Monday, November 29, 2010

Tis the SAVE

I must confess, like many other Americans amid the holiday frenzy, our family did some bargain hunting this weekend. We bought a pine tree - for cheap.

Every year we take a little jaunt up to the Blue Ridge Mountains to pick out the Maxwell family Christmas tree (cue National Lampoon Christmas Vacation soundtrack). We are able to save a load of money by choosing and cutting a Fraser Fir from one of the many, independently owned Christmas tree farms near our home. It's sustainable. It's a tradition. It's a steal.

Besides, we get the benefit of a large selection. Marinda is really, really fussy about our tree. There have been years when my daughters and I have huddled together with our teeth chattering on a mountainside while Marinda closely inspects each and every evergreen on the farm. It's got to be fat at the bottom, perfectly symmetrical with a proper bough density. And of course it has to be tall enough to nearly touch our ceiling. This year we may have gone a bit overboard on the height. The girls and I have fondly nicknamed our pine, Treezilla.

Treezilla is a monster, and we got her for a song.

Did you go out on Black Friday to save fifty bucks off the Xbox Kinect? Were you clicking like a madman at on Cyber Monday? If so, you should also try to save on diabetes supplies throughout the year. As we trim the tree, I'd like to share a few things you can do to help trim the medical costs:

1. Never ever buy a glucometer. Strips are expensive, and the glucometer companies know that if you choose their monitor, they can count on a tidy little sale from you month after month. Call or email the company or ask your diabetes medical team to introduce you to the local rep. Sometimes all you have to do is ask. Also, keep your eyes and ears open. You can catch ads in the paper or diabetes magazines that offer coupons for free meters with the purchase of a batch of strips.

2. Buy in bulk and buy online. We like to buy from online pharmacies for non-perishable supplies like strips, insertion sets, alcohol swabs, syringes and lancets. We've used fifty50 and edgepark medical supplies with great success.* Plus, Fifty50 donates half of their profits to diabetes research.

3. Finally, don't bother lugging around an ax or messing with a chainsaw to cut your own tree. Christmas tree farmers are pros with chainsaws and they'll even help you drag it down the mountain. Avoiding macho bravado in combination with sharp power tools may save you a REALLY big hospital bill.

*Full Disclosure- I don't get sponsorship money from either of these online vendors. We just really like doing business with them. Their staffs have always been wonderfully helpful and friendly. Besides, I don't accept ANY advertising or promotional money on my blog- that's just the way I roll.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Listen to the Stewardess

Many of us will be massing at airports, dodging TSA friskings and eying the departure monitors this weekend as holiday travel plans demand it. It's easy to zone out when the flight attendant points out where the front, side and rear exits are on the aircraft.

One piece of instruction that I always find unsettling is what to do if the oxygen masks drop.The flight attendants always tell you to put your own mask on before placing one on your child. The rational part of my parent brain says, "that makes sense," but the emotional, heart driven part of me says, "Are you freakin' KIDDING me? I gottta take care of my baby first!"

Every now and again, Marinda and I need to take time to take care of ourselves and have an evening pretending there's no diabetes. It's important to recharge. Taking care of a kid with diabetes, makes it easy to make everything else take a back seat to blood glucose control. But if you don't take care of yourself, your marriage and your livelihood, it's easy for EVERYTHING to quickly go out of whack. And what good are you to your diabetic child if you're out totally off balance?

Don't forget to breathe.

Photo Credit: JFithian, Jason Fithian, Flickr, Creative Commons License

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Yummy Yummy Yummy

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the holiday menu can be a potential minefield for those that have diabetes. For kids with the disease, it's pretty unfair to be surrounded by food that you can't eat. With careful planning, this doesn't have to be the case. Fortunately, good online resources exist to help Chef Mom (or Dad) make a healthy and enjoyable meal for everyone.

First, let's bust some myths. When you hear that something is healthy and good for you, it's easy to assume that it's going to taste like sawdust. The converse also seems to be true- if it's yummy and indulgent, it must be bad for you. Lastly, in order to make something yummy, you'll need to slave for hours in the kitchen.

These are all myths. In fact...

1.) Fresh, healthy ingredients actually provide the MOST flavor.
2.) Simple (read FAST and EASY) recipes can yield amazing banquet dishes.

Case in point --> I spoke with Chef Franklin Becker and Dr. Yehuda Handelsman yesterday about a helpful new website that they've launched to help patients with diabetes and high cholesterol navigate through healthy food choices. They teamed up to give us a culinary AND medically sound resource on their tworeasonsonerecipe website. They taught me that you don't have to sacrifice healthy for taste. At all.

Check out my video interview below:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Regular vs. Diet

Brandi, over at Juvenation asked the diabetes online community if her newly diagnosed 3 year old should drink Crystal Light as an alternative to Juice. After all, it's hard to see a toddler more than arms length away from a sippy cup of juice or juicebox. They're mad for the stuff.

As soon as we came home with Cassie's T1D diagnosis, we nearly bought out the grocery store's whole supply of diet drinks, lite ice creams and sugar free treats. Several tummy aches later, we realized we'd gone overboard. The culprit? Aspartame and artificial sweeteners.

We fell into the common misconception that people with diabetes can't eat regular food or sip sugary drinks like juice (mainly because the hospital staff communicated that message to us since they deal with type 2 diabetes more than type 1). The most important thing to count are carbs, and you can adjust for sugary intake by: either giving insulin for it and/or not overindulging on the sweet stuff.

The funny thing is, Cassie drinks more juice AFTER the diabetes diagnosis than before. We find that it's a quick and convenient way to get her blood sugar levels up when she's low. It's really all in the timing.

So now we buy mostly "normal" ice cream and juice, etc. but we also have a good amount of sugar free choices when her blood sugars are high. We DO stay clear of regular sodas normally- flavored seltzer waters like La Croix are a family favorite when you want something fizzy. Crystal Light lemonade is staple at the Maxwell house at summertime. So we have both regular and diet in the house. It's all about a balance and not going too far one way or the other.

TRUE STORY: last week I got a new twitter follower (I'm @rpmax). The person's handle was JuicyMama2go. Juicymama? I had to check out her profile. This is what it said: As a mother with two kids with Type I diabetes, I always have juice with me. Yes, I am one JuicyMama!

Nov. 14th is World Diabetes Day and it also marks Juvenation's 2nd Birthday. W00T! Wear blue and make sure to check out to JDRF's first ever Type 1 Talk online at 3 pm EST today (Nov. 14).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Squids Hate Diabetes

As a founder of juvenation, I have a confession to make- I belong to other social network communities. Yep, I know that's hard to believe, but it's true.

We all belong to so many different communities, and the compassion sometimes bridges over from one community to another. I wanted to share with the juvenation members, the news of how another online community has done this in a remarkable fashion.

Squidoo a knowledge sharing network (where I also belong) has generously decided to help support our cause. Last week, the thousands of members at SQUIDOO DONATED $50,000 to our JDRF walk team in NC (Cassie's Care Team). They were able to do this from the ad revenue that their individually built pages have generated. Pennies from Google ads add up, and the gang at squidoo was able to amass a pretty hefty number of them for diabetes research.

I'm incredibly humbled and so very grateful to all our friends who share our passion - especially to our lensmaster friends at Squidoo. Next time you see a squid please hug them. If you don't know any, I'd urge you to check out the squidoo site and maybe become one yourself.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

You're Stronger than You Think

I hung up my phone yesterday with a heavy heart. I had just spoken to Allan, a dear friend who was on his way to the emergency room to be with his young daughter. She had JUST been diagnosed with type-1 diabetes, and he was still in the process of wrapping his brain around what the diagnosis meant.

Allan told me that he was somewhat relieved to at least KNOW what was causing his little girl's ailments. There's a tremendous amount of anxiety from just not knowing. His positive attitude and desire to move through the diagnosis gave me a glimpse of the strength that he has as a dad. At least they could now begin treatment.

Unfortunately until there's a cure, there is no end to the treatment they're about to begin. It's a long, long tunnel and there's no certainty that there's a light at the end. I feel this anxiety sharply even today, and I hope I can help Allan navigate through the realization of the coming challenges ahead.

There will always be new fears and trials with this dreaded disease. - and the demons of doubt and worry can be overwhelming.

To now be in in the unfortunate fraternity of men with daddybetes, he's going to need to be strong in a different way. It's a path of discovery that will take different dimensions of courage and dedication. I had no idea what I'd need to do when Cassie was first diagnosed. In time, I learned that there were untapped reserves of strength that I didn't know existed in me. And I want him to know that the strength is there within him too. He'll get it straight from his little girl.

Sidebar: Today, Nov. 9, is annual Diabetes Blog Day, started by Gina Capone, who is our community manager at It's been going since 2005. This year's topic was 6 things you want people to know about diabetes. I cheated the topic a little. I think the ONE most important thing parents taking care of a child with diabetes need to know is the lesson above: you're stronger than you think.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Diabetes Month on the Web

Unless you've been living under a rock, you will have heard that November is diabetes awareness month. For parents like us caring for a child with diabetes, we are already WAY aware of diabetes. So instead of doing nothing in November, I suggest three things you can do on the web to mark the occasion:

1.) Visit the Big Blue Test site and watch Manny Hernandez' video. If it gets 100,000 views, Roche Diabetes Care will donate $75,000 to the Life for a Child program. The International Diabetes Federation and Insulin For Life are two global, humanitarian organizations that provide diabetes medication and supplies to children in the world’s poorest countries.So simply watching youtube canget a poor kid insulin - how cool is that?

2.) Check out the cool photo montage at the Be Part of the CURE website by the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI). See if you know anyone in the pictures. I was surprised to find many of our D-friends on there. You can see my family's smiling faces on the lower part of the "C."

3.) Clean out those unused strips from your medicine chest and donate them to children in war torn Rwanda. The folks at Team Type 1 make it effortless to help out on their Rwanda Mission website.

Diabetes is hard. Doing any of these three things is easy (and helpful). You deserve easy for a change.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Baby Steps

In the last couple weekends, the girls and I have taken part in JDRF's Walk to Cure Diabetes. One walk was in our hometown of Winston-Salem. The other event was in Raleigh, where Cassie's Uncle Steve lives. This year marks the 14th consecutive year that we've formed a family walk team.

Our first walk happened just weeks after Cassie's diagnosis. She was just one year old, and the four mile walk seemed monumental for us at the time. Cassie was still in her first pair of baby shoes and big sister Miller (who was just 4 years old) got around in a bright yellow umbrella stroller. There was a lot of pushing, and we took a lot of baby steps.

The yellow stroller is now history, and the girls are beyond just being along for the ride. They've become leaders in our crusade against this disease. The walk team that we started is now led by Miller, and Cassie frequently speaks publicly about the importance of diabetes research.

Since our first walk, Miller and Cassie have participated annually in the walk-a-thon, set up countless lemonade stands, manned the root beer float booth and worked at fundraising galas. As we filled out Miller's college applications, we took a look back and did a little accounting of what all this volunteering had yielded. By our reckoning, it amounted to approximately $2.6 million(!) for JDRF.

We never dreamed we'd ever raise this much money, and that wasn't even the point. What Marinda and I had set out to do, and to teach our kids was this: you need to take charge of finding a cure. Kids can make a big difference in this fight.

And.. even baby steps can lead to big advances.

If you gave or took part in this year's walk or past walks, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your amazing support. You help to teach my girls another lesson: others care.