On a Learning Curve

Life may not be easy, but it's always an adventure.


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World Diabetes Day: A Day to Give Thanks

Today is World Diabetes Day. Despite the alarming prevalence of Type 2 diabetes, I am not writing a PSA. I’m not going to lecture about the importance or regular exercise or the necessity of eating a balanced, low-fat diet. Nope. Today I want to recognize Dr. Frederick Banting.

Today is the 123rd anniversary of Dr. Banting’s birthday. If you don’t recognize his name, he shared the Nobel Prize in 1923 for the discovery of insulin. Dr. Banting is one of the reasons that S is alive today, and it seems appropriate to celebrate his contributions to medicine and society during the month of November.

4 years old and wearing her first insulin pump. My brave girl!

4 years old and wearing her first insulin pump. My brave girl!

You see, contrary to popular understanding, insulin is not a cure for diabetes. Specifically, insulin is what keeps S and every other Type 1 diabetic alive. S takes approximately 22 units of Novolog, a fast-acting insulin, each day in tiny increments administered around the clock by her Animas Ping insulin pump. We test her blood sugar through finger sticks up to 10 times a day, and recently we’ve started to monitor her blood sugar through a Dexcom continuous glucose monitor (CGM).

S was the only ballerina who accessorized with a pink insulin pump.

S was the only ballerina who accessorized with a pink insulin pump.

Still the fact remains that S’s pancreas is purely for decorative purposes–or at least that’s how we tease her. And that’s probably the funniest thing I can think to say about diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the cells in the pancreas responsible for manufacturing insulin. Without insulin, the body cannot use carbohydrates for energy or remove glucose from the blood stream. While there are many theories, there is still not a definitive cause for this disease.

Ready to swim and still wearing her pump at age 9.

Ready to swim and still wearing her pump at age 9.

The need remains for a real cure. We are unspeakably grateful for S’s insulin pump and CGM, and we eagerly anticipate the day that the Artificial Pancreas Project delivers an FDA-approved device in the United States. In fact, none of these medical advances would be possible without Dr. Banting and his colleagues Dr. J.J.R. Macleod and Dr. Charles Best. And so on World Diabetes Day 2014, I would like to wish Dr. Banting a very belated but very sincere happy birthday.


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Can’t Trust That Day

It started on Sunday night at the dinner table. On days before we have special events which require extra coordination, I like to run through a dress rehearsal with the girls. In theory, I do this for them so that they will be ready to leave the house on time. In reality, I like to say things out loud in front of Ryan so that there will be proof later on when the girls say, “But you never told us we had to go to the doctor!”

We needed to leave the house at exactly 9 AM so that we could drive to Georgetown for S’s regular diabetes check-up. We talked about dressing appropriately (no shorts), being polite to the endocrinologist (or suffering negative consequences), and packing lunches (one of my least favorite jobs). We negotiated school work and decided to visit the zoo instead of an art museum. Everyone went to bed, and that was exactly the last minute that Monday went according to plan.

If we owned an anteater, of course it would let the girls ride on its back.

If we owned an anteater, of course it would let the girls ride on its back.

“Mom, there are 2 ambulances on the street! They’re backing up to Mr. Ted’s house!”

This is what G yelled moments after I started my shower. I jumped out of the shower and into some clothes to discover that there were indeed paramedics next door. I checked on my elderly neighbor and answered a few questions. After he left via ambulance, I assured his housekeeper that I would walk Piper, Ted’s spunky little Scottie, and ask another neighbor to keep an eye on him while we were in DC.

That’s when we discovered that Silvia had given Piper the wrong pill. Piper didn’t realize that he was happily swallowing a beta blocker meant for his owner. We quickly decided we would call Piper’s vet and drop him off for observation.

Still, the girls and I were on track, and I knew Ted would be in good hands. Silvia headed to the ER, I headed home to find shoes and a jacket, and I asked S and H to walk Piper around the front yard. G was missing shoes so her job was to find some and then load up the car with lunch and school books.

Within 5 minutes, I was ready to go and feeling confident that we would still beat traffic and reach our destination on time. That’s when I realized that all 3 girls and Piper were G-O-N-E. Lunch and school books were still on the counter, too. Five minutes later I found the errant girls and loaded them into the car. There was no longer time to stop at the vet, so I handed Piper over to Clair, a neighbor who appeared magically at just the right time and volunteered to help. Clair rushed Piper to the vet, and I’m sure the girls wished they were going with her.

This was how my children view me while they're captive to a lecture.

This is how my children view me while they’re captive to a lecture: dangerous with sharp teeth.

We arrived at the endocrinologist’s office without missing any turns and with three extra minutes to spare; Piper enjoyed his day at the vet’s office without any ill effects; and we salvaged the day by spending two hours at the National Zoo. We were finally able to see Bao Bao, the panda cub, without waiting in line; G found two horses to admire; and rodent-loving S thoroughly enjoyed the small mammal house. When asked what her favorite animal was, H told me it was the little chipmunks running in and out of the exhibits. (Go figure.)

Finally the day was coming to an end. I answered all sorts of texts and made a few phone calls. I dropped off Piper’s food and medication–canine meds, I double-checked–at the kennel, and I headed to Bible study to recharge my worn-out soul.

I think this is Tian Tian, Bao Bao's father.

I think this is Tian Tian, Bao Bao’s father.

It turns out that the day wasn’t quite over. After I returned from Bible study, G informed me that she had just swallowed the wrong pill. Instead of the melatonin that she takes to help her fall asleep at night, she had mistakenly taken her morning medication: an 8-hour extended-release stimulant that wakes her brain up and helps her focus on school work.

Sing with me, readers:

Monday, Monday
Can’t trust that day
Monday, Monday
It just turns out that way
Oh, Monday, Monday


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It’s Shoebox Time Again

This is my second annual Operation Christmas Child post. If you take nothing else away from my writing, remember this: Anyone can pack a shoebox full of gifts for a child who needs to know that Jesus loves him or her. It’s true. To prove this, here are the 13 boxes that 9 girls packed this afternoon at our house.

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Hidden behind the two front boxes is evidence of my love for Saucony running shoes.

It took them somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes to fill these boxes with soap, toothpaste, wash cloths, stuffed toys, coloring books, markers, crayons, Play Doh, playing cards, stickers, temporary tattoos, and various Hello Kitty products. In the process, they turned my dining and school rooms upside down and littered the tables and floor with bits of Christmas wrapping paper, Scotch tape, and scraps of paper.

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One of the boxes we packed for a little girl. There’s a lot of pink in there!

But the well-ordered melee wasn’t the result of a spoiled child opening too many birthday presents. (Oh, come on. All of us have been to those kind of birthday parties.) Instead, the girls were sharing Christmas with children they will most likely never meet in countries they will most likely never visit. And not a single child cried or yelled, “It’s not fair!” I did not hear the refrain of, “That’s mine, not yours!” And I did not witness a single act of fighting. For 45 minutes. And yes, there were three sets of sisters involved.

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We managed to scrounge up just enough non-pink items to fill a box for one boy.

No, the event did not go off without several glitches. I seem to have lost my voice this week thanks to a well-timed case of pharyngitis; a few guests canceled at the last minute for legitimate reasons (Don’t tell my friend Stephanie that you’re going to clean your room and hope that she forgets about it.); and almost a third of our guest list never RSVP’d.

But in the end, it was perfect. We’re donating the leftovers from this afternoon–including a green and purple inflatable dinosaur–to the mean mom who grounded her children for not cleaning their bedroom. (Just kidding. She isn’t the meanest mom in the world; that’s a title my children have bestowed on me.) And next month 16 children somewhere around the world will discover the joy of Christmas.

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All that was left after the lids were on the boxes. See the inflatable dinosaur in the background? Who wouldn’t want one for Christmas?!

Before I close–and I’m already 20 minutes past my deadline–I need to thank my next-door neighbor Timea. Earlier this year I wrote about H’s favorite friend Sofia and her brave battle against brain cancer. While Sofia was in the hospital, friends from all over the country showered her with countless toys, art supplies, and gifts–to help brighten her hospital stay and to let her know how much she was loved. After Sofia passed away in June, I volunteered to help Timea find a home for 10 boxes of books and toys. With Timea’s permission, we saved two boxes for this afternoon’s shoebox packing party.

Even after her passing, Sofie’s life continues to make a difference. Thank you, Timea, for blessing the lives of others. Before I get too teary to write, I’m going to leave you with a video from Samaritan’s Purse, the organization that sponsors Operation Christmas Child. If you still haven’t figured out how or why to pack a shoebox, watch this video or just read the instructions I wrote for the girls.

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A Field Trip, Some Photos, and a Few Thoughts

A few weeks ago my trusty assistant–aka as my recently retired father–and I took the girls on the first field trip of this school year. For the past three years we’ve been working our way through Story of the World, a four-volume chronology of history from ancient to modern times. We have finally reached the 1600s, and it’s time to take advantage of living near much of the beginning of our country’s history.

Earlier this month we headed to Jamestown. Actually we skipped the original site of the fort and opted for the reconstructed settlement. While I’m sure the park rangers at the historic site are knowledgeable tour guides, my girls preferred the bare-chested Native American who wore a loin cloth and war paint; they were equally mesmerized by the raptor talon piercing his ear.

Since the girls are not avid colonial history buffs, my father and I found ourselves having to corral them regularly. There was a particularly amused older couple who insisted they wanted me to identify where we lived on a map of the Chesapeake’s tributaries after they watched H wander off without my noticing. The girls were also notably unimpressed with the reconstructed Powhatan Indian village; they declared that it looks exactly like the Woodland Indian village at Historic St. Mary’s City, which is just minutes from our home. (Sometimes they are rather astute little students, and I had to agree with their observations.)

To their credit, they did agree on two activities that they found enjoyable. I’ll let you see instead of tell you.

DSCN1500Scraping deer fur from rawhide is the perfect task for small children who like to destroy things, isn’t it?

DSCN1515Guess how long it took before one of them decided to “tap” someone on the head to see if she could feel it through her helmet.

Sometimes it’s good to put down the history books and go visit the place that history happened. And at least our Jamestown visit saved me from having to have another conversation with G that went along the lines of this recent one:

G: Mom, I’ve never even heard of the Mayflower Compact before.

Me: I know you haven’t. There are a lot of things you don’t know yet.

G: Well, I’m just saying that if I haven’t heard about it, how can it really be as important as you say it is?

Actually I think I might need one of those iron helmets that the girls are modeling. Then I could legitimately reply, “Sorry. I didn’t hear the ignorance that escaped your mouth.”


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Journey of a Thousand Miles

Does a journey of a thousand miles start with a step? Or is a thousand steps? Who knows. What I do know is that I logged my 1000th mile of 2014 today.

I finally have something to share via blog post. I’ve meant to write numerous things over the past two months; in fact, two of my loyal readers have commented on my online absence. (Yes, that’s you, Jen, and Daddy, too.) The days just seem to be extra full, and writing is the thing that gets pushed to the side. I’d love it if housework, cooking, or diabetes could be pushed to the side and forgotten for a few days, but they take precedence. Running does, too.

If you aren’t a runner, you’ll think that last sentence certifies me as crazy. To the contrary, it’s how I ensure that I don’t lose my mental grasp. I crave the endorphin release that comes after five or six miles of sweating and breathing heavily. It’s how I take care of myself physically and mentally.

All smiles after our miles.

All smiles after our miles.

And here is photographic evidence of H and me after today’s run. I ran 4.5 solo and then stopped home to pick up H for some PE time. She said she thought she could go a half mile today. I trotted along behind her and encouraged her to slow down and see if she could make it to the stop sign (or 1/4 mile) before needing a walk break. Instead she made it twice as far before declaring it was time to walk. We plodded home, and I checked the GPS one more time: One mile in just under 11 minutes.


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Growing Up Is Hard

The girls are growing up, and that’s not always easy for me Ryan and me. Or for them.

Recently S and H each lost a tooth. Actually, S didn’t lose her tooth; she pulled it out herself on Sunday afternoon. While we were at the swimming pool. And she was in the water. (Thankfully our neighborhood pool is chlorinated.)

H lost her tooth with considerably less drama than usual. There was no crying or screaming, and the blood loss was minimal. The worst part was when she handed me the paper napkin she had used to stop the bleeding. The best part was reading the note she wrote to the Tooth Fairy: “To the Tooth Fairy from H,” read the front. On the back: “I like you ” (and a big heart).

On Wednesday afternoon, S informed H that she had seen the Tooth Fairy in their room. It seems that someone–me, I mean–had forgotten to retrieve the teeth and leave dollar bills under the girls’ pillows during the night; we have a very absent-minded Tooth Fairy. The Tooth Fairy’s husband realized the mistake and thought he had safely escaped detection before leaving for work. Nope. S took great delight in sharing this information with H.

What’s surprising/irritating is that S figured out the Tooth Fairy’s identity two years ago, but we explained the deal we had made with big sister G two years previous to that. If no one rats out the Tooth Fairy, then the Tooth Fairy will continue to bring a crisp dollar bill every time someone puts a tooth under her pillow. Apparently S was tired of earning dollar bills for missing teeth. Or perhaps she was tired of H’s tendency to tattle and wanted to even the score. I’m guessing it was the latter reason.

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On that same visit to the pool, something else much more serious than the loss of a tooth happened. I’ve hesitated to write about it, but I think it’s important to share this story.

Summer came very late to southern Maryland. I only remember the thermometer reaching 100° once this summer, and we’ve turned off the AC at least four times to open the windows. So when summer finally decided to make her appearance, there were only three days left to visit our neighborhood swimming pool, and we were determined to be there all three days.

This is the same pool that we’ve been patronizing for the past four summers, and we spend an immeasurable number of hours there during swim team season. While I wish the lifeguards were more observant, the girls and I are very comfortable at our pool. Perhaps that sense of comfort–or complacency–is why it took me several minutes to realize that a strange man was swimming in the lap lane with two of my daughters and two of their friends.

As I approached the lap lanes, I watched this stranger race one of the girls to the other end of the pool. I then asked my girls if he was a friend’s father. No, they replied, we don’t know who he is. Why was he in their lane? (We don’t know.) Who was he? (We don’t know.) Had he asked to swim with them? (No, Mom!) And why did he need to be in a lane with three 11-year-old girls and a younger sister?!

I sat down at one end of the lap lane, watched the girls, and tried to establish eye contact with this stranger. He didn’t meet my steady gaze, but he did get out of the pool and walk to another area. I talked to the girls to establish what had happened, and I came away quite confused. No one knew who he was, and he hadn’t asked to swim in their lane.

I thought things were okay so I returned to my chair and continued to watch. Within five minutes, the stranger was back. In the girls’ lap lane again. Unfortunately there was no pool manager to contact, and I didn’t want to leave the girls. Instead I got in at one end of the lane again and specifically told the girls not to talk to him or to swim next to him. Except that one girl had already given him her name, age, and school. Again I stayed with them until he saw me and left the lane. At that point I found one of the girl’s mothers and shared my concerns. She kept an eye on the creepy stranger, and I watched over the girls for the rest of our visit.

Later after we returned home, I phoned another mother to let her know what had happened in case her daughter mentioned the incident. She was livid at the man’s boldness, thanked me for calling her, and headed to the pool herself. Within 24 hours, we were both giving statements to a deputy sheriff and trying to identify the creep.

The parts that I’ve left out are the conversations we had with our daughters in those 24 hours. While I instinctually knew something was amiss at the pool, I didn’t know what it was specifically. Call it a mother’s intuition or the Holy Spirit’s prompting. It was what the girls told us, what this pervert told the girls, what other lifeguards had noticed, and that he had tried something similar earlier this summer. (Sorry. I just can’t think of anything nicer to call him than creep or pervert.)

No crime was actually committed, but this 34-year-old man thought it was acceptable to join a bunch of pre-teen children for a swim without asking their parents; he also thought it was okay to bump into them as they swam.

What happened wasn’t okay with me or Ryan. Or the pool manager. Or the other parents. The girls know that they aren’t at fault, and they also know that it’s never rude to walk away from an adult who asks for their personal information. We brainstormed a list of safe adults that they can ask for help, and we were very specific when we explained to G why we were so concerned.

I’m angry, and so is Ryan. We work hard to protect our girls, but we’ve also taken specific steps to allow them some independence from our constant supervision. We can’t simply lock them up until they’re all 18 years old, and I’m angry that one of the safe places we enjoy visiting is no longer safe.

 

 

 


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Back to School

Our first week of school ended on a somewhat sour note. I canceled classes mid-morning Thursday, sent my absent husband an SOS, and gratefully accepted my sister’s offer to keep me company until Ryan finished his reserve duty. I was outnumbered and needed a second adult in the house. This photo accurately describes how I felt about a week ago–from the toad’s perspective.

DSCN1442My mental and emotional well-being are much healthier one week later. Ryan is home, I’ve caught up on some missing sleep, and I am ridiculously grateful that my sister and nephews drove three hours to rescue me. The children now seem to understand that they are legally required to do their schoolwork. Our second week of school went much smoother–thank you, Jesus.

Actually this nature scene took place in our neighbor’s backyard a few days ago. During our lunch break, H strolled through a few yards to see if any of her friends’ younger brothers wanted to play for a bit. Instead she was delighted to deliver the news that 4-year-old M had just spotted a snake! Eating a frog! In the backyard! We extended lunch to watch this garter snake eat his meal (who turned out to be a toad). The entire process took at least 30 minutes and captivated three adults and six children. It was fascinating in a rather disgusting way.

DSCN1456G and S were then inspired to round up some toads of their own for a terrarium we’d made previously. I’m surprised that the girls haven’t named these guys, but they have been good about watering them daily and providing them with fresh earthworms. (We found the instructions for layering a proper toad habitat in Pets in a Jar.)

My girls thrive academically when we link learning to the great outdoors; in fact, we had at least one outdoor activity each day last week. We learned about radiant energy with white and black trash bags; we used a magnifying glass to show how radiant energy creates thermal energy, which is a fancy term for fire. And here is how H and Granddad spent part of Friday morning.

DSCN1454H is just over 4 feet tall, so we carefully traced her body in chalk; we then drew a “small” 11-foot giraffe to demonstrate the difference in their heights. Granddad helped with the giraffe’s markings, and H laboriously colored in everything. I vetoed G’s idea to ask our neighbor if we could trace her two-month-old baby girl in between the giraffe and H.

I’m trying to scale back my expectations for the beginning of our school year. The first days back are notoriously unpredictable, and my month’s worth of lesson plans didn’t take into account two children’s particularly bad attitudes. As our new routine becomes, well, routine to the girls, I’m anticipating that they’ll become more compliant. I’m also hoping that our PE choices will tire them out in all the right ways, too: G starts year-round swim team in two weeks, S has her first soccer game next Saturday, and H has decided to become a runner. Art lessons and choir practice will also fill some of the afternoon void and give me some breathing room, too. I, on the other hand, am learning the art of saying no, thank you to others’ requests for my time.

I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

 

 

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