Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Blurring The Lines - Insight Into Friendships

Scanning through my 'Facebook Feed', I suddenly realize that the lines between type 1 diabetes and non-type 1 diabetes have been blurred.  No longer is there a distinction between friends that understand and those that do not. 

Maybe it was from the process of natural selection or maybe a bit of weeding occurred.  I admit that early on, a few had to be plucked.  Like the mom who voiced concern about all of the 'needles and blood in our home'.  Um, good-bye.

But then the happiest thing occurred with friends learning and embracing type 1 diabetes.

One note from a friend (without children living with type 1 diabetes) tells me that the birthday treat from her son to be brought to school is a popsicle and each is 14 carbs.

Swoon!  Such a kind, kind, kind gesture from a mom who cares.

Another feed announces a recap on the latest type 1 diabetes gadget.  A couple of others come from my own blog but have friends without type 1 diabetes adding helpful hints.

My friends have been following along and want to help, like they would with anything happening within our life.  I think diabetes has been demystified and we have shown how normal all of this is.

Two other friends that I can't imagine not knowing share a story (that has nothing to do with diabetes)about their families.  While we met through diabetes, I am friends because I truly enjoy their company.

Love this the most!  The best part of diabetes has been connecting with so many wonderful people!

And so it goes...  with almost every post/feed/friendship connected back to type 1 diabetes. 

Remarkably after seven years, everyone is on the same page.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Diabetes Camp - How To Help Prevent HomeSickness For Kids (and Parents, too!)

Following along in our series on Diabetes Camp, today's post is a tutorial on how to help prevent homesickness in kids - and to be honest, this is helpful information for parents, too!

Maybe it is your first time having your son or daughter away from home or maybe you are an old-hat at the process, no matter, having a child that lives with type 1 diabetes out of your care can be an emotional endeavor.

One of the most fun ways that I have found to help both myself and my children cope with separation anxiety is creating a 'Diabetes Camp Fun Box. 

I take my worry and turn it into a positive by creating something that I know my child will love and remind them of how much mom and dad care.  On the other hand, my children know that saying good-bye for the week is temporary and they immediately start looking forward to the fun things that mom is sending up during their week-long stay. 

The box is simple.  Just a couple of inexpensive photo boxes commonly found at stores like JoAnn's, Hobby Lobby, IKEA or Michael's Crafts.  I found my boxes on sale for $2.00 each at Michael's Crafts. 

The nice part of these photo-boxes is that they are durable enough to withstand quite a bit of wear and tear and cute enough to be used just about in any room of the house.  I also like that they fit neatly on kids bookshelves, so when camp is over, the leftover contents or any new camp related memorabilia can stay carefully tucked away inside their own bedrooms.
Notice that metal bracket?  Carefully cut out a piece of scrap paper to add your child's name to the box by inserting it into the top of the bracket.  Add a piece of clear tape over the entire label to help avoid it from slipping out.  One part of camp is that with so many kids living in a small-sized cabin, everything should be labeled to prevent loss.

Have one of these handy - dandy label makers?  I love this!  We use this on everything diabetes - related, especially when my kids are away from home.   Bonus is that it saves a ton of time hand-writing each child's name.  Just print a bunch of labels ahead of time and have them ready to go for when you need them.

Another fun way to personalize the top of the box is to use alphabet stickers or vinyl lettering.  Any color and any style goes.  I like to place my child's name on the top of the box along with a quirky title like 'Oldest Daughter's Totally Awesome Camp Stuff!'

You can also add your child's favorite stickers.  Is he into Star Wars?  Or Legos?  You could write "Austin's Cool Camp Adventure" and his favorite super heroes doing camp things.  See- I could make these for boys too!

Once you have your box, you can start to plan all of the fun things that you would like to add.  Here are some suggestions:

Postcards:  Pre-address, pre-stamp and pre-return address each card.  I always attach a sticky giving my kids direction on where to fill out their message.  The comical part of the post cards is that they always end up arriving after the kids return home.  They love seeing their own mail in the mailbox and it turns into a fun game of 'Can I get the mail?'

Look for inexpensive items that your kids can share with their cabin-mates.  Truthfully, not every parent sends a care package or even a letter.  The fun multiplies at camp when you can send some things that everyone in the cabin can share.  The glow in the dark bracelets (package of 12) are especially nice during the Dance night.  Tattoos are easy to share and kids love helping other kids put them on.  Sidewalk chalk is fun and easily rinses off.  The girls can even color their hair temporarily with chalk.  It's all about creativity and being kind to one another.  What a nice lesson for such a small investment.  Each of these items are only $1.00 and you can find them in the Target Dollar Spot.  

While I was at Michael's Craft store, I found several cool things in their dollar section as well.  The journal is a great way to have your child record their camp memories during quiet time.  The notecards can be shared with friends and the stickers were a mere $.44 in the clearance section.  Fun and simple.

Michael's Craft store also had a specific section on Kid's Camp supplies.  I found this pillowcase with a fabric marker for $3.50.  The pillowcase is meant for auto-graphs from friends around the camp.  What a neat keep-sake for your child to use all year long.

Last but not least, look around your own home for things that you might already have and can send to camp.  Extra school supplies, leftover bubbles, nail polish, small games, playing cards, a Frisbee or a jump rope, all make for fun things to do with friends while at camp.  The goal is not to spend a lot of money or try to outdo other parents, but to help you and your child feel safe and secure in knowing that he/she is having a wonderful experience while away from home.

When I am done finding little treasures for the box, I tuck in a card and add a colorful ribbon to close the box.  If you choose to use the photo boxes like the ones that I used, you can fit one box perfectly inside a USPS Large Flat Rate Box.  The boxes are free at the USPS and shipping is one flat rate with a quick delivery time.  I like to send it about three or four business days ahead of my child's arrival to ensure that it will be there while my kid is still there! 

Another idea is to drop the box off at camp check-in with a note of when you would like it delivered to your child's cabin.  Last year, we tried this method and I chose Wednesday, as it seemed to be the day where both girls might need a pick-me-up.  Make sure you still address the box to your child's name, cabin name and even counselor's name if you have it.  In that way, nothing is lost.  Our camp has over 350 kids coming during the two weeks of diabetes camp.  That's potential for a ton of confusion. 

However, it worked out perfectly and both daughters felt so special in knowing that mom (and dad) were thinking of them.  I felt great in knowing that they were in good hands too.

Other ideas to help beat the homesickness bug:

1.)  Have your child pack a favorite stuffy.  Trust me when I say that everyone brings a stuffed animal.  Even the counselors pack their most beloved and well-worn stuffed animals.

2.)  Bring a picture of mom, dad or even the family pet.  One child last year packed a picture of her big cousin because in her words, "He is so brave.  He even went to COLLEGE!".

3.)  Tuck in a special blanket.  Most campers just bring sleeping bags, but some are wise enough to know that weather changes often.  Sometimes the most comfortable sleeping is with a light blanket.  It is even better when it is a comfort object.

4.)  Pack batteries and lots of them.  Some kids are used to sleeping with a night-light.  Let your child use their flashlight under the covers.  If the batteries die out, just replace them the next night.  By the end of the week, your child probably won't need the light.  It just is nice to know that it is available.

5.)  Tuck love notes where your child will least expect them.  One mom that I know tucked notes into her child's socks.  I like to tuck a heart into each days' Ziploc bag of clean clothes.  Some parents write notes into their child's toiletry kit.  Just a sweet reminder that you and your child have a special bond.

Whatever you do, try to enjoy your child's new independence.  Give yourself a pat on the back too.  You did a great service by sending your child to camp!

As always, Kids first, diabetes second.

Monday, May 27, 2013

And The Winner of the First Ever Naturally Sweet Sisters Giveaway of A Disney Cookbook Is......

Picked by random number drawing of youngest daughter....

Lucky #1 Erica Surman

Thank you for reading Naturally Sweet Sisters and be sure to send me your mailing information so I can send this to you right away!

And be sure to come back tomorrow to see what I have packed in this pretty blue box.  Guaranteed to make your camper smile:) 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday Serenity

A lot of people ask me how I keep positive.  Maybe it is the things I surround myself with.

'Things' like oldest and youngest daughter.

We WILL get a CURE!

The Naturally Sweet Sisters

Helen Keller

Friday, May 24, 2013

It's a Give - Away Day!!!

Not too long ago, I stumbled across this:

Product Details

Dishing It Up Disney Style :  A Cookbook for Families with Type 1 Diabetes by Lilly Diabetes.

While I really wanted one of these books, I was saddened by the fact that the only place I could find it was on the Amazon website where it was being sold for $10.00.  Lilly Diabetes does not charge for these books and distributes them freely to most hospitals and endocrinologist offices.  Making a profit just seems to be in poor taste.

Last weekend, our local JDRF branch held a 'Diabetes Today and Tomorrow' Conference.  The beginning of the conference was set up to include a vendor booth area where anyone interested in distributing diabetes product information could meet with patients and families.

Luckily for me - Lilly reps were in attendance.  Even better, they had a small pile of books including; Dishing It Up Disney Style.  I took two books, one for our family and one for a Naturally Sweet Sisters reader.

If you would like to try to win a free copy of Dishing It Up Disney Style by Lily Diabetes then all you need to do are these two things:

1.)  Leave a comment on this blog page telling why you love Disney. 

To comment, type in (be sure to link in to naturally sweet sisters to post as facebook link-ins will not allow comments.)


2.)  Like our facebook page. 

To "like" the facebook page, click  If you already "like" the facebook page, than you are all set.  Just be sure to leave a comment on this post.

The contest is open until Sunday, May 26th, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. EST.  I will announce the lucky winner on Monday, May 27th, 2013.  Special thanks to Lily Diabetes for making such a cool book and being so gracious in providing Naturally Sweet Sisters with two copies. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Diabetes Summer Camp - How To Pack Clothes For Children


In my last camp post, I gave you a list of what to pack for diabetes summer camp, or really, what to pack for children going away to any kind of adventure camp. 

In this post, I am going to detail one of my favorites ways of how to pack clothes for children while they are away from mom and dad.

Seems sort of simple right?

Like all you need to do is just neatly fold clothes, place gently in suitcase and zip tight?

Well, unless you have detail-oriented kids with a sense of calm and common sense in the early morning hours, most likely after they open the suitcase for the very first time, the clothes will end up looking like this:


Which means that your child will probably stick with approximately one shirt and one pair of shorts for the entire week.  Don't even dwell on the underwear because I can guarantee that will not be changed!  And to think that much of the camp staff is on a volunteer basis! Ew!

A few years ago, a veteran camp mom on an on-line website told me to start packing my child's camp things in Hefty or Ziploc storage baggies.  The veteran camp mom said the 2.5 gallon size was the perfect size to hold exactly one day's worth of clothes. 

And she was right!  Brilliant! 

After a rigorous test (two years' worth of camp mayhem), my daughters and I have arrived at the conclusion that this works perfectly!

My oldest particularly loved this idea because no one had to see her ahem! 'unmentionables' as she traipsed out of her cabin each morning to shower.  She simply woke up, found the right bag and headed off.  Her friends without the bags often misplaced a sock or worse, found themselves in the shower stall without a clean shirt or pair of shorts.  Oh no! The dreaded 'what do I do now when mom is not in the next room'????

Below, is the Naturally Sweet Sister's version of the Ziploc bag packing method.  This has been modified to include a little extra sweetness.  Not only do we pack clothes, we also pack LOVE. 

I can't help myself.  I miss those girls while they are gone!

For your viewing pleasure, I snapped a few pictures of what I do to prep the bags.

First,  I either use a Sharpie marker to label each bag or I type/print a list of the child's name and corresponding day of the week. 
I like the print method for ease of use as I am doing everything x2 and it gets a little tedious.  Not to mention, that I have a bad case of sloppy handwriting when doing things in multiples.  It makes it hard to read for beginning readers.  Or so I have been told by youngest daughter.
If you print a label, the sticky can often be peeled back off which makes the bag reusable.  I like to save them for things like collecting shells on the beach or even as garbage bags.  The zip top makes it great to keep ants away from picnic areas.  You just have to remind your child to bring them back home after camp.

Once you have labeled your bags, here is where the sweet part comes in;  create a once-a-day love note for your child. 
This will actually help to inspire a daily clothing change each morning.  Your child will be eager to see what special letter or joke or funny comment that mom or dad has left for them.
For this step, I use a large-size heart shaped punch.  No, I didn't buy it for this project but I do use this a lot.  It's a great investment.

Punching out one heart for each bag that I assemble, takes only about 30 seconds.  You could fold a piece of paper in half and use scissors to cut a heart shape as well. 

My notes are simple and encouraging.  Just a few words from mom to start off the day.

Place the heart into the Ziploc bag and then add your day's worth of clothes - like one pair undies, one pair socks, one bra, one t-shirt, one pair of shorts.  Your child can take this little Ziploc bag bundle, along with a hanging toiletries bag right into the bathroom each morning.  Dirty clothes can be placed back inside to make sure that all items are returned to the cabin or your child's laundry bag to take home.
I think we managed to save a lot of sock lives this way!
Have fun! 
More camp preparedness coming soon......


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Chore Jar - Even Naturally Sweet Sisters Have Chores

Over the course of time, our girls have always had what we like to call 'responsibilities'. 

The naturally sweet hubby and I realized that at an early age, even the smallest of kiddos could be assigned a task or have responsibility for something within our household.  It didn't have to be a big task or a big responsibility either.  As long as it was accomplished correctly and with a good attitude (no shrugging or eye-rolls please!), it was successful. 

Plus, I secretly had nightmares after hearing of friends who told me that they went to college without knowing how to operate a clothes dryer!  Oh my!

We started with having the girls start brushing their teeth, washing faces, combing their hair and writing thank you notes.  As the girls grew, their desire to have a family pet helped us to add the next level of responsibilities, cleaning the litter box and adding fresh food and water to our kitten bowls.

Last year we added extra things like making beds, picking up toys from around the house and helping with bigger projects - like cleaning debris up from the tree hitting the house or assisting with the laundry. 

We also upped the ante and added $1.00 allowance per day for each completed day's worth of tasks. 

If the kids forgot their responsibilities, mom and dad still had to do it, so instead of paying the children, we paid ourselves.  Oh yes!  That's right!  We paid ourselves.  Now, that is an eye-opener for children!

A few neat things happened.

*  Our kids realized that they could buy things without mom and dad saying no. 
*  They learned the value of saving up for bigger and better things. 
*  Things that they purchased had more meaning and were taken better care of.
*  We never had the whining in store for something they wanted.  All I had to say was, "Did you bring your own money?" They knew if they could afford it or if they felt it was worth the cost.

Interestingly enough, it also taught our children about hard work and the realization that without working, they literally had empty pockets.  The remedy?  More completed responsibilities the next week.  I am seriously hoping that this lesson stays with them through their teens and early 20's.  Oh my! 

So one more really cool thing happened.  By establishing responsibilities, even though our kids had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, we instilled the expectation that life would continue on, as normal as possible.

We helped our children to clarify their own identity so that they knew they were regular little kids. Type 1 diabetes or not, our kids learned that their identity meant to be good citizens and they had the responsibility to take care of household chores, homework, our family kitten and even themselves.  There was no forgiveness on high or low days... either you completed your responsibility or you didn't. 

Through doing all of this, we helped our little girls discover their own abilities - and removed the idea that they had any sort of disability.  We also gave them a very stable home environment that clearly outlined the expectations and roles of each person in the family.  Not to mention that it also left us a lot of time for loving and cuddling and snuggling - mom had less to do on her own!

As we head into another summer and with two slightly older kids, I am modifying the responsibilities list by giving it a new name.  I thought I might share it with you for a fun opportunity for everyone to teach their kids a cool way to earn allowance money.

Introducing the Chore Jar. 

Inside the jar are about 30 different household chores.  Each completed chore is worth $1.00. 

Every time a chore is completed and verified by mom and dad, the family worker gets to add the chore to their own bucket. 

All chores will be paid on Sunday.

Now here is the catch: mom and dad have a bucket too.  Any chore that they (we) complete first, goes into the 'Mom and Dad' bucket for the week and that chance to earn money for doing that chore during the week is done.

Also, the chores are to be drawn out of the jar at random.  Whatever you get, you have to do.  If you choose not to do it or if you try to re-draw, you lose your chance for the day to do any other chores.  You also lose the chance to earn any money that day, which is very disappointing.

However, if you are on a chore roll, after every completed chore, you can redraw to get another chore - for as long as you would like and ultimately, earn as much money as you can.  Just make it clear that mom and dad must verify to ensure the chore was properly completed before moving on to the next task.

I placed the Chore Jar near their bedrooms in the hallway with the diabetes refrigerator.  I thought it might be a nice daily visual of how many dollars they have coming each week.  They can't walk by without seeing it!

With oldest daughter yearning for more make-up and youngest daughter wishing for Bath and Body Works supplies, this will be a nice incentive to help them both, especially over a long summer.

And me too.  Less for mama to do by herself is always a good thing!

What's that saying?  If mama ain't happy, no one is happy?! 

Right now, I am very happy!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Rock Stars In Real Life - Dr. William Tamborlane

When I was a little girl, I had posters of rock stars and teen sensations (oh my, did I really just say 'teen sensations - I am so OLD!), adorning my bedroom walls.

Then, when I hit my teen years, I became just too cool for those types of things and instead, created an idea that I could somehow style my bedroom to look like a New York City loft with minimalist decor.  Deep inside, however, I still pined away for Prince, Thomas C. Howell and Kirk Cameron. 

Now, here I am with two little girls that are back into the posters and teen sensations (gah!  There I go again!) and while I still dream of minimalist decor, I am quite clearly living in a four-bedroom traditional colonial in the suburbs with a bunch of family stuff.

However, I am still a fan of a certain set of rock stars and I would even be tempted to hang up pictures if I had a few.  The only difference between the little girl version of me and the adult me is that now my true affection has shifted to the doctors and scientists that could (and WILL!) one day cure my children. 

Those wonderful people are my own personal set of rock stars. 

I finally got to meet one of my beloved rock stars in person on Friday night at a JDRF VIP Meet and Greet Reception.  Seriously sending HUGE thank yous to the staff at JDRF that so graciously offered up an invite to our family.  I hope that on the outside, I looked like a normal parent and not the crazy fan that I felt myself to be!!!!

The person that I wanted to meet most was Dr. William Tamborlane, MD at Yale Medical.

Let me give you a little of the back story of why I am personally such a fan.  If you read our oldest daughter's diagnosis story, than you know that I was given a precious few months to absorb yet another diagnosis and to try to stop the diabetes train from crashing.

Part of that attempt, was a phone call that I placed to Dr. Tamborlane.

Now, maybe it was from the complete brazeness that I exhibited or the fact that I name-dropped extensively, but somehow, I managed to get a line directly to Dr. Tamborlane.

This nice man, actually tool my phone call and chatted with me about my daughter's case.  Not just one time, but several times over the course of a few days. 

What's more is that I was left with the distinct impression that he cared.  He really cared about the fate of my child... a child that he had not met.

On Friday, I was given the chance to say thank you directly to him.

And happily, I had to get in line with many others that probably wanted to do the same.  One couple that I met had the honor of having their daughter as a patient of Dr. Tamborlane.  They reminisced about the good 'ole days and cited the continued hope, even though their daughter was grown and living on her own, of having a cure.

Dr. Tamborlane still represented that hope to them, to me and to all of the other people waiting to say 'hello' and to shake his hand (or hug as I love to do!).

We all know that neither Dr. Tamborlane nor anyone else on the planet, could stop that type 1 diabetes train from crashing.  It still did and our second diagnosis was sealed into fate.

But after talking once again to Dr. Tamborlane and then the following day, to listen to his presentation on the history of type 1 diabetes leading up to very tangible future of the artificial pancreas, I not only have hope....

I also have a feeling that I met a person who will one day change the direction of our lives.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Spread the Love - Diabetes Week

As another Diabetes Blog Week draws to a close, let’s reflect on some of the great bloggers we’ve found this week. Give some love to three blog posts you’ve read and loved during Diabetes Blog Week, and tell us why they’re worth reading. Or share three blogs you’ve found this week that are new to you.

As the week comes to an end, here are a few blog posts from bloggers that I haven't read before.  I chose a sample from Day 4., Greatest Accomplishments to share with you.  I hope you enjoy!

1.)  Dog Goes To College - Adventures of a college student and her service dog.

2.)  One Girl's Diabetic Life -  Awife, foster mama, wannabe couponer, kindergarten aide, thrifty shopper, lover of all things organized, and a Type 1 diabetic.

3.)  Life Beyond Glucose - Lately it seems like my entire life is about counting carbs, measuring food, and injecting insulin. I thought that maybe if I write it all down I can figure out what my life beyond glucose is.

Tomorrow, a new post on who I am a fan of....... do you think he might send me a poster????

Sunday Serenity

Amen. 'Nuff said.

The Naturally Sweet Sisters

Some Things Are Not Important // Keri Smith

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Diabetes Art - Diabetes Week

This year Diabetes Art moves up from the Wildcard choices as we all channel our creativity with art in the broadest sense. Do some “traditional” art like drawing, painting, collage or any other craft you enjoy. Or look to the literary arts and perhaps write a d-poem or share and discuss a favorite quote. Groove to some musical arts by sharing a song that inspires you diabetes-wise, reworking some song lyrics with a d-twist, or even writing your own song. Don’t forget dramatic arts too, perhaps you can create a diabetes reality show or play. These are just a starting point today – there are no right or wrong ways to get creative!

School is still in session with no time for extra art projects, so without further ado, here is our "Art" - our 2013 Naturally Sweet Sisters Walk to Cure Diabetes video.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Freaky Friday - Diabetes Week

Just like in the movie, Freaky Friday, today we’re doing a swap. If you could switch chronic diseases, which one would you choose to deal with instead of diabetes? And while we’re considering other chronic conditions, do you think your participation in the DOC has affected how you treat friends and acquaintances with other medical conditions?


As a mom of two kids heading into the teen years faster than I can blink, I have already been trained in offering the skilled advice of:


The ironic part is that much of my needing to dispense that advice isn't about the ills of having type 1 diabetes. 

It is about kids with long, straight, shiny hair - when my daughter is bemoaning her curly locks. 

It is about kids with smart phones - when my daughter is feeling left out at not having the latest app or access to Twitter.

It is about perfection and glass houses and every fable that we have ever read.  But of course I am substituting real life analogies in the hopes of teaching my children that there is no one who is perfect. 


So, would anyone want to switch their 'something' for another person's 'something?'

I think it would be a terrible mistake. 

At least we know the ins-outs of type 1 diabetes.  The surprises are less and less.  We understand the roller coaster, the Diabetes Monster, the serial killers, the mean endo nurses, the idea that the student does in fact become the teacher. 

As with curly hair and dumb phones, it is a part of who we are and to heal, we learn to ACCEPT TYPE 1 DIABETES.

Those others with their seemingly perfect existence often prove to have something far harder to deal with...

The kid with the smart phone?  His mother is dying of cancer.

The girl with perfectly straight hair?  Her family is broken and she spends long hours alone.

When the realization of those tragedies unfold, the myth of perfection is also shattered.  We can not compare ourselves to others, no matter how tempting, because each of us quietly battles a (often unseen) monster of our own. 

I have asked my kids if they would trade it and they both asked what for... a puppy?  YES!  ....a million dollars?  ABSOLUTELY! 

But for another chronic disease?  .... um, no.

I know where our world of type 1 diabetes is heading.  Better treatment, better technology and even a CURE.  I've taught that HOPE to my children as well.  We are sticking with this until that day comes. 

Who knows, it might be sooner than we think!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Accomplishments: Big and Small - Diabetes Week

We don’t always realize it, but each one of us had come a long way since diabetes first came into our life. It doesn’t matter if it’s been 5 weeks, 5 years or 50 years, you’ve done something outstanding diabetes-wise. So today let’s share the greatest accomplishment you've made in terms of dealing with your (or your loved one’s) diabetes. No accomplishment is too big or too small - think about self-acceptance, something you’ve mastered (pump / exercise / diet / etc.), making a tough care decision (finding a new endo or support group / choosing to use or not use a technology / etc.).

As a mentor for JDRF, one of the things that I often share with new families is this:

"Whatever your plans were for your child, don't let type 1 diabetes stop you from doing them".

I think is my most solid piece of advice. 

Other things that I tend to say sound like this:

"Keep a set of diabetes supplies upstairs so that the serial killers lurking in your kitchen in the middle of the night can't get you."


"When the Diabetes Monster raises his head, there are two things you must immediately do to tame him - either give insulin or give carbs - but give them until he quiets back down."

Ok, so I don't really dispense that kind of advice.  I am sure that my JDRF mentor lead would be kicking herself for letting me loose on people if she read that! 

It's just that when you start talking to another family in the midst of a life-changing moment, the best thing you can do is to reassure them that it really will be OK.  And a little bit of humor helps.  Because if you can't laugh, your crying and no one should be left to drown in a sea of tears.  We all need someone to help us with a life-raft

So my life-raft today is to share that the number one best thing that I ever did for our family was to keep doing all of the things that we planned to do for our family.

You've heard me say this a thousand times, but one more won't hurt:  "Kids First, Diabetes Second."

For me, that a-ha moment came shortly after diagnosis when I realized that pre-school enrollment was starting.  At the same time, I also learned that our school system did not have nurses on staff.

"Huh.  No nurses????  What do other families do?"

That brought me to the third realization which was that we were about to be the only family in our school with type 1 diabetes.

Quite clearly, I had a choice.  I could forever remain in the safety of my own home and having my child experience the world through me or I could dig my heals in, figure out a plan and have my child experience the world through the eyes of her teacher (and many teachers to come).

Both plans had pros and both plans had cons.  The worst though, was that it was an unknown consequence.  The kind of unknown consequence that made you have a belly ache.  Would choosing an incorrect choice hurt my child?

Even though the consequence was unknown, I still had a feeling about the right direction FOR OUR FAMILY.

What it boiled down to was the vision that our family had of how we wanted to raise our children.  You know those hopes and dreams that you discuss when you find out your pregnant?  Well, being the scholarly sort (husband's employment is at one), we had hoped to choose the traditional schooling method. 

Somewhere deep down, I knew it was important to take this step of independence and help my child start building a diabetes skill-set resume.  Even though she was only three years-old, I wanted to model the idea that type 1 diabetes would NEVER HOLD HER BACK.

And it didn't.

From that point (and another diagnosis for our oldest daughter), our family has done so many wonderful things.  We accomplished the goal of pre-school, then elementary and middle schools - for a long time, being the only family living with type 1 diabetes.  After a few years, our oldest daughter even went back to her elementary school to help another young boy who was newly diagnosed talk to his classmates about type 1 diabetes.  Talk about coming full circle.  We went from being completely alone and making it up as we went to actually helping other new families find their way.  Amazing.

Outside of school, my girls have played soccer, gymnastics, ballet, art classes, band, yoga and even field hockey.  We have traveled, visited all over the US, taken many trips to Disney and even tried a hand at camping - with and without mom and dad supervising.  Yes, it was a ton of planning and a bunch of worrying (remember this video?) but we proudly did it all.

Academically, the girls have flourished and this past summer, we even visited our Alma Mater to help foster the since of higher education; with our oldest daughter saying that she too, would love to be a Pediatric Endocrinologist.  While she is not locked into a career - she's in sixth grade - it still might happen one day.

Looking back on those first few months post diagnosis and remembering how I was purely running on instinct, I now know that the best thing I have ever done was to say, "Kids First, Diabetes Second".

The proof?  Two happy and healthy kids that can do ANYTHING!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Memories - Diabetes Week Post 3

Diabetes Week Post 3 - Today we’re going to share our most memorable diabetes day. You can take this anywhere.... your or your loved one's diagnosis, a bad low, a bad high, a big success, any day that you’d like to share.

I actually forgot about this story until last week, when I shared it with a newly diagnosed family.  I think it defines the feelings that most of us have during those first few tedious days of learning how to care for our children.

And it also exemplifies how nuts I was!

In 2006, care was a little different for a newly diagnosed family than it is today.  After being discharged from our week long stay, I was given the gift of receiving a visiting home nurse.

Sounds like a dream, right?

Well the irony is that my visiting home nurse, a lovely woman that we shall call Rhonda, was not in the least bit experienced with type 1 diabetes (or even type 2 for that matter).

What I didn't realize was that Rhonda's area of expertise was in teaching how to correctly draw and inject a syringe.  That was it.  She came to our home with the understanding that this newly diagnosed family needed help with injections.

I didn't need that kind of help though.  At four or more syringes a day, I was already an expert in pokes.

What I didn't know what to do was how to feed a skinny three-year old toddler or even our family.  Everything seemed wrong and I couldn't remember what were taught in the hospital.

Rhonda wasn't sure either.

But one look at my ashen skin, worried frown lines and total lack of sleep, prompted her compassionate side to help us.

Together, we decided the best route to take would be carb counting and meal planning. 

Remember, I had no idea of what I was doing. 

Now, our pantry is large and always well stocked.  One look inside and she started clicking her tongue and shaking her head.  "Everything inside the pantry has carbs", she said.  "This won't do."

So like two crazy people, we started dumping everything into a large garbage can.  Cereal - no.  Chips - no.  Pancake mix -probably not.  Cupcake mix - Oh ABSOLUTELY NOT!

At the end, I was left with some cooking oil, some unpopped pop corn and a variety of seasonings. 

Then Rhonda and I sat down to start creating a list of things to buy.  The words 'SUGAR-FREE' topped the list along with 'NO-CARBS'.  We couldn't think of a lot except sugar free jello and sugar free crystal light.  Still, Rhonda had me convinced that once I got into the grocery store and hit up the reduced sugar aisle, that I would find all sorts of good things to feed my child.

Since I couldn't leave the house until I knew my daughter was sleeping (still paralyzed by the fear that something bad would happen the moment that I left), I stayed, waiting until after the 3:00 a.m. middle-of-the-night glucose check to furiously drive to our local 24-hour grocery store.

Let me just tell you, the grocery store is a strange place at 3:00 a.m..  The aisles were being re-stocked by dudes that looked like they had never seen daylight.  I also realized that most of the shoppers were getting munchies and had probably - no definitely! -closed down the local watering holes. 

And here I am in the midst of all them, loading up a cart full of diarrhea inducing sugar free products, all the while trying to stifle the avalanche of tears.

An hour or so later, as I struggled to push my overly full shopping cart into the check-out lane, a guy with his bag of munchies turns and looks at me with huge eyes.

"Whoa! What happened to you?" he said.

I don't know why I told him this but I did.

"A fire.  We had a fire."

As weird as that statement was, he just nodded his head in empathy and didn't ask anymore questions. 

The weird grocery store experience healed a part of me that night.

The aftermath of that story is that for years, I kept those sugar free products but never fed them to my child.  Not to long ago, I did a huge pantry clean-out and finally got rid of them.  It was a little bitter sweet though.  Somehow, I had grown quite fond of those sugar free things.  It was necessary to say good-bye because it helped me move through another stage of acceptance.  Each time I pass through the land of sugar free, I still have a little heart tug.  It will always be a part of me.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

We, The Undersigned - Diabetes Blog Week Post 2

Diabetes Blog Week - Post # 2:  Recently various petitions have been circulating the Diabetes Online Community, so today let's pretend to write our own.  Tell us who you would write the petition to – a person, an organization, even an object (animate or inanimate) - get creative!! What are you trying to change and what have you experienced that makes you want this change?


We, The Undersigned, agree to stop telling children that they shouldn't cry when you give them a (Circle One) shot/injection/blood draw/finger poke because they are "used to it".

We, The Undersigned, (Initial Here) _________  agree that if not immediately providing a cease and desist, the above said children will be allowed to poke us to see our reaction.

Print Name: _____________________  Signed Name: _______________

Monday, May 13, 2013

Share and Don't Share: Diabetes Blog Week Post #1

Participating in Diabetes Blog Week.  Post #1 Assignment:  Often our health care team only sees us for about 15 minutes several times a year, and they might not have a sense of what our lives are really like. Today, let’s pretend our medical team is reading our blogs. What do you wish they could see about your and/or your loved one's daily life with diabetes? On the other hand, what do you hope they don't see? 

As a parent of two daughters, both whom live with type 1 diabetes, most of my day is spent through the lives of my children. 

Just like my Facebook says, I work at Artificial Pancreas.

I know you already get the ins and outs but let's just say that being an Artificial Pancreas x2 is a full time job.

Not only that, but like most parents, I am also concerned with my children getting enough sleep, keeping a safe home, clipping toenails, eating fruits and veggies, making sure eye-sight is functioning and getting outdoors. 

I also watch my kids to make sure they do their bathroom business and take care of their teeth.  I buy good shoes, warm jackets and dispense medicine as directed. We talk about manners and kindness and how to handle difficult situations.

School is important, so we work together to help with homework, projects and bedtime reading.  I also encourage my children's interest in extracurricular activities and drive them to and fro events, while teaching them how to safely interact with the world at large.

It's all part of a healthy, normal and yes, busy family life. 

So when I take my girls to yet another doctor appointment, trust me when I say that something is off.  I am paying attention.  I notice little things that often turn into bigger things.  You're lucky because I am bringing that 'Mom' experience with me.  I am a wealth of information for anyone wise enough to listen.

I am also interested in hearing your ideas.  I love it when you are honest and can tell me if your not sure or even offer several suggestions.  I am not trained in medicine, although I have had to learn much about it.   If I ask a question or a thousand, it is because I am studying in a most untraditional way... through hands-on experience.  Please be patient and please be kind.  We are here because we chose you to help us. 

Most of all, know that as my kids are growing older, they are also growing wiser.  Much of their learning has occurred in these same waiting rooms.  When you talk to me, they are listening AND watching.  Your behavior is noticed and learned.  They also need faith that you hear them when they speak.  Give encouragement and praise.  Much of what they are doing is new and they want to feel like they did a good job.

In fact, we all want to hear that, so I will be sure to tell you that too and you can do the same for me. 

I like to think that together, you and our family make an awesome team.   The team part is important because it really isn't just one way, but all of us together.

Team Naturally Sweet Sisters.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday Serenity

Sometimes the struggle is understanding how to deal with well meaning, yet inaccurate comments about Type 1 Diabetes. 

Thinking about this, helps to put them into perspective and allows us to heal.

The Naturally Sweet Sisters

Gracious words.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

For All The Mothers

Happy Mother's Day. 

As a mom of two sweet little girls and as a wife of a wonderful husband, when Mother's Day rolls around, I am well cared for. 

As soon as my daughters grasped the concept of giving mom a special day, they took charge of creating home made cards, picking newly planted annual bouquets and ordering their daddy 'to get the best present for Mama cuz she deserves it'. 

Photo: 2 dozen red roses from my love!

Thank you to my sweet little girls.  Already my kitchen table is decorated with flowers and gifts.  Special thank you's to my husband for joyfully going along with their requests and even adding his own surprises - I love you all! 

For 12 years in a row, complete with my first still in utero, I have been blessed with a loving celebration on Mother's Day.

Still, it is not without the famed bitter-sweet. 

For on Mother's Day, like any other day of our lives, our entire day will be interrupted by type 1 diabetes.  There will be site changes and finger pokes.  There will be middle-of-the-night blood sugar checks.  And that breakfast that us moms love?  Well, portions will be measured and carbs will be counted so that insulin can be dosed. 

Because that is just the way it is on Mother's Day and every other day of the year.

This year, on the cusp of our lucky number seven anniversary of type 1 diabetes,  having to do all of those things in order to manage type 1 diabetes seems, well, normal.

Doesn't every Mama or Mommy, Mom, Mother have to do that for their children?

And if that answer is no, than I think they are missing out.

Because on this special day, I am going to reflect on the good things of being this kind of type 1 diabetes mother.

Like how my children and I have developed a relationship so powerful that we instinctively know what is happening without so much as a spoken word.  One look between us is all that is needed.  Our bond will never be broken and our trust is complete.  Literally, my children have honored me with the privilege of keeping them alive and well, even as they sleep.  There is no greater gift than their faith in (me) mom.  I treasure it.

Even greater than that, I am going to focus on the way that being this kind of mother has both softened and toughened me.  Like the old adage 'don't sweat the small stuff and family is everything' to becoming the mama bear and advocating for equal treatment at school, better care options and even voicing my needs on a political level.  For my little cubs, I will not back down.  I have grown into this role and I know that it has made me a better person.

Pretty cool list, isn't it?

Erma Bombeck wrote in such an eloquent way of why we were chosen as a type 1 diabetes mom.  

When I first read her poem, I felt put-off and embarrassed.  I didn't feel any different than any other mom.  In fact, I felt worse.  I thought I would never become the kind of mother that could handle type 1 diabetes.  I felt like a phony; someone who just went through the list of type 1 diabetes requirements to get through until the end of the day.

And then, somewhere it occurred to me that maybe I was being too hard on myself.  My children were happy.  They were healthy.  What's more, they even liked hanging around with me.  We had our own little universe that included silly pranks and inside jokes.  I even found myself relaxing and learning how to accept and enjoy our new life. 

With all of that change occurring, I started to think more and more about the positives of what this disease was bringing into our lives. 

Maybe your journey with type 1 diabetes is just beginning or maybe you have been doing this for many years, no matter the length of time, I know you have your own list of positives too.  Your own personal accomplishments and victories.

Think about them and write them down.  Maybe you create a list with your family or your write as a part of your personal narrative.  Whatever you do, savor your life and enjoy this time - even with type 1 diabetes.

Most important of all, realize that you have made a difference in the life of a child.  That is the greatest accomplishment of all and today, I honor YOU and all the mother's that are caring for someone with type 1 diabetes.

Happy Mother's Day

Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressures and a couple by habit. Did you ever wonder how mothers of children with diabetes are chosen? Somehow I visualize God hovering over earth selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As he observes, he instructs his angels to make notes in a giant ledger.
“Armstrong, Beth, son. Patron Saint Matthew.”
“Forrest, Marjorie, daughter. Patron Saint Cecilia.”
“Rutledge, Carrie, twins. Patron Saint Gerard. He’s used to profanity.”
Finally, He passes a name to an angel and smiles, “Give her a child with diabetes.” The angel is curious. “Why this one, God? She’s so happy.”
“Exactly”, smiles God. “Could I give a child with diabetes to a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel.”
“But has she the patience?” asks the angel.
“I don’t want her to have too much patience, or she will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wear off, she’ll handle it. I watched her today. She has that feeling of self and independence that is so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I am going to give her has her own world. She has to make it live in her world and that’s not going to be easy.”
“But Lord, I don’t think she even believes in you.”
God smiles. “No matter. I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just enough selfishness.”
The angel gasps. “Selfishness? Is that a virtue?”
God nods. “If she cannot separate herself from the child occasionally, she will never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with less than perfect.”
“She does not realize it yet, but she is to be envied. I will permit her to see clearly the things I see…ignorance, cruelty, prejudice…and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life because she is doing my work as surely as if she is here by my side.”
“And what about her patron saint?” asks the angel, his pen poised in mid air.
God smiles. “A mirror will suffice.”


Senator Carl Levin - Yes, He Does Support Type 1 Diabetes Research

I recently wrote two of our senators in regards to making sure that the NIH continued to receive funding for type 1 diabetes research. 


From JDRF:  The annual funding that NIH receives complements the money provided by the Special Diabetes Program (SDP), which was renewed earlier this year. Both the annual funding at NIH and the SDP are advancing critical research to cure, treat and prevent type 1 diabetes.

Congress is beginning to make tough decisions about funding for federal agencies for next fiscal year, including NIH. Please email your Senators TODAY and ask them to sign-on the letter being circulated by Senators Casey (D-PA) and Burr (R-NC) to the Senate Appropriations Committee, asking for strong NIH funding. We need as many Senators on this letter as possible, as Congress is dealing with very difficult spending decisions and limited resources.

I urge everyone that would like to see better treatment, research and even a cure for type 1 diabetesto speak out and be heard by our government.  Advocate for your family and for all of the others that live with type 1 diabetes.  It takes moment and the reward is great.  In case you are interested, below is a copy of my response letter from Senator Carl Levin. 
Dear Mrs. 'Naturally Sweet Sisters':


     Thank you for contacting me about medical research. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this matter.


     The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the primary agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that conducts and supports biomedical and behavioral research. The NIH consists of 27 institutes and centers and funds 325,000 scientists in 3,000 places across the United States. Among the NIH institutes are the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the oldest and largest institute; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child and Human Development (NICHD); and the National Center for Advancing Translation Sciences, which is dedicated to turning basic science research into disease cures. Although some research is conducted internally by NIH institutes, nearly 80% of NIH funds are distributed through a competitive grant process to outside researchers. In FY2012, Michigan entities received 1,570 research grants totaling $619 million, making Michigan the eleventh leading recipient of NIH grants.


     On April 10, 2013, President Obama released his proposed fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget request, which included $31.3 billion for the NIH, an increase of $471 million more than the FY12 funding level. I agree with many of my colleagues that it is important to maintain robust NIH funding. As a result, in April 2013, I joined several Senators in sending a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies, urging them to maintain a strong commitment to funding for the NIH in the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (LHHSE) bill as they begin work on FY2014 appropriations.


     Significant medical research also is performed through the Department of Defense's Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), which seeks to find cures for cancers and other diseases. The CDMRP was created in 1992 as a breast cancer screening and diagnosis project for U.S. military women and their dependents. After many years of growth, the CDMRP is now second only to the National Cancer Institute as a source of funds for breast cancer research. In addition to its work on breast cancer research, the CDMRP also manages research grants for other diseases, including osteoporosis, neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis, chronic myelogenous leukemia, as well as prostate and ovarian cancer.


     Medical research must remain a priority, and I will continue to work to ensure that Congress provides ample research funding. Thank you again for sharing your views.



Carl Levin

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Video Story From JDRF Starring Naturally Sweet Sisters and Friends


With much love and care, this video was produced by JDRF to showcase the need for donations for research and ultimately, a cure for Type 1 Diabetes.

It is unscripted and honest.

It is sad.

It is beautiful.

Most of all, it is REAL.

Just heard that our total donations from the Promise Ball is estimated to top out at around $800,000 when all of the final monies are tallied. 

We are so proud and hope you are too!

Cure Type 1 Diabetes!

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO or if you are viewing off Facebook/Twitter than cut and paste into a new browser.  Thank you.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Diabetes Camp: Packing List

Looking ahead at the busy end-of-school and beginning-of-summer seasons, our calendar is already an busy bee-hive of activity.

Mother's Day
Spring Band Concert
Walk Kick-Off
Field Day

And the list goes on.  Whew.  I think I am already exhausted! 

One thing that I do keep in the back of my mind is the list of packing necessities for two little girls that will be successfully heading off to camp for a week in June. 

A few weeks before they leave, I usually pull out the duffle bags and start packing as I head down the list of what I have and what I need to buy.

It is really the 'buying' part that hangs me up!  This year, I am vowing to stay on top of it and as I see things, I am going to go ahead and pick them up. 

In case you are itching to start preparations and planning for your own camp adventure, here is a great list of ideas on what to pack for camp (diabetes supplies are not included in this Naturally Sweet Sisters List as your camp may not want you to bring anything.  Check beforehand with your camp director or take a peek at this POST HERE to see what we recently brought on vacation.)

Hope you have a wonderful camp experience!

Diabetes Summer Camp Packing List

1 pair jeans
1 pair sweatpants
2 sweatshirts
8 - 10 pairs of socks (a few extra pairs never hurts)
8-10 pairs of underwear (a few extra pairs never hurts)
1 pair of pajamas
5 shirts
5 shorts
2 swimsuits
1 swim shirt to prevent sunburn
1 swimsuit cover-up
1 raincoat
1 sun hat
1 nicer outfit for the dance evening

tip:  pack one day's worth in a large Ziploc style bag and mark with child's name.

tip:  be sure to specify the clothes meant for dance night so there is no confusion.

tip:  no need to bring jewelry or items that would be irreplaceable.

1 pair of tennis shoes or closed toe athletic style sandals
1 pair of croc-style shoes
1 pair of flip-flop sandals (to wear in the shower)

tip: plastic croc style shoes are great because the kids can simply hose them down at the end of a muddy exploration day at camp.  Sneakers may be ruined, so don't pack your best pair.

2 towels (1 for swimming and one for showering)
1 washcloth
liquid soap
wet wipes
sun block lip balm
aloe vera
nail clippers

tip:  discourage both boys and girls from wearing heavy cologne or perfume during the week as it tends to attract insects.  Save it for the dance night.

tip: hanging toiletry cases work great.  Have your child grab their bag to take directly into the bathroom with everything they need already packed inside.

Outdoor Equipment
bug spray
zinc oxide
swim goggles

tip:  if you are sending your camper to horseback ride, you may opt to bring your own helmet.

Cabin Equipment
sleeping bag or sheets
extra blanket
Clip-on battery operated fan or plug-in fan with extension cord

extra batteries for flashlight
water bottle
disposable camera
sling bag for carrying gear during the day
laundry bag
favorite night time stuffed animal and/or a picture of a loved one
bath rug for keeping dirt out of sleeping bag/bed
feminine supplies
a book to read
deck of cards
small game
pre-addressed and pre-postage paid stamped postcards
prescription medication labeled with your child's name and date/time/amount to be dosed - on the bottle
contacts/cleaning solution/extra pair
eyeglasses/carrying case

tip:  mark everything with your child's name.  Even care package items should be pre-marked with your child's name to help avoid confusion.

What NOT To Pack
electronic devices
guns of any kind - including toys or water guns
pocket knives
food - snacks/treats/cookies

tip:  most camps discourage or do not allow cell phones/iPods/kindles.  If it is valuable, do not send it. 

tip:  most camps will not allow spending money.  Consider purchasing any camp themed mementos on the drop-off day or the pick-up day of camp.