Celiac Disease – or One More Benefit to Homeschooling

My son was diagnosed with Celiac Disease by both blood test and biopsy almost 12 years ago. We found out soon after that I have it, too, along with my daughter. What this all means is our family has been gluten free long before it ever became trendy. It was still the “Wild, Wild West” of food labeling during that time. There was food labeled and marketed as “gluten free” that was far from it, such as one brand of frozen “gluten free chicken nuggets” that caused not only my kids to get sick but nearly killed a few children who had anaphylactic responses to the wheat in the food that wasn’t listed on the ingredients.  Believe me, we do not do this because “all the cool kids are doing it.” My son’s body was shutting down when we finally got the diagnosis, and luckily he turned around.

After diagnosis, when he was in preschool and then public school for kindergarten and first grade, he sat alone when he ate his food in order to avoid cross-contamination and accidental ingestion of gluten. At public school he washed his hands after recess, before lunch, and at the end of lunch recess to remove any trace amounts of gluten because the schools had more bread and cookie crumbs than you could possibly believe. His hands were dry and cracked from all the hand-washing, and STILL he got gluten contamination in some way about once a week. One time I walked into his first grade class when they were celebrating Valentine’s Day. He was sitting in his chair pulled far away from his table. All the other kids were eating cookies and cake. Crumbs were everywhere: on the floor, the table, the chairs, and even his chair (which was a good couple of feet away from the other students). And the kids rifled through his papers, grabbed his pencil box and opened it, then pulled out his Valentine’s bag out of his hands to see what he got. I wasn’t mad at any of the kids at all; nothing was done out of malice or carelessness. For 6 or 7 years olds, they were very careful. They really just didn’t know that their actions would lead to him getting sick somehow, and for whatever reason the teacher, even with our 504 plan in place, didn’t realize the seriousness of it either. But my son sat there feeling isolated and scared of what would be coming his way because it would almost be inevitable that he would get sick. And he did get sick, and it happened to me as well that day. It’s not necessarily any easier as an adult to not get a small amount of gluten in a situation like that.

When we started homeschooling, Adrien’s health improved dramatically. My daughter’s did, too. And even though we would go to the park a couple of times a week to hang out with other kids or spend the whole day at the homeschool co-op they were enrolled in (shout out to TLC in Upland, California!!!), neither of them got sick anywhere near as often as they used to. There were fewer kids, and there were other families who were conscientious of our food issues and therefore made an effort to keep their kids’ hands clean after eating if they were going to play with him or my daughter. It wasn’t the reason for us to homeschool, but it certainly was an added benefit.  And like I said before, if we hadn’t started homeschooling our kids, I would have never found ceramics. It all comes full circle then.

This blog of mine isn’t going to be a place where people find it in order to learn more about Celiac Disease or homeschooling, despite the fact that I’ve now devoted two columns on those said subjects already. But it is about what motivates me and why I do what I do. So, there might be a time where I share a recipe or maybe even our family experiences with Celiac Disease, food restrictions, or homeschooling. For me, my need to create something doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The same part of my brain that visualizes how to shape a piece of clay into a twisting tree limb also figures out how to turn a regular cherry pie recipe into a gluten free/dairy free cherry pie that also tastes good. Luckily for the people around me, I’ve been cooking this way for a long time, so I’m normally pretty successful at it! All of my life, the positive and the negatives, informs what I do, which really just means that what I write about here might be as diverse as my thoughts can be. I will strive to make it understandable and hopefully relatable, though (which if many who know me are correct, could be a challenge).