Six Tricks to Enjoy Halloween with diabetes.

trick or treating with diabetes
from Charles Schultz

It is that time of year again, time to get ready for the Great Pumpkin and all of the fun…and anxiety that Halloween can bring many parents. For those families dealing with diabetes for the first time, the stress of trick or treating with diabetes can be greater than dealing with the challenges of Christmas.

Children are invited to Halloween parties.  There are Halloween events at school and there is the inevitable night of trick or treating.  What do you do with all of that sugar?? Well here are a few things that have helped some parents get through.

Eat while they walk

Its okay to let your child eat candy while he/she is out trick or treating. In fact, go ahead and encourage it (as long as usual Halloween safety rules are applied of course–Mom/Dad checks candy or it is from the home of a good family friend).  All of the walking, running and general excitement will most likely lead to some serious low blood sugars.  You can help to avoid this by letting your child eat the bars, rockets (Smarties for my US friends) and other treats. Your child will feel “normal” and it will be a fun way to keep blood glucose levels in range.

Halloween treats are great from treating lows when you have diabetes

Halloween is the perfect time to stock up on low supplies. It offers fabulous 15-gram packs of sugar just perfect to carry in your bag and treat lows. In fact, even if your child doesn’t take part in Halloween events, you may want to head to the grocery store during this time to grab a few bags of low treats and save a few dollars! They tend to be a lot cheaper than buying glucose tablets from the grocery store.

halloween treats at mealsMake Halloween treats part of a meal

If you like to stick to a set meal plan, you can still add in some of your child’s Halloween treats. A bag of chips is equivalent to a bread exchange. A snack-sized chocolate bar is the equivalent of a fruit exchange.  For a treat, allow your child to have one of their Halloween items as part of a meal or snack.

Buy the candy back

Some families offer their children cash for their candy.  The children can then take the money that they earned collecting candy to purchase a book, game or favourite toy.  Mom and Dad can take the candy to work or save it to enjoy during some downtime when the kids are in bed!

The Great Pumpkin

Have the Great Pumpkin or Halloween witch come to visit.  Much like buying the candy, parents will exchange the candy while the child sleeps.  In place of their loot, the child will receive a movie pass, book or other treats that don’t involve food.

Donate it

Yet another way for our children to learn care and compassion is to take their candy to a local hospital or hostel. Have them share their candy with children who are unable to go out for Halloween.

Halloween is often a fun time for children. Remember that children with diabetes are children first.  Use some of the tips above to ensure that your child has a fun and memorable Halloween or let us know what works for you in the comments!

Summer Vacation and Shared Parenting

shared parentingIn June of 2011, I was stressing out. My son was finishing up the school year and preparing to head away for a few weeks with his father.  His care was notoriously lacking when he went away.  I was stressed to the max.His insulin needs were less and less. Despite my best efforts at reducing carb to insulin ratios and turning down basal rates, he was still going low.  I wasn’t sure how I would handle it.

You can read all about it here

But guess what? We survived. He did and I did.  He was 13.  The burden of care fell 80% to himself.  His father and brother helped out with site changes.  His father did some of the night-testing.  I worried and learned to live without diabetes for a few weeks but we survived!

Here are a few things that helped deal with shared parenting a child with diabetes.

Two types of calls

We had two types of conversations. “How are you? Are you having fun?”, was the first call. This was the start of all conversations.  Diabetes could not take a front seat unless there was an emergency.  He had to be a child first.

At a set time, however, was the second type of call.  This was a diabetes conversation.  This involved having a meter out,  sharing readings, what he was doing and why a high or low could have occurred. These were strategy sessions…and much shorter than a regular call.  My son didn’t want to be bothered by mom’s nagging or diabetes but he also knew that it had to be done. My concession was to make it short.  I gathered data quickly and offer suggestions.

Seven years later, parents can now get real-time data through sharing apps on the Dexcom and there are even a few hacked Libre sharing programs that can be used.  This can definitely help to ease a parent’s mind but remember not to become obsessed by the numbers. This leads us to another thing that can be hard to remember.

Different doesn’t mean bad

I think that this can be the greatest challenge when joint parenting a child with diabetes.  Whether you are divorced, separated or living in the same household, often there can be different opinions on diabetes care.  A reading that you feel is high and needs immediate attention may a number that someone else is okay with because they know that there is a very active afternoon planned.

Try not to freak out every time the other person does it differently.  Different means just that…not the same way you would handle it.  The biggest rule is “does different endanger the life of your child?” If not then bite your tongue, let your child enjoy their time with the other parent and say a quiet prayer of gratitude when your child comes home healthy and happy.

Adjust basals accordingly

When my son would spend time with his father, he would spend most of his time on the go.  He would be catching up with old friends. He would be on quad or spending the day at the beach. There would be late nights and later mornings.

Before he would go away, I would make small tweaks to his basal rate to allow for an increase in daily activity and a decrease in morning activity. I allowed him to run a little higher than I would if he was with me because I also knew that he wouldn’t test or correct as often as he would if Mom was there to ask “did you check lately?”

Take some time for you

As much as you will stress and worry, this is your time off.  Diabetes has left the building.  Allow yourself to rest and regroup.  Spend some time with yourself.  Enjoy restful nights.  Read a book.  Go out with friends.  Do anything that makes you truly happy because no matter how you feel about the child’s other parent…that parent loves your child as well.  They will do their best to take care of your child and leave he/she with great summer memories so make some awesome memories of your own.

When you are reunited with your child, you will both be ready and recharged for all that diabetes throws at you!

 

18 years of life with type 1 diabetes

18 years have passed and still, I remember it like it was yesterday. March 17, 2000.

The day started out sunny but by the end of it a horrible storm would hit my world and nothing would ever be the same.

We drove through a raging snowfall to take my lifeless 2-year-old son to the hospital.  There we were told that he had Type 1 diabetes.  They would monitor him for the next 24 hours to see if he would live or not.

Thankfully he survived that day but the fear never left me.   Before we left the hospital I was terrified of taking him home. I worried that I would make an error in his insulin and cost him his life.

When we got home, I did make mistakes.  Because he was so young, he didn’t know how to tell me if he was high or low. We didn’t have continuous glucose monitors then either.  If he fell asleep, I would panic.  The meter would be taken out before anything else.  I would clean his tiny finger, get a drop of blood almost as big as the pad of that finger, and apply it to a test strip.  30 seconds later I would finally learn if he was low or simply a toddler in desperate need of a nap.

Over the years he would learn to tell me if he was high or low.  His attitude would sometimes tell the tale for him.  When he short tempered…and trying to kill his brother by throwing things at his head, he was definitely high!

Eventually, he learned how to tell if he was low.  He would come to me and say he felt “weazy” and needed some juice.

We moved from injections to an insulin pump by the time he was 5.  My family couldn’t handle seeing him sitting by himself eating meals at set times when there was a better way. They helped us to pay for that first Cozmo insulin pump.

Our life was changed when his pump arrived.  No longer did we have to deal with 6-8 injections per day.  I was able to allow him to graze.  This was an incredible freedom for a small child…and mom.

Puberty came with its own challenges.  The teen years were much like those of children without diabetes.  There were good times and bad.  Somehow we made it out alive and that is more than can be said for some children with diabetes.

My son is now 20 years old.  He has lived with diabetes for 90% of his life.  That makes me want to cry.  90% of his life has been dealing with injections, infusion set pokes. finger lancing, carb counting, high blood sugars and lows.  He has learned how to workout while managing diabetes  He goes out with his friends at night and as a few drinks all while dealing with insulin, test strips and diet.

My son works in the construction industry and must keep his pump warm when temperatures dip below 30C.  He manages to test and combat lows all while wielding a hammer and trying to get his work done.

He lives thousands of miles away.  His roommate has known him his entire life.  They watch out for each other.  He knows about my son’s “broken pancreas”.  I wish that neither of them ever had to learn what diabetes was or how to handle it but life had other plans.

18 years.  It amazes me and saddens me.  I am so blessed to have a strong, young man who is still doing so well after all of these years.  It fills me with gratitude to think of all of the love and support that has guided me on this journey.  I still wish that he didn’t have to be on it.  I can’t believe that 18 years have passed already.

18 is just a small blip in his life.  I look forward to watching the next 18 years and another 18 after that.  Who knows what technology will have in store for him then.  Perhaps he will live to say “I used to have type 1 diabetes but now I don’t”.  I certainly hope so.

What a parent of a person with diabetes wants their child’s significant other to know

As a parent, there are certain things that I want my son’s significant other to know about diabetes.  My son’s list of important qualities and things that she needs to know is probably quite different.  That list is for another time. This is my list of ideals wants in a partner for a person with diabetes.

I want her to know when my son’s blood glucose levels are out of whack.

In school, he often had teachers who just “knew” when he was out of range. I felt safe because they would make sure that he tested and took care of himself.  She needs to make me feel the same way.

I want her to know to carry glucose with them at all times.

A low blood glucose level can seemingly come out of nowhere.  My son keeps some treats on him but we all know how easy it can be to run out at the most inopportune moments.  His ideal partner, for me, would be a gal who recognizes this and carries a bag filled with candies easily accessible in her purse.

My son would be happy if she carried all of his supplies in her purse too but as I said, that’s a different wish list.

I would love to see his lifelong partner remind him to test at night or at least wake him when he seems restless and out-of-range.

My son doesn’t currently have a CGM.  He once relied on his mother’s inability to sleep to keep him safe overnight.  Now that he lives on his own, he wakes himself at night to test.  I know that he would love to have a break now and again.  A person who would help him at night would be a blessing for both of us.

I want to see his partner know how to help him on days that diabetes is too much.

As much as helping my son at night would be wonderful, we all know that there are days that we just don’t want to diabetes.  When he lived at home, my son would some days just simply hand everything over to me for a day and I would deal with it.  I would count carbs, bolus and test.

I don’t know if he would still want that sort of full-on break but I know he still prefers someone else to put in new infusion sets.  It would be nice to know that she cared enough to learn about his care and help him where he needed it.

I want her to know that diabetes is part of his life but it isn’t what defines him.

Finally, as much as diabetes can be overwhelming and time-consuming, it doesn’t define my son.  I would love to see his life-partner understand this.  I want her to love him for the incredible, handsome, quirky guy he is.

Diabetes is a lot of hard work.  I want her to understand this but not be deterred by it.  It will mess with their schedule.  It may impact his mood but he is strong and deserves only most loving and supportive partner.  In return, she will get a pretty amazing guy.

 

If you can live with an elf on the shelf for a month you can manage the holidays with diabetes

diabetes management over the holidays

Do you have an elf in your house? Is there a little creature living with you who gets up to nightly shenanigans and watches your every move? I am here to tell you that if you can live with an elf on the shelf for a month, you can manage diabetes over the holidays!

Seriously.  That little guy brings a lot of pressure to a family…and so does diabetes but you’ve got this.  Here are a few tips that are going to help you find your way.

WAG it

Wild a$$ guess when need be! If you don’t have your scale or your measuring cup around.  If you aren’t 100% sure on what exactly is in that food item, wing it! Chances are that you know more about carb counting than you think and you will probably do fine.

You can also ask Google or download a calories counting app like the Calorie King or My Fitness Pal.  These are great tools when you are completely out of your element.

Pre-bolus

If you have a child with diabetes who would love to graze their way through the holidays, give it a try! To help with your own sanity however, I would suggest that you pre-bolus before you set them loose.  Ask them what they plan to eat, set it all on a small plate and then bolus for as much as you are certain they will eat.  (This can be done on injections or a pump)  Give them the insulin that will cover at least half of the food (or all if you know that they are good eaters).  Remember that they will most likely be excited and active so its okay to inject a bit less rather than more.

Check…a lot or use a CGM

To help survive the holidays with diabetes, make sure that you are checking your blood glucose levels every two hours when you are at events or gatherings with a lot of food and/or excitement.  If you have a CGM, make sure it is calibrated properly and close by.

Put one person in charge

To avoid parents double bolusing or giving extra insulin, make one person in charge of an event.  The other parent can relax and simply enjoy the event.

Schedules will be thrown out the window. Adapt

Chances are very high that all of your careful scheduling will go out the window over the holidays.  Concerts will run late.  Dinners won’t be on time.  Chaos will reign supreme.  That’s okay.  This is only for a very short time.  Learn how your insulin works and do you best.

Do your best

That last line was worth repeating.  Your best is all that you can do.  If you child survives and has fun, you are a complete success!! It is that simple.

The holidays are a time to create wonderful, loving memories.  Don’t spend them wrapped up in readings and insulin.  Test every couple of hours, watch for adrenaline crashes and find time to breathe.

It will all be worth it!

Happy Holidays!

Kids First Diabetes Second…The Language Chapter

I finally finished Leighann Calentine’s book Kids First Diabetes Second.  That is not to say that it was just so boring that it took me forever to read.  Its a reflection of the fact that I just don’t have enough me time to read, I was trying to read three books at once AND there were not enough 3am lows to add to my reading time.

The book was a bit of a surprise to me. I know that probably sounds rude but I was not expecting a lot.  I really didn’t know much about Leighann prior to this. Having read her blog on occasion, I knew that she was a fellow Diabetes Advocate but she had only been dealing with the D-monster for four years.

After living with diabetes for too many years, I am a bit more crass.  Would she be able to keep my interest? The answer was a resounding YES! She did a great job explaining things and then used a fabulous panel of experts to help fill in various areas.  The balance was brilliant and this is definitely a book that should be given to every newly diagnosed family at least.

In reading the book, I once again had a million little pieces of paper marking things that I wanted to write about in a review.  There are so many little bits of things that I thought were interesting that it’s going to take more than one blog post! Since I finished the book last night, I decided to start at one of the last sections that made me laugh and taught me a few things.

Kids First Diabetes Second dedicates an entire chapter to “The Language of Diabetes”.  We all know that diabetes has its own language.  It’s funny to watch the response of people when we look at our teen or our toddler and tell them “You had better be high Mister!”  We laugh at ourselves and know our kids love it when we ask them to give us “the finger”.

Kids First book review www.diabetesadvocacy.com

Batman Belt

These were found in the book as well as many more. Being a diabetes dinosaur, there were a lot of terms that I just didn’t know! I love the “Bateman Belt” which we used to just refer to as his pump pouch.  With kids using Spibelts and other pouches that can hold so much that the term had to be expanded.

Dia-beet-us

I laughed when I saw “diabeetus” and the fact that it causes an eye roll in many.  You know that that is how I pronounce the dreaded word right? I don’t know if its a Barb thing or perhaps Wilfred Brimley and I just have some sort of weird connection but to me the “diabeetees” thing sounds just as odd.

Flat-lining

I learned about Flat-lining and dreamed of it happening to my son one day.We don’t have a CGM so I can only imagine how great it must be to see.

Gusher

We have experienced both definitions of a gusher.  There was the time when blood spurted from his finger across the dining room table and landed in his brother’s soup. We have also had sites that poured out so much blood that I thought he may need a transfusion. My son that it was no big deal!

Old School

The term “Old school” killed me.  I am not that old…really…I think….but we don’t use Continous Glucose Monitors (read cost factor and access issues) and I love a paper log. While I am working really hard to move away from one, the idea of downloading pumps and meters? EEEK!! It is just so hard for me to do. (Actually, she states that the term refers to people who go back to these ways and not to those of us still stuck there)

SWAG

I remember learning about SWAG and YDMV when I first joined the CWD parents list.

This chapter was full of great stuff. At the end of it, the author notes the importance of not looking at numbers as “good” or “bad”.  That is so hard.  I never judge my son by his reading. We do have the debate on whether we have been effective pancreases or not.  We use readings as a learning tool now that he is a teen.  When he was younger, they were Mom’s grade and Mom’s responsibility.  “Mom failed you.” would be the guilt that ran through my head. I would not tell him that but it was how I would feel.

As Leighann and many before her have said, our children are so much more than a number. Readings are vital to their health and their well-being but they are just a tool. Its vital that we teach them that as well as helping them to flat-line!

Stay tuned for more great insights and commentaries on Leighann Calentine’s Kids First Diabetes Second….or go and order your own copy so you can find all of the good parts for yourself!

Please note that this post does contain affiliate links. If you purchase Kids First Diabetes Second by following our link, you will be supporting the continued work of this page.