Sweet And Crumby

Baking, a Love Story

Accidental Toughness


This is not a baking post. Sorry. Move along to my Blogroll if you need a good baking fix or just check my recipe file above. It’s impressive. But then again, that’s my own opinion and I have a fairly healthy dose of self-esteem—apparently so does my son. That’s him there…he’s a bit of a nut job on a good day (both my husband and I are definitely to blame for this).

That's him in his morph suit. He got it for his birthday, by request.

I’ve lain awake most nights this week. Thinking. It’s utterly paralyzing when you are supposed to be sleeping. Any insomniacs in the crowd out there? I’ve had this good hunch that most bloggers are insomniacs. After all, when on earth do we have time to do all this writing, baking, reading, and commenting when we have real lives going on in the real world, with jobs, mortgages, spouses and such?

I’ve actually had friends and acquaintances ask, “When on EARTH do you have the time to BAKE?! or BLOG?! I am SO BUSY!” Yeah, lady, I’m not busy; two teenagers, one hubby, one dog, a job, laundry and a house that always seems to need cleaning…I wouldn’t know what that’s like. Perhaps it’s when I am awake at 2, 3 or 5 am? It’s better than watching the awful stuff on TV at that hour or ordering the “Space Bag“. Sorry, I digressed, can you tell I have alot of pent up hostility on that subject?

Weird things have happened in the last year. Small, tackle-able things that I can handle one by one or maybe even in two’s or three’s but in tens, that’s a bit rough. Weird things have happened since I was in my early twenties. I am more than grateful to my parents that real life waited until childhood was long gone. THANK YOU Mom and Dad!

I once, guiltily, told a therapist that there are a lot of people who have it a lot worse than I did at the time. Then, I was supporting someone through debilitating depression. It was the first year of mommyhood and I had already conquered death-grip inspiring colic in my baby (severe fits of screaming and food allergies in newborns), my own postpartum depression when I realized that my baby was ill and that I may never sleep more than 15 minutes at a time ever again, and was trying to make sense of why that year was so hard. Do you know what my therapist said that made me feel light-years better? “A lot of people have it a lot better too.”  Simple and to the point. It worked.

I’m not saying that anyone should jump on the “poor me” bandwagon at any given minute because honestly you don’t really get anywhere with that. If you did, I would have really tried to ride that train a long time ago. I am saying that we all deserve some personal pity parties, short-lived, and hopefully constructive. Ones that end in a determination to make things better, help us toughen up and make the best of a bad situation.

My babies are both fairly grown now, and I am the luckiest mom in the world because they are happy, smart, kind, and mostly healthy. I made it through colic, thought I never, ever would and would never, ever have another baby. But I did and Thank God for that. Both my kids bring me the greatest joys I could never have imagined before parenting. But they have also caused me my early grays, a few too many wrinkles and much chocolate bingeing.

And now, here we are at another hurdle or hiccup. It’s kind of like the feeling of the last hurdle in a long race (let’s hope it’s the last hurdle for awhile…I am very tired). Those of you who have been reading this year know we have put up with termites (no big deal unless you are a pesticide-o-phobe like moi and basically move everything possible out of the house for safety), two separate floods on the same wood floor, one torn hip muscle on Christmas Day (hubby, not me) and now we are working through an almost certain diagnosis of Celiac (gluten allergy) for my seventeen-year-old son. The one in the orange suit above if you missed it.

He is the pickiest eater I have EVER encountered.This should be interesting. I am reading, recipe searching ordering crazy ingredients like “tapioca starch, xanthan gum, gluten free baking powder (who knew it had gluten to begin with?), gluten free chocolate chips (a must!)” and books like Artisanal Gluten Free Cupcakes (yes I did order that). I am trying to picture him going to college, eating at a cafeteria, going to parties, avoiding pizza. Holy sh@@!

I know how lucky we are to live in a hyper sensitive gluten free world. Trust me, I’m grateful. I’m grateful for the internet and for living in L.A. where everyone is sure they are gluten sensitive so bakeries and restaurant offerings are popping up all over. I am the most grateful that he has something fixable. I am so lucky. I do know. See a pattern here? I am fairly good at trying to rationalize. I always do come through the other side of the pity party. But it’s not usually an easy ride, and it’s rarely ever planned. I call it accidental toughness. I’m actually kind of a wimp in my planned life.

That being said, it’s just hard to picture your child suffering in any way, shape or form. It’s innate. We are supposed to bristle at their cries, ache when they ache and lie awake at night awaiting the noises of their car pulling into the drive.

He is tough as nails though, like his dad. When an IV was being put in his arm yesterday, I massaged his shoulder, trying to relax him. He looked at me and said, “I’ve given blood a ton of times…this is no big deal.” The nurse was surprised. He’s only 17.

“How many times have you given blood?”, she asked.  He started to count…”Several times at high school…alot,” he replied. She looked impressed. I was proud. I swallowed hard and fought back my tears.

After the procedure was over, and he was coming to from the anesthesia…he was cracking jokes. It turns out the nurse had a sixteen-year-old daughter. I could see the wheels spinning in his head; that hormone surged, girl crazed head of his. I knew he was thinking how he could work this whole crazy crap in his favor…get something good out of it. I happened to ask the nurse if her daughter was boy crazy. She said, “Thankfully not.”

I smiled. I know this whole gluten free nightmare is going to be such fun…for him and me. I am pretty damn sure, though, he has the accidental toughness gene and that he is going to be just fine.

54 thoughts on “Accidental Toughness

  1. Hi! I realize that you have no idea who I am and getting responses from strangers is probably pretty creepy, but after reading your post this morning I couldn’t help myself. I was diagnosed with celiac at 22, 4 days before my wedding. It was too late to find a gluten-free cake so I didn’t even get to eat my own wedding cake. Bummer. I can certainly relate to the craziness you and your family are going though. And it’s rough, especially when you’re young and all of your friends want to go out to pizza. But the good news is it’s not a death sentence and once your son realizes how good he feels living gluten-free, it won’t be nearly as much of a burden. Word to the wise: get Jules’ gluten-free flour. Expensive but worth it. It’s the best and tastes the most like normal stuff. Most everything else is gritty. I’ll be happy to pass along a few of my recipes too if you need some easy and tummy-friendly dinner options. Best of luck!

  2. I’m sending you a virtual hug Geni. I can just feel your fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Those are never fun emotions, let alone when we have them for our kids. I know you will both figure this out. If there’s ever been a baking, cooking, inventive recipe whiz – it’s you. And it sounds like you’ve done an amazing job raising your son. He’s got such a positive attitude and a great sense of humor. Still, hugs, hugs, hugs. 🙂

  3. We might be blogging soulmates. I have just about the same exact picture of my son…hilarious…..what are they thinking. My son has the morph suit in red. I am a bit of an insomniac and with some of the stomach issues my son has had over the years, Celiac’s has actually crossed my mind. That’s just plain crazy.

  4. Your son will adapt pretty quickly, I think. He seems like someone who will not allow this to get him down.
    And as for blogging – well, those who do not blog, don;t really understand the joys of the community do they?
    Look forward to reading some gluten-free recipes I can pass on to my mom 🙂

  5. Dear Geni this is so lovely photograph… I loved his morph suit action 🙂 Thank you, Blessing and Happiness, have a nice weekend, with my love, nia

  6. Oh Geni, I so share all your feelings on this. Of course, he will be fine and will learn a new way of eating; but as a mother it just hurts to see our children have to deal with health issues. You’ve defintiely done a tremendous job with your kids; thru all the good and difficult times (I really love that suit he’s wearing!) and you will carry on through this. I’ve been trying more and more gluten free recipes, so I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with. Espcially in baking, that’s a hard one. Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

  7. Hi, Geni! I have to tell you that I have been more than impressed with your positive attitude through everything this year (and last). Your usual optimism will get you through – though a pity party can often be a good release, too. If you need any advice on GF stuff, let me know. My very good friend and her daughter are GF (she has a blog, too – linked on my page) and my other good friend has two kiddos GF. They have tons of real-life good advice – and would be more than willing to help out. Just let me know. Your son is going to rock this, I just know it. Take care!

  8. Ugh, I am sorry you are dealing with thing, it can feel so overwhelming! My daughter has not been tested for celiac, but we have determined from symptoms she has that she is at the very least gluten intolerant. We’ve been on the gluten-free adventure for about 8 months now, grateful for those who have gone before (and have gloriously encouraging blogs) and the increased awareness in restaurants. You are a good mom to help him with facing and dealing with this–there is hope!

    You are not alone, your son will adjust and be better for it as he learns to listen to his body as it relates to his health (that can be a hidden blessing here). Peace to you today.

  9. I can honestly say that I’m a bit jealous of the orange morph suit…why didn’t they have these around when I was growing up.

    Glad to read about the positiveness you have regarding everything in life and you have to appreciate your son’s swagger regarding the ladies. 🙂

  10. Girl, can I just tell you that I LOVE you??!! I’m here to give you a HUGE virtual hug. It must be the full moon because this past week I’ve had to deal with some family issues as well. It is so tough on mom. Fortunately, celiac disease is more widely known than in the past and there are so many wonderful blogs devoted solely to that diet and many restaurants offering gluten-free foods as well. I’ve even made a few. Just start out with baby steps, it can easily be overwhelming if you try to take in too much at once. I believe in you, Geni!!
    Oh, and can I tell you that I LOVE you AGAIN??!! That poem you wrote for me – ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!!! It brought tears to my eyes not only because of the words, but because you took the time to write it for me! I am SO very grateful to have “met” you and become friends!!! XOXOX

  11. Sorry, Geni, that your family has been dealt this hand. There are plenty of resources to help and many blogs dedicated to a GF lifestyle. Our Christmas dinner was GF and it was incredible, including the GF bread that I baked from a recipe that had been shared here on WordPress. It’s an adjustment but not impossible, especially considering your skill in the kitchen.

  12. That morph suit makes me giggle! Maybe I’ll put one of those on my birthday list this year. 😉 Going gluten-free is not easy, but it sounds like you have a great attitude about it. It’s a fixable ailment and you’ll become an even better baker with this new challenge!

  13. Geni – All I’m going to say is that you are a super Mom with super kids! **HUGS**

  14. My friend I am sure your son who seems so positive and upbeat will be absolutely fine! I promise there are so many wonderful GF websites doing the most wonderful things with chickpea flour and almonds! All my love!

    Choc Chip Uru

  15. Me.. Me (waving hand wildly) yes, I am an insomniac. Hey.. it happens to the best of us. One thing I learned about you, from mostly all of your blog post, is how strong you are. Yes.. I can read it and hear it when you write (and my mother is a strong woman so I know what to look for).. and I know you will conquer this and come out on top :). And I may not have children, but I think your son will be great with a wonderful mother like you

  16. Hahaha I have seen these! Amazing! I want a garnet and gold one.

  17. Fun! What a wonderful post.

  18. Yes… I get the “when do you find the time” question a lot. We find the time because this is where we have our voice. Where we share our worries and celebrate our joys… along with a recipe or two. I will be thinking of you and your son, I think with an incredible cook/baker like you for a mom, he’ll be on the road to gluten-free health in no time! xoxo Smidge

  19. Oh Geni….I came very close to being diagnosed with celiac’s two years ago (1/4 antibody tests came back positive). I ended up refusing the endoscopy and biopsy to get a definitive diagnosis since I have no symptoms but it was definitely a scary and trying thought that I wouldn’t be able to eat gluten again. The positive thing about this, though, is that your son has YOU and I know that you will find a way to bake him up any number of delicious treats. Thankfully, the blogosphere is full of delicious gluten-free recipes and is such a great supportive resource. Give your son a hug for me!

  20. Oh Geni, you are amazing. This has been an insane year for you and you have handled it so well! I know how it feels when people question how you find time to blog. It still puts me on edge.

    I am feeling your pain on the gluten issue as well. My middle son (the 6 year old), my carbaholic, bread loving child, is doing about 100x better since we cut out wheat a couple months ago. He had a few crackers at church the other day and was sick within an hour. At this point, he will ask if something has wheat and then avoid it on his own.

    Luckily, I’ve been baking GF treats for my best friend for a few years now and it isn’t completely foreign to me. The freezer is already stuffed with multiple flours and random ingredients. However, I haven’t done any serious bread or savory baking. I am going to tackle that for him this week though.

    You are right. We live in an age when GF isn’t the curse it was even five years ago. There are GF options everywhere. For a baker like you, this will be a learning process, but hopefully not a severe learning curve. I know you will rock the GF baked goods just as well as everything else that comes out of your kitchen.

    I’m certainly not an expert, but feel free to email with any questions. As you likely already know, there are a lot of awesome resources available.

  21. Well I can’t think of a more creative cook, OK maybe Caroline (KIDDING) for someone with this diagnosis to have the fortune of living with. Also, I have that suit in green. I break it out for my quarterly pity parties!

  22. When I was in grade 5, we discovered that both my brother and I were allergic to both wheat and eggs. Along with some dairy products (different for both of us). It sucked, but it gets easier once you figure it all out, and I like to think of these things as character building.
    That said, you’re allowed to be frustrated, and annoyed, and feel sorry for yourself and your son. Im a pro at rationalizing, but the fact is, just because other people have it worse doesn’t mean what you’re going through counts any less. It doesn’t matter what the problem is, your feelings about it still count, and they’re still valid.

    Oh – also, the whole, “I’m way too busy to do the things you do” line pisses me off. People say that to me ALL THE TIME. Its called prioritizing. More people need to learn that.

    • Thanks Leah. I’m sorry you had to go through that too. It must have been WAAAAAY more difficult to avoid wheat and eggs then. Now, it seems like since so many people are intollerant, that more and more products are being made (although crazy expensive) which will make it easier for him.

  23. So sorry you are going through this Geni, it is never easy for a mum to see her kids go through any form of suffering or inconvenience. That being said, I know your son is lucky to have you in his corner and very few people are as talented or creative as you are. You both will make it through, it won’t be easy but it will bring you closer, some new adventure to share.
    Sending you warm thoughts and a vertual hug

  24. Love this and I fully agree!!
    “I am saying that we all deserve some personal pity parties, short-lived, and hopefully constructive. Ones that end in a determination to make things better, help us toughen up and make the best of a bad situation.”

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