A somber, reflective weekend in Normandy (Part 1)

For those of you who don’t know, Remembrance Day is 11 November in Canada. It is Armistice Day, the anniversary of the end of WWI and the day we remember the men and women who died in the wars to keep us free. In the UK, they commemorate this day on the second Sunday in November, and it is called Remembrance Sunday. Not in Canada, in Canada, the day is too important to be swept off to the weekend, and to work through 11 November. So, I applied to Sophie’s school for special consideration to pull her from school so we could commemorate this solemn day.

Remembrance Day was on a Monday this year. It will be on a Wednesday next year and a Thursday our last year in the UK. So if we ever wanted to pilgrimage to a Canadian war memorial like Juno Beach for Remembrance Day, we figured this would be the best year for it so as to miss the least amount of school and work.

We took the overnight ferry from Portsmouth on Friday night. We landed in Normandy at 7am on Saturday morning. It was still dark, nothing was open, it was cold, and we were hungry. We eventually found a bakery open to grab a few pains au chocolate.

Then we headed east and the first thing we encountered, as the sun was rising, was Pegasus Bridge.

Pegasus Bridge is important to me and my family because my grandfather was in the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, which was a part of the British 6th Airborne Division, who liberated this bridge. (However, my papa wasn’t a part of D-Day, he came a couple weeks later as reinforcements, so he himself wasn’t a part of the liberation of this bridge, it is just emblematic of his time in the war).

There is a picture of my grandparents at this bridge in 1974 when they came to Normandy for the 30th anniversary of D-Day. I love that we have a matching photo.

My Papa died only 8 months ago, at the age of 96. So this entire trip is very moving, and I feel he is with me.

After our little stop at Pegasus Bridge, we continued on east. There is a memorial museum to the Airborne at Pegasus Bridge, but it wouldn’t be open for hours. We planned to return.

We went to Honfleur, a beautiful little port famous for its artists. It turns out, that because it was Saturday morning, there is a huge farmer’s market spanning blocks and blocks amongst the medieval buildings. We had so much fun going up and down these stalls, sampling the wares, and buying a few treats.

After an hour or two or walking around here, we hear the familiar alarm of Sophie’s Dexcom telling us she’s going low. I was about to reach into my bag for some of the candy I have there but she remembered about 2 stalls back they were selling homemade caramels. We figured why not, shouldn’t that be a perk of a travelling diabetic? Eric quickly ran back and bought a few pieces of freshly-made caramels. We had no idea how well a caramel treats a low (or not) — it is mostly sugar but it is also a high fat content, which slows the absorption of sugar. But we weren’t too worried, as we were about to head to lunch.

Me resting my legs and Sophie eating her sugar.
Sophie in Honfleur after lunch

After our beautiful morning in Honfleur we headed back to the Pegasus Memorial Museum. Here, we learned a lot about the 6th Airborne Division and the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. In case you’re curious as to the exact relation:

The 1CPB fought under the 3rd Parachute Brigade
This is the original sign placed by the Airborne on 20 June 1944. This is the sign my grandparents are beside in the photo above.

After lots of learning, and crying, we left the museum. Our hotel was in Bayeux and seeing as we’d only slept a few hours on the ferry, we were ready to turn in. Of course, it was hard to find a place for supper, but eventually we got some pizzas and called it a night.

Sunday morning brought sleeping in then a visit to the Bayeux Cathedral.

The cathedral is a remarkable building, mostly spared by WWII. We went in, but it was Sunday Mass. Unlike some tourists, we actually respect other peoples’ religious ceremonies. There were tourists walking around in their hats, taking photos of Holy Communion… I mean come on people!!!! Whenever you walk into a church, even if it’s not your denomination, remove your hats out of respect. And don’t take photos of the clergy or anyone performing religious ceremony. Be respectful. I should not have to say this out loud- yet here we are…

We didn’t manage to get photos but we did manage to light one of the special votives they had for Remembrance in the cathedral. (The candle had a poppy on it).

So then we headed back north to the beaches. We decided to go see Omaha Beach and Point du Hoc, American landing beaches that Eric and I hadn’t seen before. The Americans treat their beaches much differently, but we’ve tried and can’t find a way to put this into words. Touristy? The French are certainly aware of the way the Americans are and they are trying to capitalise on it- much more roadside tourist traps (mini-museums for high entry fee and low reward, in some farmer’s barn). However, the beach itself is impressive. Point du Hoc is even more impressive- it is the cliff the commandos/rangers scaled and claimed at the beginning of the movie Saving Private Ryan.

At Omaha Beach
Omaha Beach
Point du Hoc is riddled with explosion craters from the shells the Navy sent on to the cliff to give cover for the boys about to scale the edge.
The cliff at Point du Hoc
Sophie in a Nazi bunker at Point du Hoc.
The infinity pool at the American cemetery

The American cemetery was huge and beautiful. Crosses row upon row. However, it was all roped off. We couldn’t walk up and down the aisles and read the names on the crosses. I found this upsetting, especially this weekend. To me, part of ‘Lest We Forget’ is saying the names of the dead. In Canadian war cemeteries, there is always a large monument at the front that says ‘Their Name Liveth Forevermore’. So, I suppose that is what I’ve been taught and I value, so it was disappointing to me to not be able to read and say the names of the War Dead. Though, in classic ‘American’ fashion, the grass was just perfect and that was clearly the look they were going for. I would have much preferred a muddy path up and down the aisles between the crosses showing that people have visited the graves and shown their respects.

The American cemetery near Omaha Beach.

We then decided to visit a newer looking museum we had passed called the ‘Operation Overlord’ museum. We thought it would be very American-centric and a possible tourist trap like some of the roadside museums, but we thought we’d take a chance on this bigger-looking one.

It turned out great. It was a museum about all of D-Day and spoke readily and heartedly about other Allied countries’ involvements. Then it was a large collection of things found in the area since the war by farmers and locals; everything from Jeeps and motorcycles to bomb shells and helmets, papers and uniforms. There was a lot of Nazi things too, simply from being found in the area.

Lastly, after the Overlord museum, we went to Arromanches-les-Bains, where Gold Beach is, a British landing beach and the location of the floating harbour (named Mulberry Harbour or Churchill Harbour in some places). This floating harbour was just huge, and built in mere days by the Allies after landing on D-Day so that larger Navy ships could tie up and unload supplies for the troops who were still quite busy in battle. Much of the floating harbour is still there.

That’s Sophie and Eric in the very middle. You can see floats both near are far in the distance.

I was so physically exhausted from the day, my legs would not carry me further and I could not go down on the beach. I sat on a bench near the beach while Sophie and Eric explored a bit.

Me waiting for them in front of the beach.

Well that was 2 of our 3 days in Normandy. Our last day was Remembrance Day and Canadian-centric. It turns out that this is already quite long, and I have a lot to reflect on the most amazing Remembrance Day ever, so I’m going to do-so in a second post (probably still today, as I have 3 hours still before our ferry to England leaves). I just want to keep my feelings and thoughts of this day contained all in one.

But that doesn’t make the earlier part of our weekend any less amazing. Pegasus Bridge will always be such a memory, but the towns of Normandy and American beaches have made an imprint as well.

Stay tuned for my next post

Terry Fox Run 2019

As some of you may know, Sophie (and us, her parents, by default) does the Terry Fox Run every year.
(If you’re not from Canada and don’t know who Terry Fox is or why we run for him every year, click here for his amazing story).

Thanks to generous family members sponsoring her, Sophie has raised thousands for cancer research since 2013 when she first started her annual run. This year would be her 7th year running.
The Terry Fox Run is held all over the world, but we looked it up and there is no run in England this year. We couldn’t let a year go by without running for Terry, and Sophie didn’t want to miss it!
So we decided to take it upon ourselves to do it solo – but also make it spectacular! Sophie put out the call for donations and raised $475 CDN this year….

….And then we went to Stonehenge…..

At the start of the 2km walk to the stones

Stonehenge is about an hour’s drive from us in Bristol. We made plans to do this on September 15, the day that Terry Fox Runs are held all across Canada. We would have done this rain or shine, but were blessed with gorgeous weather the day-of.

We bought an annual family pass to English Heritage (https://www.english-heritage.org.uk) because with this pass, we get admission to hundreds of sites across England, and (due to a small discount for Eric being in the Forces) it pays for itself within 2 visits to larger sites such as Stonehenge and Tintagel Castle. With this pass and advanced-booking, we got to skip the general admission line and get in much faster, as well as get free audio tours, and free parking.

So back to the Terry Fox Run. Eric did it with Sophie, as he does every year. Due to my MS, I can’t walk that far (1 km uninterrupted is usually my max). So I took the shuttle bus to the stones while they walked and I met them there. But Eric took photos of the walk and I got photos of them nearing the finish line!

Walking through the fields to the stones
That’s them coming across
And here they come up to the ‘finish line’ (ie, the bench I was sitting on waiting for them)

After their ‘official’ walk to the stones, we then got to go see Stonehenge, which is a bit of a walk in itself! (Well, I was tired from it!)

Omnipod insulin pump on full display— Type 1s walking for cancer survivors!!

Right when we were halfway around the stones, we hear Sophie’s Dexcom alarm. She was going low (despite us carb-loading her before the walk with a £3 granola bar from the snack shop in the visitor’s centre!). Luckily, we’ve always got oodles of bars and low treatments on hand (she has some in her bag and I have extras in mine, Eric carries some on his key-chain). She had a granola bar and a few dextrose candies, suspended her insulin for 30 minutes, and she eventually got back up to a better level.
Sophie is in the habit of apologising for having to make us all stop and tend to her as she gets things out of her bag, fiddles with her devices, etc. We always reassure her and have patience. It’s not her fault, diabetes isn’t her fault. We are never mad that she’s gone low or needs medical attention! Even if it is an inopportune moment or time, we’re all okay with taking the time to step out of the way at Stonehenge, sit down on the grass, and tend to her.

Smiles once the BG is stabilising at a healthy level

After our time at Stonehenge we went to lunch and then decided to go to Salisbury to see the grand cathedral, since it was so close and such a beautiful day.

Britain’s tallest spire

Salisbury is a medieval city built around this stunning, huge cathedral. The cathedral houses an original copy of the 1215 Magna Carta (one of only 4). We viewed it – it looked old and indecipherable (my ancient Latin is pretty rusty). But I guess I can say I’ve seen it now.

Can’t take photos of the Magna Carta, but this is the beautiful Chapter House where it is kept

What impressed me more, is that the church also has the world’s oldest working mechanical clock, in use since 1386. There we were, watching it tick away, as it had over 4.4 billion times.

Sophie, with the clock behind her.
Sophie in front of the church Close

The town of Salisbury was adorable too, with bunting everywhere and medieval highlights throughout. We could have stayed for hours or even days, but it was getting late and we needed to start getting back toward Bristol for supper, as it was a school night and we were all getting quite tired from our busy day.

I’m hoping that next year maybe there will be enough interest from other Canadians posted here in the UK for me to organise a Terry Fox Run myself for everyone. They do it at the detachment in Germany and Brussels, but this year I didn’t have it in me to do so soon after moving. But Terry Fox wasn’t in it for the fanfare and the big fame – he just wanted people to do what they could – and I think we helped Sophie honour his memory this year and do the name Terry Fox proud.

Thanks to all who donated to her campaign this year and if you missed it but still want to donate to this amazing charity, you can do so here: http://www.terryfox.ca/sophiepoulin .

Thanks for bearing with me! Here we go!

Well the past two months’ of blog posts have been what I’ve promised- practice. I needed to learn this platform, figure out how to blog, how to post, and how to ‘run’ a ‘website’ (both terms I use very loosely).

In the past two months, I’ve even struggled with what to write- our life in Canada is pretty mundane and boring, even while preparing to move across this globe, even while living in hotels for the past month.

But now we’re ready to go. We fly to England the day after tomorrow and our adventure truly begins!! Now I hope to start having blog posts worth reading! And I thank the 30-40 of you who have actually been reading up ’til now and giving me enough reason to go on.

We’ve had a few hard goodbyes in the past week or two. Especially for Sophie. But luckily she’s now at the age where she can keep in touch with her friends digitally. If we didn’t get to you for a so-long hug, I’m sorry and don’t take it personally. I truly find it easier to just not have them. We’ll all chat online and I love that I can keep up-to-date on my friends and even their kids on social media. We also live in the military— we’ll all see each other again eventually!!!

I’ll share a handful of pictures of our ‘resort life’ now as we’ve been living in a cool hotel for the past 16 days. Sophie has had a blast swimming every day (which makes her blood glucose fall like crazy— good, if it’s been running high, we just take a quick trip to the pool! If not, she needs to drink some regular Coca-Cola before swimming in order to have high enough blood glucose to swim and sometimes every 20 minutes, too).

Also, check out my Highs and Lows Abroad Instagram below for more frequent photos.

The biggest golf tournament of the year was here on our second day.
Sophie and her bestie playing in ‘ceremony circle’, taken from our balcony on the 5th floor
Taco night with a view
The beautiful pool we’ve spent many hours at

So that’s it. That’s our life in Canada for now. Yes, we’re still here for a couple more days but I’ll be busy packing and saying so-long in person to a last few folks. So this is my last Canadian blog post.

Wish us luck with the long flights and immigration process.

I’ll update when we get to England, probably in the middle of the night when I’m jet-lagged and zombie-like exhausted!

Here comes our next adventure!

Top 10 things for families to do in Victoria, BC

So we’ve had some great chances to play tourist in our hometown this past week and we love the opportunity! This time has been so fun and has also made me reflect on all my favourite things to do in Victoria… We’ve lived here for 3 years now and been tourists the entire time. Whether you’re just visiting, new in town, or lived here for years, here’s a list of a few things you should really try to check out!!

1. Victoria’s Inner Harbour
This is quintessential Victoria- it’s what you see on postcards, it’s what you can do for free, without a car, and with just a few blocks of walking. In my 3 years here, I have never gotten bored walking around the inner harbour or even driving past it!
You see BC Legislature, the Fairmount Empress, the waterfront, some ferry terminals, and people of all walks of life…. it’s just always buzzing and a great place to stroll and enjoy the city.
Sophie’s favourite reason to go to the inner harbour (especially this time of year) is the ice cream and gelato shops along the stretch of Government street right at the inner harbour- this stretch is pedestrian-only and very tourist-y. Eric took Sophie down a few days ago and they went with our classic guess of 30g of carbs per scoop/cup of ice cream and he added an extra 20g for a waffle cone – – It worked great until the fat rise 3 hours later, but we knew to watch for it. She says the maple-cookie gelato was worth it.

Sophie beside the inner harbour
One of my favourite highlights of the inner harbour – the ‘Welcome Home Daddy’ statue to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Navy. The paving bricks around the statue are sold and engraved to benefit the Military Family Resource Centre and it just always makes me smile.
Sophie and Eric’s ice cream date.

2. BC Legislature and Fairmont Empress
While we’re in the Inner Harbour, let’s look at these amazing buildings!!! I admit I’ve never been inside the legislature building, but they do hold tours. I just always enjoy walking past, having a sit on the lawn, taking a photo with the statue of Queen Victoria in front- I can’t resist!
On the opposite corner from legislature is the Fairmont Empress hotel. The Empress is one of a series of grand hotels built across Canada for the railroad in about 1910. If you have the budget, I’m sure the Empress would be an amazing place to stay while in Victoria. We’ve never stayed the night there, but Sophie and I once splurged on high tea there for Easter when Eric was deployed for 6 months in 2017 – it was an experience we’ll never forget. Also, later in 2017, Eric’s ship had their Christmas party at the Empress and we were very impressed with the event they put on!

BC Legislature
Sophie in front of the Fairmont Empress this week
Sophie and me enjoying tea at the Empress in 2017

3. Whale Watching
Okay, this one isn’t for everyone. A: You might not like going out on choppy water in a small boat and B: It is NOT cheap. However, if you want to see whales or sea life, Victoria is the place to do it. Orcas, humpback whales, porpoises, seals, and sea lions are the most common sea mammals you’d see. The boats also stop and show you anything of interest – bald eagles, interesting jellyfish, salmon, etc.
Boat tours are usually 4+ hours long and can go quite far from Victoria – they head to wherever reports of whales have been.
The tour we took in 2017 was on a catamaran because we wanted to be on a larger, more comfortable boat. The staff was incredibly knowledgeable and helpful and they got just as excited to see the whales as we did. On our tour we saw 2 humpback whales together and they did the most amazing thing – a double breach!! This means they both jumped vertically out of the water beside each other at the same time. Our captain was practically giddy, as he said he’d been doing this for 15 years and had never seen that. (Of course, no one got a photo…)
If you can find the extra money for this once-in-a-lifetime experience, it is really worth it. If you live in the area, make sure the company you use has a whale guarantee (if you don’t see any whales, you get to come back again).

4. Butchart Gardens
Butchart Gardens isn’t downtown but about 40 minutes outside Victoria. You either will need to drive or there are many bus tours heading there every day from downtown – check with your hotel or cruise line.
Butchart is simply gorgeous. I remember being dragged to a million ornamental gardens with my mom when I was a kid and I hated it. So when I took Sophie here I didn’t expect her to really like it, but every time she went, she’s loved it! Every where you look, it’s just beautiful and something for kids and adults to discover. There is a Victorian carousel in the middle of the park that you can ride for $2/ride that kids love (which we’ve always made sure to stop at).
We’ve visited during every season and they never disappoint. Christmastime is actually done at night and it’s all lit up with a 12 days of Christmas theme and outdoor ice skating (a real treat in warm Victoria!). Early May was my favourite time with all the tulips out, it was just breathtaking.
They also have a lovely restaurant on site that also offers high tea (for cheaper than the Empress). There is also a cafe and a cafeteria for cheaper options for a quick bite.
Note- Military members (but not their family) get free admission. Make sure you show ID and ask for it.
-Also, if you think you’ll go more than once in the year, get an annual pass, because a pass is cheaper than 2 visits.

5. Royal BC Museum
The Royal BC Museum is another gem that is right at the inner harbour – smack dab between BC legislature and the Empress.
The Royal BC Museum is huge. It has days’ worth of exhibits and floors to explore. I’ve been there half a dozen times and still haven’t explored it all. There are huge areas dedicated to natural history, areas dedicated to BC-cultural history (a ton of history on the local First Nations but then also about how Europeans settled here), and areas with special exhibits (we’ve seen the Terry Fox exhibit here, the Egyptian exhibit, and the Maya exhibit). If you’re looking for something to occupy the kids (or yourself!) for the better part of the day, especially if it’s crappy weather outside – head on over to the Royal BC Museum. Bonus- they have BC’s largest IMAX screen and show some amazing movies. They also show Hollywood movies in the evenings!

Eric and Sophie in front of the mammoth at the Royal BC Museum this week

6. Esquimalt Lagoon
Ok, this one is on my list because it was right down the road from our house and we just loved it here. Located in Colwood on the west shore of the Greater Victoria Area (about 20 minutes from downtown), is about 4 km of beach lined with driftwood on one side of a spit with a lagoon and bird sanctuary on the other side!
There is a local artist who has made bird sculptures out of driftwood and put them up, and they are dotted along the beach side (all birds native to the area, too).
Every Friday and Saturday in the summer from 11am-7pm there are food trucks and live music at 5pm.
This is an excellent place to come sit and spend a few minutes, a few hours, or the whole day. Watch the boats go by, see some seals usually pop their heads up and down, take the dog for a walk, grab a bite to eat, and just enjoy the sea breeze.
Parking is free, the beach is free, and there are public toilets on the west end of the beach.

7. Beacon Hill Park
Beacon Hill park is a beautiful gift right in the middle of the city for everyone to enjoy. The big draw for families is the Beacon Hill Children’s Zoo and their petting area for goats! This opens at 10am every day from spring-fall with a GOAT STAMPEDE where the goats all run from the barn down to the petting pen and you get to cheer them along. Then you go into the pen with them and play! The babies are the big crowd-draw here- they’re as adorable as kittens or puppies and want to play and discover just as much! The children’s zoo admission is by donation with suggested amounts being $4/adult and $3/child.
Outside of the children’s zoo is a beautiful expansive park with gardens, ponds, trails, play equipment, and public toilets. The peacocks are not to be missed!!

Visiting the goats with a friend
Peacocks aplenty!

8. BC Ferries
Now, I may be lambasted for this by locals who detest BC Ferries service- but I have nothing bad to say about them because honestly, we haven’t used the ferry a tonne since we’ve moved here and I’ve always been happy with them when we have! Other than the time it takes and planning to travel in general, I love being on the ferry and on the water! If you have a reason to take a ferry – to go to Vancouver, Duncan, Salt Spring Island, or many other places- go! And then enjoy the ferry ride as a little on-water tour. It’s a vantage point you so rarely get to see. Sometimes you are lucky enough to see whales or wildlife (I’ve never seen whales but I saw porpoises last time!) and every view is spectacular. Grab a bite to eat on the ferry or bring a packed snack – kick up your feet and enjoy the cruise.
(Bonus- they have fantastic parents’ rooms on board – we needed to change Sophie’s Omnipod during our last trip and she wasn’t comfortable doing it in the cafeteria in front of people. We found this quiet parents’ room, it was clean, comfortable, and private. Great to nurse your baby or change your medical device!)

9. Goldstream Provincial Park
Goldstream is another point that is outside of Victoria proper, but is a direct shot out the Trans-Canada Highway from downtown, only about 25 minutes. Then when you get there, you’re in a different world. If you’ve never been to the west coast or our temperate rain-forests before, this is something awesome to check out. As soon as you park in the day-use parking area, you’ll be astounded by the old-growth trees. Go for a short walk along Goldstream river and you may see bears and salmon (especially in October/November when you’ll see the salmon jump upstream to spawn). There’s a small walk to ‘Niagara Falls’ which in the springtime doesn’t disappoint (is a mere trickle in the dry summer and fall months).
There is a Visitor’s Centre with lots of information and a little snack shack at the day-use area near the public toilets. There’s also picnic tables and fire pits if you’re so inclined to lay a fire and roast some marshmallows and weenies. There is no cost to the day-use area.

Eric and me at Niagara Falls
Sophie and me with a big ol’ tree right off the parking lot!

While I’m at it– I won’t put it in a new point here but hikes anywhere around Victoria and Vancouver Island are worth heading out to, if you can. Some of our favourite are Charlie’s Trail at Royal Roads, Witty’s Lagoon, Mystic Beach, and here in Goldstream. Check out Victoria Trails to see what trails are convenient to you and the difficulty level you want. We always needed to be aware of what I could manage with my MS and then what the difficulty level was for Sophie’s T1D – how much carb-loading did she have to do beforehand and how often would we have to check her blood sugars throughout.
Hiking in Victoria was always an adventure – if it wasn’t rain-forests and old growth trees, it was ocean views. You couldn’t beat it!

Hiking in East Sooke in January

10. Brunch
Yep. Just brunch. That’s not some exotic place that you can’t see anywhere else in the world; however, Victoria is the brunch capital of Canada. Yes, that’s right- we know how to brunch it up real good. There are so many places to brunch in Victoria – eclectic places, fine dining, hole-in-the-wall, funky, upbeat, greasy spoon, hearty, veggie/vegan, pop-ups, food trucks, and top secret places. Just check out this 2018 article by The Globe and Mail detailing why we’re such an awesome brunch hot spot.
Sure, there’s a line up at a lot of these places, and I’m completely adverse to lines – but even I have to admit they’re worth it. Jam Cafe and Floyd’s Diner may be my favourite’s. Do they have carb counts listed? heck no.
Sophie got a Belgian waffle the other day and we had her put in the carbs we estimated (waffle+syrup+strawberry topping=100g??) and it was more insulin than her pump allows in a single dose (the pump is programmed this way to avoid overdoses because she so rarely needs this much in a single sitting). So we maxed out how much it would give her and ‘surfed’ the rest…. this means watching her blood glucose graph closely afterwards and as soon as we deemed she needed more insulin, we gave her the remaining 3 units that we calculated she needed.
It’s a huge indulgence. I don’t suggest you do this every day of vacation or if you live here, but at least once, or on special occasions, it’s so worth it. Hit up the great brunch spots of Victoria and enjoy!

So I know there’s a lot more to do, of course there is. But jeez, I can’t write forever, can I? These are just my 10 suggestions.
Victoria is a fantastic place to tour as a family – see history, culture, and natural beauty!

What would you add to the list?

Preparing for our house-hunting trip…

What a relief!

Well, here in Canada, our house has SOLD and we’re now days away from our house hunting trip. The military sends Eric and me over to Bristol to look at and find a suitable house, then hopefully get a lease signed etc. We can also take this time to set up banking, look at schools, check in to Eric’s new office, and explore the area.

In the last few weeks whenever I’ve told people we’re going on this trip, they make some sort of exclamation about how lucky we are, to get a free trip over! Sure, I say, if we didn’t have *so* much work to do in only 5 business days, and if only we didn’t have to leave our T1D daughter behind and hope everything works out okay…

(Okay yes, the military would actually pay to bring her as well, but seeing as its the second-last week of school, and it’s such a long trip and a 8-hour time difference, we thought leaving her at home would actually be the least amount of worry and headache).

So how do new(ish) T1D parents prepare to leave their T1D daughter with her grandparents for 9 days and hope she doesn’t die?
Well, they over-prepare!

Our Everything Binder
Our Everything Binder

We need to remember that my parents are new T1D grandparents too…. and we live in BC and they live in Ontario, so they haven’t had a lot of time to practice! We knew this trip has been coming though, so we had my mom come visit in February for a week and she had an introductory course in diabetic care then.
My mom is also a retired registered nurse, so while diabetes is fairly new to her (she worked in the OR and her patients were usually unconscious) and today’s diabetic tech is definitely new to her – she’s not completely starting at square one.

So I wrote an Everything Binder.

My parents are coming in a few days before we leave, for a crash course/reminder/update in all things diabetic, but I’m still trying to write everything down, including everything routine and everything possible that may come up. Everything.

Examples of pages in the everything binder:
-how to deal with nighttime highs and lows
-how to use Dexcom trend arrows for dosing insulin
-how to best use an extended bolus if they eat out
-a list of good carb-free snacks, if my dad feels like popping to the grocery store
-step-by-step instructions on how to change an Omnipod and Dexcom (though we will change the Dexcom the day before we leave and hope they don’t need to)
-how to calibrate the Dexcom
-how to use glucagon
-codes and passwords for our house (door lock, WiFi, garage)
-a step-by-step guide to our TV and remote control (my parents are 70!)
-a map of the area with places they may need to find highlighted (stores, bank, pharmacy)
-a list of emergency phone numbers – everything from the nurses at the diabetic clinic to some neighbours and even another local T1D parent who could help out

It’s a rather large book of information, and I’m still worried it’s not enough. We will also be on-call 24/7 (all except the time we’re in the air, on our 10-hour-long flights).

In the end, we have to accept that it’s okay if she runs on the high side for the week (higher than we would keep her at), so long as she feels okay and is happy.

In the end, we have to accept that our daughter is almost 11 and smart as a whip, and can very well do most all of this on her own (including more complicated carb-counting and fractions and math than most adults!).

In the end, we have to accept that it’s okay to let go.

This is pretty terrifying to me, to leave her for the first time as a T1D (we left countless times before diagnosis and never cared!!!), but I know it’s got to be done eventually – may as well be now!

How do you prepare to leave your diabetic children with caregivers for extended periods of time?