up all dairy, egg, soy, and wheat, along with all their derivatives. It was pretty sobering to realize that nearly everything we were eating at that point fit in one of those categories. Exhausted, clueless, and constantly feeling that deep, aching, nursing-mother hunger, I struggled to try and find foods we could have. I struggled with how to prepare those foods. Up until that point, you see, I had depended so much on prepared, boxed, or canned foods. My "cooking" was not really cooking. "LORD help me!!" was my cry.

Even just those few years ago, non-allergenic and "natural" foods were not very readily available. I'm amazed these days as I stroll down the Natural Foods section at Fred Meyers, how much more there is available. But, I have to add, that wholesome, good, natural food has always been available--in the form of WHOLE FOODS that God created for our health. I had never learned to cook.

With Eaglet's diagnosis, and my determination to continue nursing him, I HAD to learn. I HAD to make changes. It was hard, but little by little, I learned. I learned to cook from scratch. I learned to bake our bread. I also learned that I love to do these things! It's so satisfying to see your family enjoy good, wholesome, life-giving, energy-giving foods. I finally understood why both of my grandmothers "loved with food" as I was growing up. "Eat! Eat! EAT!!" they would say!

I've continued to learn much in the last few years, and I'm so, so thankful to say, that our God saw fit to heal our Eaglet completely. We no longer keep an Epipen, and indeed have not had one for years. He is a happy, thriving boy who even enjoys many of the foods he was so allergic to as a baby. God answered my original prayer for wisdom regarding food, big-time. He did not answer it in the way I would have chosen, but it was the way that I needed it answered.

So having gone through all this, WHY was it such an issue when we found last spring that we needed to give up gluten for Spunky Cub, who is struggling with seizures?

because I thought we were done with food allergies

because I LOVE wheat, LOVE baking whole-wheat bread from the berry every week

because I'm a busy mommy of 5 and where is the time to figure this out?

because meal planning, preparation, and clean-up takes up a very large portion of every day for me.

Do you notice what I notice? "I, I, I, I'm, me." What ugly selfishness.

So we've been wrestling through this. We've done some gluten-free trials, starting in April of this year. I took advantage of many of the prepared gluten-free products during the first two trials. Truth be told, I didn't want to go through the whole process of figuring out how to cook by scratch gluten-free., I figured we'd do the trials, check gluten off the list of possible causes of seizures, and move on.

The first trial was two weeks, and we noticed no positive changes for Spunky. Another month-long trial, and we still noticed nothing. However, his blood test came back in the meantime, with a big ol' *** positive for wheat and for gluten allergy. At this point, we're committed to a 4-month minimum (but most likely we'll do 6 months) gluten-free trial.

After the blood test came back positive, I rolled up my sleeves and determined to learn how to do this thing right. I am very thankful there is so much on the market "gluten-free" these days; however, a good portion of these things are devoid of good nutrition, not to mention horribly expensive. I searched on-line...read gluten-free blogs...called friends. It was pretty overwhelming for me at first, until I realized that I needed to take some time off from homeschooling in order to tackle the meal thing full-on. I am so thankful for an amazing, supportive husband and also wonderful family, and good friends who encouraged me to do this. "One week of planning for 51 weeks of peace" is the way one friend put it. Well-said, Friend, well-said.

I feel like things are under control. This has been a big challenge, but it has been good. We've been at it for over 6 weeks now, and actually Cub has been off gluten for over 10 weeks now, with the exception of one week between the 4-week trial and beginning this new commitment. We are actually seeing less seizures per day for him lately, but as to the cause of that, I do not know. I am also happy to say that I actually had to look at the calendar to see how long we've been at it. At first, it was a day-by-day thing, and I could tell you EXACTLY how many days we'd been at it, as well as how many we had left! :)

This brings me to the original subject at hand--"Gluten-Free Thanksgiving"! I've been cookin' up a storm today, and I am SO excited at the things I've learned and by God's grace can do:

Mixed Berry pie with gluten-free crust, using white rice flour and potato starch

Our new basic bread (from brown rice, sorghum, quinoa, and tapioca flours,) cut up and drying out to be made into wild rice stuffing (!)

Cut-out sugar cookies, made from brown and white rice, potato, and tapioca flours, and waiting for icing and sprinkles

Our basic, YUMMY muffins, made with quinoa, sorghum, and tapioca flours + grated carrots

I love that so many new and healthful grains have been added into our diet. Instead of wheat, kamut, and spelt, we are enjoying quinoa, sorghum, teff, tapioca, millet, and others. Do I miss wheat?


Do I hope our family can go back to eating wheat in the future?


Do I sometimes wish desperately after a long day that we could just pick up a Papa Murphy's pizza and relax while it's baking?


But for now, this is what we need to do for our son's health. It's a small trade if it helps him, and, I think we're all the better for it.

If any of you are interested in these recipes, I'm happy to post them. But for now, peace out.


Allison in AK said...

I really, really love you. Seems like too much, since we aren't "borrow sugar, babysit kids" friends, but my heart is so full right now, after reading this. What a great lady you are. G 'night, friend ; and God bless you all. Love, A

Sarah said...

What a walk down "Memory Lane" your post is! Ten years ago I was where you are- starting on the gluten free journey. My son was horribly sick. Since then, three years ago more of us were diagnosed. There are now a total of four of us with Celiac Disease. We will never eat gluten again. I didn't know a single other soul who had Celiac/gluten intolerance, (hardly anyone had even heard of it, including our family doctor!) and there was absolutely NOTHING pre-packaged on the grocery store shelves. It was a very difficult time for me, as the wife, mama, teacher, homemaker, and cook. Whew. But it does indeed get easier. One day soon it will be second-nature. As far as picking up a pizza from Papa Murphy's after a busy day? Well, not until I get to heaven. But you know what? The Coke Family's gonna have the best banqueting table in the whole place as we enjoy all that stuff we couldn't eat here on earth!

Robbie Jo said...

Jessica, you are amazing!!! This is my first time reading your blog and what a woman you are. Of course, you were pretty amazing way back when we were in school together as well. I would like your recipes for the things you made for Thanksgiving. Whenever, you get time because I know how busy you are. I just got your Christmas card today and you have a beautiful family!!! Congrats on your new addition!