Friday, July 22, 2005

Coffee No More

Okay so. I admit it, I am -- make that was -- addicted to coffee. I love the taste, and simply could not do without the pick-me-up of that first, second, and oh (she says lovingly), that third cup. Up until the end of June, I was consuming at least 7-8 cups a day.

Probably more.

Upon waking, the remaining half pot from what Ryan would make before leaving for work -- gone. A second, albeit smaller pot later in the morning-- gone. It got to be so bad that Joseph noticed my increased consumption, and actually seemed concerned by it.

"Mom, I think you drink too much coffee."

"But honey, I really need it to help me stay awake."

"Then why don't you just sleep some more?"

Why indeed. Up late checking blood sugars. Resettling a waking toddler. Worrying about the present. Fearing the future. "Yup," I thought, "getting more sleep would help, but it ain't gonna happen soon."

But then the fluttering started. In my chest. Like little butterflies flitting about on a lovely summer day. Only it didn't feel as charming as all that. Actually kind of creepy. Because it would go on for hours. And it occurred over a period of weeks....

So here I was, preaching to my diabetic son about how important it is to take good care of himself and stay healthy. How healthy eating AND drinking habits are a huge part of the whole picture. And this is how I modeled that for him. Hmmmm.

That was it. On July 2nd (the day after my sisters departed for Massachusetts), I stopped.

Cold turkey.

Yeah the first few days truly sucked. Massive headaches. Really, really tired.

In an attempt to lessen the blow, I took to drinking one cup of lightly-brewed tea in the morning, and on some days (surprisingly fewer now), a cup in the afternoon.

How civilized.

In the past 21 days Joseph has kept track, telling me each morning (in a very proud voice, I might add) "Day 8, mom. Day 8 without coffee." And so on...

An unanticipated side effect of this coffee stoppage has occurred. Folks, I have energy. For my birthday, Ryan sent me off on a bike ride by myself. In all the time we've lived in Wisconsin, I don't think I've ever gone on a ride completely alone. I rode about 20 miles.
It was grand.

So grand that, over the last three weeks, Joseph and I have taken to going on bike rides together. Lots of them. At first he complained about the hills, but then his legs grew stronger. Yesterday we went almost 15 miles miles-- hills and all. He was absolutely thrilled. And since I went nearly 15 miles while hauling a Burley full of a toddler, among other things, I was pretty pleased myself.

Joseph and I have also spent a lot of time playing catch (I have my own well-worn mitt, thank you very much). This is something we haven't done since late spring-- again, because I just didn't have the energy. I had almost forgotten how much fun tossing a baseball and snagging a seemingly uncatchable wild pitch could be.

And hey, although I'm still getting up in the night to check blood sugars, and comfort my little girl, I am sleeping better. Feeling a bit calmer about things.

Oh, and those butterfies flitting about inside my chest-- gone.

But the most awesome (and unexpected) thing about this whole experiment has to be the effects on Joseph's sugars. With the increased exercise (over and above the usual skateboarding/scootering, and just general running around with his buddies), his blood sugars AND his insulin intake have consistently gone down.

And THAT is a beautiful thing.

Monday, July 11, 2005


While the previous post gives you a sense of the events that book-ended my sisters' recent visit, I never did share the very personal hell I put myself through for two days in the middle of that oh-so-very stressful week. For it was during those two days that I noticed my 2 1/2 year-old daughter was drinking a lot.

Let me say that again. My youngest child was drinking A LOT.

She's still nursing (with so much focus on Joseph's diabetes care, weaning has been moved to the "things I'd like to do, but don't quite have the energy for" list). For two nights she was nursing every 1-2 hours-- which is not unusual while teething, except that she finished teething months ago. Further, during one afternoon she asked for water repeatedly-- at one point draining a sippy cup, then asking for more twice. Just two times. But that was two times more than she'd ever asked before.

Was this diabetes? Excessive thirst was certainly one of the symptoms. But she didn't seem to be urinating more than usual. Or maybe she was, and I just hadn't noticed.

Oh God. Not my little girl too.

The sibling of a diabetic child has a 5% risk of developing the disease. My sister's in-laws discovered that their 2 1/2 year old daughter was diabetic just two years after their son's diagnosis...

For nearly two days, while constantly on the verge of tears, I obsessed over the possibility of Evan becoming diabetic. I could hardly think straight.

Despite being petrified of what I might discover, I had to check her. I had to find out for sure what was going on. So later that second day, when we got back from Joseph's little league game -- four hours after we'd all had lunch -- I checked Evan's blood sugar. Not surprising, she was completely unafraid of the lancet. After all, she'd watched her brother use it countless times. She was actually quite happy to be getting a turn (as she put it). I set the lancet to it's lowest level, held my breath, then poked. Evan didn't even flinch-- just watched, fascinated, as I touched the tiny bubble of blood on her finger tip with the end of the test strip.

Her blood sugar was 132. In the normal range, but definitely high for so long after eating.

A few minutes later, barely holding it together, I shared my fears-- and Evan's sugar result-- with my sisters. And that was when my sister Marion reminded me that Evan had eaten a whole package of peanut butter crackers at the game.

I had completely forgotten this vital piece of information when I had checked her sugar.

So an hour later, I repeated the test. Her sugar was 82.

And her voracious thirst, which probably had more to do with the salty crackers, and two days of ungodly heat than anything else, subsided.

Though relieved that Evan was fine, I was still shaken for several days after-- making me realize that, among many other things, this disease has the capability of turning an otherwise rational human being into a bloody basket case.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Calm... then Chaos

It's been a while, hasn't it?

Well, back in mid June we were out of town-- and I mean WAY out of town. This was our annual sojourn to Amish country in western Wisconsin. No phones, no tv, no computer. Just me, Ryan and the kids. And a big ol' fireplace (in which Joseph built his first fire) in a lovely cottage on an organic farm.

Hikes, games of catch, books read alone and together. That about sums it up. The hammock photo takes me to that quiet place whenever I need to go back. And lately, that's been often...

Shortly after our return, two of my sisters and their children arrived for a week-long visit. Including Joseph and Evan, there were six kids in all. And four of these children were under 5-years old.

Did I mention that this was a week-long visit? Uh-huh.

I love my sisters-- the three of us are very close. But the events of their stay pushed all of our stress levels to the brink.

Let's start at the very beginning, shall we? Teresa and Marion (4 and 8 years my junior, respectively) completed their two-day drive from Massachusetts on Thursday, June 23rd. I should have known that the timing of their arrival would not bode well-- it was the 1-year anniversary of the tornado that came through our neighborhood, literally ripping mature trees out by the root just a half a block away. Marion (or "May") was here last year for that event. It was her first trip to Wisconsin.

And now here she was. Back again -- this time with Teresa and all their kids.

Soon after their arrival, Teresa was sitting on the dining room floor doing a jigsaw puzzle with Joseph and her 10-year old daughter, Alanna. I was chatting with May in the adjoining living room, and "The Littles" (as Teresa liked to call the younger kids) were scattered between the two rooms. Just as I turned to ask Teresa a question, I saw her 4-year old daughter Valerie, who was standing just a few feet from her mom, lean into our very old, very beautiful, antique floor lamp. And in almost the same instant, I saw the lamp go crashing down. This is the lamp Ryan got before he ever met me. The lamp with the extremely heavy glass shade.

For a split second I thought "Ryan's gonna freak." But only for a split second, because as I bounded into the dining room and looked from the fallen lamp to my sister, all thoughts of the lamp disappeared. Teresa was still sitting on the floor, surrounded by puzzle pieces, the lamp's glass shade, and the shattered remains of the broken bulb. The upper half of Teresa’s body was swaying in half circles, as if she were dizzy. And with one hand, she held the top left side of her head.

That's when I saw the blood.

It was pouring out from between her fingers, as she continued to hold the injured side of her head. Quickly, we went upstairs to the bathroom. She tipped her head over the sink– I guess hoping it wasn't that bad, and that if we just cleaned the wound it would be all right. But when she lifted her head, blood poured in frighteningly wide streaks down the side of her face.
For an instant, I froze.

"Help me," Teresa said in a voice that was both calm and full of fear.

Immediately I ran and got a clean dish cloth to put on top of the wound. I told her to hold it there.

"Call 911," was the next thing she said.

The folks at 911 asked lots of questions. It was hard to hear because the kids were completely losing it. Except for Joseph, that is. He was helping May try to keep the younger ones calm.

Alanna was nearly hysterical. You see, on top of having been seated next to her mother when the glass shade struck her, Alanna is deaf. Although she has two cochlear implants, she still sometimes misses a lot of what is happening around her, and for now, relies heavily on lip-reading. I can only imagine how frightening it must have been. To have witnessed such a gruesome-looking accident--involving her own mother-- and only be able to pick up bits and pieces of what was going on. She kept desperately calling out for her mother, crying "is she going to be all right? is she going to be all right?"

"Yes," I kept saying. But I wasn't so sure. As Teresa sat on our bench in the front hall, awaiting the arrival of the paramedics, she told me the left side of her face was going numb.

"Am I going to be all right?" she asked several times. I held her shoulders, looked into her face and answered in as firm a tone as I could muster, "yes, you're gonna be fine." But I was so damn scared. If she started vomiting, that would be bad. If she passed out, that would be very bad. Thank god, she did neither. And after the paramedics arrived, and examined the ugly looking, more than an inch-long gash, we were told that "yes, she's gonna be just fine."

Instead of an ambulance, I drove Teresa to the urgent care clinic, where a doctor confirmed the paramedics' prognosis.

The remainder of the week consisted of wound-checks, constantly feeding kids, some kid-friendly activities... but only a few moments when my sisters and I really got the chance to just hang out and visit.

On the eve of their departure, tempers flared between we three sisters over a disagreement that seemed so important at the time, but was soon made ridiculous after Teresa got a call from back home. It seems a young acquaintance of Alanna's -- a 10-year old girl who was also deaf -- had just died.

She choked on a fruit roll up. A goddamn fruit roll up. Dear. God.