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Posts tagged ‘diabetic mommy’

A Matter of Apologies.

“I was low.  I was frustrated because of the low blood sugar.  I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” and I can tell she means it by the look in her friendly, brown eyes.

I used to be very terrible at saying, “I’m sorry.”  I would hold on to frustration and anger in a way that was not good for me or anyone around me, making a grudge or the need to feel like I “won” the disagreement take precedence over a relationship.  I’d keep “I’m sorry” under my tongue because I didn’t want to admit that I’d done something that hurt someone’s feelings.  I felt embarrassed to admit my shortcomings.  It felt awkward and bad.

It took a long time for my head to figure out that my heart was better off if I let the sorry fly, but once I came to that realization, I tried to embrace as often as I could.  (I also had to work on the “does this interaction make me better or worse as a person?”  This is still a work in progress.)  Now I’m less terrible at saying, “I’m sorry,” and I feel better for it.

As much as I hate to admit it, my blood sugars are not only influenced by my emotions (stress, anyone?) but they influence my emotions, as well.  The way my numbers make me physically feel can cause me to act like a total crumb.  It’s another reason to be aware of what my blood sugars are, and if I enter the Crumb Zone, apologize for it.

I find myself apologizing to my daughter at times for entirely blood sugar related reasons.  Sometimes I snap because I’m taking yet another bolus to correct yet another high and my body is riddled with sugar and rage, and I will be far less than patient with my little one as a result.  Other times I raise my voice because I’m trying to treat a low blood sugar reaction and she’s at my elbow asking to [insert rogue request from active 5 year old here].  Losing my patience during the course of run-of-the-mill parenting is something I am not proud of, but losing my patience because diabetes is leaning on my parenting style is something I want my kid to understand as best she can, because I don’t want her ever thinking my seemingly random outbursts are tied to her in any way.

It’s a weird balance between feeling like I’m blaming diabetes for my actions and simply explaining my actions.  Am I in the Crumb Zone (or Mayor of Crumb City, if you’re nasty) because of diabetes?  Nope.  Diabetes doesn’t get credit or get blamed.  But sometimes this disease is part of the explanation, and I want my family to have a sense for how, and why, I’m wired a certain way.

There are moments when Birdy assumes my attitude problem is diabetes-rYes, this whole post was an excuse to use the Siah-in-a-banana picture again.elated when it’s not, and I’m forced to fess up.

“Are you in a bad mood because of a low blood sugar?” my daughter asks, pointedly.

“Not at the moment.  Right now, I’m in a bad mood because I just realized I left a banana in the car while I was on my trip last week.  And now I’m afraid to open the door and confront the banana stink.”

“It’s okay,” she says.  And then adds, “Ew.”


Pulled Over.

I had just buckled the girls into their car seats and was ready to make the drive home from day camp, and as I turned the car on, I reflexively grabbed my Dexcom receiver to take a peek at my blood sugars before I started driving.

Shit.  68 mg/dL with an arrow straight down and a blood drop signaling a need for calibration.

“Hang on guys,” I said to my daughter and her friend, who were already singing camp songs in the backseat.  “I need to wait a minute before we head out.”  I pricked my finger quickly to check my blood sugar and, sure enough, saw the 63 mg/dL on my meter waving its arms at me.  No worries – I always have a jar of Glucolift in my center console.

Except this time.


“Hey girls. Do you guys have anything left in your lunches?”

“Yeah, I have strawberries and a pouch left in my lunch.  Do you want it, Mom?”  Birdy offered.

“Yep.”  I climbed out of the car and went back to the trunk to rummage around through her lunch bag.  Pulling out the snacks, I gobbled them while standing at the back of my car, a mom on a mission to bring her blood sugar up before driving.

We sat in the parking lot for ten minutes or so, and I watched the CGM graph arrow relax and point sideways.  A glucose meter check showed me at 78 mg/dL, so I felt I was on the rise.  We started the ride home.

Except the CGM alarm went off 15 minutes later, only this time it showed double-down arrows and the BELOW 55 mg/dL message on the screen.


Certain parts of Rhode Island are relatively rural, and sometimes you have to drive for a while before you pass a gas station or a convenience store.  I immediately started calculating when I’d pass the next place to stop.  I also assessed my symptoms (none) and instinctively reached over to disconnect my insulin pump from my hip.  I thought the two little kids in my car.  I thought about where I could pull over.  I worried about what was safer: driving for another minute or pulling over and not having any food in the car.  And I hoped that worrying so intensely would make me feel stressed and hopefully jack my blood sugar up a little more.

But then, just ahead, I saw the familiar orange and brown sign of a Dunkin Donuts coffee shop.

“Yes.”  I put on my blinker and pulled into the drive through lane of the coffee shop.  “Girls, I need to stop here and get an orange juice, okay?”

“DOUGHNUTS!!!!!” they yelled in unison.

“Not this time, guys.  I need to get some juice and wait a few more minutes before we can keep going.”

Minutes later, I was in the parking lot with an empty bottle of orange juice and two patient kids in the backseat of the car who were peppering me with questions about diabetes.

“Why did we have to stop?”

“Because I needed juice to treat a low blood sugar.”

“What’s a low blood sugar,” asked my daughter’s friend.

Birdy piped up.  “It’s when you have diabetes and you have too much insulin or not enough food in your body and you need glucose tabs or juice or doughnuts but not today because these doughnuts have gluten in them.”  (All in one breath.)

“No doughnuts?”

“Sorry, guys.”

“Can we drive soon?”


“Okay, can we sing until we start driving?”


We sat in the parking lot while I waited for the orange juice to do its thing, keeping an eye on my CGM graph and an ear on the two little kids in the back of my car who were belting out songs they learned at camp and who trusted me to take good care of myself in order to take good care of them.

Only no doughnuts, because gluten.



While I was making lunch for my daughter this afternoon, she occupied herself with construction paper, markers, scissors … and my glucose meter, glucose tabs, insulin pump, Dexcom, and lancing device.

“Mom, I made all of your diabetes things.”

Hard working artist. #diabeticmommy

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Her creations. #diabetes #diabeticmommy

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

#diabeticmommy #diabetes

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Caught the Bird making construction paper diabetes devices. #diabetes #diabeticmommy

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on


A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

“So what’s the deal with the smiley face, Birdy?”

“That’s because you’re happy. And people with diabetes are happy.”

Thank you, thank you, little Bird, for bringing a smile to my face that should have been there the whole time.

It’s a Good Tune.


“Mom, your Dexcom is making noise,” my daughter says casually, as we’re kicking the soccer ball around in the basement (because we’ll never, ever go outside again because snow).

“It is. Hang on a second,” I told her. A click shows that my blood sugar is over my high threshold, with a few yellow dots taking up residence on my graph. I’m not totally worried, though, because a check of my pump reveals some insulin still on board. I decide to let things play out and see where I land a bit later.

“I’m fine, kiddo. Let’s keep playing.”

The Dexcom has been part of my daughter’s life for as long as she can remember. When she was very small and figuring out her letters for the first time, I remember her running a tiny fingertip along the bottom of my receiver – “D-E-X-C-O-M spells … whaasat spell, Mama?”

“Dexcom. That’s the name of the machine.”

(Unlike most kids, my daughter’s list of first words included “pump,” “Dexcom,” and “diabeedles.” Maybe she’ll grow up to be a doctor? At the very least, this knowledge base has given her a leg-up on winning a few topic-specific spelling bees.)

As Birdy grew older, she started to understand some of the information that different diabetes devices provided. We’ve talked a little bit about how three digit numbers on my glucose meter that begin with “2” most often require me to take some insulin from my pump (same goes for the ones that begin with “3,” only those also come with some curse words), and how when the Dexcom makes an alarm sound, I need to check it and take some action.

“But that alarm – the BEEEEP … BEEEEP… BEEEEP! one – is one we can ignore, right Mom?”


“Yeah. When it goes BEEEEP … BEEEEP… BEEEEP, you don’t always look at it. But when it goes like this,” she raises her hands up in front of herself, like she’s sneaking up on something, “BeepBeepBeep really fast, then you look right away and get some glucose tabs.”

Funny how much she notices, how much of my diabetes self-care ritual has become a natural part of our time together.

“Kind of. The long beeps mean my blood sugar might be higher, but it’s not an emergency. The short beeps mean I have low blood sugar, and I need to get something to eat so it doesn’t become a big deal. Does that make sense?”


The sounds of the low and high alarms ringing out from my Dexcom receiver have become familiar, like a subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) soundtrack for my diabetes life, but I didn’t realize until recently that they are also sounds that remind my daughter of her mother.

The other morning, I heard Birdy walking into the bathroom to brush her teeth, and she was humming a little tune to herself, one that I recognized.

“Hey you. Are you singing a song?”

“Yeah. It’s the Dexcom beep song. It’s a good tune.” She grinned at me, toothbrush hanging out of her mouth.

Wild Krattsabetes.

Wild Kratts have invaded my house in a big way.  It’s okay, because Birdy loves watching them and she learns all this random stuff about animals.  (“MOM! The lion’s mane is the same color as the savannah grass,” yelled from her car seat as we’re driving.  So I’m learning too, apparently.)  She dons her version of a creature power suit and goes leaping all over the basement, pretending to be a lemur or some other critter.

“MOM!!  He has a Dexcom!!” she said one morning.

“What’s that?” I asked her, coming over and sitting next to her while she’s watching television.

“Look!” and she points to the screen.

Sure enough, the wrist communicator that the Wild Kratts use to talk to their team back at the Tortuga looks almost exactly like my Dexcom receiver.  (Please forgive me, because that whole sentence made complete and absolute sense to me.)  See for yourself:

“You’re right, kiddo!  That looks a lot like my Dexcom!”

“Yeah, but they use theirs not to keep an eye out for whoa blood sugars but to talk to Aviva.”


“Aviva.  She helps the Wild Kratts by building their creature power suits.”

And here I thought Aviva was a glucose meter from Roche.


“Instead of making insulin …”

“What’s insulin?” my daughter asked me as I was buckling her into the car seat.

She knows the word because vials of insulin sit where the butter usually resides in other people’s refrigerators.

“Insulin is a hormone that people’s pancreases make.  It helps make the foods we eat into something our bodies can use for energy.  My pancreas doesn’t make any insulin, so I put it into my body using my pump or the needles,” is my explanation.

“Right.  And that’s why you have diabetes and my dad and I don’t,” she replies.

“Exactly.  My pancreas is lazy sometimes.  Instead of making insulin, maybe my pancreas goes to the beach?”

She latched onto this idea immediately.  “Yeah!  Instead of making insulin, your pancreas goes in a ferris wheel!”

“Instead of making insulin, my pancreas has an ice cream party!”

“Oooh, oooh!  Instead of making insulin, your pancreas goes to the library and listens to story time and then takes out three books!”

“Very specific!”

The game went on for the entire car ride home.  “Instead of making insulin, your pancreas writes a letter to Santa!”  “Instead of making insulin, my pancreas takes a trip around the moon!”  “Instead of making insulin, your pancreas jumps on a trampoline!”  “Instead of making insulin, my pancreas grows peanuts on a peanut farm!”  “Instead of making insulin, your pancreas hangs out on Sundays with Batman!”  (On Sundays only.)

As the car pulled into the driveway, we were giggling madly about the adventures of my under-employed pancreas, outlined in great detail.

“Mom, your pancreas is extremely silly.”

“It totally is.”

“I wish it made insulin, though,” she said, snapping reality back into place in that plain, matter-of-fact way only she can.  She gave me a grin that made my heart swell and my pancreas shift uncomfortably in its seat.

“Yep.  Me too, love.”

Birdy the Kid and Jerry the Bear.

“Jerry has diabetes, like you do, mom.  So I give him food and insulin and check his blood sugar and he likes to play archery.”

A brief pause as Birdy rand her hands over Jerry’s soft bear ears.

“Mom, what’s archery?”

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

[Disclosure:  Jerry was a gift from Hannah to Birdy.  We did not purchase Jerry.]

Yesterday, Hannah Chung from Sproutel kindly visited Birdzone and I to drop off a new friend for my daughter:  Jerry the Bear.  Jerry is a stuffed animal bear who has type 1 diabetes, and part of snuggling him and playing with him can also include checking his blood sugar by pressing a button on his paw.  Developed to help kids make sense of their own diabetes diagnosis, Jerry helps normalize diabetes by being a kindred spirit who also needs insulin and glucose tabs. 

He’s a stuffed animal who happens to have diabetes.  Similar to how I’m a mom who happens to have diabetes.

And that’s exactly how I want my daughter to learn about life with diabetes, with the constant, comfortable caveat that diabetes provides a to-do list, but it can be done.  And it can be fun.

Birdy knows quite a bit about diabetes, but mostly the brass tacks sort of stuff.  She likes to press the button on my lancing device (though she’s always surprised when a drop of blood comes out – “Does that hurt, Mom?”  “No, kiddo.”  “Are you sure?  Because I see blood.”), she prides herself on selecting the spot for my insulin pump infusion set, and she has a solid grasp on the meaning of the sounds ringing out from my Dexcom.

What she and I have not discussed, however, is what so many of the numbers mean.  She knows that my glucose meter gives me numbers of some kind and that I respond to them with certain sets of actions, but the numbers aren’t in context.  165 means the same at 50 means the same as 433 … nothing.  They are just numbers, or at least they were, until yesterday.  Yesterday, through her interactions with Jerry, Birdy learned what “high” and “low” look like as glucose numbers.

“Jerry is high.  See?  His number is one-seven-six.  He has to pee.  I need to give him some water and some insulin,” she said to me yesterday and she and Jerry were coloring at the kitchen table.

“Oh yeah?  So what will you do, then?”

“Mom, I already said I will give him insulin.  And some water.  I know what I’m doing.”

“Okay then,” and I turned away so she couldn’t see me smirking.

Later in the afternoon, she asked me how many glucose tabs she needed to give to Jerry if his blood sugar was low.

“How many do I usually take?” I asked her.

“You stack them up on the counter.  You take four.  Is four right, mom?”

(And this is where she teaches me something  – I do stack up the glucose tabs on the counter before I eat them.  I take out a set number and make sure I eat precisely what I take out, to help avoid over-treating and to also help protect me from forgetting to eat enough in the flurry of a hypoglycemic episode.)

“Yes, four should do it.”

“Okay.”  She “feeds” Jerry four glucose tabs and checks his blood sugar.  “Oh, I fixed it.  He’s not low anymore.”  She smiles, satisfied.  “Hey, do you know that if I smush his fur down and draw my finger through it, I can make eyebrows for Jerry?”

I want her to continue to draw eyebrows on Jerry.  Just because his little stuffed pancreas doesn’t splutter the way it should doesn’t mean he should have weak eyebrow game, yeah?

As she learns, I want her to feel safe and feel protected, empowered to ask and to help.  Resources like Jerry aren’t just for kids with diabetes, but for kids touched by diabetes on all levels.  I want my daughter to learn about my diabetes absent discussions about complications, fear, and pity.  I want her to see type 1 diabetes in the context of my actual life, which is filled with joy and chaos unrelated to my health.  She should know about this health condition because it’s part of what I do every day, and part of what she does, too, after a fashion.

Because it’s not about diabetes; it’s about life.


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