Sugar Time!

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I used to work as a secretary in a large office, and part of my job – since everyone in the office had a candy bowl – was to go to Costco and get hard candy in bulk. It was an assortment of anonymous, generic candy: peppermints, butterscotch, those disappointing gel-filled strawberries whose wrappers were actually the best part of the experience (they say you eat with your eyes first, anyway.)Blog sugartime

I think the actual bag weighed twenty pounds. It was the size of a bag of dog food. I used to heft it up into the cart. The brand on the bag was “Sugar Time,” which I thought was the perfect name.

If anyone had ever accosted me in the parking lot, I would’ve said, “It’s Sugar Time,” swung that bag at them, and knocked them out cold. Naturally, they’d be wearing a striped shirt and a mask…

Anyway, I think about that big bag of candy every year about this time, because on top of the normal school supplies, the clothes, and other stuff I buy my kids for school, I also have to buy:

10 icing tubes (if my son can’t swallow, the sugar still gets in his bloodstream through the gums)

3 bags of Starbursts (for plain old low blood sugar)

2 boxes of Chewy Granola Bars (in case it’s a long way till the next meal)

2 packs of juice boxes (yuck).

10 pocket folders of the same color, labeled

Snack-sized zip lock bags

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What my kitchen looks like before school starts.

and then I have to go to the T1D Mod Squad site and print out almost all of these things for my student who has Type 1 Diabetes. (T1D Mod Squad has all kinds of resources including this very user-friendly breakdown of ADA regulations, 504 info, travel/TSA links – anything you can imagine.)

Then I put all of that stuff together in 10 packages and distribute them to all of my son’s teachers, the library, and school secretary. (This is not all we do to prepare for the year, there’s a bunch of other forms, medications, diabetes-specific supplies, etc.)

We’re lucky most of the staff remembers the drill from year to year. They’re great with my son, as they are with the many other students who have health issues. (Thanks, school! XO)

Still, I dread sugar time. It’s a reminder that my kid can’t just go out for recess and run around without someone looking out for him. It means his teachers won’t immediately know if he’s just being a goofball (he’s my son, after all) or if his blood sugar is low – or high – diabetes is weird like that.

I know I need to let go, relax, and hope for the best. It gets easier when you know what to expect. Every year, my son gives a short presentation to his class. He’s good at explaining Type 1 and patient with answering questions. I am actually relieved and proud that he’s bright and kindhearted enough to handle most of the diabetes-related social issues that come his way.

But, make no mistake: if anyone decides they’re going to cross my kid this year – It’s Sugar Time!

Psst! – If you want to support a great cause, T1D Mod Squad is a 501(c)3 non-profit that helps families living with T1D and advocates for health care and other important issues.

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Totes Comfs!

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It’s the hotness of summertime. I’m not complaining! I love thunderstorms, fireflies, and basking. I love it all! (Except you, mosquitoes. You can eff off.)
I love not cooking, and eating more fruit and salad. Just today, I was thinking of a place I used to eat decades ago, famous for their Chinese chicken salad – Comforts Café in San Anselmo, CA.
Now, I went to Comforts maybe ten times in the years we lived in Corte Madera. It was close to my office, and impossible to get seated, but they had takeout. Beautiful bakery, fancy imported bottled drinks, and adorable white cardboard boxes of Chinese chicken salad! However, I never had the famed chicken salad because all of my adult life, I’ve been vegetarian. (Womp, womp!)
I did, however, have a mighty hankering for their Chinese TOFU salad. I went to the mystical internet and found the chicken salad on Epicurious. I skipped the entire part about the chicken, made the dressing, pressed some tofu until it was dry and spongy, marinated the tofu in the dressing for an hour, and tossed it with the other ingredients.

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Happy Salad!

Voila! Pretty damn close. (I also didn’t have any of those rice noodles that you have to fry, and wasn’t in the mood to fry anything, so I used chow mein noodles. Hey, this was a serious jones. I needed that salad, man!
It’s no surprise Comforts Café is still in business and has been for nearly thirty years. Someday, I’ll be back. Save me some salad!

Help! My Cat Is a 60-Year Old Man!

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We didn’t adopt our current cat as a kitten. A funny thing happens at our local humane society: kittens are $149 to adopt, but once they hit 1 year, they’re “Name Your Fee.” Yep – that says it all. People will pay a premium for an unpredictable fuzz-ball that will cause them a bunch of trouble to start with, but they won’t take a basically free cat.

Now, we’re kind of cheap, but more than that, I am a softie for an old cat! Old cats are the BEST cats! They are like slow, sleepy dumplings who just want a comfy home for their final days. I could go on and on about how awful it must be for senior citizen cats to find themselves in a homeless shelter wondering where their humans went while all the mewling little scrunch-faced kittens get the love, attention, and eventually families. It breaks my heart!

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Kittens are a lot of work.

 

 

 

And when it was time to adopt this cat (our 20-year old cat had passed), I was completely ready to get an obese 14-year old with half an ear, but my husband talked me into a much younger model. We chose one that was one year and ten months. He was kitten enough for me.

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Wrap him up, we’ll take him!

 

 

Our previous cat had spent 23.75 hours a day in the same spot on the sofa. This one taught us our house had infinite places for a cat to climb, hide, and ignore you when you called. He climbed the Christmas tree! I know that shouldn’t come as a surprise, but our former cat didn’t even know we celebrated!

Worst of all, we brought him home while our children were in school, and we had to convince them we had adopted a cat because he was hiding in the basement ceiling. They thought we were playing a mean trick on them. (I don’t know where they would get such an idea…)

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So crunchy! And the chips aren’t bad, either…

 

 

El Gato has been a kitten for the past 2.5 years, doing all the kitten things, and then yesterday – Freaky Friday style – he swapped bodies with an old guy. Early in the morning, he jumped up on our bed (not unusual), and instead of carefully tiptoeing up to find an unoccupied place, he marched up to my pillow, pitched his rump against the back of my head and started licking (his rump, thankfully – not my head).

I couldn’t get him to stop, only to move away a little bit so I could wrap my ears in the pillow and go back to sleep. When I woke up again, I was scrunched all the way down on the bed, and he was asleep in the middle of my pillow. He had man-spread! Even when I picked him up and tried to dump him off, he just looked at me. “Young lady, you are clearly mistaken. But, as long as you’re up, my bowl is empty.”

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6-pack

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keg

 

 

As I write this, he is considering whether he wants to play mousies with my son or finish reading the paper. (We had to get a subscription because of his sudden interest in the obits and the cost of crude oil.)

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$%@# kids  – get off my lawn!

 

I suppose I shouldn’t complain. Old cats are the best cats, and I love him. I’m taking him shopping later for a windbreaker, and then maybe if he’s in a good mood, I can get my pillow back.

If you’re in the market for a pet, please consider a rescue first! Yes, they can be curmudgeons, but they have a lot of love to give. ❤

Two-Step Tomato Abbondanza!

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We have a neglected raised garden bed in the backyard. It had been part of a sandbox configuration, but for years, it’s been a weed patch and dumping ground.
This year, I really wanted to garden with it because it’s a nice, compact size, and it’s right in my line of sight when I look out over the yard, and I couldn’t deal with the shame! The shame!!

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Formerly crummy! Now, a tomato fantasyland.

I’m in the frozen hinterland with only a very short growing season, so  I watched a dozen or so YouTube videos by MI Gardener.
Since watering was a problem for me (I’ve killed years’ worth of container gardens!), I went with the channel’s trench method of bedding. That’s where you dig a trench and fill it with spongy , water-holding decomposing matter like straw.

I didn’t have straw, so I used an old log that washed up in the lake. It was sodden and stinky – perfect for my purposes! Since it was springtime, I also took advantage of about half a dozen dead fish that washed up in our yard. Stink-o-rama, and a little disturbing, but I was tired of my kids staring at them. And, they were far less stinky six to eight inches under. But enough about that!

I bought a seed packet of beets. (Love beets, hate buying them.) I also wanted watermelon* because my kids love it and I thought it would inspire them to help with the weeding. 😉 So, we all went to the garden store and they chose: watermelon, tomatoes and peppers. (HOT peppers – they like a challenge.) We brought them home, planted them in neat rows, and for exactly three days, the kids fought over who would water them. Then, they moved on with their lives. But everything was okay! Because of the log…blog magic log
MI Gardener also had a video about how to increase your tomato output. I thought this might be a gimmick, since this guy clearly had a lot more going for his tomatoes than I did. To boil down an 8 minute video, you flick the tomato flowers with your fingers. I did this whenever I saw flowers, thinking it wouldn’t make much difference and BEHOLD! I have a TON of TOMATOES!blog tomatoes 1 So many, my beets were completely eclipsed.blog tomatoes 2  Alas.
Basically, using only these two tips from that MI Gardener has given me tomatoes beyond my wildest dreams.

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Tomatoes all around!

I didn’t actually have any dreams of tomatoes to begin with. And now, I have a bajillion. Thanks, MI Gardender!

Next summer – BEETS!

*The watermelon vine died early on. We planted it too early. RIP. I scattered wildflower seeds over its plot.

Take the Money and Run

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In the never-ending quest to raise money for our school, the powers that be have decided they want a “colorful-powder bipedal locomotion event.” (If I get sued, it will be for overuse of thesaurus.)

You may remember, I went to a motivational lunch for such an event a few years back. I honestly did go with an open mind, and hey – free meals will make people do just about anything! But, when I left, I felt horrible knowing that some public school kids begged their grandparents and smashed their piggy banks to pay for that meal.

My fellow PTO members heard my conclusion and we had the same fundraiser we always had with our own brand of fun incentives that didn’t involve anything more ominous than a pie in a face or a ride to school in a police car.

But that was then.

Now, there’s a new group of PTO parents (who we appreciate!), spring is somewhere on the horizon, and the year’s coffers are almost empty. The professional, for-profit fundraising vultures are circling with their siren song of huge returns and “hardly any” work. This year, someone else attended the free lunch. And they really took the bait. So, it would seem, we’re going to shell out and “spend money to make money.”

Maybe it’s not too late. When I went to the fundraising lunch a few years ago, I was incensed when – in the very same breath that they were promising us we wouldn’t have to lift a finger – the FUN-raiser, Dynamite Dave, hinted that if we wanted our school’s event to be a real success, we could find ideas on Pinterest.

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Well, with all this talk about white t-shirts and colored powder, I did a little research of my own. You know what I discovered? It’s kind of FUN to make your own colored powder. And it’s FREAKISHLY CHEAP!

We used cornstarch (97 cents at Target), food color (I’ve had it forever, so I’m going to guess it was about three bucks. It’s $3.69 on Target’s website, but hey – I can do better. And, no, I’m not an affiliate.), and water.

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Here’s my daughter and a friend mixin’ it up! (You make oobleck first – this project just keeps getting better!)

Here’s the color drying.

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We only made a little to start

Here it is after we ground it back into a fine powder!

This was such a satisfying (and did I mention cheap?) activity, I want to make more of this. A LOT more. If anyone from our school wanted me to do a color powder project with, say, 300 kids, I might not say no. That’s how gratifying it was. Come September or October, it would be completely dry and ready for an “event.” (Wink, wink!)

Getting coated in colored powder looks awesome. But for these professional “fun” raisers, I’m seeing more of a tar-and-feathers motif. Atlanta Public Schools has a thoughtful blog and Facebook page on this subject – please give it a read!

I would still love to hear a heartwarming story about one of these events, so if you have one, please share in the comments! Heck, I’d love to hear either way. Thanks! 😀

 

Very Flu – perstitious

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If it seems like I’ve been avoiding you lately, I have.
February is a cruel month in my part of the world. It’s the apex month of contagious diseases. Everyone knows this is the worst flu year in forever, but what you don’t know is that just because it’s not on the news anymore, doesn’t mean it’s over. And I don’t want it.no-thank-you-600x300

Look, I was once like you! I flouted the flu shot, and took my chances. I rarely ever got sick with “the flu,” the official respiratory kind, or the stomach bug people call “stomach flu.” (Clever.)  It was very easy for me to dismiss symptoms. So young, so carefree!

Now, I have a family: not just kids, although it’s REALLY HARD to keep children healthy when they go to school like they do… I also have parents and older relatives who don’t bounce back so easily from everyday viruses. Gone are the days when one of them takes to their beds and gets up 24 hours later. Now, it’s more like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Social interaction this time of year is well-intentioned: there’s the Superbowl, Valentine’s Day, this year’s Olympics, and the Academy Awards in early March. I just finished a lovely and inspiring book about Hygge, the Danish Art of living cozily, a large portion of which involves pot luck events. hyggebk

Pot Luck? Something someone prepared off-site where someone may or may not have been sick? Um, no.

There’s a fine line between fortifying your immune system (yes, I understand, social contact will do this), and being stupid. So, please excuse the following from me:

I’m no great hugger to begin with, so don’t “bring it in.”
I will wash my hands. This will take as long as it takes.
I will absolutely not taste something using your cup, spoon, or fork. Come on, gross!
And if I find out you’re secretly sick, I will CURSE you. Oh yes, I have studied the dark arts exactly for this purpose. Don’t be surprised if you’re visited by a plague of jury summons and pantry moths.

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Just. Saying.

 

When the weather warms up, and we’re not walking around with wracking coughs and Kleenex in our sleeves (shudder!), I will be happy to be friends again. Until next October when I will get another flu shot and go back into hiding.

How Lynn Got Her Food Back

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Here’s a secret only parents know. If you have to change everything to keep your kid healthy, you do it. People get lung cancer, heart disease, all kinds of other illnesses all the time, and they’re like, “Meh…” but if a doctor said, look, the whole family has to stand on one leg for two hours every day from now on to keep your child healthy, you would all be standing on one leg. Guaranteed.

When my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, we did all of that (not the standing on one leg – if only!!!) First, it was a chart on our fridge of what he HAD to eat at EVERY meal.

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Nightmare! Mealtime tears all around. 😦

Then, we graduated to carb-counting, which is the current life-long standard. There are tons of mixed-messages in carb-counting land. “Let him eat whatever he wants, and dose for it. He’s a kid!… But don’t let him have fruit juice or sugar soda because you’ll wind up in the hospital. Really, he can eat anything! But, this meal has 200 carbs, so be careful giving all of that insulin…” It can be super confusing.


At first, I filled my pantry with dismal sugar-free stuff. This felt even worse, and, to my mind, made life harder for my son. “Here’s his special candy! When everyone else has that, he can have this!” Food is communal, and these simulated foods were just exiling him further. Plus, no matter how bad something tastes, if your kid is in first grade, some other kid is going to eat it when he’s not looking, or at least WANT to eat it.

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Food is my best friend. Just ask my chins! Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved cooking. Diabetes is heartbreaking on many levels, but this one was the thorn in my personal side. I love to cook for other people! I cook! I bake! It’s my way!

This is turning into a long story, so I’ll just break down my progression. We went from diet chart to meals I could calculate, which got boring fast, to the exciting part…

YouTube! You can find any way to make anything on YouTube, and I found Momof6 and FoodWishes. Those are my mainstays, and here’s why I love them. Momof6 is a master of planning and organization. With her tools, I am able to look over a whole two-to-six weeks’ worth of food (ALL food – snacks, school lunches, etc.), plan, and have an idea of how “glucose friendly” everything’s going to be. Food Wishes, then has the best way to prepare dinners, so I can still express my love and caring.

Yesterday, I made Salmon with a sauce I can’t pronounce, so I will call Butter Sauce (here’s the link), knowing that with strawberries, cauliflower, and roast potatoes, everyone was going to bed on a full stomach with good numbers. Tonight will be Chicken Fried Rice (a family favorite!) And tomorrow is leftovers (surprise) because I’m making a lot of meals lately.

I know for SURE there are channels on YouTube for restricting carbs (if that’s where you’re at), going gluten-free, “clean,” vegan, paleo – anything you want! It took me some time to curate my own preferences, but it’s worth it.  I can bake my cake, and my kid can eat it, too! Love is back in the air!!

See for yourself! Happy Valentine’s Day!