Close Calls

One of the hardest things about adjusting to diabetes care is the close calls, the ones where we are just waiting to see what’s next. Some involve medical equipment, others involve illness and still others unusual situations.

The first one I remember involved a glucose meter that wasn’t working. This was back when we were low-tech, nothing attached to Adam’s body. Adam felt like his blood sugar was low. His hands, still round with childhood, shook as he squeezed a drop of blood out of his finger to test. We waited. 140.

“That’s not right,” he said.

“I believe you,” I told him. I got out a different meter. This one said 71. That’s more like it. He had juice and we waited to retest.

After repeating the test a few times on both meters, I called the company. The young man on the phone, probably young enough to be my son, told me that tests can vary by up to 30% under FDA guidelines. I mentioned that if math serves me correctly, the difference between 71 and 140 is a lot more than 30%. After a long pause, he said “Ma’am you need to stop doing so many tests; you’re driving yourself crazy. ” He did not seem to grasp that in a little while, I had to dose insulin and how much I gave Adam depended not only on what he was eating, but also what his blood sugar was.

Adam and I moved on and went to the gym. When I hit shuffle on my music, what should play out of the hundreds of songs on my phone but “Stayin Alive” by the Bee Gees. I teared up because that’s what we were doing, staying alive. In the end, I got rid of that meter. At the suggestion of my favorite pharmacist, Fred, I bought another one that used the same test strips but was more reliable. Two checks in a row were always within ten points of each other. (OneTouch Ultra2 if you are wondering).

Other wait-and-see situations involved adjusting to insulin pump therapy. People who use an insulin pump must change the site every few days so the body doesn’t develop scar tissue that occludes the site. In our training, we were taught to do a site change and then dose for a meal on the new site. The large dose would get the site started absorbing insulin. I am not sure that has worked even once. On the contrary, it’s awful in most cases. Eating on a new site results in a blood sugar triple what it should be. It takes hours and hours to get it back under control.

Here is where I am so grateful for social media. Much of what I have learned is from other users, most of them adults who have figured out how to manage to the best of their ability. One in particular uses the same pump we do and laid out for me in detail her system for successful site changes: dose for a meal, eat and then do a site change while that meal insulin is still active. Give a good dose on the new site to get it going. Leave the old site on for a while. On a good day, this is still what works best for us.

Other times we have not been sure the pump was working. In the beginning, I would get out the book our doctor gave us and turn to the page on unexplained high blood sugars (haven’t eaten and forgotten to dose, aren’t sick, having a middle of the night growth spurt, having PMS, etc). It involves a series of wait-and-see exercises. Give a correction and wait 45 minutes. If it doesn’t begin working, think about changing the site. After two hours, give a correction by manual injection and wait some more. Along the way, check for ketones. Naturally, we would like to be sleeping during many of these episodes. Once this happened at school and Adam called me at work.

Roller coaster

“My blood sugar is 381 and I don’t know what to do,” he said.

“OK,” I said. “Let me think.”  I asked how much insulin his pump had “on board.” I subtracted that from the amount it would take to bring his blood sugar down and added the amount he would need for lunch.

“Should I eat lunch?” he asked. I usually make a low-carb meal for him if his blood sugar is elevated. I told him to go ahead and eat, but to inject himself with the amount of insulin I calculated. Injections work faster than the pump. In the end, it worked out fine and his blood sugar came back down and stayed level. But it’s hard to convey the stress I was feeling at work and how much I did not want to be there.

Other close calls have involved illness. Adam had one bad stomach virus that was  stressful. He began vomiting in the night. It’s really important to check ketones when a person with diabetes is ill. Usually this is done with urine test strips, but it can be done with a meter using blood. I did not have the test strips for the meter, which are really expensive, costing $4 each at the pharmacy and $1.50 each on Amazon. On this particular occasion, he was too dehydrated to produce even the drop needed for the urine test strip. I waited until 7:30 am when I texted the neighborhood mom I thought would be most likely to have test strips. She was in the same boat – she thought it would be a good idea to get some but hadn’t gotten to it yet.

I put Adam in the bathtub and after a soak, we got the sample he needed. He had trace ketones, and just needed to stay hydrated. All day I gave him Gatorade and insulin for it until he felt better. The following day he rested. The third day, he said he felt good enough for breakfast. I made his breakfast and he gave himself his insulin, but once he sat down to eat it, he couldn’t. Then we had to figure out how to make up the carbohydrates we just gave him insulin for. I made the largest tumbler of Gatorade I’d ever seen. I told him to start drinking. I was sitting on the couch dressed for work. His blood sugar was dropping and he’d consumed the whole tumbler.  At one point, I told him we’d give it ten minutes and then I was going to get out the Glucagon pen and give him a mini-glucagon dose. Glucagon is a chemical that signals your liver to dump the glucose it is storing into your bloodstream. Usually it is used in emergencies, and it’s expensive. It costs over $200 per pen and once you open it, it lasts only 24 hours. Luckily, his blood sugar came back up. But I didn’t go to work. I am thankful for a job where I can call and say I am staying home or working from home right now.

The other close call that comes to mind is our  first boat dives after diagnosis.  It was

adam diving.jpg

Back at it: diving a couple days after feeling sea sick

summer in South Florida (because the weather had not cooperated our whole spring break) and we were not diving on our usual boat, which was full. We were diving with a captain we’d been out with before, Captain Susan. The weather was hot, which affects blood sugar levels, and the water was rough at the surface. Our first dive went OK. The current was significant, but we were used to it. Between dives, though, Adam’s blood sugar was in the 70s and we needed it to be almost twice that. He drank ginger ale. He was feeling seasick, as was another boy on the boat who was getting sick off the side. I knew the best thing for him was to get back in the water, because once we got below ten feet, he wouldn’t feel sick anymore. But if he threw up, we were staying on the boat to start the sequence I outlined above – checking blood sugars and ketones. I was really sweating it. Fortunately, we got him back in the water and it went OK. But it was stressful. I burned through my air pretty quickly on that dive due to stress.

In the end, we keep going. It gets easier. I no longer need to get out the book to look up unexplained high bloods sugars; we just dose and wait, inject and wait. I catch sleep where I can in between checks, watching and waiting, ready for the next close call, because this disease is unpredictable and there will be one.

 

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The grocery store and other heartbreaks

It’s been two and a half years since Adam’s diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes. While most days this feels like our new life with its planning and constant vigilance, at times I still long for our old life.

Last winter Adam and I went to the store to pick up ingredients for a lasagna. At the end of the pasta aisle, we passed the kosher food section.  On the end cap, Adam pointed to a bag of Bissli, a crunchy salty snack.

“Remember these?” he asked me wistfully.BBQ-Bissli2

“I do,” I said.

I always stop at the clearance section before I leave the store. One summer there were bags of Bissli for a quarter. I stocked up on them and kept them in the van for quick snacks. They were like barbeque Fritos. The boys ate them at the pool, or on the ride home from camp when they were ravenous from an afternoon of playing in the sun. It was a different time for both of us.

“How many carbs are in it?” Adam asked.

“18.”

“How many servings in the bag?”

“Two and a half,” I answered (Seriously? Not a very big bag).

We stood there in the store, both of us thinking of a different time and feeling sad.

Adam was remembering a time when he could open a snack and eat it without a care in the world, without the chain of questions that come with eating now. How many carbs are in this? Does it have fat or protein in it? What is my blood sugar right now? Do I have any insulin on board? Am I going to be active? Is it close to bedtime? For the most part, Adam accepts this with grace. He checks his blood sugar, counts his carbs, gives his insulin, changes his pump and his continuous glucose monitor. He does all this without complaint, if not always without delay.

I was remembering my minivan life, when I took a van full of boys on adventures to the pool,  sledding, Alum Creek State Park beach, Inniswoods, Indian Village camp and Stratford Ecological Center. I was remembering the bag of snacks I kept in the car to eat while we were there, or to get us home. I was ready to be done driving my minivan, but I miss those adventures with a profound sadness.

Adam and I looked at each other with heavy hearts. I put the Bissli back and we got our lasagna ingredients. But the next time I went to the grocery, I bought the Bissli. I put it in the back of the pantry, saving it for an adventure.

Other items in the grocery store make me sad, too. When Adam was 10, he started going to the store by himself on his bike to buy Hubert’s lemonade. It comes in different Hubertsflavors. Sometimes he got regular lemonade and other times the diet lemonade sweetened with Stevia. It made him feel grown up to go to the store by himself. After the diabetes, there’s no more lemonade, unless his blood sugar is low. And Kroger has stopped carrying the diet Hubert’s lemonade. He still goes to the store by himself and gets other things, but the sight of the Hubert’s makes me long for a time we could be carefree. The same goes for grape soda. Not that anyone needs soda, but Adam always loved grape soda and there are not many options without sugar .

taco saladPeople’s food pictures often make me sad. Pictures of frosted donuts and gooey desserts, plates of fried food laden with fat and carbs, a wicked combination. How lucky is it to be able to put something in your mouth and eat it without thinking it through- whether it’s junk food or an apple? I know families in other circumstances feel this, too, whether it’s food allergies, eating disorders or anti-seizure diets. Could Adam eat that plate of carbs and fat? Yes, but not without a lot of management and a lot of insulin. Sometimes I think about posting my own pictures, with captions like “Taco salad I made Adam when his blood sugar was too high for carbs.”

But the biggest heartbreak is when Adam apologizes for an inconvenience. Last summer he padded into my room around 1 am.

“Mom,” he said “My pod came off.”

I sat up and got out of bed.

“OK,” I said. After checking to see that his blood sugar was still in range, I said “I’ll go downstairs and fill another one. You shut that one down.”

Coming back upstairs, I got him an alcohol pad to clean his site while I primed his insulin pump.

“I’m sorry, Mom,” he said.

“It’s OK, honey,” I told him. I always let him know that I am happy to get out of bed to help him, no matter how tired I am.

We got his new pump on and I tucked him back into bed. As I kissed him on the head, he said again “I’m sorry, Mom.”  That broke my heart.

“You don’t have to be sorry,” I told him, choking up. “I’m sorry you have to do this.”

Last week, I got up at 4 am to give him chocolate milk because his blood sugar dropped below 75, just like I did at 2 am this morning. I tiptoed in and held out the straw cup for him.

“Adam,” I whispered. “I have chocolate milk for you.”

“Thank you, Mom,” he said sincerely, this fourteen-year-old kid whose daytime vocabulary often consists of grunts, along with “five minutes.” and “I don’t know.”

“You’re welcome, honey.” I told him.

It’s not our old carefree life, but it is a good life and I’m thankful for it, heartbreaks and all.

It’s a fine line we’re walking

The biggest adjustment in our life with Type 1 diabetes is the balancing act we are always doing. There are so many things to remember and most days we do a good job of  being organized. We do our best to dial in Adam’s insulin settings and make the right decisions about food and activity. We carry sugar to raise low blood sugars. Adam has it in his backpack and his pocket. I have it in my purse, in the car and in my bike bag. He has extra insulin, pump supplies and a spare meter at school and he takes a bag other places. But we have our moments where things fall through the cracks.

Last fall, Evan and I went on Adam’s Boy Scout camp out. Ron usually goes but he was out-of-town. I tried to fade into the background and just be on site for helping with carb counting at meals and making sure he was in a good place at bed time. The first night Adam gave himself too much insulin for the Oreos they had as a bedtime snack. I quickly gave him a juice. Then his pump, which is called a pod, came off. He started bleeding, soaking the side of his jeans. We retreated to the van to put on a new pod and change pants. Later, the evening activity caught up with him and his blood sugar ran low in the night. Five times I crawled out of our tent and went over to his, sticking my head in right next to him and asking him to eat or drink something.

Sometimes the best laid plans fall short. Last summer the boys went downtown on a bike ride on a Friday afternoon. Adam had sugar with him. I could see from looking at the Dexcom continuous glucose monitor app on my phone that he was running on the low side. After an hour, he called me.

“I’m low and I’m feeling better, but I don’t think I can ride home. Can you come get me?”

I jumped in the car and headed down there, naturally hitting a bunch of traffic. When I arrived, he was sitting in the grass on the Scioto Mile, with Evan right next to him. I put his bike in the back and we headed home. Evan continued his ride.

gym low

Waiting out a low at the gym

Another evening we went to the gym after dinner. Even though we were there to do strength training which doesn’t lower his blood sugar, his insulin seemed to get there before his food. He used his sugar and waited. Then my backup sugar and we waited some more.  I did some planks next to him. Evan did his exercises. Eventually, we gave up and went home, it just wasn’t our day. I don’t think he’s been back since.

One Saturday evening, the three of us rode downtown to a car show. Adam had sugar with him and I had some in my bike bag. It was hot, which affects the blood sugars. He ate some jellybeans when we got downtown and some more before we left.

lets ride

Riding home after the grape soda

On the way home we got to Tuttle Recreation Center and stopped to drink water. His blood sugar was still on the low side and he ate what I had in my bag. He could probably make it home, but I thought I’d go over to Tuttle Pool and see what they had. I was happy to see I knew both people working there from Indianola Informal K-8, the boys’ old school. I asked what snacks they had.

“Just popcorn,” said Deirdre. That wasn’t going to help us.  Then she added “I have grape soda but it’s warm and I don’t want to sell it to you,” she added.

“No, actually, I need to you sell it to me,” I told her. She looked at me like I was crazy, but she was so nice about it (Indianola kids). “Really,” I told her. “My son’s blood sugar is low, and we’ve eaten all our sugar.”

We sat at Tuttle for a few minutes, sipping warm grape soda before we headed home.

In California, we had a perfect storm of setbacks. We were sleeping on the boat with our sister-in-law Carol. We took the supplies we needed overnight but left most of our belongings at the house, which they fondly call the casita (it’s a mother-in-law cottage). At bedtime, I went to turn Adam’s insulin up for a couple of hours. I programmed the controller and asked Ron to take it over to him in the front berth because my sprained ankle hurt. The controller, called a PDM (personal diabetes manager) tried too long to communicate with the pod and eventually shut the pod down, so it would not deliver insulin. I should have brought a spare with me, but I left it at the casita, so I climbed off the boat and drove back for the whole medical bag. We got the pod changed only to find the continuous glucose monitor began sending us false low blood sugar alerts. Because he wasn’t feeling a low blood sugar, Adam did a check and it was way off. After three trips across the boat in the dark to turn off the alarm, we powered down his phone for the night and went without the numbers. Our third attempt to go to sleep was interrupted by a faint beeping. It took some time to locate the noise, which was coming from the failed pod in the trash. Then we couldn’t find a safety-pin or paper clip to disable it in the middle of the night, at 1 am on a boat. I learned to keep a paper clip in his kit.

Now there are the times we are managing remotely. This fall Adam went to a birthday party at Scioto Audubon Park for a kid he hadn’t seen in a while. He rode his bike there. He texted me later that he went back to the kid’s house, and he asked to spend the night. It had been over a year since he had a sleepover; some of his friends had stopped coming around during that time. I thought right away of an obituary I read that week for a little girl in Pennsylvania who had gone to a sleepover, had a complication from a low blood sugar and never woke up. Around the country people were praying for her as she was in a coma. After determining there was no brain function, her parents turned off the life support and donated her organs. I thought about that and I still said yes to the sleepover because Ron and I decided in the hospital that we wanted Adam to do all the things he wanted in life, even if we had to do them on our own terms or do them with him. I packed up his toothbrush, his headphones and his emergency medical supplies and delivered them to the sleepover. The parents, whom I knew but hadn’t seen for a while, were terrific. I started the conversation by asking if they knew Adam had Type 1 textdiabetes. The mom said, “If I knew that, I had forgotten it.” The dad was familiar with the disease. I showed them the emergency glucagon pen and how to use it if he was unconscious or unresponsive. If they didn’t want to use it, that was OK, they could call 911 and then call me. Adam and I would text each other to make decisions and manage his blood sugar. I would only need to call them if he didn’t answer me. They both offered that I should call any time.

I did need to text Adam that night. First his blood sugar was too high after midnight (pizza). Then, about 5 am, it was too low. I texted him three times with no response. I called him twice. I was about to call the parents when he answered me “OK. I got it.”

He’s a teenager now and I can’t hover over him. Last week I had a nice lunch with the diabetes resource nurse at Columbus City Schools. We were talking about the importance of letting kids go at this age and trusting that we have the technology to help us stay on top of things. So, Saturday when he asked at 11 pm to sleep at another friend’s house instead of getting picked up, I had that conversation at the front of my mind. I felt a little sick as sent a series of texts to the mom, whom I knew pretty well but hadn’t seen for a while: that Adam has diabetes, he wears an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor I can see remotely, that we text each other to make decisions, that he doesn’t have back up supplies so I’ll need to bring them if his pump fails, that I will need to call her if he doesn’t answer me, and the kicker – that I need her to call 911 and then call me if he is unconscious or unresponsive for any reason. I am so thankful that she took it all in stride and he had a good sleepover with little sleep and no problems.

It’s a fine like we’re walking, but it’s important to let him go.

OK
I got it

 

Shirley Washington

I know, the title sounds like a Blacklist episode, but it’s not.

I had my music on shuffle at the gym this week when “Bory Samory” by Alpha Blondy came on. I used to listen to Alpha Blondy, a reggae/world music artist from the Ivory Alpha Blondy Cocody Rock 1984Coast, on a mix tape I brought back from Europe in 1988. He sings in his native Dioula, French and English, and sometimes a smattering of Hebrew and Arabic, as his music is political and spiritual.

I never understood all the words to “Bory Samory” but I know it is about African independence leaders. I recognize the names in the song. I learned a lot about them in a class I took at Ohio University with Dr. Shirley Washington. This week, I found a translation of the song into French and I saw that it is about the murder of those political figures. Listening to the song, I got to thinking about Dr. Washington again.

Dr. Washington taught higher level political science classes. I took Politics of Africa, Women as Political Leaders and Politics of the Middle East with her. They were small classes, ten or twelve graduate and undergraduate students together. She put the desks in a circle so we could have a discussion rather than her talking at us. We looked at the history of the region, the legacy of colonialism, the roles of culture, religion and gender, and the current political climate. They were among my favorite classes.

I visited her during her office hours several times and we got to be friends. The first time I went for help with a paper, other times for recommendation letters. I learned about her. She was a widow. She lived in Ghana for a time with her late husband. She had strong beliefs and she cared little what other people thought of her. She was a breast cancer survivor. She was the first person I saw wearing a compression sleeve. I was curious and rather than stare, I asked her about it. She explained that her lymph nodes had been removed during cancer treatment and the sleeve helped with swelling in her arm.

I can still see her small upstairs office in my mind’s eye. She had a poster on the wall. I want to say the title was “Fathers of African Independence” but that may be a title I gave it because they were all men. I can still see some of their portraits. Studying them and looking at them in her office, I recognized the names in “Bory Samory.” Names like Kwame NKrumah, Sekou Toure,  Patrice Lumumba, Haile Selassie,  Steve Biko and others.

I learned other things about her from another professor. At one point, she stood up during an Ohio University Board of Trustees meeting to protest the fact that OU still had money invested in South Africa at a time when many other universities were divesting. That did not earn her friends in the university administration, and I can imagine some of  the very important people appointed to the board of trustees did not appreciate her comments. But she was right…over time those divestitures added up and they made a difference in South Africa. Interestingly, the other professor, Dr. Barnes, was surprised when I told him she had lived in Ghana. He didn’t know that about her, or that she was a widow. She kept that, among other things, to herself.

We lost touch over 20 years ago. I have tried searching for her on the internet, searching “Shirley Washington” along with political science, PhD, Africa, Ohio University. I tried “Shirley Washington obituary”. There are lots of Shirley Washingtons including a mayor in Arizona, a professor in New York and a Fox News TV host, but none that were her.

I tried Facebook. There were a few I wasn’t sure about – what would she look like now? – but none I knew were her. The last I knew of Dr. Shirley Washington she had left OU and was teaching at a private all-girls school in the DC area. I remember the last card I got from her. I told her I was getting married, and she wrote that she was happy for me and she remembered me, her favorite student.

Shirley Washington, wherever you are, I remember you, too. I love you and I’m grateful for everything I learned from you, inside your classroom and outside of it.

Done with the Minivan Life

kenney park sledding

View from the bottom of our favorite sledding hill at Kenny Park

I said goodbye to my minivan this week. While I’ve been ready to be done parking it, fueling it and driving it for a year, it was still bittersweet.

I got it in 2010, with 78,000 miles on it. I had an old Volvo wagon then. I could take four kids in it. Two could sit in the backseat (middle seat belt broken, it was old).  The other two could sit in the trunk compartment facing backward in seats that originally belonged to my brother’s friend Jeremy. Matt, my brother, lined up a trade. I think it was my trunk liner for the seats. While those rear facing seats were fun, I was tiring of having seven sleds or assorted pool noodles, floats and towels in the front seat with me, and I couldn’t take another adult with me. So I moved to the ubiquitous Honda Odyssey.

The Odyssey took us on journeys near and far. We drove to Florida in it twice, and to Chicago, New York City, Tennessee and South Dakota. But the journeys nearest and dearest to me were our everyday adventures. Going sledding with 10 sleds (yes, 7 of them belong to us), 4 or 5 kids and another adult. Climbing in the van to warm up and drink hot chocolate. Going to Alum Creek State Park and the Worthington pool with a car load of kids. Going to Inniswoods and Scioto Audubon Park. Going to day camps at Indian Village, Camp Terra, and Stratford Ecological Center with six kids in the car. They usually chattered loudly or occasionally (heaven help me) sang on the way there. When I collected them in the afternoon they were filthy, exhausted and quieter.

 

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Those days are behind me now, and sometimes my heart aches to have a car full of kids heading out for an adventure. A few weeks ago, I picked up Evan and a friend and found that a couple other kids also needed a ride. I had a full car, and I loved talking to those boys about things they are doing now and things they did together in elementary school.  But those occasions are few and far between.

In the end, I went back to another wagon, a Subaru Outback this time with 79,000 miles on it. We still need comfortable seating for four and cargo space, and I found that I didn’t want to give up having a comfy adjustable seat.

“Done with the minivan life, are you? Must feel good,” said the guy handling my paperwork.

“No, not especially,” I replied. “But it’s as it should be.”

The kids’ reviews were mixed at first.

“Is that the color you picked?” Evan asked as I pulled into the driveway. It’s dark green.

“I buy used cars; you don’t get to pick the color,” I said. “This wouldn’t have been my first choice but it wouldn’t have been my last.”

When Adam climbed in to go to the grocery, he said “This isn’t the interior I expected you to get at all.” It has tan leather interior and faux wood accents.  As the mom of two boys and a large dog, I avoid light colors.

“I bought it because it is in great condition,” I told him. “It’s nice and clean. It runs well. I wouldn’t have chosen tan leather, but it’s alright.”

The dog was the most reserved about it. He gets excited any time he sees a silver minivan, and he looked at me with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion when I drove up the driveway. As I pulled into the garage, he sniffed the car and promptly hiked his leg on the side of the garage. For a long time. But he’ll get used to it. Soon he’ll be chasing Outback wagons down the street.

We’re done with the minivan life. 

P.S. For fun, my favorite song featuring a minivan:

CAHS 2022

 

img_0160I dropped Adam off at school this week for the Columbus Alternative High School (CAHS) Freshman Experience. It’s a new program this year where incoming freshman spend three mornings getting to know each other and the school.

I’ve been thinking this week about how we arrived at CAHS. Evan and I were touring high schools and looking at our options, and he did not want to go there. It offers a rigorous curriculum, ranked atop high school by US News and World Report. His impression of it from the students who had gone there from his school (Indianola Informal K-8) was that it focused on humanities, which is not his favorite thing. We had toured three other schools, and had a lackluster experience on our most recent tour. While we had been to CAHS for performances, I insisted we still go on the tour to see for ourselves.

Our tour guides were two great students. They were knowledgeable, approachable and down-to-earth. The building was (and is) a dump. Built as an elementary, it is hot and poorly ventilated.  Freshman are assigned knee-high mismatched lockers. The doors to the bathroom stalls hit an adult-sized person in the knees. But the building doesn’t make the program. In addition to strong academics, kids with very different appearances were polite to each other (and to us) in the hallways, something we had not seen on our most recent tour. Kids with brightly colored hair said “Excuse me” to girls in hijabs. There was an air of acceptance.

A college student who had graduated from both Indianola and CAHS, Koryn, also joined us for the tour. At the end, she talked to the kids from Indianola. She said that while administrators try to scare you about the academic rigor at CAHS, you can do well and have free time as long as you don’t procrastinate. What she said about the teachers at CAHS was the most moving. Starting out, she didn’t think the teachers there could possibly care about her as much as they had at Indianola, where she had spent nine years. She was especially close to one teacher, Lisa. Evan was close to her as well, along with many other students. But she was wrong. She told the kids that the teachers there really do care about them.

I could see Evan taking it all in – the tour guides, the atmosphere, what Koryn said. When we got into the car, I turned to him and said “I have to tell you, that felt better to me than the last tour.”

“Yeah,” he said. “I want to fill out the application.”

We filled out our lottery forms for different schools and waited. Evan had two top choices, the STEM school in our area and CAHS. Naturally, lottery results came out when Adam was in the hospital after his diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes and we were trying to make high school decisions and learn to dose insulin at the same time. Evan didn’t get into the STEM school, but he did get into a satellite program of it. We took that offer so that we had a spot. A day later, we got a call from the lottery office that he had gotten into CAHS. After Evan listened to it, he called me at the hospital. He hardly ever calls me, so I knew he was excited and relieved. He wanted to take the offer. The following Monday after I took Adam back to school for the first time since his diagnosis, I drove to the lottery office to officially enroll him.

Adam and I went on only two high school tours, wanting to be in the same school system as Evan. Ultimately, he wanted to be with his brother. That was important to me on several levels. Not because of the convenience for us or familiarity for Adam, but because I could see that Evan was protective of Adam when I took him there to shadow.

I’ve been thinking about what Koryn said this week. We’ve found it to be true of the staff, and I am counting on it as I send Adam to a new school where people haven’t known him since he was a toddler. Yes, I have emailed them about medical img_0161arrangements for him, emergency protocols and signs of low blood sugar. Twice, just to make sure they had all the information they needed (yeah, I’m THAT mom). I felt good when I arrived at school and the assistant principal greeted me. He told me quietly that he had shared my information with all of the staff, and they would keep an eye on Adam. I waved to Adam, who was seated at a table alone, as many of them were. He knew only a couple of kids there. I still felt sick all morning, but I knew he’d be OK with the staff and kids from the class of CAHS 2022.

#CAHS2022

Moving On

I had a heart as heavy as the morning air last week. We reached the end of an era. Our time at Indianola Informal K-8, the kids’ school for 11 years and my work for five years, came to an end.

Evan first day of school

The beginning: Evan’s first day of school

This has been a year of lasts. The last field trip I will go on, after outings ranging from the apple orchard and the pumpkin patch in the early years to Columbus State Fantastic Fridays and the OSU Aquatic Ecology Lab in the later ones. The last class trip, Colonial Williamsburg, after three camping trips. The last time Adam and I will head out together on bikes in the morning for work and school. The last drumout, Indianola’s unique promotion ceremony where kids are drummed out of school starting with Kindergartners and culminating with the 8th graders coming down the steps one final time to a huge crowd and crashing drums.

Our journey started with Evan in Kindergarten. We chose Indianola for the informal style of learning and mixed age groups. They had thematic units on fairy tales, oceans, and trees. They created bodies of knowledge on these topics using literature, art, dance and music. One of my favorite themes was Adam’s ocean study in Kindergarten. It included displays, music and a dance that integrated the water cycle. One of my favorite field trips was to the Topiary Garden with Evan’s fifth grade class, where each student got a leaf and had to match it to the right tree. They wrote a poem there, and participated in an interpretive dance around the topiaries. They created a visual art piece to go with the poem when they came back. It combined science, arts and literature.

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At the same time it’s bittersweet to think about being done at Indianola, I’m ready. It’s been different the past couple of years. The school district packed the building with 100 additional students. Some families left for a new program that offered a lot of the same experiences we used to have, ones we lost then with the addition of students and changes in staff. Others left for a STEM school with a high school continuum. Staff that made it feel like home left for the next chapter of their lives. Some of the kids are too cool to talk to me now, and friendships have changed over the past year. I’ve noticed people posting pictures of parties, things my kid would have been invited to at one time but isn’t now for whatever reason. All of it made me sad.

I also know that I am still part of a school community larger than the building. The friends I’ve made over the past 11 years are still with me, even the ones I don’t see often. I was off work one Friday in April and I took advantage of the nice weather to go on a bike ride. Coming home along the Olentangy Trail through campus, I spotted another Indianola mom whose kids graduated several years ago. I have run into her at CAHS and at Columbus State over the past year. She looked deeply involved in a conversation so I didn’t shout at her as I went by. Later, I got a text from a number I didn’t recognize.

“Did I see you on the bike trail?” It read.

“Yes. Mary?” I typed back.

“Yes!” she texted. And we continued with a nice exchange that brightened my day.

So although it’s bittersweet to leave, I’m ready and its OK.

I’m moving on.

 

 

Adam drum out

The end: Adam’s last day of school