Monthly Archives: October 2012

Halloween Prep: It’s Scary Out There!

Halloween. Witches, skeletons, goblins, and ghouls. Angsty teenagers in horror movie costumes. Scary indeed. But what’s even scarier for a type 1 mom?

Sugar.

Gobs of it. At school, at the store, even in my own kitchen, where a huge bag of mixed fun-sized candy sits waiting for Wednesday night’s trick-or-treaters.

I loved Halloween as a kid; coming home with 5 pounds of free candy and gorging on it for the next two weeks was the highlight of the season. And as a parent, I used to enjoy seeing my kids get excited for the same thing.

In anticipation of massive loads of sugar over the next few days, I’m filling the pump reservoirs with more insulin than usual.

But now the fun-sized Snickers and M&M’s give me nothing but anxiety. Even with the dual insulin pumps, which made candy boluses much quicker and easier, blood sugar management during Halloween is a nightmare. Pockets get filled with treats that mysteriously disappear, candy is stashed here and there (I even found a few Smarties under Luke’s pillow yesterday morning), and everyone loses track of how many pieces of candy corn they’ve munched on.

And even if we bolused absolutely perfectly for every bit of sugar, the quick absorption outpaces the action of the insulin and pretty soon….hyperglycemia craziness.

What to do? One mom saves the 15-gm carb candies to treat low-blood sugars (Skittles are tastier than glucose tablets!) and cuts out a few parties. Read her great ideas here. It also helps to be prepared with carbohydrate counts. Paradoxically, fun-sized candies aren’t required to have Nutrition Facts labels, which makes bolusing a real challenge. How many carbs do you suppose that Charleston Chew has? Arming yourself with the relevant numbers is key: here’s a good chart. And another one here and here.

We’re in the process of Halloween candy negotiations right now. I’m going to let my kids have whatever candy they want on Halloween night, save some for treating lows later, keep a few for after-meal treats the rest of the week, and then buy the rest off of them. We’ll see how it goes.

The Ninja, Abby Bominable, and Camo Guy (what IS this costume???)

Diabetes Family Camp: Laugh. Cry. Bolus.

I wrote last month about our opportunity to attend ConnecT1D’s Diabetes Family Camp in Seattle, and how excited we all were for the weekend. Evie has gone away to diabetes summer camp for the past couple of years on her own, but this was the first camp that we’ve attended all together with other Type 1 families. We were ready for an adventure!

We skipped their half day of school on Friday and made our way leisurely through Seattle (“look, Mom, the Space Needle!”), playing a little along the way, and then headed North to the retreat center. After we checked in, met the camp directors, and found our cabin (double bunk beds!) we gathered in the meeting room with the other families for orientation. Then off to bed for a good night’s rest.

The morning started off with a bang, with a keynote presentation by a family psychologist that had me tearing up in my seat. The topic was parenting and diabetes and he touched on standard issues like discipline and family dynamics, but also addressed more tender topics like grief and loss. He asked us to reflect on our diagnosis stories and my chest tightened. We have two of those; they are different, but equally painful. Being in a room full of other parents who I knew shared similar stories and experiences made it a little easier to confront those memories and emotions.

Photo Credit: Kristine Burtner. Everyone gathers together in the center of the meeting hall to get to know one another.

Photo Credit: Kristine Burtner. Three teens with type 1 diabetes share their stories and answer questions

Photo Credit: Kristine Burtner. Parents and caregivers listen together to the presentations.

Other sessions that day included a research update, a panel to discuss diabetes in the school environment, and a small group session in which we all shared tips and for living and coping with diabetes in our families. This hour or so of more intimate and open discussion was my favorite part of the weekend. Groups included caregivers with newly diagnosed kids, some who have weathered years and years of diabetes in their families, and everything in between. My group even included another set of parents that had two kids with diabetes.

Even though I’ve been parenting diabetic kids for four years now, I was a sponge, soaking up information and experience like I was a newbie. It was so comforting to be surrounded by other parents who Understand—other adults who have to navigate school policies and holiday parties, wake up multiple times during the night to check blood sugars, and learn to live with a complicated disease that has unpredictable and ever-changing effects on their kids and families. We could all look at each other, recognize that underlying burden of physical and emotional fatigue we wear like an old sweater, and say “I get it.”

I hope that my kids had similar feelings of solidarity. Evie and Luke go through most of their daily lives being the only kids with diabetes, singled-out by blood sugar checks, trips to the health room, and well-intentioned but isolating comments from teachers (“Please avoid sending sugary treats because we have a Diabetic in our class…”).

I expect that it’s a relief to be in the company of other kids who have to stop and pull out a medical device before tearing into that mid-morning granola bar and bag of pretzels. And whatever your age, its fun to swap “war stories.”

This one time I had a vampire cannula and my tubing totally filled up with blood!! 

Don’t you hate it when your mom pushes too hard on the lancet and your finger is still bleeding three hours later??

One morning my school served french toast sticks that had 300 carbs per serving and I had to do TWO injections just to cover!! (Er….WHAT??)

Evie offers moral support to friends about to have a blood test.

Siblings of kids with diabetes also need peer support, and I was happy to see Will interacting and making new friends. I doubt, at eight years old, that he engaged in any conversations specifically about his feelings and experiences being a middle child sandwiched in between two kids with major medical issues, but he certainly saw that he wasn’t alone, and that was the whole point of camp. So that none of us would feel alone in our circumstances.

Photo Credit: Kristine Burtner. Evie plays carpet ball with a fellow camper.

I hope to go again next year and see many of the same families I met. Evie collected some e-mail addresses and is already busy keeping in touch. And Will asks me nearly daily if I’ve heard from his new friend’s mom yet.

But the most important take away for me was the realization that support and connection with other people who live with diabetes is vital. Not only to share information and resources, but to have people that can laugh with you when you make jokes about infusion sets and low blood sugars, panic together at the empty coffee pot, and not bat an eye when you cry over breakfast conversation. People who “get it.”

See you next year!

Evie is enjoying keeping in touch via e-mail with her new friends from camp.

Little Fingers

“A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.”

—Victor Hugo—

As I checked Luke’s blood sugar tonight, sitting on his bed in the dark squeezing a drop from his finger, I was overcome with both a roaring love and a blistering sadness. Images of his fantastic smile, enthusiastically loud storytelling, gentle and loving pats on my back, careful and imaginative drawing–all the things that endear him to me–conflicted wildly with the memories of the many times I have caused him pain and made him bleed. Days and nights just like this one.

I kissed his small, bleeding finger. And then kissed his cheeks, and nose, and forehead, and rumpled his hair, until he wriggled away in his sleep, completely, blissfully unaware of my torrent of emotion. Ah, such is parenting.

For The Love Of Food

This scrumptious pile of perfectly steamed crab, paired with a chilled glass of a fantastic local white wine, a bit of homemade Cajun aioli, and a plate of wilted spinach with lemon was dinner last night. And what a treat!

We picked up the live crab from a local seafood market, steamed it at home, then spent the next hour talking and eating, while picking luscious, buttery crab meat from the shells. It was tender and rich, and a dab of garlicky aioli was a perfect accompaniment to every bite. Washed down with a crisp, fruity wine…..mmmmm.

Its so satisfying to source beautiful, local, seasonal foods from markets or growers, spend some time learning how to cook and eat them, and then share and enjoy the meal with other people. To discover and appreciate all the flavors and textures and subtleties of whole foods in their natural, unprocessed state.

This is what I love the most about food.

——

You’ve been warned.

Success!

ImageYou know you’ve been successful in delivering a message when your target audience makes an unsolicited poster presentation that she asks to hang in the dining room!

Lessons From Yoga: Acceptance

 

Last night I went to my usual Bikram yoga class. Its been a couple of weeks since I’ve been to class; a longer break than usual for me. I like to go three times a week, but lately I’ve been lucky to squeeze in one class. There’s running back and forth to school, baseball practice, preparing (and cleaning up from) three meals a day, diabetes stuff, my ongoing and ever-present-in-my-mind job search, writing, well….you get it.

It was a tough class; I was sore, and weak, and inflexible. It may have been the relatively long lapse in my practice, or residual tightness from the long hike I went on last weekend. It could’ve been tenderness from the AcroYoga I practiced a few days ago. Dehydration? Too much sugar? Or maybe just the full moon, who knows.

Whatever the reason, my body was under-performing and my mind began to fill with anxiety and anger. I had to make a deliberate effort to stop that negative self-talk in its tracks, before I sabotaged my entire 90-minute class. By the time we got to dhanurasana (bow pose), I was wiped out. This pose is the culmination of the standing and floor spine strengthening series’ in Bikram yoga. It usually feels pretty sweet.

“Take a deep breath, and gently both legs kick up towards the ceiling (ow). Look up and kick up (ow ow). Head up more, wrists straight more (Ow!).”

“Kick back more. Kick harder” (OW OW OW…there may have been some tears at this point)

There’s no point in being angry at myself or my body. Yoga is accepting your body just how it Is, right at that moment. Accepting that it’s tight, or sore, or weaker than expected and doing the best with what you have right then.

Acceptance doesn’t mean acquiescence. It doesn’t mean giving up and becoming stagnant. I always use those feelings to make choices and adjustments for the future. Rough yoga classes motivate me to get to class more often, to drink more water, to get more sleep, to cut back on sugar, to do things that better my body so that hopefully I can bring strength, energy, and flexibility to my next class.

But in the moment, faced with tightness, and weakness, and a body that isn’t cooperating in the way that I want it to, I have to just Accept and do my best.

Acceptance helps me deal with other challenges in my life. Not enough time, not enough in the bank account, not enough emotional energy, not enough pancreas function….whatever. It Is What It Is. How can I live best with my current situation? What do I need to do to improve my situation for the future?

It’s a point-of-view I hope to pass on to my kids. Everybody has challenges. Diabetes is one of the challenges that our family faces right now. For Evie and Luke, that will be a permanent part of their lives. My role is to teach them to accept their bodies as they are, but to aim for the best health they can achieve.

Just like wishing I was stronger wasn’t going to help me get through that yoga class last night, It will do them absolutely no good to waste time and energy wishing that they had a different body. I want all of my children to accept and value the bodies that they have, marvel at what their bodies can do for them, and be ever mindful of protecting and nourishing those precious bodies. To do the best with what they have.