Things To Do For February

Diabetes Art Day  is THIS MONDAY, February 3rd.

Artists in my life have taught me that there is great value in expressing oneself through the visual arts.

Though the finished product may not be museum quality, the experience of creating is the valuable part.  You'll use parts of your brain you may not ordinarily access.  You may be surprised where the process takes you.

So I encourage you to take a few minutes this weekend, or on Monday, to create art.  It could be a complicated sculpture.  Maybe you'll create a multi-media collage.  Or it could be a simple drawing with pencil and paper.

Create your art, photograph it, and share it on the Diabetes Art Day website.  Last year I made this little guy:

Once you've created your art and posted it, don't forget to spend some time perusing other people's art. There's a children's gallery and an adult one.  The contributions range from whimsical to deeply emotional and everywhere in between.

Secondly, I sent a link to my husband this morning about:

Here, from their website, is the crux of the campaign:

Lack of access to insulin is the most common cause of death for children with diabetes in many countries around the world. In fact, in some parts of the world, the estimated life expectancy of a child who has just developed diabetes could be less than a year. *

This Valentine’s Day our community can help change that.

Through the Spare a Rose, Save a Child campaign, we raise awareness and donations for Life for a Child, an International Diabetes Federation program which provides life-saving diabetes supplies, medication, and education that children in developing countries need to stay alive.

Spare a Rose, Save a Child is simple: buy one less rose this Valentine’s Day and donate the value of that flower to children with diabetes. Your loved one at home still gets flowers and you both show some love to children around the world who need it.

One rose, one month of life. A dozen roses, a year of life for a child with diabetes.

Eleven roses would be eleven more than I usually get for Valentine's Day, and perhaps that's the case for you too. (We're more of a romantic dinner out couple, though I never turn down chocolate.) It matters not.  We can still honor the idea, which is that the $5 cost of one rose can provide a month's worth of insulin for a child.  Maybe you'll buy a less expensive box of chocolates, or a slightly more modest piece of jewelry.  Maybe you'll skip an appetizer at your romantic dinner out, or choose the wine which is on sale for your cozy dinner in.    

Love comes in many forms.  We can express it romantically, per the Valentine's Day tradition.  But it's broader than that.  Sharing our art with the diabetes community is a loving act.  Giving up a bit of our Valentine's Day gift so that a child can have life-sustaining insulin is another.  

I hope you'll enjoy these opportunities to share the love this February!

Meal Plan

When my daughter was first diagnosed with diabetes she had a very strict meal plan.  It specified exact portion sizes of starch, fruit, milk, protein and vegetables for all 6 meals and snacks every day.  Getting particular servings of particular foods into a toddler was, as I've explained before, awful.  But this was during the dark ages of NPH insulin. To avoid dangerous low blood sugars it had to be done.

Fast forward 11 years.   My daughter has an insulin pump and the flexibility to vary her carbohydrate intake from day to day.  Yet, as we were reminded this week, sticking to a general food routine has its benefits.

The installation of braces has altered the meal plan at our house.  Smoothies, soups, applesauce and hot cereals have replaced many more standard meals in the past week or so. We've learned that, for my daughter at least (everybody's diabetes is different!), protein is important.

The vegetable soup with just a few chick peas was soft and delicious.  The resulting low blood sugar necessitated 10 p.m. juice.  To make things worse, the juice had to be sucked down through the orthodontic head gear, challenging at any time but particularly when half asleep.

The lunch of coconut milk yogurt and applesauce went down easily.  But so did her blood sugar.

You physiology experts out there will already be aware that when we consume protein and carbohydrates together, the body digests the carbohydrates more slowly.  This slower rate of absorption stabilizes the blood sugar over a longer term.

For years now, with very few exceptions, my daughter's main meals have contained some combination of protein and carbohydrates.  Therefore her carbohydrate ratios and even likely her basal rates are contingent on both being in the digestion mix. Without protein, we saw quick drops in blood sugars after meals.  It was an interesting, if annoying, science experiment.

This week has been better.  She's chewing more easily.  The crock pot is in action, making things tender. The protein-free coconut yogurts have been replaced with protein-rich soy ones.  The scary post-meal drops have subsided.

The moral of the story is this:  Though we're told (and often loudly proclaim) that people with diabetes can eat anything they want as long as they bolus for it, we find that sticking with a general meal routine leads to more stable and safer blood sugars.

Of Braces and Smoothies and Math

What do you feed a growing 12 year old who's just gotten braces?

How about one with type 1 diabetes who can't have dairy?

Enter the single-serve blender, cartons of 'alternative milks,' coconut and soy yogurts, and a freezer full of frozen fruit.   And math.  Always math. The combinations are nearly infinite.  If your 12 year old gets hungry enough, she'll try them all. My daughter's favorite smoothie so far was today's.  It contained gently thawed mixed berries whirred together with half a blueberry soy yogurt, some granola and a little almond milk:

With 11 years of diabetes management under our belts, we've memorized the carbohydrate content of favorite breakfast cereals, breads, fruits and dinner items. Crackers, chips, desserts?  Filed away as well. It's become rare that we need to stop before bolusing to math out a plate (or glass) of food.  Sure, there's an occasional new recipe or brand.  Restaurants, and meals at which we're guests require some thought. Most days, though, armed with a measuring cup, a food scale, or the simple ability to count, we can move from serving to eating fairly quickly.

So this week's math intensive has been challenging.

The above smoothie required measuring frozen fruit, granola, soy yogurt and the accidentally purchased slightly sweetened almond milk. (The 'original unsweetened' kind blessedly has negligible carbs, making it unnecessary to measure.)Then there was the '1 cup contains x carbs, so half a cup would contain y carbs process for the fruit, granola and milk; add the half container of yogurt for a grand total of ???' word problem.

My daughter is enjoying experimenting with different smoothie combinations, which on one hand is fun.  On the other hand, I'm kind of hoping she decides this one's a keeper so I can take a math break tomorrow.


A combination of factors led to an absolute mess on the surface of my daughter's room which is dedicated to diabetes supplies.  

A couple of months ago she chose to start doing site changes in her room instead of a spare room we had previously used.  Therefore, site change supplies started to accumulate on a surface previously dedicated to just blood sugar checks.

Starting the dexcom added more stuff, particularly the regularly used tape and scissors to keep the sensor securely attached.

So in the January spirit of getting organized and starting fresh, I unearthed a cute basket from the basement and set everything up neatly:

I wonder how long it will last?

Do We Need The Diabetes Box?

It was to be a fun, though driving intensive, round-trip weekend to northern New England for our nephews' baptisms.

On Saturday afternoon we arrived  in the freezing rain at the bottom of a long dirt road to find a police officer stationed there.  "We're trying to get to my sister's house at the end of this road," my husband explained.

"I wouldn't recommend it," the officer replied in a thick New Zealand accent, lending an unexpected and exotic angle to the conversation.  "You see that steep hill there?"  We did.  It was at least a hundred yards long at least a 60 degree angle up. "I just watched someone come back down that hill sideways.  I tried and got halfway up and slid back down.  We've called in a sander truck, but I'm not sure how long it will be. I'd say head back into town for a bit and check back later."

When we returned, no progress had been made.  "Sorry, mate," the officer said, "I don't know when he'll be here.  They've broken two trucks already today.  The whole town's a sheet of ice."

So that's when we made the decision to hike in.  We were just under a mile from our destination.  Our hosts couldn't make it up their steep driveway to meet us partway, so we would need to carry in everything we needed for the night.

Fortunately I had packed all of our clothes for the next day in one suitcase, and our toiletry kits in a backpack.  We put on our heavy boots and all of our snow clothes.  I packed all of our electronics and chargers into my purse and wrapped it in a plastic grocery bag.  If we left the air mattress, the house gifts, and some other non-essential items in the car, we'd be o.k.

"What about the diabetes box?" my husband asked.  I had debated bringing a slimmed down ziploc to begin with, with just a few essentials but decided that we'd be far enough from home that I should just throw the whole box in.  I debated it again.  Could we get by with putting just a few emergency supplies in the backpack?

Then I looked back up at that icy hill and thought about how the police car could't get up it.  Could an ambulance?  Would we be able to get back down it?  Worst case scenarios streamed through my mind.  "Yup.  We need to bring it."

My daughter even agreed to carry it for while, since it provided waterproof shelter for her stuffed rabbit.

Climbing that hill with all of our gear was a challenge, particularly since we had to go through fairly deep snow to avoid the ice.  This wasn't the situation I had imagined when I purchased the waterproof box with a handle for the diabetes gear, but being able to set it down in the snow once in a while was ideal. We were met at the top of the hill with extra hands so that my husband and sister-in-law could go back down to find a neighbor's driveway to park the car in overnight.  On their way back to the house they watched the sander truck arrive and promptly go off the road halfway up the hill.

We had a great night, complete with a warm family meal, a cousin pillow fight and board games.  As the sun came out the next morning, my sister-in-law got us back down the hill with her studded snow tires. The boys were baptized during a lovely mass.  We enjoyed lunch in the church hall with extended family and had an uneventful trip home.

The only thing we needed out of the diabetes box?  The stuffed rabbit.


Dexi became a part of our family a little over a month ago.

She's our new dexcom continuous glucose monitoring system's receiver.

Upon her arrival, my daughter named her.  And over the past month the creative team here has personified her.

New questions and phrases have become part of our household lexicon:

Where's Dexi?

What does Dexi say?

Dexi's confused. Dexi's number and blood sugar number are very different.

Dexi's lost. The transmission signal has been lost between sensor and receiver.

Dexi is eating pie. The warm-up time for a newly inserted sensor shows a pie graph.

Dexi is thirsty.  When she needs to be calibrated a blood drop image shows on the screen.

Dexi is really thirsty.  Sometimes she needs two calibration numbers and shows two drops.

Dexi's yelling at you.  High or low alarm.

Keep an eye on Dexi while you're sledding.  Similarly, eating party food, staying up late.

Is Dexi in your purse? Similarly, on your pants, in the kitchen or did we leave Dexi in the car?

Dexi slept through the night.  I love it when she does this!

Friends and family are initially confused.  Some think we've gotten a cat, or brought another child to the party.  While some of them probably go on to conclude we've lost our marbles, most are amused.

What matters most is that it amuses us, and makes it much more fun to talk about and use this new medical device.