Thursday, 28 January 2010

Sunsets and rainbows

We had a beautiful Winter sunset the other night. It felt quite magical seeing the reds and pinks lighting up the suburban sky of Colchester.
Today I was at a funeral in Bury St. Edmunds, remembering and celebrating the amazing woman that was Flora, my wonderful friend Pat's Aunt.
Flora passed away recently at the age of 101 (and a half).
Her life spanned so much of modern European history and she was a quiet inspiration to all that knew her.
Yesterday evening Budd and I were enjoying watching one of my 10,000 Maniacs DVDs and I was commenting on how much I love Natalie Merchant's respect and celebration of the small lives of ordinary people. People who are born, raised and live to marry and have families in the little, often insignificant towns of North America.
People not normally celebrated.
People maybe sniffed at by those of better fortunes and opportunities.
But these lives are those on which nations are built and we should never consider them insignificant.
Flora worked for 45 years for the same Jewish family in London, first as a nanny to the three children and then as a housekeeper.
The lives of all were interlocked and she remained in touch with them all her life.
At her funeral we all shed a tear for this small life, beautifully lived, and her favourite song was played.
May we all remember the small lives of those around us.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Unappreciated genius in my kitchen

As I served dinner this evening to a select crowd of two boys, one of 54 and one of 3 and a half, I was informed by the younger of the two that he'd prefer "something nice, Mummy, not chicken with custard".

Back to the drawing board methinks for improvements on the presentation of my coconut chicken curry and brown rice.

My genius is so unappreciated.
However, I did manage to rally this evening and make some walnut maple syrup rolls for breakfast tomorow.
The little one will be on oatmeal and water after his comment and will have to sit and watch me lavishly spread butter on my rolls and sigh with joy at my yummy breakfast.
The gloves are off, boy!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Salad for Severine

We are missing our lovely friend and lodger Severine as she has upped and left us for five whole days to visit her pal Roland and seek work in Oxford.
We call her Sev, Severine de France and Taberine depending on our mood and how much we want to wind her up. Taberine was what Frank used to call her before he could pronounce Severine! A tad cute, non?

She came to stay with us as a lodger about four and a half years ago and stayed a year then came back periodically. She is now, after completing her Masters in translation in Paris, back with us and seeking her fortune in the UK.

She is part of our family and looks after us well as she has time on her hands at the moment. She cooks a lot for us and in particular makes the kind of food I love: big salads and soups.
She inflicts quinoa on Andrew but I love it!

However, with her away we have retreated to the lounge this evening for dinner in front of the fire. We are not having quinoa as my ally has deserted me.
Dinner is a hastily assembled spinach-based salad of leftover cold roasted potatoes and garlic with walnuts, Parmesan and parsley eaten with some cold smoked mackerel. Frank has a boiled egg but snaffles nearly all my fish from my plate so I end up eating only the salad.
But that's OK as I have a bottle of Adnams to numb the loss.
It is a good salad and I know Sev would love it.
Plus eating in front of a roaring fire was such a treat this evening.
Frank spent his time between dinner and bed painting pictures for Sev so she knows how much he misses her.
When she gets home on Tuesday it will be spinach salad and artworks!

Friday, 22 January 2010

Knitty Gritty

To put my own spin on a well-known phrase "when the going gets tough the wobbly-lipped Mama gets knitting".
I have found myself avoiding calling people this week, and if I'm honest, last week too. Diabetes is with me every day, all day and sometimes I need to still the white noise inside with knitting or reruns of QI or Mock the Week and not, I repeat NOT, make calls to lovely, well-meaning people who will need me to explain the whole deal again.

We have received cards and calls and letters from people this week saying how sorry they are that Frank has "taken a turn for the worse" and that they are thinking of us. These things are well-meant and genuinely caring but I really believe that only people with direct or at least very close contact with this condition can understand why I might need a break from it at times.

I cannot spend my evenings once Frank is finally asleep calling people to go over it all again.

That way lies madness.

Madness I tell you!

So, I knit.
That way my hands are full and I can do something a little bit creative too.
I knit like a demon.
And it makes me happy.

I am actually quite mediocre at it but I do it nevertheless!

I make furtive sideways glances at the phone and see the flashing numbers, currently 3 messages, and I pick up the sticks and get going with the string.

Now for the million dollar question: What do you do to avoid calling people back?

Or am I truly the only one that does this?

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


OK, so the exclamation mark might strike you as ill-fitting but I was home alone (hubby being out with Sev and Dan at the cinema watching a film about local band blur) and Frank had his first hypo since the new regime started.
I was reading him stories in bed and he looked at me and paused before saying "I'm humry", which is Frank-speak for hungry.

He looked OK but wasn't leaping about like normal of an evening and so I asked him if he was hungry-hungry or wobbly-hungry. This is my attempt to enable him to learn to distinguish from hunger and hypo. He can have food, of course, whatever the situation. He said he was wobbly-humry so I asked him if I could do a "finger test" and he said yes.

He was at 3.1.

Fruit puree and an oatcake with nut butter were munched on and he started to chat a bit more. We lay on the bed together and I told him how much I love him. He smiled at me and asked for a made up story "from your head, Mummy, and with trains"!!

He was OK.

Trians rock when you are three and a half and your favourite toy is your Brio train set.

I tested him again before I went to bed and found a reassuring 8.8.

And breathe.

Is it bad that I was almost relieved to see this hypo? Frank's blood sugar has been so high for so long and with the new regime we have seen a good trend of the numbers falling slowly. A hypo like this feels like a lesson that I can deal with.
I let my boy eat.
A love and respect for good food is essential.
He is growing and we are learning something new every day.
We are grateful for our good life together and very grateful for the support of friends both here and far away.

11pm and all is quiet. Well, almost ...

Picture the scene.
The boy has had a long nap in the afternoon and so his Mama knows it will take longer than usual to get him to bed. She leaves him at 9:30 and goes downstairs. She chats for a while with Budd and Sev and then hears a few quiet footsteps upstairs and decides to check it out. Hubby quietly says that he thinks the noise is from next door and that Frank is asleep.
Mama finds this!
He has been busy building a "house" of books and is about to line it with pillows and blankets. How I laughed. How close I held him. And how he grinned. I took a photo of him in his "house" and he took one of me in it. I look tired and truthfully this week has taken its toll.
But then...
We the lay on the bed together in the dark and he drifted off as I held him. Nothing beats this. Nothing

My heart beats for this child. He has Type 1 Diabetes and sometimes it's like having a newborn again, especially this week with the new regime of four injections a day and constant worries about hypos and learning about carb counting. I am up in the night to check he is breathing and relieved in the morning when he patters in to see us.
He is my funny little boy, so full of life and his own quirky ways.
And I love him so.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Over the Top

I was awarded an "Over the Top" award last week from Colleen at and it has taken me a while to get around to responding. We are in the middle of a change of regime and this feels much more invasive for us and Frank. We are, however, doing as well as we can and hoping for better blood sugar results very soon. Single figures would be good and we are amazed at how insulin resistant he seems to have become. Ho hum ...

So here are my responses to the questions. I have to respond in one word answers only and then forward it to three other bloggers. However, I know so few bloggers that I will do two and then a friend by e.mail.

1. Where is your cell phone? Handbag
2. Your hair? Brown
3. Your mother? Lily
4. Your father? Alan
5. Your favourite food? apples
6. Your dream last night? gone
7. Your favourite drink? tea
8. Your dream/goal? Mummy
9. What room are you in? lounge
10. Your hobby? crafting
11. Your fear? loss
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Budd/Frank
13. Where were you last night? home
14. Something you aren't? short
15. Muffins? yum!
16. Wish list item? cure.
17. Where did you grow up? Suffolk
18. Last thing you did? knitting
19. What are you wearing? wool
20. Your TV? on
21. Your pet(s)? nope
22. Your friends? lovely
23. Your life? good
24. Your mood? stoic
25. Missing someone? Heather
26. Vehicle? VW camper
27. Something you're not wearing? earrings
28. Your favourite store? local farm shop
29. Your favourite colour? slate grey
30. When was the last time you laughed? suppertime
31. Last time you cried? Thursday
32. Your best friend? Budd
33. One place that I go over and over? local farm shop
34. One person that e.mails me regularly? Fiona
35. Favourite place to eat? Home

I don't normally take part in lists that need passing on but this one felt important, coming as it did from Colleen whom I count among my new Internet support group!
So, my three victims of Over the Top-ism are:
Kaija, my beautiful Goddaughter, who has just begun a blog of her own . Kaija, I know you are off school sick tomorrow so this will give you something to do! Get well soon.
Budd, my best friend, husband and love of my life, You just won't be able to resist it!
Severine, friend and all round beautiful person. It will help you practise your English!

No photo today but I am taking Frank and Sev to Mersea tomorrow for a picnic in the van and a run around on the beach. Let's hope for balmy January weather!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

My home

In an attempt to distract my brain from the white noise of Humulin, Insultard, blood glucose and flipping diabetes I have been trying to clear out some space in our home. It has made me look at some of the quirky little things we have added to make our generic, semi-detached reflect our family.

So, first up is the tiny blackboard at the front door. I changed it recently from "fast and bulbous" (a Captain Beefheart reference) to the message below.

It's a message we all need at times.

Then we have our fab kitsch kitchen (kitschen?)! This is our cabinet of curiosities. Sometimes Frank sits up on the counter and sorts through all the bits and bobs. Every tiny item has a memory attached to it and we add to it all the time. One day it will reach a critical stage and heave itself off the wall, Buckeroo-style.

Above the fridge freezer is the Marmite and vintage tin museum.

And on the larder door, which is 100 years old and salvaged from a friend's house during renovations, is my mantra. Not really. I just liked it and presumed the answer would always be "eat a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich", which works for me.
And finally the corner of the kitschen where we can see the garden. Such lovely light comes in from here. It's my favourite room and I am at my happiest when cooking and listening to the radio or a talking book (Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter produces divine food!)

As an aside, I am just back from going over to Frank's childminder to inject him with his lunchtime insulin. This is the first time I have disrupted his day and he was less stressed than me about the whole thing! He was very high (26.2, blimey!) and I hope will be doing better when I pick him up.
Time to do some more sorting...

Monday, 11 January 2010

It's all about the needles around here

We are all dealing with more needles in this house than you can shake a stick at.

Frank's new regime involves lots more testing, lots more injections and lots more stress for me as I struggle with the reality that is T1D in a three year old.

His papa is also getting more stress as he tends to be the large slow moving target I fire at when I'm under stress.

Poor man. I love him so.

However, being snowed in has meant that we have done many more crafty things and far from being put off by needles Frank has been learning to sew. I bought the cloth at the wool shop recently and he is loving using up all my second hand acrylic wool that I refuse to knit with!

He loves painting and colouring too and so we have been doing a fair bit of that too.
I intend to move onto felting soon, but feel I should attempt it alone first!

My husband,, is already a fabulous felter, having shrunk a number of my prized wool cardigans. Maybe I should ask him his secret?

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Brrrr and a new regime

It's cold here. It has been snowing on and off or three days and we are loving it. Our back garden looks just beautiful, especially the summerhouse.

We are in East England and only six miles from the sea. Long periods of snow are not that common. Thus snow-based activities, bedtime stories and paintings are hot topics for the few days a year we get this weather.

Severine and Frank decorated the snowman with a tangerine and conkers. Sev is from Arcachon in South West France and is loving this real Winter as they only get snow there around once every five years and even then not much.

(Mama and the boy)

Frank is now three and a half and of prime age to lead all the fun. Snow has been tasted, a snowman has been built and dressed (in rather dapper fashion, I might add), snow angels have been created and we have stomped around making footprints in the fresh snow. Between you and me the boy-wonder has also taken uncannily quickly to peeing in the snow. Being T1D and drinking lots anyway means he has had lots of opportunities for this. Oh, well, maybe it will help his literacy as he learns to pee Shakespearean text in iambic pentameter.

After all the snowy fun we came back down to earth with a bump at our three monthly clinic appointment for Frank. The doctor and specialist nurse looked at his numbers for the last few weeks and, as we had figured out ourselves, saw that he is running far too high throughout the day and getting too low sometimes late at night or early in the morning.

A new regime is called for and after much discussion we have to move from one injection a day (Mixitard 30) to three. One basal and two fast acting for meals. Insulin in the evening is going to be avoided at present as he has form with regard to sudden hypos at night. We inject in his perfect, peachy bottom and I am sad again that this tiny little pincushion will be getting more needles in it.

Just when I think I am accepting it all much better the rug gets pulled out again and I realise that it's all smoke and mirrors. It's ongoing and I have to find a way of dealing with that aspect of it without losing myself in the process. Being stressed and sad won't help my beautiful child. Being calm and focused will. Being positive will.

I had a dream on holiday in France that he was cured. He just needed less and less insulin for a few weeks and then suddenly needed none. The feeling of joy in the dream was just so tangible and the next day I spoke to Budd about it and we agreed that no one but a parent of a child with T1D could understand the relief of having a cure.

We were also informed that he may have the very first signs of thyroid problems. Nothing definite yet but they want to check him every three months instead of every year.

I thank my lucky stars for this child I was informed I had no chance of having. But bloody hell.

So, a mixed day of joy and sadness.

Never forgetting: it's all about the boy.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

French Diabetics don't get fat?

So, three and a half weeks in Brittany. Land of butter, croissants, pains au chocolat and general pastryness. And a three year old with Type 1 Diabetes. A match made in blood glucose hell? Not at all.

Frank has always had a healthy diet. He was just two years old when he was diagnosed with T1D and honeymooned for a few months before becoming a fully fledged member of the insulin gang. Honeymooning is when some of the insulin cells in the pancreas are still functioning and the auto-immune response hasn't yet blasted them all to hell. It was hard to get his numbers right at that time as we had no idea how many cells were functioning or indeed to what extent. We coped by doing our best. I added weeping profusely to the mix, pretty much on a daily basis. His immune system didn't listen. Immune systems are like that. They dance to the beat of their own drum and when they have a target they are fantastic at blasting it. Shame when it's an own goal.
We get mixed reactions from others with well-meaning comments like, "Oh, how awful for you, not being able to let him have any sugar" (he can and does, ironically more than he ever did before as it's more necessary now and I walk around with a bag loaded with juice and fruit purees like some fast food fruit bat) or "Don't give him insulin, his pancreas needs to be retrained" (this to me in an organic health food store only a month after diagnosis. I was horrified as I realised very quickly, even in my addled and shocked brain, that this person meant Type 2 Diabetes, a totally different animal to Type 1. Terrible advice.) or "It could be worse, he could have leukemia" (Are those my only choices? He could have neither, or maybe just a slight squint or a mild rash) .

So, we control his food and exercise in a calm and relaxed way as much as possible, recognising that three chocolate bars for lunch isn't good for any three year old and we try to live as we imagine we would have had we not been hit by the meteor of diabetes.
The one thing that did change was our confidence when considering travelling with our boy.
We took him to Northern Europe whe he was just three months old, heading off to Denmark, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands for twelve weeks in our camper van and staying in the van as well as in hotels and with friends. Post diagnosis we lost our mojo for hitting the trail with abandon and took a year before we felt confident enough to go abroad. Even then a week in Berlin was easy as I speak German and we had both already been there.
However, nearly four weeks in France where I am confident only with a menu in front of me and flounder with anything approaching conversation was another matter.
And so to the land of BEURRE! Brittany is famous, even in the rest of France, for going heavy on the butter. We assumed we'd need to be increasing his insulin over the holiday but we ended up halving it. Go figure.
We had croissants for breakfast every other day. With jam. (Aren't those jammies cute? Thanks Granny and Santa).

We walked and ran and read and slept lots. Frank invariably raced me everywhere.We ate good, real food and took our time over it. In France they are not afraid of carbs or protein and balance them well. Frank loved his steak hache with frites (although in this photo you can see the distain he has for salad!)We enjoyed country walks and running around on beaches as much as the weather allowed.
People eat WELL, WELL, WELL in this beautiful land. They eat real food with real fats and sugar too. And they don't snack much. They live for the pleasure of good food and eat it slowly, savouring two hour lunch breaks and good conversation. Children eat the same food as adults. They drink tiny little coffees (we tried not to look hugely disappointed when our "grand cafes cremes" arrived and were tiny to the point that we felt like Hagrid drinking from normal cups, so used are we to huge lattes and the like).

I do wonder how life is for French diabetics. There seems to be little denial but an embracing of pleasure at good and real food.

Frank's blood sugar was in excellent shape pretty much the whole time. Should muffinmoon become muffinlune? Hmmmm...

I don't think we need to emigrate though. Just learn from what we saw and experienced and incorporate it into our lives.

Merci, Bretagne.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Hitting the trail for a Happy New Year

We started the New Year with a special breakfast of Breton Kougin Aman ( a kind of cake made from pastry and heaps of butter) and fruit salad. We lit a candle and raised our tea cups to 2010 and wished each other much joy and happiness.
Frank had a little gift from Severine for the New Year and we had given him a pretty card to put up in his room and with wishes for the coming year on the back.

Then Sev and I walked from home to town for a cup of green tea and then on to the Hythe to meet Andrew and Frank as well as Mark and Lisa to walk the trail to Wivenhoe. It was a glorious day. Blue sky, crisp air and the feeling of good times ahead.
We parted from Mark and Lisa in Wivenhoe and they went on to visit family whilst we found ourselves in the corner of a cafe enjoying a coffee and sustenance before heading back along the trail.
Andrew walked home and Sev and I strolled with an increasingly tired but still determined to walk Frank to the van at the Hythe. (Note to self: feed the boy more than you think he needs when he is exercising, we had a major rebound this afternoon.)
At home the fire was lit, we had pasta for tea and Frank and I sat under a blanket to watch a little Shaun the Sheep.
A perfect start to the year.