Monday, December 31, 2012

Family Fun For New Year's Eve

I thought it might be fun to share a little bit of what the Naturally Sweet Sisters New Year's Eve plans are.

I remember years ago in wondering how each holiday would go after diagnosis and then realizing AFTER each one passed that the holidays could still be a lot of fun.

If you are struggling with that idea or if you are in the middle of trying something new (and maybe stressful) for the holidays, try to relax and focus on the memories that you are creating.  Remember, it is always kids first, diabetes second.   Tonight like any other night, can be wonderful... even with type 1 diabetes.

So here is an insider's peek at what we will be doing tonight.

Typically, we enjoy a relaxing night at home with our children - that didn't change with diagnosis.  However, since they are getting older and now staying awake until the ball drops, we have modified some of the fun to make it a more family friendly holiday.

We start with several pre-packaged Christmas crackers.  Each family member has a turn in selecting the cracker and reading an enclosed fortune.  This will kick off our party and set the tone for the remaining fun.

The large Christmas Cracker contains party hats and music makers.  Perfect for New Year's Eve!

After opening the Christmas cracker, according to the correct clock, the kids may open a countdown bag of "New Year's Eve Fun". 

I typically put bags filled with treasures that match clues on our dining room table with specific hours to open each bag.  Since the clues are attached early in the day, the kids like walking over to look at the bag and to try to guess what the clue might mean.

The fun is not only in the clue, but what has been filled inside.  Instead of just handing the girls a hat and a noisemaker, we make it into a game with a clue.  I also add little trinkets or card games to help pass the time along.  After all, waiting patiently is a learned skill for all of us!

Here is a closer look at our New Year's Eve Fun bags for 2012.  Another version that I found on Pinterest is here or here.

This purple bag includes several loud but super fun noise makers like old fashioned tin handle ones and plastic lip whistles.

The girls will love this next bag as it includes an assortment of plastic beads, sparkly sunglasses and mustache wear.  Yes, even little girls love to put on a fake mustache but who knew that mustaches now come in colors? 

In between the hourly opening of bags, we sneak in blood sugar checks and dinner.  By about 10:00 p.m., our crowd of two grows restless, so I will offer a snack.

This year we will be enjoying home made pizza with a combo bolus and an appetizer of tortilla chips and warmed spinach-artichoke dip.  The kids have a selection of flavored waters and diet soda to choose from, while us older peeps will sample a new sparkling wine from Costco.  If there was ever a time for pizza, tonight is the night as we will all be wide awake for hours after eating it.

So there you have it!  Celebrating New Year's Eve with the Naturally Sweet Sisters.  Simple, fun and festive.  The nice part is that our holiday has little to no impact on blood sugars, other than the small rise from excitement of watching the ball finally dropping... or as my youngest daughter loves to announce... being able to stay up until midnight!!!!

Enjoy ringing in 2013 and Happy New Year!!!!!

A Sticky Situation

A few days ago, I walked into my youngest daughter's bedroom and looked around feeling instantly shocked.  It appeared as though she had become the victim of an 'as seen on tv' botched robbery.  Looking over my shoulder, I expected the crew from NCIS to storm the front door at any moment.

The trundle bed was pulled out and the thousand blankets that were meant to keep children snug and cozy in the winter months were strewn haphazardly around the room.  Two big cozy chairs, new Christmas presents at that!, were flipped over a pile of what appeared to be the remnants from a crushed chocolate Santa and a pizza hot pocket.  Cheese oozed on one spot of the carpet and a tester lay nearby, dangerously close to a bottle of water with a lid half capped.  Fake nails, books, stickers and pieces of thread for beads capped off the mess.

In short, the room was a disaster.

After my pupils dilated back to a normal size, I noticed through the chaos that two little tufts of hair, one curly and one blondie, that were hidden in the middle of the mess.  Since the girls were preoccupied with electronic gadgets while wearing headphones, they didn't see or hear me as I stood there, gaping at the scene.



With no response, I nudged the trundle and gave them each a finger wagging (my mom signal that I am very upset).  Both looked at me in surprise and said "What Mom?", as innocently as if I were looking at a typical HGTV bedroom design.

I gestured for them to remove their headphones.  They did immediately but kept that same baffled expression on their faces.  I could tell that they had no idea of why I might be the least bit upset.

"Girls, what in the world happened in here?", I asked sternly while shaking my head and pointing to the mess, especially the cheese smear on the floor.

"What do you mean? We're just playing Angry Birds", said my oldest daughter with wide eyes.

As they quickly rushed to sit up and defend themselves, I walked over to their bathroom to get a wet washcloth in hopes of tackling the stain.  While I am scrubbing, half listening to their explanations,  one thought pops into my head.  I realize that some of what they are saying isn't making any sense.  They are talking TOO loudly and with TOO much emotion.

I stop scrubbing and look directly at both of them, searching for the tell-tale signs of a high blood sugar.

"Did you bolus?", I ask.

I know the answer before they utter a solitary word.  My mom sense (kinda like Spidey Sense) picks it up from the looks that they exchange with each other.

Their look is the one that shouts "OH CRAP!".

My next question, "What does your CGM say?"

"331", said my youngest daughter. 

"445", said my oldest.

And here is the sticky situation, even stickier than the cheese that has now fused with the carpet fibers.... 

I don't know how to even handle it.

In this very real moment, I have to decide what I want to accomplish...

Is it to clean your room?
Is it to make your bed?
Is it to ask before making a snack?
Is it to say no to cheese in the bedroom?


Is it test your blood sugar before you eat?
Is it dose your blood sugar with the correct carb to insulin ratio?
Is it to remember to listen to your CGM when it beeps a high blood glucose warning?

I just don't know what to do.  Here they are; two little faces waiting expectantly for me to deliver my mom verdict.

This I do know; having type 1 diabetes can be challenging.  A diagnosis like this is truly an entirely different part of growing up and parenting than most families will ever face. 

Unlike cleaning your room, making your bed and being careful with snacks, having the responsibility to manage type 1 diabetes NEVER goes away.  That list of items is only a fraction of what a person living with type 1 diabetes HAS TO MANAGE on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

Let's not forget that these are kids that we are talking about, not responsible, mature adults - although truth be told, that doesn't make it any easier at times. 


In that moment were I know the "Oh CRAP" feeling is happening, I make the choice to be understanding and to offer a different point of view from probably what my girls expect.  I choose to look at the situation for what it is, a child's mistake and I help to create and define what I think their responsibilities are going forward - as I should as a parent raising a set of tweens.

"OK girls.  OK.  I get it... you were hungry and that's probably all you were thinking about.  I am proud of you for making a snack on your own but going forward, we eat in the kitchen.  And you know what, that will probably help you to remember that you need to check your blood sugar AND dose for it."

"And about this mess, well, I think you can spend an hour or two or whatever it takes to clean it back up tomorrow.  If you decide not to clean it up, than no allowance this week."

Both girls look at me and solemnly promise with nod and a little correction dose.

And for the record, cheese WILL come out with a little water and baking soda.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Crepes! Carb Friendly and Oh So Cool!


Thinking about adding some family fun over the remaining portion of your holiday break? 

How about making crepes?

For as little as 9 carbs per crepe, you can whip up a fun and crowd pleasing treat that will really wow the family.

All you need is....

One heavy duty table top griddle.  I plug ours right into the outlet on the kitchen island so that the kids can see (and be part of) the crepe making action.  Seeing this baby coming out of storage in our pantry, gets everyone excited.

You also need to have a little bit of this most delicious butter-goodness to keep the crepe from sticking to the griddle.  This is Julia Childs instruction  - not mine!  At least, that is how I justify it.

I also recommend having a sturdy spatula with a nice wide base. Crepes are flimsy and easily tear.  If this happens to you, just pretend that it is how the french do it and then talk quickly in a faux french accent. 

Pardon Moi!

Next, and this is the BIG SECRET (I am only telling the people that read this blog... so shhhhh to the 189 of you!  Thank you dear friends!!!) for easy crepe making...

RUN to the store and buy one (or two) packages of these:

Melyssa's 9-inch French Crepes.  These little crepes are premade and only 55 calories and 9 carbohydrates each!  They taste great and are individually packaged on saran wrap to help with easy removal.  Since crepes are fragile, having them packaged this way makes for a breeze in the kitchen.

After opening, lightly butter your table table top griddle.  I usually set mine to 200 degrees.  Lay one crepe open faced onto the griddle and then, go crazy with toppings. 

On our crepes, we like to add cheese... Swiss or American cheese slices melt wonderfully.  Since we consider cheese to be a carb free item, the total carbohydrate count remains at 9 grams each.  For a fancy french effect, I sprinkle Parmesan cheese on the beautifully folded crepe and present with slight bow and flourish. 

Huge crowd pleaser for the under 12 crowd!

However, perhaps dairy just is not your thing.  Or perhaps you are craving something nutty like sunbutter, peanut butter or Nutella?  This is where the versatility of crepes comes in... you can add anything you like!

Maybe you want to try fresh fruit wrapped into your crepe, folded and topped with whipped cream?

Another delicious choice is cherry pie filling folded into the crepe and drizzled with chocolate sauce.  A nice part of having a crepe is that just a little bit of each allows for a big flavor.

My kids even like to eat them warmed up and sprinkled with a dash of powder sugar.  Serve a crepe with a cup of hot cocoa after a snowy play date outside or make them this New Year's Eve while waiting for the ball to drop. 

Anyway you choose, crepes are fun and fantastic at only 9 carbs each... I LOVE that!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Stessors (How to Destress the Mind Mess)

In the world of T1D artificial pancreas being, it is easy to forget to take care of YOU.

Just in case your overworked memory has taken a dive, let me clarify for you:  Remember that person, the one that is doing hourly mental math and sleeping less than three or four hours at a time?  That person, probably YOU, needs a break!

Yes, our artificial pancreas job is a little more difficult than we often realize and having that terror level orange going all of the time does create a little bit of stress.

After recognizing that, what is an artificial pancreas employee supposed to do about it all?

Here are seven sure-fire ways to 'destress the mind mess' during the holidays and all through the year.

7.)  Just say "No". 

6.)  Declare a PJ only day.

5.)  Have the kids to your house for a playdate or sleepover.

4.)  Start a hobby.

3.)  Join a JDRF coffee group.

JDRF has a hundreds of support coffee groups.  They also offer support groups for adults living with type 1 diabetes. 

2.)  Volunteer.

Simple enough.  Join a group of people who are making difference in the life of someone else who is struggling.  I say this to my kids all of the time but everyone has something.  Sometimes we have to actually see it to be reminded of how true that is. 

1.)  Spend time with your child, doing something fun and non-t1d related. 

Tickle.  Tell stories.  Listen to stories.  Love and Be Kind to your loved one.  I can guarantee that it will remind you of why missing sleep and dealing with diabetes related issues are really not a big deal in the scheme of things.  You do them because you simply LOVE YOUR LOVED ONE LIVING WITH TYPE 1 DIABETES. 

Sending you many wishes for the holidays and Happy New Year!!!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

From our Naturally Sweet Family to yours....
Merry Christmas !

The Big Show - Christmas Is Here, Baby!

It's here!  It's here!  The most magical time of the year!!!

In short, Christmas!!!!

(insert brakes)  screeeeeeeeech.

Now what?

How does one handle the multitude of present opening, candy filled stockings, holiday bakery treats, honey baked ham and EGGNOG?

Oh my goodness.... it is a food frenzy!

Well, it can be.



Over the years (and from quite honestly having two little ladies living with type 1 diabetes), we have perfected the Christmas morning.

Here are several tried and true ways to make the holidays a little less stressful and a little bit more fun.

1.)  Have a game plan.  Take a few moments and write down a schedule of how you would like to see the day unfold.  Include eating times and menus.  This is also a great time to write down a grocery store list for things that you may need or have forgotten.

2.)  Think ahead.  Look over your prescription list and make sure that you will not be running out of any necessary items like insulin, thyroid hormone replacement, syringes, glucose or even child cold and fever medicine.  As one mom told me, Walgreens now has an app for sending in prescription refills.  If you are using a traditional pharmacy, be sure to call ahead and check store hours as the night before Christmas, many places will be closing early.

3.)  Assemble a few food items ahead of time.  A family favorite for us on Christmas morning is our delicious orange rolls.  We wait throughout the year for the ooey gooey and oh so sweet morning treat.  With that said, serving only orange rolls would be a blood sugar disaster, so with that comes an egg casserole.  Both food items are assembled the night before in preparation for the crazy unwrapping mayhem on Christmas morning.  As one parent tests blood sugar, the other quickly pre-heats the oven and slides in the two dishes.  In an hour, we are ready for breakfast (and a nap!).

4.)  Give kids some guidelines.  Sure, they want to run into the family room as soon as they wake up to see what Santa brought but as any parent knows, having them get there too soon would be a loss in getting a few of those first moment of wonder pictures.  Explain to the kids that no one is allowed to go into the family room until mom has her camera AND blood sugars are checked.  Mom can take the ultimate part of this blame so that the Diabetes Monster stays out of the picture.  Just be prepared for a few eye-rolls.

5.)  And finally... charge those batteries in your cameras and camcorders.  Every year, I am so caught up in making sure that Christmas goes off without a hitch and I often forget the most important part... capturing those magical holiday memories forever.  The night before, put your recording tools in the same room that has the santa presents and make sure they are charged and ready to go.

Then sit back and ENJOY the magic! 
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Don't Forget to Bolus Me

Digression, but see the little drops of red?  Guess what those are!

One morning,

(just when I am to settle in from the everyday marathon routine of waking children, dressing children, feeding children, packing children, diabetes-caring for children and driving children to school)

I decide to make myself a delicious breakfast of toast and Maine Blueberry Jam (and Susan, the stock is becoming dangerously low, just in case you are reading this).

As I am eating the first few bites and watching Kelly and What's His Name, the phone rings.

It is my youngest daughter asking me to bring a forgotten library book.

Since we live across from the elementary school, I rarely say "no" to a request, especially if the cute girl on the other line uses "please", "thank-you" and "best mom EVER!".

Now, when you have a perfectly delicious slice of toast with Maine Blueberry Jam, you can't possibly let it go to waste.  Since toast is icky when it is cold, the only solution is to eat it as quickly as possible.

So (admitting this shamelessly), I do.

I wolf it down and run back up the stairs to quickly brush my teeth and run a comb through my hair.

Suddenly, it hits me and I think,

"Did I remember to bolus?"

Yep.  Really. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Getting A Do-Over - In 4th Grade

We have lived with type 1 diabetes for a long time.  Six years to be exact. 
Within that time frame, both of our (only) daughters were diagnosed.
Since our youngest was diagnosed at age 3, her early learning curve helped to pave an “easier” way for our oldest daughter.
Through our youngest daughter’s diagnosis, we mastered Diabetes 101, 102 and 103.  I think we even graduated with honors.
We managed those early years as well as could be.  Of course, there is always room for improvement and for that, I am very thankful to have the double insight of multiple diagnoses.
It occurred to me today, while standing in the middle of a fourth grade classroom Christmas party, I had been there before.
Not literally as though I was actually standing in that same spot because who would even remember that (weird!), but figuratively as in, I remember doing this before (still kind of weird).
Only, this is the first time that I remember doing this WITH type 1 diabetes. 
All the prior years (and classroom parties) were new territory for me.  Either because I only had one daughter diagnosed or because it was fresh from having my oldest daughter participating for the first time.
As cups of hot cocoa were being poured and kids were carefully creating masterful art projects, my thoughts flashed back to seeing our oldest daughter enjoying the same holiday memories.
I remembered her carefully crafting a construction paper poinsettia kissing ball and proudly showing me her artwork and Santa letter. 
I remembered her 4th grade teacher opening the little homemade gifts that her students so lovingly gave her and hugging them all one by one.
And I remembered one more thing.
I remembered carefully watching over my daughter’s snack plate and trying to discreetly bolus her for the extra helpings of goldfish and Chex Mix all while dreading the mounds of sweets piled on the adjoining table.  I remembered the sticky unknown red liquid disguised as punch and kicking myself for forgetting to pack an extra water bottle. 
Then, I remember letting her choose her own items and watching (with a bit of inward gladness) when the red punch spilled on her desk.  “We’ll rinse your glass and fill it with water from the drinking fountain.”  Inner germaphobe be damned!
Sure, I was embracing the mantra of Kids First, Diabetes Second by allowing her to partake in all of the festivities.
But I know I didn’t really enjoy any of it.  I remember that too.
So while standing in the middle of this year’s 4th grade Christmas Party, I suddenly realize that I have a do-over; a rare chance to let the 4th grade Christmas party magically happen all over again.
This time, I choose to truly embrace the moment, even WITH diabetes.
After, testing her blood sugar, we decide to bolus ahead of time, taking out much of the worry of going too high and ending up out of range. Once that final beep goes in, my youngest races off to the snack table in search of the perfect treats.
Then, I watch my youngest daughter pour her own hot cocoa and decide to let her determine if it was carb-worthy or not.   She drinks a few sips and asks for water.  I reassure her that she if she likes it, she can have more, even.  But she wrinkles her nose and tells me to taste it, which I do and discover it is really just hot water with brown food coloring.  Without skipping a beat, my youngest daughter jumps up to retrieve  a water bottle from her locker.   We had improved on our plan of keeping extra diabetes supplies at school and water bottles were already in place as part of that plan.
Even though she hadn’t eaten everything on her plate (which includes an assortment of Chex Mix, pigs in a blanket and chocolate covered pretzels) I feel comfortable in walking around the room and helping many kids with their craft activity.  I know that the party was scheduled for the end of the day and if worse came to worse; we would be home long before all of the insulin has taken effect.   Thinking of this course of action, I kick out the other worry of going much too low and watching blood sugars crash. 
Instead, I watch with joy as she puts the final touches on her reindeer art and holds it up in the air to show me her effort.  I declare it better than anything in a museum and she smiles broadly.
Success from a do-over.
These are such simple changes from the last time in 4th grade - just two years ago, yet, so effective.
In short, I finally relaxed.
I only wish that I had this moment to reflect on before now… so I am sharing it all with you too.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hydration Station - Water, Water EveryWhere

It occurred to me that my "antique" mommy-isms are quite prolific.  I have many and I say them with frequency and enthusiasm in our home. 

"Mind your p's & q's!"
"Sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite."
"A bird in hand is worth two in the bush."
"Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink."

Most sayings were handed down from my beloved grandma and from her mother before that.  As a kid, I love the riddle of her quotes and as an adult, I treasured the value. 

So I repeat them to my girls with a little bit of health care (aka diabetes advice sprinkled in). 

For example, I might have been known to say a variation of this a few times:  "Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink.  Be sure you pack a water bottle, sweetie.  You don't want to be dehydrated and there might not be any drinking fountains.  Or worse, if you feel like your blood sugar is scooting upwards, be sure to drink some water, okay?  Ketones don't feel good and water will help you avoid that." 

I wasn't so sure they listened but now, I know for certain that they have been REALLY listening.

Especially when I overhear my youngest daughter talking to her big sister about a way to get one more little Christmas present under the tree. 

Just so you might imagine this in the way that it played out...

My girls are standing somewhere in our kitchen.  I am in the adjacent laundry room, quietly folding clothes.  They have no idea that I am within earshot and to be honest, sometimes, that is a good thing!

Youngest Daughter:  "I am going to ask mom for a Hello Kitty water dispenser."

Oldest Daughter:  "She isn't going to buy one.  She told us that she was done buying Christmas presents."

Youngest Daughter:  "Oh."

Oldest Daughter:  "You know what you should do?  You should ask Santa."

Youngest Daugher:  "Yeah.  Good idea!  He won't say no."

Oldest Daughter:  "Well, he might because you are kind of late in asking."

Youngest Daughter:  "Well, that's why I was going to tell mom.  I'm too late to ask Santa.  So she NEEDS to buy us this because she doesn't want us to get ketones.  You know how she always tell us to be sure to drink our water."

Oldest Daughter:  "Yes!  That's right!!!!  (Sissy) You are a genius!  Go tell mom and be sure to tell her it is to keep you AND me healthy!  And tell her so we don't become dehydrated.  Say that.  Say dehydrated."

Youngest Daughter:  "Yeah, ok."

Oldest Daughter:  "Ok.  Hey!  Don't forget to share it with me when you get it because I just helped you and all."

Youngest Daughter:  "I will, I will.  I promise!  I love you!!!"

Oldest Daughter:  "I love you too!"

And the rest of the outcome is TBD....  stay tuned to see if one last present arrives under the tree... or not:)  

Merry Christmas!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

And Seriously, What Was In Those Cookies? Ranting From The Sleep Deprived

I could write a book, I think. 
But then, because I am so sleep-deprived, I am not sure that I actually have the energy to sustain the amount of writing that a book requires. 
And I know I am not alone with this.  My local JDRF coffee group peeps as well as the DOC talk a lot about sleep.  We miss and crave our sleep.  Or at least I do.  In fact, in one online group, I banned the answer to ‘ The number one holiday item on your list’ as SLEEP.  Yeah, we know.  We ALL want that (and a cure too).
Boy, do I sound cranky?  Blame it on the lack of sleep.
In my most recent lack of sleep story, it all started around 8:30 p.m, the time of day, where my energy is depleted and I am ready to zone out.  Parenting requires a little bit of Energizer Bunny in all of us, but by then, my batteries are usually done.
As part of the Naturally Sweet Sister’s nightly tuck-in routine we kiss-kiss, check the teeth to make sure they have actually been brushed, listen to any last minute conversation about the day and of course, check blood sugars.
Beep.  238. 
Really?”, I said with a bit of surprise.  Going quickly through my mental checklist, I noted carb-free chicken for dinner, then later, carbs for milk and Christmas -- Cookie counted for AND dosed (because sometimes in the real world, even that dosing part of the routine can go astray).
 “What does G4 say?”  I asked while pointing at the new G4 receiver our youngest daughter is wearing under her super adorable holiday jammies (total sidebar but jammie wearing kids are hands down the cutest EVER!).
Flipping over her shiny pink G4, she shows me a “240” with double arrows pointing up.
Loudly, I sigh.  Then, I feel like a jerk because the sigh sounds like something that my youngest did to make that 240 happen.  So to cover my jerky-ness, I start tickling her adorable little jammie covered body and snuggling her as much as I possible could.
I set the G4 on her nightstand and put a correction dose of insulin into her matching pink Animas Ping, then gently close her door while giving last minute good-nights to the millions of stuffed animals scattered on her bed.
Flopping myself onto my own bed, with the ever present baby monitors, I soon hear the unmistakable buzz of the G4.
“Again? “, I think.  I am already tired and contemplating on how this night is going to go.  Since it is a “school night”, I know that I am responsible for the challenge of getting blood sugars back in range.
I shuffle back down to our youngest daughter’s bedroom, all the while thanking my lucky stars that our oldest is not having blood sugar alerts.
Sometimes, the little things make the situation better, I remind myself.
I check the G4 again, noting that the blood sugars barely moved from our last check.  I test again, enter another correction dose and hope that my offering will appease the Diabetes Monster, who appears to be in full rage mode tonight.
It does for little more than a couple of hours and then sends another signal alert just when I am drifting off.
I finally drag myself out of bed and stumble into our youngest daughter’s room.  I am half asleep and as I look at the CGM, it takes me a minute to realize that her blood sugar IS actually back in range. 
Shaking my head, I am confused and unsure if I actually heard anything or if I was just dreaming.
The alarm sounds again and I finally realize that it is now our oldest daughter’s matching pink G4 calling to me. 
Seriously?  What was IN those cookies?
Without waking her, I note the high blood sugar and use the meter to confirm the number.  Then, I correct her blood sugar via her green Animas Ping, listening for the beeps that confirm insulin went into her body.
At this point, I am wide awake and debating if I actually need to go back to bed because at this point, I feel refreshed!
The clock on my daughter’s bedside stand shines out with the time of 11:30 p.m.. 
Of course I need to go back to bed.  So I do.  But it is hard and once again, just as I am finding sleep, another “buzz” occurs.
And so it goes on, all night long.   Buzzing, waking, testing, correcting and sleeping. 
At one point, I actually curse the CGM, then curse my husband who is comfortably sleeping and then send curses to our kitten who thinks charging at my ankles  and biting them in the middle of the night is fun.
Before long, it is time to get up for the day.  My girls are happy, healthy and awake with no real memories of the night before.  My husband, not exactly sure of the frequency to which I was woken, knows only that he must be kind and makes me a fresh pot of coffee.
As I sip my first cup of “sweet nectar”, I start to giggle.  The entire night is so nutty, that all I can do is laugh when I think it through. 
This story of nighttime escapades is replayed in every single home of someone living with type 1 diabetes.  It happens.  Sometimes for a reason, sometimes for no reason at all.
And really, what was IN those cookies?

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Best Part of Waking Up is Starbucks in Your Cup.

Coffee, what I affectionately refer to as 'sweet nectar', is the black gold of our Naturally Sweet Sisters home.

I am sure you have heard that old commercial that says 'the best part of waking up'?  

We couldn't agree more. 

We simply love it. 

And by love, I mean enjoying at least one pot between the two of us kind of way.

Since we make such a big fuss over our enjoyment of the sweet nectar, it was inevitable that our oldest Naturally Sweet Sister would want to try it. 

So on one Christmas morning shopping trip, I pronounced her 'big enough' and bought her very own regular White Chocolate Mocha with whip and a lid on the side (because I am generous with throwing spilling caution to the wind that way).

Excitedly, she checked her blood sugar, dosed for the carbohydrates and proudly savoured her coffee throughout the mall. 

Happily, I earned the Best Mom Ever that morning.

After 30 minutes or so, the coffee cup was empty but our shopping trip was still in full force with light-hearted giggles and her agreement that whatever I picked out was indeed "cute" - a small miracle all by itself.

Then it happened.

30 more minutes and I noticed a bit of pallor on her face which is a sure-fire sign of an impending low blood sugar. 

She pouted and rolled her eyes, instantly abandoning the Best Mom Ever status and replacing it with Most Annoying Mom status for even suggesting that she might be low.

We stopped our fun, sat on a mall bench and waited for the beep of her blood sugar meter. 

Beep.  "Crap", she said.  57 mg/dl.

Scratching our heads while treating her low, we couldn't figure out the root cause of the low blood sugar.  Was it the caffeine?  The excitement?  The shopping?

And we are sure that we counted the carbs appropriately.  If anything, a little bit lower than we should have - just to be safe.

So maybe you can share your experiences with coffee.  Do you see the same problems with sweet coffee?  Do you dose differently? 

Please share your experiences.  We're listening because our oldest isn't ready to abandon her sweet nectar dreams.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Random Kindness


She shuffled into the check-out lane ahead of me.  I didn’t even notice her at first.

My busy mom thoughts were with double checking my Christmas to-do list and putting my items onto the conveyor belt  as quickly as possible.  I wanted to be prepared with my wallet out and ready to pay when my turn came.

I absent-mindly listened to her chat to the cashier about her frail husband, who she said was waiting for her in the car.

As time ticked on, my attention perked and I looked to see who was really in front of me and taking what I perceived as ‘too long’ of a time.

As she continued to talk to the cashier, I noticed that her probably once beautiful wool coat was faded and slightly fraying and hung about two sizes too big on her petite, four and a half foot frame.  Obviously elderly, she wore a deep ebony colored wig, which sat slightly askew and seemed more like a hat then a hair piece.  I instantly guessed her age to be somewhere around my own grandmother’s age of 87. 

Briefly, her glance met mine and she gave me a little apologetic smile, understanding that she knew it was taking too long as well. 

Sadness engulfed my being and my impatience immediately dissipated.  I didn’t want to be the source of making anyone feel bad, especially this grandmotherly figure.  I smiled brightly and said, “It’s ok.  I am in no hurry.” 

I watched as she shuffled over to the end of the aisle, a spot typically reserved for grocery store baggers and started to empty her overly large purse. 

For a moment, I wasn’t even aware of why she was looking through her bag.  I had been so caught up in my own thoughts that I while I was standing next to her, I wasn’t really present. 

“It’s in here.  I know I have a bill”, she said starting to sound a bit frantic.  “My husband is in the car.  He is waiting for me.  I know he gave me the money.”

The cashier looks at me and smiles with look that I interpret as an apology for having to wait.  I smile back in hopes of reassuring her that really, I am not in a hurry.

The elderly lady starts to moan and her worry spills over to nearly removing every item in her purse.  I can’t bear to look to see what she is carrying so I avert my eyes.  My heart starts to beat a little bit faster and I find myself wanting to do something.  Anything.

I quietly ask the cashier how much the woman owes.


Without thinking, I reach over to the cashier and offer one of the bills in my hand. 

“I’ll pay.”

The elderly woman hears and immediately understands what is happening.  She becomes more distraught and says she is embarrassed and that she must pay me back.  A store manager comes over  and gently starts putting her things back into her purse. 

Without looking at me, the store manager says, “Please let us take care of you because this is what Christmas is all about.”

My eyes become hot and my face feels flushed.  Instead of feeling good, I start to feel sick and all I want to do is leave the store. 

The cashier rings up my purchases and I pay for my own items all without saying anything.

Right before I leave, I gently touch the elderly woman’s arm, smile and say, “Merry Christmas.” 

She nods her head and murmurs, “oh, oh, oh” and shakes her head, overwhelmed that anyone would do this.  Even as I walk to the door, she continues to fumble.  I hear the manager quietly say, “Let’s go find your husband.”

Then, I run to the car, start the engine and drive about a ¼ mile down the road, where the tears finally win.  Picking up my cell phone, I call my husband and tell him the story. 

He listens intently and says he is proud of me for doing something so kind.  I don’t feel that way and tell him how sad I am.

Because from this moment of kindness, here is my stark realization: 

My mother, suffering from MS related dementia, often has the same paralyzing fear of forgetting and while we live 1,000 miles apart, I hope that people are kind to her too.

One day, it could be me as inevitably, I will age…

Or even this sadder, scarier truth (that I even have trouble typing into words on paper but as a parent to a parent, I know you will understand),

One day, it might be a daughter living with type 1 diabetes whom is suffering from a low blood sugar and in need of immediate, lifesaving help.

Will a kind stranger step in and help us?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Glucose Gets A Level Up

I love freebies.

I love mail.

So what could be better than getting something free in the mail?  Unless you want to talk about the obvious... sleep, a cure, long vacation, a million dollars....

Introducing Level Life

Level Life is a 60 calorie, 15g liquid glucose dosage designed for both flavor and function.  It comes in four interesting flavors such as Mandarin Orange, Strawberry Banana, Vanilla and Caramel.

The 1.1oz net weight pouches are billed as durable yet easy to open when having a low blood sugar.  The enclosed product brochure says "a pouch that is extremely durable and can be kept in your gym bag, schoolbag, workbag or pants pocket."

Now, this is the tricky part for our Naturally Sweet Sisters family... even though many companies say that a durable pouch is easy to open, when a child has a low blood sugar, quite often opening a lid from a traditional bottle of glucose tabs is tricky.  In fact, we had to outlaw some packages of fruit snacks (like fruit rollups) simply because the dexterity required to remove the sugary fruit leather from the plastic sleeve was too complicated during a thick-fingered, fuzzy minded low blood sugar.  (Side note:  There is nothing worse than finding your child sitting on the floor in front of the pantry, crying because they are too low to open  a package of fruit leather.  That very real situation made us immediately revise what we thought were "good" hypoglycemic snacks into what became good AND easy hypoglycemic snacks.)

Since then, when my kids are at school or in activities that might not include my attendance, I realized the need to be careful with what I supply them for a hypoglycemic emergency.

For a real-life demonstration - but without a low blood sugar (and where is one when you need it?!  Just kidding), I decided to let both girls try the opening of the pouches.  Both our oldest and youngest daughter were able to open the package with just a bit of effort, mostly from youngest daughter on the mandarin orange flavor - not due to her age or skill, but because the two pouches were constructed differently. The mandarin orange pouch notches were cut out less than the caramel, causing a more difficult tear.  The caramel pouches bigger notches made for an easier open. 

If you're a manufacture ... GET REAL LIFE KIDS TO TEST THE PACKAGING!!!!!

Next up, both girls were eager to sample the flavor.  If you have been reading Naturally Sweet Sisters for any length of time, you will know that my girls have a love-hate relationship with the dreaded TABS aka glucose tablets.   After their week-long diabetes kids camp stay, they refuse to eat orange and marginally tolerate the other choices.  Strawberry and pineapple rein supreme, but even then, it is always an eye-rolling experience. 

Not so with these flavors.  By far, caramel was a proven winner immediately upon tasting.  It is a little thinner than typical ice cream-style caramel sauce - which is probably a good thing for quickly eating and digesting - and the taste is almost exact.  None of that weird chalky-ness from tabs.  I actually took it away from the kids who oohed and aahhed over it.  Which is an interesting point, perhaps for those middle of the night lows, where no one wants to awake or eating, maybe a caramel Level Life is a good choice?  Something that kids won't mind sleeplessness over?

If you're a manufacture ... THANKS FOR FLAVORS KIDS LIKE!!!!!

The mandarin orange reminded both girls of jelly.  They thought it was an improvement upon the tabs but certainly not as good as real oranges.  Since we are on our second box of Cuties (tiny mandarin oranges), I could understand how the Level Life did not quite match up to the real thing.  After all, how does one compete with Mother Nature in the world of fresh fruits?

One last tidbit it that the cost on these is a little high... considering what you get in the contents, it still is a hefty increase over a bottle of tabs.  For example, our Walmart sells a 50 count bottle of glucose tablets for $3.97.  The glucose gel is (3) 15g pouches for $5.00.  Perhaps with time, the price will come down.  I was lucky to receive a $.75 off coupon in my sample package and plan on at least using that.  With two kids though, this would not be able to become a stand-in for most low blood sugars - we just couldn't afford it.

If you're a manufacture ... HAVE AFFORDABLE PRICES!!!!!

All in all, the product were great and it is nice to see another option for dealing with those icky low blood sugars.  I asked my kids what they wanted other kids to know and they gestured with a big "thumbs up" and my oldest said, "Give it a try.  The caramel is REALLY good".   My youngest laughed and said, "Make sure they know that these aren't tabs because this is way cooler."

And by the way, no one at Level Life told me or asked me to write a review.  The Level Life people aren't even aware that Naturally Sweet Sisters ordered the freebie sample - available on their website, for anyone interested.  From one family living with t1d to another, I wanted to be able to give a fair and honest review of a new glucose product.  Hope you find this helpful!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Finding SELF And Giving Her A Hobby

For years, type 1 diabetes was my main focus.

My husband, already working 50 hours a week, had applied for and been accepted to a graduate degree program at a local university.   He was due to start that program in January; just weeks after our daughter came home from the hospital with her freshly minted type 1 diabetes diagnosis.

Together, we made the decision that he would continue on and that I would become the official ‘artificial pancreas’ of the house.

So, I began raising our toddler and kindergartener, making my focus solely on helping them grow and flourish without type 1 diabetes diminishing their efforts. 

Now I do not regret any of this, because I do think there are little bonus gifts that came with our family decision (i.e., the closeness I have with my girls, the memories that we made from all our time together, and the deep bond in our little family of four), but I do have to say that I did lose a chunk of something called SELF.

The little things like reading a great novel or spending an hour in a hair salon (and you can ask my hairdresser dear friend, I still I get nervous sitting in the chair without my cell phone in hand!).  Going out with friends or even taking in a movie with my sweet husband.  All of that disappeared.   I am sure that it did for most of us.

Because becoming an ‘artificial pancreas’ means that everything you do revolves around the care of your loved one living with type 1 diabetes. 

It just HAS to.

So when my old-timer friends living with type 1 diabetes would say things like, “It will get better”, I didn’t know if I could fully believe or trust them.

How in the world would t1d become better without a cure?

Well, I can tell you it just does.  It does get better.  And one day, you will find yourself having a little bit of free time and recognizing that you can reconnect with SELF. 

And maybe during that reconnection, you will find that you didn’t forget how to get lost in a really good novel or that despite your best efforts of ignoring your beauty regime, you still look pretty amazing or at least your husband thinks so. 

Even better, you might find out that you actually have time for a …… HOBBY!

A hobby.  Yes, indeed.  Something to take a little bit of your time other than the myriad of lancets, strips, testing schedules, supply ordering, insulin dispensing, carb counting, doctor appointments, fundraising, more testing, etc..

A true hobby. 

So think about that as you ask for your holiday presents from that big guy dressed in red, Santa.  Think about yourself and how wonderfully good you have been this year (and all of the years of being an artificial pancreas) and ask for something just for yourSELF. 

You deserve it!

And here is a little sampling of my new hobby.   I bet you can guess what I plan on doing in 2013. 
Photo  Photo Photo: Eyelashes and cheeks.  Photo 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It’s Our Anniversary and We’ll Cry If We Want To….Just For A Minute And Maybe Not Even Today.

Today, on this exact date and time, six years ago, our beautiful youngest daughter was receiving her diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.
She was three years old.
Since she was just a little babe, she barely remembers any details with the exception of her long hospital stay, enjoying a “first” bowl of chili and meeting some very nice airplane pilots – which at this point in time might even have become urban legends in her mind.
The rest of her story is in my memory bank, where I keep it close at heart.  Someone once said ‘faded but not forgotten’ as a memory analogy and I think that applies to me as well.  I am healed.  She is healed.  Together we move forward with the memory safely tucked away.
The truth is on this particular day; I may or may not have even a bit of sadness. 
Because really, this day is just another day on the calendar.   
Especially after six years.
Still, the sad moments come when I least expect them.  Like when I am alone with my thoughts (usually driving down the road – I know, I know but that is when it happens) and my thoughts run a bit wild.  A song will come on the radio or I’ll see the old pediatricians office and sensory experience triggers the diagnosis  all over again.  Then, yes I will admit, sometimes, a fresh wave of tears burns the back of my eyes and it is all I can do to stifle big, giant sobs.
And then, almost as quickly as it started, the rush of sad feelings triggered by that memory is gone.  Sometimes, even replaced by a little bit of laughter at feeling overly dramatic. 
After all, we are doing just fine these days.
But as I have explained in our history of having both of our daughters diagnosed during this time of year, as soon as the date of one diaversary comes along, I immediately think ahead to the impending date of our second diaversary, the one for our beautiful oldest daughter.
In the beginning, facing two diagnosis dates just four days apart wasn’t merely daunting,  it was deeply depressing as well.
The hardest part is in the fact of knowing that our oldest daughter clearly remembers her life leading up to age 8, without pokes and prods and counting and living with type 1 diabetes.
She remembers that day in the family car and feeling so strange with her first low blood glucose.  She remembers seeing her father and I try to pretend bravery while hiding our tears.  She remembers wondering for a second if I had it all wrong (even though I explained when her sister was diagnosed) and diabetes meant DIE-abetes. 
Hearing our oldest daughter talk so candidly about her diagnosis is often another sadness trigger for me (and us both, I think).  My chest feels overly heavy and I have to swallow back the lump in my throat, digging even deeper for that endless strength.  I can only assume that she feels a little bit of this too.  At eleven, she is only beginning to understand and be able to put words to her deepest feelings.  Time will tell on how she continues to view that time in her life.
Even so, her conversation will probably not be about diabetes this week…   she rarely feels the need to discuss it at length now.   She is no longer the scared, skinny little girl that once overly worried about it all.  She has healed too.  With many of her diagnosis stories, she also remembers a funny tidbit and will quite often take the story from the brink of despair to a million little giggles – like coming up from the low by eating everything on everyone’s plates. 
When I look at her studying and dreaming of big things to come, I know that she is doing just fine these days, too.
What I hope that I am teaching them is the ability to embrace all of the emotions as they arise and not because they are dictated by a calendar date;
 – Unless they want to.
Because that is the choice we all have.  Freely living and embracing our emotions as they come or stifle them, tucking them away and dealing with the consequences.
Choosing the first option, I believe, has helped us all heal… and will continue to help us heal because as we all know, type 1 diabetes changes as we change; from toddler to teen to adult.  Coping strategies help to make or break the ease to which change occurs.
And so here is my plan for this year’s diaversaries… I think I will simply snuggle my girls close, reflect for a moment (only if they want to)and then enjoy whatever activity they would like for the evening.
But if it is Nerf Darts again, I better find a hiding spot now!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Time Is Fleeting... A Moment to Savor

The Grands

Even though we try hard not to let this happen, much of our lives are wrapped up in the minutia of managing type 1 diabetes. 

I'm guessing that happens to everyone living with type 1 diabetes. 

Despite best intentions, a day comes when you realize that through the mounds of site changes, supply ordering, doctor appointments, coffee group meetings, JDRF walk preparation and ADA camp application forms, that unfortunately you were missing out on spending time with a few amazing people.

That moment came for me on Saturday.  Without notice, I gathered up our Naturally Sweet Sisters for a little road trip to visit the most amazing people that I know:
my beautiful 87 -year old grandparents (and great-grandparents to the girls).

In many ways over the years, despite the obvious aging, my grandparents have remained steadfastly unchanged.  It's comforting to sit in their quaintly charming and well-loved home.  One step into the doorway and immediately, you just know you are home.  I think it is the familiar scents of my grandpa's delicious cooking and the whoosh sound of their gas fireplace firing up a warm welcome.  The faded black and white and vintage color photos dotting the walls surround me with familiar faces that I remember from childhood.  My grandparents couched, updated recently, somehow still harbours the look of the background for all of those pictures.  Immediately, we four plop down on it, with big smiles of anticipation of the funny things that grandpa will start to say.

Home away from home.  We breathe in deeply to savor the moment.
I simply love visiting there.

As does my husband and two daughters.  They are as excited as me to see the 'GGs' and to get that ever snuggily warm embrace that is filled with unconditional love.

It feels good.  Actually, better than good.  It allows me (and probably all of us) to relax away from the world of T1d.

We literally walk in and for an hour or two, the stress seemingly melts away.

And I am not sure why that is or what magical medicine lurks behind the doors to their tiny home. 

Maybe because my grandparents have lived a lifetime of ups and downs and understand that living with T1d is part of that roller coaster of life. 

Maybe because my grandparents raised their adult daughter (my mom) and watched her diagnosis and continuing struggle with multiple sclerosis, another uncontrollable and unpredictable auto-immune disease.

Maybe because my grandma had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (forty years ago) and was already familiar with terms like blood sugar testing, counting carbohydrates and insulin dosing. I didn't have to explain what was happening or teach her repeatedly that insulin wasn't a choice, but life-support.

Or maybe because they just love us (my favorite answer), before, during and after diagnosis.  Our relationship didn't suffer the tiny fissures that became huge cracks in some of our other relationships from people unable to understand our sudden need to focus on diabetes 24-hours a day, seven days a week. 

I think the biggest reason is this, time is fleeting and can change at a moments notice.  My grandparents are acutely aware of this and are wonderfully generous with their time and love.  They don't hold back their words, hugs or even tears... they tell stories passionately and with exuberance.  They expect nothing and are simply delighted in the smallest of treasures... even a crumpled drawing by youngest daughter, illustrated on route to their home.

And that is exactly the best kind of anti-diabetes burnout medicine that anyone could have, the love of someone close to your family. 

If you haven't done it lately, drop everything that you are doing and head to your home away from home to visit the people that love you best.  I guarantee that will be exactly what the doctor ordered.