Tuesday, September 20, 2016

You never get used to your child's pain

I had to bring my kid to the ER last night.

Not my Type-1 diabetic, the other one. The sweet one with the bubble-gum voice and the bright blue eyes with gold flecks around the pupil. The six-year-old youngest child who wants to be the center of attention but has to talk loudly because he has three older siblings.

He broke his wrist playing on the playground while his older brother (the diabetic) ran soccer practice. He fell right on it, got up and looked at me with elephant tears in those big blue eyes, and said, “Mom, can we go sit down? I think I need a cast. Can we go to the doctor’s?”

Since I only just paid off the bill from our last visit to the ER, I went and sat down with him, looking closely at the wrist he now held close to his body. I asked him to wiggle his fingers and rotate his wrist, and all such things you do before you run to the ER. Since he was able, I waited. I used to be the “you’re-fine” mom. Then Type-1 diabetes happened, and celiac disease and hypothyroid disease and a broken elbow and viral hives and diabetic ketoacidosis. I’ve changed. I don’t have the luxury anymore of ignoring pain. I know sometimes you’re not fine.

I waited to see if Zac’s pain would pass, if the fall was just a bruise and not a break, and I got my husband’s second opinion and called my doctor. I may no longer ignore symptoms, but I also know the cost of modern medicine. We have spent many thousands of dollars on medical bills in the last three years since Finn’s diabetes diagnosis, and it has put a significant strain on an already tight budget. Raising four kids on one income is never easy.

The doctor said use an Ace bandage and call us in the morning; the swelling increased and so did Zac’s pain, and Todd said, “Take him in.” So off I went, Supermom, on the way to the hospital, again. The car, like a trusty steed, knows the way. It does feel good to take care of your kid’s needs, dropping all the normal rhythms of life to respond to crisis. It’s an adrenaline rush, speeding off to the ER in the hopes of making the pain feel all better.

The adrenaline rush erodes in crowded waiting rooms and teary blue eyes and a little arm covered in soft blond hairs, held close in protection. Then the numbness sets in. The be-brave, don’t-show-your-fear, stuff-the-feelings feeling. The adrenaline is just a sour taste in your mouth. Now you just taste bile when they say words like, “pain during X-ray” and “sedation and reduction” and “morphine.”

After ample warnings and morphine that made him (and then me) nauseous, they brought a huge portable X-ray machine into his ER room. The tech tenderly raised his arm and rotated his swollen wrist, and the room went dark and the voices turned to echoes. I sat down before I passed out completely.

As I breathed through it like a woman in childbirth, willing away the nausea and the blackness threatening to take me over, pushing away my embarrassment as the X-ray tech turned his attention to me, I thought to myself, “Shouldn’t I be better at this by now?”

In the last year, we’ve been the ER three times. (One of them was for me, after an unfortunate incident with a car door and my forehead, but that’s another story.) Before that, Finn visited four times for diabetes-related maladies and a broken elbow. These numbers aren’t that high, but when you compare the last three years (seven visits) with the previous ten (zero visits), and add on three other scheduled hospital stays and countless doctor visits, I thought I would be better at the whole sick-kid thing.

But here’s the thing: you never get used to seeing your kid in pain. It never gets easier. I will never be able to completely swallow that nausea or chase away the darkness closing in, because I will never get used to seeing my children suffer. It will break my heart every. single. time.

I’m a Jesus-follower. I have been most of my life. In the last ten years, however, my faith has been stretched, almost to breaking, because of suffering. I suffered heartache and loneliness. I watched my husband suffer physical pain, then my son adjust to a life-threatening disease. I watched dear friends lose a son to cancer, then my own beloved brother-in-law a year later. I’ve poked and prodded my precious son with a thousand needles filled with life-saving insulin, but his pain is still mine. My husband’s back pain was mine. The painful grief of my in-laws and my devoted husband was mine. Even a tiny broken wrist – every wince of pain - was mine.

I could shake a fist at God, or even cry out the “whys,” but I honestly didn’t do a lot of that. If anything, I was tempted to believe that God just didn’t care. But then there is the problem of Jesus. God, his Father, allowed Jesus to suffer and die, and Jesus did so willingly, because his suffering meant my salvation. The death of Jesus means that I don’t have to be punished because I have done a million wrongs.

I dare not suggest that the suffering I have seen and felt around me was for a reason. It’s too trite, too unsatisfying. But I do take comfort in knowing that my heavenly Father knows the pain of watching a child suffer. When we suffer, he suffers. My loneliness and heartache? It was his. Back pain – it was his. Grief – he wept, too. Needles – he felt every one. A tiny broken wrist – it was as if he was broken, too.

Why must pain and suffering and grief happen at all? I cannot even try to tackle that question. I’ll leave that for people smarter than me. What I do know is this: I worship a God who knows suffering in a personal way, and counts our tears and captures them in a bottle. I worship a God who isn’t distant and uncaring, but who comes down to our level, to where we sit in the dust, and weeps with us. He is near, he understands, he feels the pain we feel.

I’ll probably be in the ER again sometime soon. Raising kids can be treacherous. It won’t be any easier because I’m putting ruts in the road to the hospital. But I do know that I’m not alone when I suffer my children’s and loved one’s pain. My God knows that kind of suffering. He’s lived it, too.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

On turning 40

Today I turn 40, and it has made me reflect on the last two decades of my adult life.

In my 20s, I tried to find my place in the world. I was trying to prove my worth. I worked my tail off in college, and had a lot of fun, too, but my main goal was to get into medical school and become a doctor, and perhaps a missionary to a third world country, serving the underprivileged who lacked access to good medical care. Those dreams came crashing down when I got my fourth and last rejection letter to medical school; my grades were decent, but my test scores were mediocre at best. I cried, called my ex-boyfriend, cried some more, then limped home after graduation with no plan, no boyfriend, no travel plans, and just a job serving Mexican food to tourists.

I did carve out a plan B – a combination of a good economy and some contacts at the local pharmaceutical company got me an interview. I was marginal about taking the position and the interviewer knew it. He called me back for a second interview and told me he actually had filled the job. Confused, why was I there, then? I peered back at him. He liked me and wanted to hire me, and he was willing to create a position for me if I wanted the job. If, I wanted the job. He wasn’t convinced, and truthfully, neither was I. I wanted to bide my time while I retook my MCATs and reapplied for med school, but how I would spend that year, I wasn’t sure. I decided to go for it. He offered me a fantastic salary for a 22-year-old, and trained me to do everything in the lab. I had a very successful, albeit short, career there. I never retook the MCATs, and I let go of my med school dreams. I was happy where I was. But then of course, my ex-boyfriend came back, flashed me a charming smile (I’d never gotten over him), asked me to marry him, and I did, a short ten months later. He finished his schooling then got a job far, far away in the land of many farms, and I quit my job and followed him.
Fast forward a few years, two babies and a house, and my twenties were over. Life changed in every way from 19 to 29, but my level of insecurity and identity struggle stayed the same.
I declared that my 30s were going to be about me. I was done having babies (ha, ha), and I was going to reclaim my flabby mom body and rediscover myself. Right. It didn’t work out that way. I did run a triathlon and slim down, but before I could run another, I was pregnant again. Then came another move, this time back to Connecticut, and then another baby, then a series of life-altering trials which would change my family and shape who I am forever. I struggled with depression and food addiction and weight gain. I got involved at church, then quit abruptly, then got involved again. I was completely overwhelmed with four kids. Todd slipped a disc, then blew it out completely, and two surgeries later, the medical bills were piling up. Then a big blow: our precious five-year-old was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, then celiac disease and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. I went back to work at a restaurant to help pay off the overwhelming medical bills. We seriously considered Todd leaving his job in the medical field and accepting a job at a church, cutting our household income by 40%. We were ready to make the plunge, but then the job offer was abruptly taken off the table after one of the final interviews. And the biggest trial of all? Todd’s brother died of cancer at only age 32, leaving a pregnant wife and a two-year-old son.

My thirties were full of hardship and pain, depression and addiction, disease and injuries, struggle and grief. My thirties were certainly NOT, as I had declared, about me.

In the last year of my thirties, we moved back to farm country, Pennsylvania. My youngest went to kindergarten, Todd got a raise and a promotion, and I had some time and space for myself. I made myself a little cocoon at home and nestled in, licking my wounds and trying to heal. I started seeing a counselor, read a book a week, and rested. I connected with a Life Coach. I felt ready to go back to work, and I wanted to figure out who I was after all this time. I’d been a waitress, a scientist, and a mom, but who was I today? It had been nearly twenty years since I had made a career choice, and how different would that choice be after all this time? I was surprised by what I really wanted out of life.
Today I turn 40, and I’m looking forward to my forties with optimism. I don’t expect that this decade will be about me, but I expect that I will be more fully myself. In my 20s, I was trying to prove myself. In my 30s, I was becoming myself. Now, in my forties, I hope to just be myself, fulfilling the purposes that God has for me, as he created me.

I no longer have anything to prove. That is one of the gifts of this milestone. 40 is a gift to most women. We may not be as pretty or as skinny or as successful as we were in our earlier decades, but we know better what we want out of our lives, and we don’t care as much what other people think about it.

As for me, I’m becoming a writer. I’m journaling, I’m blogging, and I’m working on a novel, due to be finished hopefully before I turn 50. Surprisingly, I don’t want to go back to a traditional job. I want the freedom of working from home and raising my family, even if it comes with great financial sacrifice. I can’t tell you I don’t feel insecure when I compare myself to other women who seem to be so much farther ahead than I am in life. But I’m working hard to change my negative self-talk, and accept myself for who I am and where I’m at. My journey has had definitive seasons, marked neatly by the decades of my life, and I’m actually looking forward to this one. 

I’m happy to turn 40, and finally happy to be me

Monday, July 25, 2016

(Gluten-free) Chocolate Chip Cookie Love

Diabetes nearly killed my love for cooking.

I was the kid in the kitchen, making bread and cookies with my mom. Since then, I’ve always loved to bake and cook. It’s like therapy for me. There is nothing more stress relieving than throwing some butter and sugar in my KitchenAid mixer and starting the beater whirling.

When Finn was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2013, all the joy went out of cooking. Each morsel had to be considered, counted. I was never a cook-by-the-recipe kind of chef. I always saw each recipe as a starting point, a springboard into something more interesting, more suited to my tastes.

Now I had to follow recipes, multiply and divide and add and subtract to get the right carb counts, and hope, just hope, that I cut that lasagna portion exactly like the others. Cooking became about managing blood sugars and about math, instead of about creativity and feeding my family the food they loved (or really, the food I loved and they tolerated).

When Finn was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2014, it was like the nail in the coffin. I still had to make dinner, of course, but flour now looked to me like poison. For at least a year, I gave up completely on baking. 

Something else you must know about me: I have four hungry kids. The older three (13, 11 and 8) eat like adults, and if I ate their volume in food, I would double in size. The doctor says my daughter will be 5’10”, my boys 6’4”-6’5”, and I think they are practicing for their pending giant status. Budget and volume are two other factors in my meal planning and cooking. I have a four-fold challenge when it comes to cooking: diabetic-friendly, gluten-free, high volume, low cost.

After about a year of pouting and stressing and having myself a nice little pity-party, I pulled up my big girl pants and figured it out, baby step by baby step. No sense in whining over this life. It is what it is, and I might as well live it well.

I started with my favorite thing in the whole world (other than Jesus, Todd, and my kids, of course, and maybe a big fat Cabernet Sauvignon): chocolate chip cookies. I borrowed some gluten-free cookbooks. I scoured Pinterest. I tried a few different gluten-free flours. My kids still talk about the cookie soup I once made - they want me to recreate it because they liked the chocolate goo so much. (I couldn't even if I tried!)

Finally, I modified my favorite cookie recipe: I cut the sugar by 30%. I added oats, then walnuts, then flax seed (anything to increase the fiber and protein and slow down the blood sugar spike). I used my favorite new gluten-free flour, Bob's Red Mill 1 for 1 baking flour. Then I let my kids help me make them (my diabetic included, with an extra little 10g carb bolus), and even eat the batter. Now these cookies are a weekly staple in my house. I let them have two cookies in the afternoon, then I kick them outside to play. The exercise tempers the blood sugar spike and the cookies prevent the late afternoon lows.

Without further ado, THIS is my recipe.

Jen’s favorite gluten-free oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

¾ cup butter, softened
½ cup packed brown sugar (105g carbs)
½ cup white granulated sugar (100g carbs)
1 t. baking powder
¼ t. baking soda
 1 t. cinnamon
1 t. real vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 ¾ cup Bob’s Red Mill 1 for 1 gluten-free baking flour (210g carbs)
2 cups oats (100g carbs)
½ cup walnuts, chopped fine
1 cup chocolate chips (160g carbs)
Total carbs = 675g

Beat the butter until it’s until its soft and whippy (that’s a technical term). Add the brown and white sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, vanilla and eggs. Mix until well combined, scraping the bottom and the sides of the bowl (make sure to lick the spoon). Add the flour, oats and walnuts, mixing well, then fold in the chocolate chips. (Make sure you make yourself a separate little pile of chocolate chips for yourself and the kid “helping.” 1 T. chocolate chips = 10g carbs.)

Drop spoonfuls of cookie batter onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest for a minute on the sheet (if you can stand it) then transfer to a cooling rack for 30 more seconds (because that’s all you can wait) until you eat the melty goodness.

For the carb count, count how many cookies you made (each batch is different) and divide that number by the total carbs in the recipe. For example: 675g / 28 cookies = 24g carbs each. 

Dosing your favorite diabetic 20 minutes ahead of time will also help with the blood sugar rise. I also add 10g carbs for his chocolate chip pile and don’t worry about all the “licks.”

And there you have it, some chocolate chip cookie love from me to you. Baking and cooking for a diabetic with celiac disease can be challenging, but it is possible, and can still be fun. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

There are Always Reasons to be Thankful

I’d been having chest pains.

My doctor performed a normal EKG in her office, but she sent me for a stress test at the hospital anyway. They attached probes to my chest and back and cranked up the speed and incline on the treadmill and watched my heart work.

After the test, I sat in the parking lot, just breathing for a second, in and out, slowly, like I’d done a thousand times in the past year when my anxiety rolled in like a storm, when the phone rang. It was Finn’s endocrinologist.

My heart rate jacked way up again.


Nine months had passed since Finn was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age five. Caring for his newly diagnosed little self was the most stressful thing I’d ever done in my life. I ran constantly at a high anxiety level, even when I wasn’t with him. I was afraid of dangerous low blood sugars, and I blamed myself for every high blood sugar.

To compound things, the medical bills were overwhelming. When Finn was diagnosed, my husband Todd was only three weeks out from back surgery, his second in one year. He didn’t work for sixteen weeks that year, and we felt it. Add to that thousands in medical bills and a new monthly cost for diabetic supplies; we were drowning financially. We knew we’d never pay off the $14,000 of debt we’d accumulated on a budget that was already stretched at the seams. So I got a job at a fine dining restaurant a mile from my house. It was fun, and a nice break from the kids, but waiting tables is stressful, too, especially at a bustling restaurant with an upscale clientele.  


The endocrinologist had news following Finn’s first round of blood work: Finn had celiac disease.

I immediately burst into tears. While I was stoic and in denial when Finn was diagnosed with diabetes, I was a blubbering mess with the diagnosis of celiac disease. This second diagnoses meant more was wrong with my precious boy, and another lifestyle change. The doctor compassionately explained, through my bitter tears, that Finn would have to eat a gluten-free diet for the rest of his life, and he would need an endoscopy to confirm the diagnosis. (Read: more medical bills.)

Hot tears fell onto the steering wheel. It was all just too much. To make things worse, Todd was away on a business trip and I had to bear the news alone.

A celiac disease diagnosis meant that I could no longer rely on processed food for dinner on the nights when I worked. There were plenty of gluten-free pre-prepared foods on the market, but the volume of food that my four growing children ate made it cost prohibitive. No more could we get Chinese take-out on Sunday afternoons or pizza delivery on Friday nights. Restaurant eating was challenging at best, and it didn’t seem fair that the other kids could have chicken fingers with fries while Finn had a grilled chicken breast and roasted broccoli. At home, I had to make everything from scratch. This was not easy for a working mom of four. I scoured Pinterest for recipes, but found mostly deserts and complicated flour mixes. In addition, gluten free breads and cookies and flour had almost fifty percent higher carb counts, so feeding him to fullness meant less reliance on carbs overall. Nothing like pushing chicken on a six year-old. “Here, honey, eat more chicken! Or maybe some cheese?” 

In many ways, the diagnosis of celiac disease was harder for me to deal with than the diabetes. While not life threatening like diabetes, celiac disease was life altering in a different way. No longer could he “eat anything” with the right amount of insulin. School functions, birthday parties, cook-outs: eating was harder than ever. 


The stress test showed that there was nothing wrong with my heart. The doctor suggested that perhaps I was just out of shape. (Thanks for that, Doc.) Three years into our journey with diabetes, I still wrestle with anxiety over my son’s health, but not like I did in those first brutal months. My rolling boil of stress is more like a low simmer.

We did pay off that $14,000 debt, including all our medical bills and lost income with the money I made waitressing. We learned laser focus with our financial goals and how to live on less. We saved three thousand dollars the year we stopped getting weekly takeout. We rarely go out to eat as a whole family, but ice cream is gluten-free and relatively inexpensive. (Yay for Rita’s!) We got a medical grant that helped pay for supplies for a year, including the start-up costs for a Dexcom continuous glucose monitor and Omnipod insulin pump. Then we moved to a state that provides medical assistance for children with Type 1 diabetes. (I almost fell over when I found out.)

I learned how to feed Finn (and the rest of the family) gluten-free. I rely heavily on rice and potatoes and tortilla chips for inexpensive, gluten-free carbs. We eat mostly whole foods like chicken, ground turkey and lots of fruits and vegetables. I shop at Aldi’s for gluten-free pretzels and crackers and the occasional cake or brownie mix, and Bob’s Red Mill 1 for 1 baking flour is my new best friend. With it, I make pancakes and waffles and my favorite, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. We rely on Udi’s bread and pizza crusts. Friday night is still pizza night, but we make our own. Its (almost) more fun that way. And our fast food? Rotisserie chicken and baby carrots, or cheese and crackers and sliced apples.

The biggest surprise? We are healthier than ever as a family. I gave up gluten, too, because I found that I felt a lot better. My skin cleared up and I felt less bloated. I often tell Finn that his diseases have made our family healthier than ever.

I would never choose this journey into the world of chronic illness. However, I have learned there are always reasons to be thankful.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

5 secrets to staying married... and in love

You don’t have to raise a diabetic child to know that marriage is hard work.

But for those of us raising a child with unique challenges like Type 1 diabetes, the divorce rates skyrocket past 50% into the 70-80%s. These are sobering statistics.

Todd and I have been married for sixteen years this month. We have survived job changes and multiple relocations, tragic death in the family, physical and emotional pain, and for the last three years, raising a precious eight year old boy with Type 1 diabetes (whose main goal this summer is producing a movie called “Metal Bomb”). Despite it all, I call Todd my boyfriend because I still have a crush on him.

Along the way, we have figured out how not just how to stay married, but how to actually stay in love. This month on Raising Moses, I will share with you our:

                 5 secrets to staying married… and in love.

1. Time

Daily check-ins and weekly date nights are the best secrets for staying connected.

Around 6:30am, before our kids get up and after a few quiet minutes apart, Todd and I meet back in our room to talk, pray, connect. Its 10-15 minutes of check-in time before we are off to our jobs and our busy lives.

When he comes home in the evening, we do another check-in. Sometimes it’s right when he gets home: I’ll rub his shoulders and we’ll talk (a win-win: he gets the back rub and I get to talk). Then “battle hour” commences - dinnertime with four kids. If it’s a sports night or he gets home late, we connect after the kids are in bed. We sit in the rocking chairs on the porch with a glass of wine and jazz playing on Pandora. With summer finally here, this has been a favorite time for us. Sometimes we leave the kids in the care of our eldest daughter and go for a walk around the block.

On the weekend, we prioritize date night. We’ve been working on cheap dates, like a long hike or a trip to the bike store or a free outdoor concert at the park. I’d love to do fine dining every Saturday night, but it’s just not in the budget. We still prioritize time together once a week, for a few glorious hours of uninterrupted conversation.

2. Prayer

Todd and I pray together. Every morning.

It wasn’t always this way. It took lots of “discussions” to find a way for our marriage to mirror our personal spirituality. Todd and I call ourselves followers of Jesus, and part of our faith is regular conversation with God. But we approach God differently: I try to please, he wrestles with God. We study the Bible differently, too: I spend three months on one verse, he reads a Psalm and writes all over his Bible. Prayer is something we finally agree on.

Sometimes we pray for other people, sometimes we just cry out to God for help. It has profoundly knitted our souls together in a mysterious way. We have prayed our way through change, struggle, diabetes and celiac disease and hypothyroidism and the death of our invincibility. Prayer has broken our hardened hearts open to each other. It’s opened a floodgate of tears. It’s forced honesty in the presence of an all-knowing God. Prayer (and its Recipient) is what keeps us married and in love.

Sometimes the intimacy of prayer has other benefits…

3. Sex

Just do it. Really.

Sometimes sex is a four-course meal with fine wine. Sometimes it’s a Dunkin Donuts drive-thru. But just like pizza, even when its bad, it’s always good. Making sex fit into the insanity of life keeps us married… and in love. It changes us from grumpy and cranky, overtired and overstressed, snipping at each other and our kids to… well, exhale. Its all going to be OK, at least for a little while.

I know I’m oversimplifying a complex subject. But simply put, sex is what makes you lovers and not just parents. It keeps you married and in love.

4. Teamwork

We work as a team. We thank each other frequently.

We trade off who changes the insulin pump and the Dexcom glucose monitor and who has nighttime duty. (Blood sugar highs and lows make for lots of sleepless nights.)

We alternate who puts our younger two to bed and who finishes the dishes. I read to the kids; he snuggles. I drive the kids to sports; he picks them up. We help each other when the other is behind on his or her work. We do the bills together. I do the cooking; he makes the money. It doesn’t work without the other. We’re a team.

5. Asking (specifically) for what I want

A wise woman told me never expect Todd to read my mind.

Todd lives his life by a checklist. I just need to add my needs to that checklist. When I ask for something, I add a time and a date, like putting a request on his calendar. “Todd, I am feeling very behind on housework because the kids had a lot of doctor’s appointments this week. Could you help me fold laundry tonight while we watch Netflix?” It’s not that Todd is lazy and doesn’t see my needs. He just needs a specific request so he can add “love my wife” to his check list. He often responds like this: “I need to do payroll tonight. Can we do it tomorrow night?” Yes, of course.

I’m still learning to ask for help. I often don’t know what I really need, or I’m afraid to ask. Asking (specifically) for what I want decreases the disappointment and resentment between us.


The “secrets” of our marriage aren’t anything new or surprising, nor is this an all-inclusive list. But time, prayer, sex, teamwork and asking for what I want keeps us married… and in love. It’s all the little choices, day after day, that keep us weathering this storm of life, especially while caring for a child with diabetes.

Be encouraged that you can stay married and in love, too.


What keeps you married, despite the challenges of life? Please share your own secrets. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Benefits of Denial

They all seemed so sure of what was wrong. They nodded and whispered and knew, but I didn’t. Or I just couldn’t.

Finn sat on the hospital bed putting his Legos together, saline dripping into his vein. He was wearing only a hospital gown and his Batman underwear. He had just turned five. I sat next to him, my feet up on his bed, staring numbly at my son, my phone resting idly in my hand. One test, a tiny drop of blood from Finn’s finger, and they all seemed so sure of what was wrong with him.

“What is wrong with my son? Will someone please tell me?” I screamed on the inside. But on the outside, I quietly waited for confirmation. Didn’t they need to run more tests? Talk to some expert? Bring another doctor in to confirm the diagnosis?

Truth was, I couldn’t face the truth. I was in big, fat denial. Honestly, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Type 1 Diabetes? What did that even mean? I knew what it was, sort of. I knew diabetes was a disease that shut down your pancreas and demanded insulin through a syringe with every meal. What I didn’t know was how radically diabetes would change our lives.

We sat in that fishbowl in the Emergency Room for hours, nurses and doctors swishing open and close the glass door to check on Finn. In addition to checking his blood sugar, they were constantly checking for acid which had built up in dangerous amounts in his blood and was spilling out into his urine.

All this is hard to write about. On June 18 it will be 3 years since that day in the emergency room. It has taken me three years to be willing to go back to that place, emotionally. It’s not that I have been in denial about my child having diabetes. I live it and breathe it every day; I can’t deny it. But it’s difficult to allow myself to feel diabetes, instead of just treat it.

Diabetes is HARD, and you don’t get day or night off. Blood sugar checks, carb counting, adjusting for highs and lows, changes in insulin amounts, sleepless nights. There is so much to DO for diabetes that I didn’t have space to FEEL. Raising kids in general is challenging, especially four of them, but throwing diabetes into to the mix… well, sometimes it just feels like too much. It’s easier just to shut the emotions off.

Denial is powerful. It protects us from devastating news. It allows us to do the work that just needs to get done. Emotion, really dealing with the truth, can shut us down and not allow us to do what is necessary. Denial is good and important, but we can’t stay there. We can’t keep our emotions captive forever. We can’t control or push down or deny forever the trauma that comes with this life or it will consume us, control us, embitter us. We must deal with our emotions, rumble with them, so we can accept reality and make peace with them.

Denial in the emergency room protected me and allowed me to be strong for Finn as he calmly put his Legos together. But three years later, I need to finally rumble with all my emotions and fumble my way into acceptance of our lives with diabetes. I hate diabetes, but I love my son, and I will do whatever I need to do to care for him. Denial may have benefits, but acceptance is truly the way to live. 

How has denial affected your life? When did you finally accept your circumstances?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

On the Stairs

I climbed the stairs with a smile. I was tired, but happy after a loud 45-minute bus ride with second graders, including my son, Josh, an eight-year-old dimpled blond with a happy grin. We visited my favorite art museum, the one with the three-story swirling display of color, constructed simply with plastic drink cups, and a beach scene dominated by a large orange umbrella. I can’t help but smile when surrounded by color and paint and energetic second graders.

Todd, my husband, had taken our younger boys to their annual physical. I had received a few strange texts from him:

“Finn just bit the doctor.”
“Zac just pooped on the nurse.”
“Finn might have T1D, heading to the hospital for blood work.”


Finn was a five-year-old buzz-cut blond with hair like a dandelion puff. (Poouf!) He liked to play linebacker and run towards me down the hall, full speed, head first, all grins, 50 pounds of solid boy. He hadn’t been himself the last few months: lots of whining, bed-wetting and unexplainable thirst. One sunny afternoon during a baseball game, he downed 3-12oz water bottles and cried for more, running to the bathroom every 20 minutes or so. He was looking thinner, but we thought maybe he was just growing taller?

I told Todd to mention it to the doctor; it was probably nothing, but please mention it. I didn’t expect it to be anything.

T1D? What was T1D? Todd must be joking. I honestly ignored the text. Todd has a history as a practical joker. When I was pregnant with our third child, he sent a fake ultrasound picture to my parents, convincing them I was pregnant with twins. Another time he forged a letterhead and to a coworker suggesting that his wedding reception was double booked. He posted FOR SALE signs of his office assistant’s car and hung them in the parking garage.

Naturally, the response to my husband was “Whatever, Todd.” I sent him a selfie of Josh and me then put my phone away.

I actually called him after he sent me a picture of Finn and three-year old Zac in a hospital waiting room.

I don’t remember his words to me on that call, while I was standing below a huge sunny oak tree watching second graders finish their lunch, but it was the first time “Type 1 Diabetes” was spoken between us. None of it made sense to me: I was still high on art and happy kids. Denial surged through my veins.

When I arrived home and climbed the stairs, my happy buzz ended abruptly like a needle ripped off a record payer when Todd handed me an overnight bag.

“Finn needs to go right to the emergency room. The hospital just called.” There was no joke in that.

Right there on the stairs, my life changed forever. Bad news can do that.

Todd wasn’t joking about T1D. In the pediatrician’s office, Finn didn’t bite the doctor and Zac didn’t poop on the nurse. But a urine dip told the doctor that Finn’s blood sugar was about 300. (A normal reading is 70-120.) At the hospital, bloodwork confirmed a 450 blood sugar. I would bring him later to the ER where his blood sugar rose to 602. They diagnosed him immediately with Type 1 Diabetes. I was confused and afraid, but strangely calm. Denial strangled my emotions.

Remember where you were when you heard devastating news? I’ll never forget where I was when I first heard Todd’s words that suggested that our precious 5-year old was sick: on the stairs.  The stairs were the beginning of our journey with Finn and Type 1 Diabetes. That moment on the stairs would change our lives, and Finn’s, forever.

Where were you when you first heard devastating news? How did you respond? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below.