Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tennis star serves hope for food-allergic child

When I blew out the candles on my birthday cake tonight, I thought about tennis star Novak Djokovic celebrating his birthday today in France.  A lot of attention is focused on the second-seeded men's singles player as the French Open begins today on the famed clay courts at Roland Garros. We have followed his incredible success on the tennis court this year, but news last week about his gluten-free diet made my family even bigger fans.

The Wall Street Journal's article, "The Diet That Shook Up Tennis? Starch Madness: Novak Djokovic's Domination of the Sport Has Coincided With His Gluten-Free Turn," indicates that the Serb's switch to a gluten-free diet might have contributed to his phenomenal season, which includes an unbeaten streak of 39 matches. Djokovic learned that he was allergic to gluten last year and has since revamped his diet to remove the protein common in most flours, according to the article. I don't know the details of his allergy discovery or whether his new diet is contributing to his tennis success. But when I told my 8-year-old son that one of the tennis stars he admires can't eat wheat, just like him, he grinned and said, "Cool!"

Joseph, who is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg and soy, would never wish the dangers of a food allergy on another person. He is well versed in the fact that one bite of an allergen has the potential to take his life. But he also often feels the sting of isolation common for food-allergic kids. For example, he is the only child at a party with his own piece of cake, he stands back as other kids run to the ice cream truck and he can't go out for pizza to celebrate a success. He is a great kid, who focuses on the positive aspects of his life and on the things he can do and eat. But he has told me that it does upset him when he feels like he is the only one dealing with food allergies and that other people don't get it. So when he finds out that a successful adult or famous child has a food allergy, it makes him feel a little less alone. It gives him hope that he too will be successful in spite of his allergies. The fact that he now has an allergy in common with an athlete, who is excelling at the top level of Joseph's favorite sport, gives him a little morale boost.

Joseph knows the thrill of nailing an ace during a tennis match, he understands the need for drills that work his forehand and backhand, and he gets excited every time he learns a new skill to help improve his tennis game. He has followed the careers of tennis greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Joseph, like many other fans around the world, also noticed Djokovic and his rise in the ranks of men's tennis. He excitedly recounted the news about Djokovic's recent win over Nadal in the Rome Masters.

Now that success means even more to my son because he has something in common with one of the sport's top players, other than a love of tennis. He too follows a special diet and can gain inspiration for his own dreams as he watches Djokovic succeed while living gluten-free. I hope Djokovic had a chance to enjoy a gluten-free birthday cake as yummy as the allergen-free cake I enjoyed with my family.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cool treats

The weather is heating up, which means my ice cream maker is back in action. Joseph and Pamela were thrilled when I suggested making ice cream after playing outside in the warm sun yesterday. They couldn't wait to dig their spoons into the cool, vanilla ice cream topped with melted chocolate. Tonight they chose to savor every lick of their ice cream in a pushup pop. As, once again I started singing Van Halen's "Ice Cream Man," I remembered the blog I wrote for Living Without magazine last summer, "Cool Finds for Food-Allergic Kids," and thought I would share it again. It includes links to the pushup pops we love and the recipe for allergen-free ice cream and magic shell we enjoy. Here's to enjoying cool treats on hot days!