The leaves have changed colors, the weather has gotten cooler and the wind has become a spooky howl. Yes, Halloween is upon us! While many families worry about the amount of sugar their kids will bring home in their trick-or-treat bags, parents of children with diabetes have additional challenges this time of year. Today, Amy Ohmer of Naturally Sweet Sisters shares the ways she and her family, which includes two daughters living with type 1 diabetes, celebrate Halloween to the fullest.
When Amy’s youngest daughter was diagnosed with diabetes in December of 2006, she had to relearn how to do everything for her daughter, including how to celebrate holidays like Halloween.
“The first Halloween post-diagnosis was overwhelming. We went from having a palooza Halloween, celebrating it, enjoying it, reveling in it and not even thinking about what the kids were doing or eating,” Amy said. “Then we had our first diagnosis. At that point we were just not even sure what to do. We were still educating ourselves about the disease.”
Amy had to be creative in celebrating Halloween that first year. At that point, her oldest daughter had not yet been diagnosed with type 1, so she had to find ways to celebrate Halloween to accommodate the needs of both children. Her solution was to create a “store” in their house post trick-or-treating where both girls would turn over different amounts of candy for different prizes.
“During the first year we decided the best thing to do would be to get the candy out of the house. We started with a store. We bought little trinkets and a few big prizes for the girls to ‘buy’ with their Halloween candy,” Amy said. “A Barbie doll might be worth 10 pieces of candy, a sleepover party may be worth the entire bag.”
When the store worked out well, Amy realized that Halloween wasn’t all about the candy for the kids; it was about the celebration. Then, in 2009, her oldest daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Although it was still challenging, Amy felt much more prepared. She said the family’s holiday celebrations have evolved as the girls have gotten older and the family has learned more about diabetes in the process.
“Now we look at Halloween as a big, fun celebration. The kids go out, they trick-or-treat, and they try to get as much candy as they possibly can. It’s like a scavenger hunt for them. Then they bring it back. They spread it all out. We look through it. They categorize it,” Amy said. “When that’s over, we let the girls pick out their favorites, and that’s what they focus on. We bag up the rest of it and send it to work with my husband to share with the ‘big kids.’”
Although Halloween tends to revolve around candy, Amy’s family has another holiday snack they enjoy—pumpkin seeds! She said she started making them a lot after her daughters’ diagnoses because seeds are low in carbs, easy to make and there are a variety of flavors to make with them.
“We’ve actually bought extra pumpkins just to have more pumpkin seeds!” Amy said. “We make pumpkin carving a family affair. The fun part of this is that my husband usually gets stuck with cleaning the pumpkin out. Then the girls and I clean the seeds. Everybody has a laugh over it.”
Amy says making the seeds is fun, but eating them is even better. “We all enjoy munching on the seeds after we’ve roasted them,” she said. “We pick different flavors to season them with. Our current favorites are cracked black pepper or a little bit of garlic, very delicious. You can put almost anything on the seeds and they roast wonderfully.”
Amy’s final advice for parents of children living with diabetes is to just enjoy Halloween or any other holiday that comes around. “All you have to do is prepare a little bit,” she says. “Relax, enjoy it, have fun. The kids are just little for such a short amount of time. Those are the memories that you want to make.”
I’m impressed with Amy’s creative ideas and those pumpkin seeds sound delicious! A big thanks to Amy for sharing her family’s philosophy. I wish you all a very happy Halloween!
Disclosure: Amy Ohmer received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.