Where Whine Meets Wine

Survival Of The Vacation

on August 10, 2011

As I’ve mentioned before, the kids and I spent part of last week at Camp Arrowhead (a place dearly beloved by both mine and my husband’s families… especially because that’s where we met). It’s really a lovely experience. You stay in a cabin, or in a building, with lots of rooms that are filled with bunk beds. You have a lovely lake to swim, boat, lay out in the sun. And the dining hall…where someone else does all the cooking! As head chef of this household, I really appreciate someone else doing the work. And as much as I just wanted to go and revel in the glory of not having to plan out meals… I have a child with food allergies, and so I don’t really have that luxury. (For the full version of why we eat the way we eat, go here.) So I packed some pre-packaged meals  since I wouldn’t really have access to a kitchen to actually cook a whole meal, and lots of snacks. It turned out to be unnecessary. One of the benefits of a camp you’ve attended your whole life, is you know everyone and they know you. Plus the cook, and the cook’s family, is like family to me…so there’s that. So she had sweetly thought ahead of my family’s needs! GF Chicken nuggets and GF biscuits (for the all important PB&Js …of all the meals I make, that is the one thing they will ALWAYS eat). Plus, my kids are big vegetable and fruit eaters, so there is lots of things in that realm that they can eat.

Unfortunately, not everyone will have a cook like that, or people who are so understanding. There was a man working in the kitchen (not a camp employee, just someone volunteering to help) that was not so understanding. In fact, a comment was made to the effect of: People with allergies like that should probably just stay/eat out of the general public. And then something about how it’s not really a healthy diet anyways.  Are you kidding me?! Do they know how much of the public this would eliminate? And how unfair! I’d like him to look into my daughter’s sweet little face and tell her she has to go and eat by herself. I’d also like to see his face, when seeing my daughter’s little face, and telling him that if he feeds her the “normal” wheat laden, food-colored foods she will break out in big hives all over her body (especially her face), spend the night vomiting, and lots of time in the bathroom. Or she could have really bad symptoms. Tell me that’s fair. We don’t do this “diet” for vanity’s sake, we do this for survival. After a month of being gluten-free (GF), my MissE was free of hives that her sweet little face had for a year while the Drs (and her parents) tried to figure out what was bothering her. Thankfully, “my other mother” (who moonlights as a camp cook) said to him the things I wasn’t there to say. (I love her.)

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated event. I think people have a lot of misconceptions of allergies in general. It’s easy to think, “I’m allergic to cut grass, but it only bugs me while I’m cutting the grass.” Food allergies are not like that. You can have symptoms days after you’ve eaten something that bugs you, and they can be miserable, and they can even be life threatening. And when it’s your child, you’re going to be as cautious as you can be. So you have to be aware of the fact that people are not going to understand it and therefore not prepare for it (if you’re going to a friend’s or family’s home). I bring easy to pack, easy to put together, meals for the kids, because I know it’s likely they weren’t thinking about it (I’m not judging them- they don’t have to worry about it for themselves, so it’s easy to forget! And I’m the one responsible for her well-being.). Unfortunately, you do have to be watchful because there’s always at least one person who thinks it’ll be no big deal if they slip them something. And sometimes you’ll run across people who think they’re giving your child a “treat” that you just won’t allow them to have. Seriously, even at two, I could tell Miss E she couldn’t have the cookie that was offered to her, because it will really make your tummy hurt. And she knows that it’s true, so she doesn’t fight it! Seriously. It makes her feel that bad, that a 2 year old knows it is not worth eating that cookie.  That said, I try to keep a few GF snacks in my purse and/or diaper bag. Because while she may understand that certain foods will make her not feel good, it’s not easy to watch the kids around you (or your brother) have an Oreo while you have a carrot stick.

Thankfully, there are ways around this…for the most part. While you cannot help what other people do or cook, you can still choose to feed your children similarly to how you would at home. I brought some of their favorite snacks to camp: real fruit, fruit snacks; puff corn, beef jerky, pretzels, and cereal (all GF, of course). I also brough GF noodles, and boxed (organic, GF) macaroni and cheese, for quick, easy meals. (Which are pretty key for vacation time!) Thankfully, I didn’t have to worry about the meals (and I can’t say enough how thankful I am for that!), but the snacks were good in times of wheat-filled munchie times. The key for my kids is to have the alternative there with you. Because when offered with a cookie now, they’re not going to be satisfied with a “We’ll get something yummy later.”

For those that we’ve gotten together with that do go the extra mile and prepare something GF for my children (or anyone else they know), thank you, thank you, thank you! For those that forget- no hard feelings. My word of advice to fellow GF-ers: prepare for your host to be unprepared. My word of advice for non-GFers: Don’t feed other people’s children without consulting their parents first. For some kids, it’s a matter of life and death, and that’s not a choice for you to be making, don’t you think?

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