Having 3 way conversations.

My life lately goes something like this.

Me ‘Hi (BIG smile), do you speak English?

Person ‘little (while blushing and looking around a little bit panicked)’.

Im not sure why people get embarrassed, clearly the problem here is mine, Im the one in a foreign country that doesn’t speak the language (although Im picking it up, rather fast!). I must say, I have been fortunate to have some awesome people helping me. The lady in the line in the post office who helped me translate when the cashier spoke no English, the customer in the Orange shop who helped me translate. The manager in Piotr i Pawel who took his time to help me translate food labels today. Then we have the even more patient people who my hubby helps to translate to, the awesome lady in the Pesel number place who patiently helped me with forms and everything while hubby was being passed between us (on the phone, obviously). The doctor who got given A’s entire medical history first by me in english and then by hubby in Polish over the phone, who waited patiently while hubby translated all the dosages of new meds to me and made sure I understood. The NC+ installation guy who had the hubby on skype translating for us.

I zone in on the younger people now if I need to ask something, they are more likely to speak English well it seems, like the girl in H&M who has lived in London and who nearly made me cry with her perfect East End accent, the girl in the Mac shop who has studied in Cambridge and speaks the queens English almost as well as the Queen. These are the people I almost want to hug! Being understood is such a huge part of life, I never realised what a difference it can really make in how we feel.

So I struggle on, but more then anything, I am managing, thanks to awesome people in shops and a very patient husband.

And then there is my new book…..

Image

-Linda

Like this post? Also find and like us on Facebook! www.facebook.com/glutenfreeandme 🙂

Major decisions about our future.

moving_van

Seems to me some Celiacs are A OK as soon as they go on that gluten free diet, others struggle and suffer, no matter how well they stick to the diet. I have met hundreds of celiacs by now through my work with Gluten Free UAE, and it seems to be that its not how long you were sick for before diagnosis, but how SICK you got before diagnosis that makes a difference. Those who were very very sick, are often the ones that struggle after (no research on this that I know of, just how I perceive it from the Celiacs I have met). My own little Celiac is one of those that got extremely sick before diagnosis, and she is also one of those who have struggled post diagnosis. Yes, she is better, yes, she is doing great in many ways, but she also gets sick alot, not sure if she gets sick more often then your average 4 year old, but she certainly gets sick ‘properly’. She has had a ton of hospital stays. At the age of 4 she has had so many pneumonias we are starting to lose count and only count the severe ones! Although she is doing great in growing and developing, each pneumonia sets her back, and we cant afford to many set backs, she has to much catching up to do! Her energy levels are often very low, as they would for anyone fighting illness. At times I have to carry her in to school from the car park, as she just doesn’t have the energy to walk. As any other tired 4 year old, the tiredness makes her cranky. She is on preventative steroids and we keep her indoors as much as we can to protect her from the dust. Her oxygen levels are often low and the main reason for repeated hospital stays. Her immune system seems to be working on overdrive and she often has unexplained temperatures, sometimes twice a week!

We left on our Europe trip with extra liquid steroids and antibiotics from the doctor, the oxygen levels were low, but not low enough to be admitted, but I fully expected to have to start her on the antibiotics a couple of days later. BOY was I in for a shock.

First day in Poland we walked to the shop, because in Europe, people walk places! I brought the push chair because of course I didn’t expect her to be able to do the full walk with her wheeze. Well, she walked all the way to the shop… and then she walked all the way back! I lifted her up to give her a hug and listen to her breathing, and there was NO WHEEZE WHATSOEVER!

Our little girl spent the next 1 month and 1 day without a single wheeze, she walked, she ran, she jumped, and not once did I hear the familiar words ‘mummy, Im tired now, I need to rest’. Not once did I have to carry her when her energy simply ran out. She was a different child. Even her gluten reactions were minor, we had a couple of cross contamination incidents and 1 ice cream incident, and she got over them so easily, so much faster then usual, and after the ice cream I fully expected an ear infection or something else to come – thats what usually happens – but no, she was recovered fully in 2 days!

We returned to Dubai, and I was hoping the wheeze would stay away, but the heavy breathing and a slight wheeze was back in 4 days, a couple of days later the first unexplained temperature. Clearly our Celiac does not do well here.

So I guess the title of this post is unfitting, because our decision wasn’t major at all, it was a total no brainer. We are going to go and live in Europe for a bit, hopefully the air quality there will help her, and this girl really needs all the help she can get!

I am gutted. I love Dubai, I have loved it since the first time I set my foot here in January 2006. My children were born here, I have my home, my friends, my heart here. But health has to win. Hopefully in a couple of years things will be different, maybe we will even be able to return. Who knows.

I believe you chose your reactions to everything in life, and I chose not to remain gutted. Instead I am embracing this move fully, I am exited, the kids are exited, a new adventure.

And it sure will make for a pretty interesting blog wont it 😉

-Linda

A month in Europe and a month worth of biscuits!

I was hoping to blog whilst in Europe… well obviously I didn’t. I was to busy EATING my way through Europe. Im not sure Europeans even know how lucky they are? There are so many products. Normally I don’t buy processed gluten free, mainly maybe because there isn’t much available here (in Dubai), but when faced with hundreds of packets of biscuits that all look super yummy, whats a girl to do?? Then of course there are all the traditional foods that the kids had to try, like prince sausage and danger sausage (falukorv)!

Image

So what did we do in Europe? We ate. And we visited every grocery store we could find (bad habit). You could say that going to grocery stores for us like was sightseeing might be for other tourists. I just call it research. Eating biscuits of course also falls under research…. right? 😀 IMG_1728

In Poland Gluten Free was a little bit harder, partly because I don’t speak any Polish, my poor husband had to translate all the labels unless I knew the brand. Many of the shops didn’t have a dedicated gluten free section, but we were in a small town most of the time, so Im guessing its different in the larger cities.

Sweden however… was amazing! Even the smallest country store imaginable would have something gluten free. We not only avoid gluten, we also avoid products with wheat starch (the gluten free kind) as Celiac kid is so sensitive, but even if we take away the products with wheat starch, every supermarket we visited still had more then any supermarket here. It was so refreshing to be able to feel somewhat like a ‘normal’ family, although somewhat fattening for the researcher! IMG_1848

The hospitality of the people we visited with was also amazing, here Im so used to bringing everything for Celiac kid (then I just pretend eat myself as Im not a diagnosed Celiac so really have no great excuse), but in Sweden, I didn’t even mention anything to anyone, brought my stuff along, and everyone had gluten free stuff for us! No questions, just 100% normal! Celiac kid was surprised, happy of course, but couldn’t really understand…. ‘is everything gluten free in this land mumma?’ she asked me.

If only.

Even better, the reactions we had in Europe were not as bad as the ones here, she seemed to thrive in the climate, the air, the freshness everywhere, and the reactions were small and eased off way faster then usual (more about that in my next post). IMG_1750

As far as first experiences go for the expat kids we saw, crabs, frogs, cows (they ARE real!!), forests, snails, we climbed trees, we climbed rocks, we wore wellies and we jumped in puddles, we walked everywhere and we drove a baby car and went on a tram.  Oh, and Celiac kid broke her arm on the first full day in Poland.

These things happen I guess.

Europe is pretty. Prettier then I remembered, and even prettier through the eyes of someone that doesnt live there. I had the added bonus of seeing it for the first time through the eyes of my children. What a privilege.

-Linda

Let the packing begin….

travel_064And so today the suitcases come out, I need to figure out what we are bringing and do a test pack, tomorrow is the last day for washing things and getting anything we may have forgotten. But what DO you bring when you are a gluten free family going to Europe for a month…? Let me tell you, ALOT.

The list making started weeks ago, medications, inhalers, medical related documents, food, electronics, frying pan, lunch box, etc etc. Clothes are very very far down the list. Shoes are another problem, kids only own school shoes and flip flops, me, I only own flip flops! Thats what happens when you live in a country that has summer pretty much all year. Going to Europe now, to us, will seem like stepping in to winter. We did buy a pair of shoes each the other day, but Im not so sure it will be enough?

IMG_1705

Celiac kid calls us the flip flop family, guessing now we can be the converse family 🙂

You might wonder why we are bringing a frying pan? (Yes, we ARE bringing a frying pan, I wasn’t joking) Well, non stick pans can soak up gluten, and while we have kitchen access the entire time we are away, Im not sure there are stainless steel pans available, so what to do?  Im also thinking I may bring a toaster…. is that weird..? If we were away for just a week or so Id go with toaster bags, but we are away an entire month! The amount I’ll spend on toaster bags can probably buy us a new toaster…? This is the longest we will have been away since diagnosis, and although Im exited and looking forward to it, I also know that one mistake can cost us more then its worth. So plan plan plan. Long gone are the days when I breezed through airports looking chilled and comfortable, now Im the woman with bags and kids everywhere who has packed half the house and then some. Oh well.

Happy Holidays to us, if you see me back here in the near future you will know I survived the packing stage!

-Linda

Staycation, a Gluten Free trip to Fujairah Rotana Resort and Spa.

Originally posted on Gluten Free UAE in August 2012

Like many other gluten free families, we rarely travel unless its for a big reason. Those last minute trips and sleepovers that were so much fun before, are no longer possible. Even short trips away require planning and shopping, and plenty of worry and stress. What if there is no gluten free food? What if our Celiac gets contaminated and spends the whole trip being ill?

Having spent the whole summer (so far) here in the UAE, and many many loooong hot days doing very little, me and the kids were absolutely climbing the walls. Lets take the risk, lets GO somewhere!

We booked one night at the Fujairah Rotana Resort & Spa. One night , because booking 2 nights seemed very very risky, given that we didn’t know how it would work, gluten free wise.

We brought with us a loaf of freshly made gluten free bread, plenty of biscuits, crisps and bananas, crossed our fingers and left. We had a big breakfast before leaving, plenty of snacks, and some sandwiches in a cool box, worst case scenario all we eat is dinner, then if its not that great we can always go home after breakfast tomorrow we thought.

We really needn’t  have worried. Not long after arriving we had been introduced to the Executive Chef and Half the waiting staff. A basket of fruit and a tray of sweets (all gluten free) were sent to our room, as well as a basket of bread rolls. The bread was good! Too good, I had to call the kitchen just to double check that it really was gluten free (you just never know right?).

We had a great afternoon by the pool, the kids going crazy on the water slide and enjoying being outdoors.

Dinner time came, and we went to the restaurant. We were looked after like celebrities at this point, the ‘gluten free family’, yes yes, here. The head waiter came to greet us. We discussed what our Celiac would eat and it was decided she would have chicken (plain, no marinade, made in a clean pan) and home made chips made in a clean pan with new oil. Plain perhaps, but absolutely perfect for a Celiac 3 year old, and in terms of stress levels for the mum, less is more!

The rest of us had the Iftar buffet avoiding obvious gluten. When out of the house we don’t worry about trace amounts or contamination for the rest of us, but we wouldn’t eat ‘real bread’ around her, besides, real bread now makes me ill too!

The chef also made us some gorgeous home made thin and crispy potato chips (crisps).

We had a nice and relaxed evening and a good sleep.

Breakfast came and another buffet for the rest of us. We had 3 types of gluten free bread given to us, and we all enjoyed them. Had our celiac wanted eggs, or bacon or anything else, a fresh portion would have been made for her in a clean pan just to be sure. She was quite content though – stuffing herself with bread rolls!

We enjoyed lunch in the pool snack bar before leaving, another meal which went off without a hitch. The Celiacs meal was made in the main kitchen- again under the watchful eyes of the executive chef.

Our short break has given us not just a well deserved break, but also some extra confidence. We will be going away soon again for sure. Maybe even for 2-3 nights.

A big thanks to executive chef Tarek Mouriess and his staff for looking after so well. We will be back 🙂

-Linda

Image

Image
I am not a food critic, or a resort critic (I bet you can tell!) But I really wanted to share our POSITIVE experience with you all, because for some people – like us – food safety is top priority. So while I may not be able to tell you about the succulent this or that, I can tell you that our Celiac was happy, and didn’t get ill! :)) Apologies for the bad pictures, they were taken in hindsight with a very dirty iPhone! 

Check out the Fujairah Rotana

Like this post? Also find and like us on Facebook! www.facebook.com/glutenfreeandme 🙂