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Life Is Short, Laundry Is Eternal: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad

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Entries in Perspective (21)


Sure, you can go to the Selena Gomez concert

If you read Arden's Day with any frequency you know that we manage Arden's Bgs with text messages while she is in school, at a friend's house and every other time that she isn't in our physical space. I've written how the process has eliminated so many issues, lowered her A1c and making us all to feel more independent are but two. I am genuinely excited to tell you that we have recently added, "Go to a concert" to that list! Now you may be thinking that there is a world of difference between managing type I from across town and being an hour away in a stadium singing along with the former Wizard of Waverly Place, but you know what - not so much. It turns out that the biggest hurdle when considering the difference between the two situations is realizing that there aren't any.

I have two main concerns when Arden isn't with me. Loss of communication and An unexpected low BG. All that remains is manageable with pre planning. Supplies, food, and juice is no issue to pack and have at the ready. A well thought out testing schedule eliminates most surprise BGs and Arden's DexCom G4 finds the ones that slip through the cracks. Of course no one can plan for a significant BG drop that defies logic, that possibility is the diabetes equivalent of having a car accident - you wear your seatbelt, drive safely and hope for the best.

I received a call asking if Arden could go to the Selena Gomez concert with one of her best friends, I didn't hesitate to say, "Yes!". One year ago the mom on the other end of the phone wouldn't have been able to finish her sentence before I said, "Thank you but no". But so much has changed in the last year. Now when a person that I trust calls and asks for Arden to accompany them for an evening, I can say yes with less trepidation and that makes me very happy for Arden.


Here's how I handled Arden going to the concert...

First, the mother and I had a nice lunch together the week before the event. Even though Arden goes to their house for play dates, we still manage through texts while she is there so the mom doesn't have a lot of interaction with diabetes. She understood the basics and knows how to react in an emergency but the concert was going to require me to advance her understanding of type I diabetes. 

We spoke about all emergency possibilities in very, very real terms. I explained that I needed her to understand all that could happen, even though the likelihood of it happening was extremely remote. 

I said thank you for her willingness to except the extra responsibility and went about the seemingly impossible task of preparing a person for an evening with type I without overwhelming or causing them to obsess during the event. The last thing I wanted was for the extra considerations to take away from the experience that she was going to have with her own daughter.

We spoke about supplies, testing times, CGM check ins and how to talk to the security guys in a way that makes bringing food and drinks into the venue easy. We talked about panic situations, CGM arrows and how to use glucose gel. I explained low blood glucose seizures and that I was going to discreetly slip her the glucose gel because the sight of it makes Arden anxious.

I couldn't have been prouder of Arden and her friend's mother when they pulled out of our driveway for the concert. The conversations that we had and the topics that they had to consider, just to go to a concert, were more than a nine year old and her friend's mom should be asked to think about - but they did it. When Arden got into the car with her friends she was smiling just as a little girl on her way to a concert should. Thankfully, her BG's were rather uneventful during the evening, she required two maintenance boluses during the show (Adrenaline I imagine)  and a juice box on the ride home (No more Adrenaline) but other than that, easy sailing. When she walked through the door at almost eleven, her BG was 104 (DexCom had the BG at 74). Success!


Never once that night did I have to speak with the adult who accompanied Arden about anything related to diabetes. Actually, at one point she sent me a text and asked, "Is there anything I need to be doing?".

The bag of supplies I sent was returned to us unopened. Arden didn't need the extra OmniPods, insulin, needles or food. In fact, she would have been just fine had I not sent any extra supplies, all she needed was the juice box that she always carries in her bag.

I want this story to illustrate that everything is possible with type I, but what I don't want is to make you feel like planning ahead isn't necessary. This trip included a number of conversations, pre planning, a well packed bag and a little luck. Actually, to show you how much luck - Arden's OmniPod experienced an error the morning after the concert and I had to go to school and change it around 8:30 am. Can you imagine if the pod would have shut down during the concert? I could, and that's why we had a plan for how to handle that situation, should it arise. We planned for every conceivable possibility and talked about each ahead of time so that if they did occur, no one would be caught off guard or be unprepared for what to do next. 

Arden popped out of bed for school the next day and put on her concert t-shirt still smiling from the evening before -- suddenly, the effort that it took to get to that moment felt like no effort at all. 



It took over a week before it hit me as to why I liked the movie Gravity so much - because it reminded me of living with type I diabetes, because I am comfortable with jumping from one situation to the next.

I won't ruin the movie for you by exposing specific plot points - This paragraph will include some basic information but nothing that isn't inferred in the movie's trailer. The film begins with astronauts in space fixing the Hubble telescope, almost immediately, some bad stuff happens and that stuff leaves Sandra Bullock drifting for her life. Every time poor Sandy completes a dangerous and nearly impossible task that she believes will save her, some other amazingly difficult obstacle appears and she must begin again. Each time she must conquer the new obstacle without so much as a moment to take a deep breath. I very much enjoyed that aspect of the film, the "out of the frying pan" and into another frying pan aspect, that is. I found myself strongly identifying with it and the character's insistence on not giving up. 

During the ride home my family, as we always do, discussed what we liked or didn't like about the movie. I found myself saying that I enjoyed the movie, yes the special effects were great and I even liked the use of 3-D but what I enjoyed most was that the plot felt like real life to me. It felt like the way I live. Not the part about being in space or the slightly over the top scenarios that the characters found themselves in. It was the immediacy of the peril and the unrelenting nature of the situations. Type I diabetes is many things, but perhaps more than the rest, it's persistence and constant feeling of presence that it creates is, for me, it's define characteristic. Some days dealing with diabetes feels like being a tired swimmer whose trying to crawl to shore. Just as we wipe the salt from our eyes and spit out the remainder of the last onslaught, another wave appears from the calm and knocks us over. 

I loved the way that the main character faced each new challenge with the same determination as she had for the last. It was the message that if you want to live, you do this thing. There is no time to complain, not a moment to spare and you can afford to feel sorry or yourself - living is moving, reacting and doing. I feel like that's our life and I guess since I didn't hate the movie, I must finally be comfortable with this narrative as my reality. It feels good to look for the next path to follow when a roadblock appears, I much prefer that feeling of "I can do this", to the weight of, "Oh no, not something else". 


Little People, Big Problems

It's easy to look at children and imagine their lives as simple. It's easy to think that their concerns couldn't be as deep or strongly felt as yours. Who knows why? Perhaps because they are smaller or maybe they seem protected simply because of their age? I did a Google image search on the word 'innocent' and the majority of the images that it returned were of children, I think because that is how adults think of them. 

Most parents go to great lengths to protect their children from the world for as long as they can. I always imagined that it would be another child, the Internet or some other outside influence that I could not predict and not defend against that would show my kids the world for the first time. Maybe it would be an image online, a hateful thought or the brutality of another - I didn't know. I do know that I expected this to happen, but not this soon and not this way. Children should get to learn about life's truths slowly, not all at once and not so young.

Arden was recently invited by a friend to a sleepover party. She has slept away at her Aunt's house many, many times in the past and I have a rather foolproof system for managing BGs during these times so we didn't think twice about allowing Arden to attend the party. I have to admit that I imagined that we very well may hit a speed bump during the evening. I considered that Arden may get uncomfortable at another's home, that party food may mess up BGs to the point where they become difficult to manage and I was even ready for her to just not have a good time. I thought any, all, or some of these possibilities may prompt Arden to ask to come home.

But it wasn't any of those things that caused her to text me and ask to be picked up.

I didn't ask why she wanted to leave when she texted, I just told her I'd be there and came as soon as I could. Arden met me at the door with her sleeping bag and pillow when I arrived, she even tried to walk past me to our car as soon as the door opened. I stopped her and said that we could leave but first I wanted to understand why she wanted to go. We went back into the house, put down her things and retreated to the backyard where we could speak in private - we sat next to burning fire pit and I asked her why she wanted to leave.

In the minutes that followed I had the most mature conversation with my daughter that I've ever had. She wasn't uncomfortable at her friends home, that's not why she asked to leave. It wasn't because she was having difficulty managing her blood sugar, it was 115 when I arrived and she had been at the party for over four hours. It was none of the things that I expected and nothing that I could offer a concrete fix for. Arden was scared of her diabetes. Not the management of it, not of dying, she wasn't specifically afraid of any one aspect of her disease... just afraid of the unknown that it brings to her.

One of the best parts about being a kid is feeling invincible and never once having to consider that anything in the world can fell you. It's that gift that allows kids to jump from trees without pause. They never think that anything bad can happen to them. Diabetes took that from Arden. She wasn't worried about a low or a high, not about a bolus or an alarm. She was in fact, completely confident that the plans we had in place were going to keep her safe, healthy and happy - but she couldn't plan for the unknown and that concern was too much for her to bear.

I thought about reassuring her and then trying to get her to reconsider but instead, I looked at Arden and did the only thing that made sense. I gave her a hug and told her how proud I was that she called me. I reinforced that there isn't anything that she can't tell me, and I made sure that she knew her feelings were safe with me. We finished speaking, played with the embers in the fire for a few minutes and then went home empowered, not defeated. 

My wife will be very excited when she reads this next part because I think it means that the almost twenty years of effort that she has put into me, may finally be paying off.

As a man I always find myself wanting to fix things for the people I love, but often that inclination means telling people that their feelings aren't valid. "Don't be scared" and "This isn't problem" serve to diminish feelings and I'm really proud to tell you that I didn't say anything like that to Arden as we spoke. I'm even more excited to say that as I listened to how Arden felt, I really understood her feelings and I didn't have the desire to bend and manipulate the situation to accommodate those feelings. I just let her feel, and I listened. It took me until I was in my forties, but I think I'm starting to get it. I'm not here to fix anything, my being here fixes things.


Softball Aristotle


Just a quick thought for Friday...

Arden played in her first All-Star game of 2013 last night. She was 3 for 3 with three singles and two RBIs. She caught two fly balls, made two long throws to first from third base and didn't let one hit ball, of which there were many, past her at third. She is eight years old, probably the smallest girl on her team and did all of this in-between having her blood glucose tested, getting insulin and having me adjust her basal rates through a fence while countless people looked on.

After the game we drove home together and Arden started to talk to me about the game. She said that she felt bad for some of the girls because it seems like, "They feel a lot of pressure when they play". She went on to talk about how she wished they didn't feel like the game rested on their shoulders and went on to speak about how she keeps her head clear when she plays. She actually said that it's important to play relaxed.



I talk all of the time about the perspective that diabetes lends to people who live with it in their lives everyday. I always think about those lessons in terms of what they bring to me but last night in the car... I began to see the perspective that type I gives to Arden. She is fiercely competitive, to the point where I have to bolus for her adrenaline when she competes, but she doesn't feel pressure when she plays. How is that possible? She isn't nervous or overwhelmed, she doesn't get too high if they win or too low if they lose (not diabetes high and low, emotional) and she's even aware of other players feelings as the game is played.

The only answer I can come up with... Looking at your meter when it says 39 while listening to the four frantic beeps of a CGM telling you that it's time to worry about your immediate well-being, must really prepare a person to handle life's pressures.


Arden's Hands are Growing

Yesterday morning I entered Arden's room about an hour before her alarm was scheduled to sound. Her DexCom G4 was asking to be calibrated and so I put a test strip into the OmniPod PDM, turned the MultiClix to a new lance and took my daughter's hand in mine.

As I was choosing a finger to strike a hole into, I noticed that her hand felt heavier then it did the last time that I held it to test. I was certain that it hadn't grown bigger since the day before, but yet it felt unmistakably heavier. I sat on her bedside as the machine did it's job and found myself feeling lucky that I have these moments with my sleeping girl. Not too many people get to do this I thought. I get to hold Arden's hand almost every evening after she has fallen to sleep and those moments give me a different perspective on her growth and allow me precious time to gaze at her growing face.

So if you are in need of a silver lining today, maybe this thought could be one for you. We get to hold our kid's hands while they sleep.