Friday, April 29, 2011

Simple Tomato Sauce

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
In a large casserole pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning. If sauce still tastes acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavors.
Add 1/2 the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.
If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour 1 to 2 cup portions into freezer plastic bags. This will freeze up to 6 months.
Yield: 6 cups

(One of my favorite sauces, from Giada de Laurentiis on

Chocolate coconut clusters

Love, love, love the smell of toasted coconut!
These are a fun treat that satisfies a chocolate craving without any added sugar. Kinda messy and not all that pretty, but worth it!

1 bag shredded, unsweetened coconut
8 ounces of dark chocolate (I used 70%)
1/2 cup sliced almonds

1. Toast coconut and almonds over medium heat for a few minutes. Let cool.
2. Melt chocolate in microwave on half power; keep stirring until completely melted.
3. Mix coconut and chocolate until combined. Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment lined pans. (It will be a very loose mixture).
4. Refrigerate, leave at room temp for a few minutes before eating.
Shape doesn't have to be perfect,
they will firm up in the fridge.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Diagnosis Story

"There's no doubt in my mind that your child has Type 1 Diabetes. And there's nothing you could have done to prevent or stop this from happening..." Those words, uttered by an endocrinologist at Children's Memorial Hospital on April 30, 2009 are forever etched in my brain.

It's been two years this week, and here's our story.....

Leah was four and spring was just starting. She had just gotten over a virus, and a few weeks after it was gone I noticed the excessive water drinking.  We had explained to her that when she was sick it was important to drink water and stay hydrated. "Great!" we thought, she's listening to us. And of course, she was using the restroom much more due to the higher consumption of water, which seemed to make sense. Diabetes symptoms are quite easy to explain away.

But then she started acting weird. She was emotional, even more so than a normal 4 year old girl, and started staying awake into the late hours of the night. Leah was fully potty trained at 2, but she started wetting the bed a few times. I remember getting confused and upset that she was all of a sudden regressing or just didn't add up. My friends and I thought she looked a little thinner, but she was also taller and we decided it was certainly due to a recent growth spurt.

It all reached a breaking point one very long night while staying at my parent's house 2 hours away. We went out for ice cream with family and Leah requested water immediately. Lots of water. I can still see the look on her sunken little face as she sucked down an enitre cup in one seemingly endless gulp. I explained she seemed tired and spacey because she hadn't been sleeping well lately.

But that night she literally did not sleep one second. Instead, she was up all night crying and demanding she had to use the bathroom even though I refused to give her anything to drink (not knowing that was the worst decision I could have made). I stopped counting at 17 trips to the restroom.  In the morning, she downed her juice box again in what seemed like one big gulp. We drove home and made a doctor's appointment for what I assumed was going to be a urinary tract infection. The symptoms of diabetes had crept into the back of my mind, but I never really thought that was actually a possibility.

We did a urine test at the doctor's office and waited for a phone call.

The next few hours that passed by are so vivid in my head still that it practically takes my breath away. Getting the phone call that ketones were present in her urine and it was in fact, Type 1 diabetes. The shock in my voice asking  "Can't it be wrong? How do we know for sure?" Grabbing 2 year old Lukas out of bed where he was napping and throwing the kids in the car. Calling my poor husband, who was out of town for work, and hearing the pain in his voice as I delivered that news. Calling a close friend and panicking about what would happen next. All the while, not really understanding what we were in for.

Ed got a flight the next morning and we rushed to Children's Memorial in Chicago. Leah's blood sugar was over 500 at admittance, and life as we now know it began. Three days of shock mixed with counting carbs, injecting insulin, and learning how to save our child's life. I don't remember crying in the hospital. Even as the endocrinologist uttered those words above, I remember tearing up but making myself stop. Between shock and adrenaline, I just made myself keep going, as any parent would. There's no time to break down when your kid's life depends on it.

Over the next few weeks, it set in and we went through the range of motions. Denying that life was changing only to find out it had in fact changed beyond belief. Grieving for the loss of our "normal" child. So, so angry this was happening to our little girl. These emotions are still gets a little easier with time, but there's something about you that's just never quite the same.

But we've made it. Diabetes has a way of getting more complicated over time, and you learn as you go. I hate everyday that she has to deal with it, but at the same time am thankful for each day we've been given. I'm thankful that we went to the doctor that day in April and that we didn't lose her. I'm thankful that she's a happy, vibrant almost 7 year old that loves life.

I really, really want a cure. I hate the thought of her living her whole life with this. I don't want another parent to have to feel the hurt of their diagnosis day, and the pain in your gut that happens when you see that day on the calendar and the memories that start rushing back.

So as we're reminded of that awful day two years ago, we'll do our best to celebrate life, to enjoy the moment, and just take it one number at a time.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Pie

Yep, you should make this very, very soon...... (but yours doesn't have to be an Easter egg).

And don't forget to lick the bowl!

Italian Chicken Meatballs

1 - 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken (ground turkey or lean beef will work too)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Italian breadcumbs
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Mix all ingredients and roll into equal sized balls. (Mine made 18).

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, or until meatballs are firm and no longer pink in the center.

Serve alone or with your favorite pasta dish and/or sauce!

Roasted Garlic Quinoa

I love quinoa. I like the texture, the flavor, the way you can put so much with it.

I was out of red pepper, so I made a version of this using mushrooms, garlic, and asparagus.

Cholesterol, Lab work, and Celebratory Bagels

Each year, we repeat lab work to test for all kinds of fun stuff that goes along with diabetes. A blood draw and urine specimen is taken and looks for things like thyroid function, cholesterol levels, kidney function, and celiac disease. Unfortunately when your immune system is already on the fritz, it can lead to other issues as well.

Last year we discovered Leah has an under active thyroid, so she takes synthroid everyday and we do a blood draw periodically to make sure her medicine is working. An inactive thyroid can lead to unstable blood sugars, weight loss, and other annoying symptoms like hair loss and being cold all the time. So we need to keep up with it.

We also discovered she has high cholesterol. This worries me even more, given that she's only 6 and is already dealing with it. People with diabetes are automatically at an increased risk for heart disease, so high cholesterol is pretty serious.We already ate pretty well, and she's a normal active kid, but we made some improvements where we could. We rarely eat red meat and almost always skip the egg yolks. We buy lowfat dairy, stay away from lunch meat more than we used to, and use healthy oils instead of butter when possible.

At the recent diabetes expo we attended, I was surprised to learn a few things about cholesterol. For instance, I knew diabetics were at an increased risk for high cholesterol, but I didn't know why. Basically, high blood sugar means fat and sugar will attach to your body's cells easier and longer, and that means more fat and triglycerides circulating in your blood and sticking to your arteries, which means higher cholesterol. (at least that's my very, very basic understanding). We also learned the guidelines for healthy eating  in regards to cholesterol. A person with a healthy cholesterol level should eat no more than 300mg daily, while a person with diabetes or a person with an already high cholesterol level should eat no more than 200mg daily. The funny thing is, when I total most of Leah's "normal" days she's usually only around 30mg! (One exception to this is eating out--always way worse in regards to cholesterol, and everything else of course, too).

It doesn't help that I have a history of high cholesterol in my family, and my number has not budged the last few years regardless of diet and exercise. So unfortunately Leah's already got a few strikes against her. I hope we see a better number, but I have a feeling this might be a constant struggle.

In regard to the blood might think being exposed to needles on a daily basis would make you less sensitive to having a big one stuck in your vein, but we've seen the opposite. I mean, who wants to sign up for that, especially a kid who deals with this crap all the time anyway? And typically, the person drawing the blood gives you a snotty "Oh, I thought she'd be used to this!" I often have to resist the urge to tell that person off....this time was a little bit better. There were a few tears as they did the needle poke, but overall she did really well and we had a much deserved bagel stop afterward.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011's nice to see you again!!

There's lots of times in diabetes-land that things just don't make sense.  Highs for no reason. Lows for no reason. And lots of frustrating stuff in between.

Then, every once in awhile things go right and the world seems better.

For the last three nights, there's been no beeping alarms. No need to set alarm clocks for fear that she'll be low (again) before the CGM can catch it. No multiple corrections for high blood sugar. No stumbling in the dark in a fog trying to get the juice open. No cursing the meter as it reads "error" because you didn't get enough blood on the strip in the dark.

Just sleep.

Thank you, diabetes, for the last three beep-free nights. I'll take whatever I can get.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mocha Almond Fudge Cookies

Today was rainy, dreary, cold....yuck. We needed cookies.

These popped up on a blog I like to follow and seemed like the perfect remedy for rainy day blues. Chocolate, almonds, subtle coffee flavor.....pretty much everything I love rolled into one cookie.

I added 2/3 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut to the toasted almonds....really yummy addition.

Total carbs in recipe = 687

Made 60 cookies = 12 carbs/each

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Running Therapy :)

The Illinois marathon/half marathon is in about two weeks. I've been training for the half again, and had a great run today with the sun shining. Running is kinda silly--making yourself run long distances for really no other reason than proving it to yourself is kinda crazy.

But there's obviously health benefits, both mental and physical, and I don't think I'd have gotten through the stress of the last two years of our lives without running. It makes the world seem a little more bearable, makes diabetes feel manageable, and overall clears my head enough to make it feel like it will all be okay.

It's something I share with close friends, and gives us time to reconnect. I'm thankful for that today.

And through the rest of this year, there's a group of us that will be tackling a marathon, in honor of those close to us who have been dealt some pretty bad stuff over the last year or so. It feels good to honor the struggles that others face by getting out there and making our bodies hurt a little bit. :) I think about about them all the time while I'm out there, and we're fortunate to be able to do this. It's for Leah, and Mike O's dad, and Katie's dad, and my mom and Ed's mom, and Mike F's mom, and little Alice and anyone else who's faced cancer, and diabetes, and things that just disrupt our lives unexpectedly.

My friends and family motivate me with their determination and friendship. I'm excited about trying to beat my time in a few weeks and mostly to share that great feeling with a lot of people who have helped me so much in my life. I hope I'm always returning the favor.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Diabetes is such a challenging physical disease. Pricks, prods, pokes, highs, lows and everything in between that hurts or feels horrible. But the mental aspect is huge as well, on parents and kids. It's constant stress and worry...I'm pretty sure the last two years have aged me about 10.

Leah's always been the type of kid who worries more than others. Just enough of a nervous personality that it actually makes some aspects of diabetes easier for her. She's a rule follower and eager to please, so she likes to take as much of an active role in her care as she can as a 6 year old. But she also goes through many bouts of the insistent "I feel low"s, which at times can totally interfere with life.

It's been happening a lot at school lately, and usually also at bedtime. Her CGM always displays her current blood sugar, but at her age it's tough for her to interpret. There are days when she spends a good amount of her school day in the office, insisting she doesn't feel good even though they've checked, double checked, pricked her finger, and called me to see if there's anything else they should do. And there's the bedtimes when she's up 5 times in the the course of an hour insisting she's low when in fact her blood sugar is just fine.

It's tough--I don't know what changing blood sugar feels like, so I'm sure there are times when she just truly doesn't feel well regardless of what that meter says. But what I hate is the fact that diabetes is taking up that time in her life. She should be in the classroom, learning, and not worried that she's low. She shouldn't have to think about this stuff, and the anxiety it causes makes me mad.

Leah's chart
We try our very best to help her learn, with the goal in mind that the more she knows, the less time she can spend worrying about diabetes. I made a number chart with the categories "High", "Low", and "In Range" so hopefully she can begin to interpret what all those crazy numbers mean. We remind her if she doesn't feel good to always check her pump first and see where she's at, if there's any arrows, etc. But that's all a lot for a kid her age to understand.

We attended a diabetes expo this weekend that Leah's endocrinologist organized, and attended a session with Jill Weissburg-Benchell, an awesome child psychologist who specializes in diabetes. She is at Children's Memorial in Chicago and we met with her at our initial diagnosis. Her outlook is fantastic--she acknowledges the many challenges kids face cognitively and socially during adolescence, and how difficult any single aspect of that time can be. Then you throw diabetes on top of it all, and there's just some days or situations that are too much for any kid to take. There are days kids will be mad at the world, or worried beyond belief, or just plain tired of it all. It was a good reminder to try to see things from your child's perspective and not give them more than they can handle.

On the way home tonight, Leah said from the backseat, "I don't feel good and my number is 144 with a down arrow." I was proud of her for checking her pump first, and figuring out why she felt crummy. Would I be proud of her regardless of her remembering to do that? Absolutely. I don't want her to take on more than she can handle. So we'll follow her lead and help her learn along the way, with her well-being, both physical and emotional, being the most important thing.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Deep Thoughts...

For some reason, our deep diabetes discussions always seem to occur in the car on the way to school. Today Leah was talking about what to do for her birthday in May. She asked if they found a cure by then if we could just have a party for that instead of her birthday. I choked on my coffee and agreed that sounded like a good plan.

One thing lead to another and before we knew it she was contemplating why a cure is so hard to find. She understood it must be pretty tough since they don't even know why it happens in the first place, but she did say she was pretty sure she knew a way to cure it.

"I could just get the thing that works from someone who doesn't need it anymore, and then my body would work the right way again." Oh, if it was only that simple.

"Are you talking about getting a different pancreas put in your body?" I asked her.

"Yep. Why can't that work?" She replied.

I went on to stumble through an explanation about organ transplants and immuno-suppresant drugs, and that basically it's still safer to live relying on insulin injections than it is to get a new pancreas. Just too risky.

She seemed satisfied with that and we were on our way. A lot to swallow before 8:15am.

But what always gets me about these conversations is how matter of fact she is. I'm glad she knows the severity of her situation, and we just try to be honest without being scary. I think kids appreciate the truth, and can look at the world simply enough to handle it.

It's not really fair that these things are on her mind. Seriously, my 6 year old contemplating a pancreas transplant? I'd rather she was worried about what's going on at recess that day or what's for lunch. But, hopefully letting out all these crazy thoughts lets her talk through it and feel better.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sending in the Numbers

Technology is wonderful. We have the ability to download Leah's pump and glucose meter and see exactly what her blood sugar was doing at any space in time. It really helps us catch trends, see how high certain foods make her go, watch what happens from increased activity, etc. And our healthcare provider can see the same things as us. Wonderful.

But lately, among the other D-moms I know, we all kind of chuckle when we say we "sent our numbers" into the doctor. Because LIVING with diabetes and just looking at it on paper are two very different things. I'm not in any way saying I have all the answers, and I totally appreciate a fresh set of eyes looking at things when we need help figuring stuff out. But when I emailed them yesterday to take a look I pretty much knew the response I'd get.

All they see is the numbers. I don't really have time to write a book about what happened in every situation every single day that made her blood sugars wacky. So I asked for help just about a specific trend I keep seeing--the afternoon high she was having when she'd get home from school. I was having trouble preventing her from going over 250 or more almost every afternoon, even with changes to her basal amount for that time frame (the insulin that runs continuously in small doses) or changing her lunchtime bolus (the amount of insulin per carb that she's given).

They answered with a snarky response about what to do overnight because we'd given a correction "after 12am for the last 5 nights." Well, believe me, I'd rather not have to roll out of bed every night to give my child insulin. But the last five nights consisted of:

1. Mexican food (ALWAYS requires a correction)
2. Correcting a low before bed (couldn't leave her at 60 for bedtime!)
3. French fries (ALWAYS requires a correction)
4. Correcting another low before bed
5. Can't remember day 5 because I'm too tired

So basically, LIFE gets in the way of diabetes. Unless we stay home, and never go out to eat or do fun stuff, we're going to have lots of nights of corrections, and lows, and other crazy stuff. That's why I just asked for help with the afternoon high. It's just too hard to explain every situation. And it doesn't mean things aren't working--it means when things are out of the "norm" it's very hard to stay in range.

They gave a suggestion for the afternoon, something I had already tried. But now she hasn't had the high for two days. Go figure. That pretty much sums up diabetes!!

Monday, April 4, 2011

It's Monday

Last week was a rough one at our house again, so I'm sending out good vibes to the universe today for an illness free week at our house, a good Diabetes day, and a stress free week.

Happy Monday!!