Cotton Candy

by Leighann on March 11, 2010

Cotton Candy

Image source: Flickr*

When Q was three, the circus came to town. She had been looking forward to the family outing and some one-on-one time with her mom and dad while the grandparents watched her baby brother at home. For weeks all she could talk about was seeing the clowns and trying cotton candy for the first time.

On the night of the event, she donned her red, blue, and yellow clown costume, a gift for her last birthday. We entered the domed building, descending the stairs to the floor where the circus folk were on hand to teach kids tricks, help them hang from the trapeze bar, and attempt Double Dutch.

An extremely outgoing child, we were surprised when she shied away from the clowns, the women in ornate costumes and feathered head dresses, and the trapeze artists. We waited in line and as her father lifted her to grab the bar high above her head, she burst into tears.

As the show began she sat on the edge of her seat, a funnel of brightly colored spun sugar in hand. Her long-anticipated first cotton candy.

She pinched a sugary cloud between her dainty fingers bringing it to her pink, bowed lips.

She reached out her hand to me, pushing the confection away.

Midway through the Greatest Show on Earth, she leaned into me and asked to go home. I fumbled in the darkness gathering our belongings that had been stashed beneath our feet, postponing our exit until the theater lights could illuminate our passage.

Within the week she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

That night’s events seem like a lifetime ago, yet are palpable as if they happened yesterday.

We have seen countless shows at our town’s arena since that night. A night which was yet another piece of the puzzle, signaling to us that something was amiss.

Tonight we had an early dinner and headed to the local arena to catch Nick presents Storytime Live! We were fortunate to have passes for a meet-and-greet before the show began. As we exited the press room, we walked past the large metal bowl and saw a man wearing a bowler making large arcs with the paper cone and holding it upright to reveal the delicacy.

She asked if she could have cotton candy.

I knew I would allow her to have something to eat during our excursion and the great thing about the pump is being able to bolus for consumption outside of normal meal times.

She chose a cloud of “pink!” fluff from among the rainbow of puffs and sat on the floor waiting for the doors to open and the show to begin.

Can I have it all, mama?

Though I told her she could have half, when I glanced over again she had devoured nearly three-quarters.

(Her brother on the other hand had no interest in giving it a try.)

When we were seated I pulled up Calorie King on my iPhone and even tried a web search to determine the carb count for cotton candy. Unfortunately weight is given in ounces, which I did not know.

I turned to Twitter and received several answers that an ounce is about 26 grams of carbs, two ounces in the 50’s.

With an I:C ratio of 1:15 I figured I would give her two units of insulin and if it wasn’t enough, I could correct later.

During the intermission I checked in with Twitter again and received a response that maybe I shouldn’t bolus for cotton candy. Since it is pure sugar, she would spike quickly and come back down just as fast.

We washed hands and did a quick BG check: 78.

Had I not checked back in with Twitter, I probably would not have checked her blood sugar so quickly, a mere 45 minutes later.

One juice box, fifteen minutes, and one finger check in near darkness later, she was 110.

Later we arrived home with two sleepy children, one of whom needed to be put down immediately, one who still needed her bedtime snack.

Her blood sugar? 65!

She normally gets 15 grams carbs at bedtime including a half cup milk. The protein helps the carbs stretch through the night. She chose 2 rolls of Smarties to bring her back up and was hungry for her bedtime snack now. I knew that she needed the milk regardless of her blood sugar post-Smarties.

She sat at the counter sorting the small sugar disks by color and then drank her milk and ate a cheddar rice cake (her latest snack obsession). As we snuggled in and did one last check before she went to bed, she was 124.

I checked again at midnight and she was 274.

The lesson I learned tonight?

  • If she wants cotton candy on the handful of occasions that we go to an evening performance, I’ll let her.
  • But I won’t bolus.
  • Instead I’ll treat for a high later on. That’s if she has one.

(Thanks go to my friends on Twitter who replied with carb counts and suggestions, especially @DiabeticDuo.)

*Image by BitchBuzz

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Stacey Simms March 11, 2010 at 6:40 am

Obviously, everyone is so different, but I’ll put my two cents in here. Benny had cotton candy for the first time in December – they were making it at our town’s holiday festival and actually had the carton of mix right there. It was 14 carbs a serving. That turns out to be only around one unit of insulin for him. We didn’t have a spike or a drop. If you try it again, may just want to dial down the bolus. But who knows?! Just gotta keep checking and trying.


2 Leighann March 11, 2010 at 9:49 am

You hit the nail on the head…With all things D it seems we have to “keep checking and trying.” And who knows, next time her blood sugar may behave differently.

I hope Benny enjoyed it as much as Q did.

(I didn’t even think to ask to look at the box!)


3 Melinda Vahradian March 11, 2010 at 8:08 am

The thing I LOVE about this story is that she got to eat the cotton candy! She got to be a regular kid, having a regular treat, with an awesome mom who used the collective wisdom of the D-OC to figure out how to deal with it. Over the last almost 13 years of being on this path with Michael we have chosen the same strategy. Being diligent about testing and correcting works well when you don’t know the exact way to cover something with insulin.YOU BOTH ROCK!


4 Leighann March 11, 2010 at 9:52 am

You are making me teary-eyed!

I think a year ago I probably would have said “no, absolutely not” to the cotton candy. But I have gained so much confidence through the support of the DOC and am really beginning to heed our care team’s advice that kids need to be kids. And the pump has really helped with that.


5 Heidi March 11, 2010 at 9:22 am

Since his diagnosis, Jack hasn’t had cotton candy. Whenever we’ve attended an event where cotton candy has been served, he hasn’t wanted it. I’m so glad you posted this. Now I’ll know how to handle cotton candy if Jack ever wants it.

BTW, which iPhone app do you use for Twitter?


6 Leighann March 11, 2010 at 9:56 am

Every kid and every day is different. Who knows, maybe Q would totally spike next time. But I have decided that with cotton candy that I will either give a tiny bolus or give no bolus at all and correct for a high later on. It’s not like we have the opportunity to eat it very often. But it sure was fun for her!

I use TweetDeck on the iPhone. I can log in with multiple accounts and have lots of columns. I downloaded Twitterrific at someone’s suggestion, but never started using it.


7 Ayden's Mom March 11, 2010 at 11:52 am

Thanks so much for this!!! Our goal is to always try to let Ayden have what he wants when he wants it, as long as it isn’t over and above what a non-D toddler should have. We’re doing the circus this weekend, and I’m sure this info will come in handy.


8 Renata Porter March 11, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Thank you for the shout out!!
I have never not allowed my kids to eat treats. It will just backfire eventually. However, they are limited to one a day. Usually as dessert(so it’s easy to calculate for mom), but you know how it is. Sometimes you are somewhere were they want to join in with others. My kids are on injections, and they eat whenever and however they choose as long as it’s two hours past the last injection. (now I do need to mention that my kids are good eaters and love fruits and veges…so that’s kind of an unfair statement) I also don’t allow sugar for lows unless we are just out and it’s quick to grab. We keep a supply of the nutty granola things around. Sugar to raise and nuts to hold works beautifully. And you can portion the bars depending on how low. I find these work so much better and I am scared to death to have the kids constantly reaching for candy(and the fact that I would be eating it when they weren’t looking!!). The only thing you have to watch for is the peanut allergies. This may not be suitable for schools, but for home and out and about…you might want to look into it. Just a suggestion.


9 Charlotte December 1, 2010 at 1:13 pm

I was just about to eat cotton candy today.

But if you say it’s only sugar (which it is) and that it will go up quickly, and then just as fast down.. I don’t really agree with the last part. If you glucose level is high, and you have no insulin but the basal, I don’t think you’ll get low yourself :/ Maybe some handy information 😀


10 Renata December 1, 2010 at 1:55 pm

@Charlotte I think we were discussing it as the food itself. Bolusing for the food (or to not bolus). If your BG is high, that’s another calculation. We call it an overage in this house, but essentially it’s the bolus to cover the high blood sugar.

Also, an apple sends my kids just as high as a banana. It’s not all cut and dry, it’s about how your personal body works with certain foods. Like cereal sends my daughters numbers into fits…it doesn’t mess with my sons at all.


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