Saturday, July 04, 2015

Managing Eczema, 8 years later

When we adopted Sojo eight years ago, we were given this beautiful baby girl.

And a tube of steroid.

We were told she had some eczema on the back of her neck. Little did we know that there was so much more lurking. We put socks on her hands the very first night together, and she did not sleep without socks on her hands until she was almost six years old. This picture is of Sojo when she was with us about a week, and the eczema was already getting way out of control.


The rashes and reactions worsened over the years, and we were at a loss of how to help her. While in the throes of some dark, dark times with eczema itching, pain from so many open sores and no sleep for anyone, I spent hours and hours scanning the internet for solutions. We tried everything anyone suggested to alleviate her itching--bag balm for cow teats, Cetaphil, coconut oil, everything. At one point, we went down the homeopathic route, and the concoction the doctor gave us caused huge clumps of Sojo's skin to fall off. Literally, when she got up from the couch during that period, there would be hunks of skin left. The doctor said she had only seen that before in children living in the slums of Calcutta. Unfortunately, all that skin falling off led to some horrible bacterial infections, so we went back to steroids. In a nutshell, her life (and our lives--it is incredibly hard to watch your kid suffer so much) was pretty challenging for about the first five years of her life.


Yet, here we are, 3 years into a fairly healthy, just-about-eczema-free life with Sojo, and I thought I would share some of the ways that we help her stay healthy, just in case there is a mama like me out there scouring the web for some peace. Oh, and my husband and I have actually slept through the night for more than 3 years now, something we simply thought would never happen. We still marvel at that. I also marvel that when I grab my daughter's hand or touch her arm, the skin is soft and not like that of a crocodile.

Here is what we have discovered through many years of trial and error:

FOOD

1. I now believe that the bulk of the eczema comes from food reactions, and our pediatric allergist years ago swore that all eczema is food-related, but we resisted against that for years. And, although Sojo has been allergy tested like crazy, some foods that should be okay cause a reaction. My craziest example is marshmallows. There is absolutely no ingredient in the random US brands of marshmallows that should cause any skin reaction, yet every time she eats one, she has an eczema outbreak for more than a week. Obviously, we never eat them as that is not fun for her. Strangely enough, there is one Asian brand at our store that has marshmallows that don't cause a reaction, so those are the ones we eat. Trial and error seems to be a biggie for foods and eczema. Plus, making your own marshmallows is kind of a pain.

This has happened to us with various foods. Making pesto with that artificial Parmesan cheese is fine, but there is an instant reaction to real parmesan cheese. McDonald's vanilla ice cream cone works fine, but Dairy Queen's causes an instant reaction.

CLIMATE

2. Climate helps. When we lived in Bangkok, Sojo was downright miserable as the humidity and sweating made the eczema worse. Plus, she had to wear long sleeves and long pants due to scratching, so she was not very comfortable. Moving to the dry, dry desert of Saudi was nothing short of miraculous, and we saw an almost instant, positive change. That being said, we have friends here whose son struggles in the dry and does better in humidity. It's worth a try to see if a vacation to a different climate causes a change.

ALLERGY TESTING

3. Allergy testing doesn't really seem to mean much. Sojo has been tested different ways, and although the tests show that she has only a tiny allergy to soy, she tends to react to it. She isn't allergic to eggs, and she can eat them baked in something, but when she eats a scrambled egg, she has a reaction. Again, because of the trial and error, we eliminate certain brands and certain foods. Even with ice cream--we'll try a brand to see if it causes a reaction. Some do, some don't. I don't know the difference, but we stick with what we know works. And then we panic when that brand is out in our tiny town.

FOOD OVER TIME

4. Sometimes, we let her try a new food to see if there is a reaction, and it seems fine. However, she tends to get way too excited about a new food and eats tons of it, which sometimes causes a reaction. We have adjusted in letting her have certain things every now and then instead of on a regular basis as we find that eczema occurs more when there is a bit of a build-up of something in her system.

EMBRACING STEROID CREAM

4. Using steroid to battle the reactions does help. Maybe it's because we are living overseas, but the doctors here in Saudi and in Thailand always tell us how Americans freak out about steroid use more than they need to. When we need it, we use it, and not just a dab like I used to because it made me worried. When there is a reaction, we need to get it right away so it doesn't go out of control.

LOTIONS

5. I swear we've tried them all, and, like I said before, we never minded if people suggested something new to us. Eczema is one of those things that everyone seems to know someone who had success with something. Our big success has been Aquaphor lotion, and we lubed her up every single night for years. She is now older, and she hates how sticky it is and really doesn't like it on her, so we have found something new that is light and seems to work nicely: Neosporin eczema lotion. Pretty happy with that so far.

SINGULAIR

6. Sojo also has asthma, and just this year, we put her on a daily asthma/allergy pill. We think this is also working well for her. She would often get stuffed up right as she went to bed, and this has taken care of that.

There you have it! I sincerely hope this helps someone out there with some strategies. Look at this girl now--wearing shorts, something we never thought could happen without tearing up her legs with itching. She's that healthy!




Friday, July 03, 2015

Iftar



We are in the midst of Ramadan here in Saudi, a time where everything moves at a slower pace, and it is against the law to even eat or drink in public. As a non-Muslim, we go about our days almost the same, but I think frequently of the many imported workers who are in the 117 degree heat with no food or water all day. It is definitely humbling.

Last night, our dear, dear Malaysian friends invited a bunch of us to an Iftar meal--our first official Iftar (breaking of the fast) meal in our time here. Dale and I decided to go all-in and fast yesterday. While we didn't officially do the 3:00 breakfast before the sun comes up, we ate our own normal breakfast and fasted from food for the rest of the day. Seems simple enough.

Let me just say that deprivation is not something I do well with. I was a wee bit worried.

Whenever I got hungry yesterday, I reminded myself about one of the reasons people fast during Ramadan--to remind themselves that there are many people in this world that go hungry each and every day. That knowledge made fasting easier.

Right at 6:38 p.m, the evening prayer time, everyone ate a date and had a glass of water, which is the way to end the fast each night. Then, we ate ourselves silly with so much food. The custom is dessert first (woo hoo!), then the main course, then dessert again. Needless to say, we were stuffed.

These two beauties always make me smile. They adore each other, and Sojo wore her Malaysian outfit to the Iftar as it is the only somewhat fancy thing she owns. It is actually pajamas in Malaysia, but she wore it as a dress, so her friend went and put on her pajamas as well.


Nights like last night are an incredible gift. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Day Santa Died

Our 8 year anniversary of being a family also coincided with Sojo finding out that Santa wasn't real, so we will always remember 'the day Santa died.' A middle schooler had told Sojo that the tooth fairy was not real, and so she asked us at bedtime if this was true. Dale and I both knew we were most likely on our last year of belief with Sojo, and we decided to tell her the truth because she had flat-out asked. The tooth fairy being us was a surprise, but not a huge deal. However, of course, that led to the "What about Santa? Is he real?" question.



So, we told her.
And her heart broke.
And so did ours.

Even thought it was almost a month ago that we told her, every now and then, she'll just get this dejected look on her face and say, "There's no Santa." This is a kid who lives in the magic of life, and so this was a doozy for her.

Just to make it up to her, I might need to pick up this ridiculous, 3 foot long gummy worm she saw online and was begging me to buy for her. At first, I said absolutely no way (it is truly so gross!), but it might make a perfect Santa gift this year.





Tuesday, May 19, 2015

On Modesty



When we lived in Asia, it was very common to have kids running around in those bodysuit kind of swimming wear, and I loved how it protected her from the sun in super hot Bangkok. Her pink Angry Bird suit was her very favorite then, and she wore it until it was completely stretched out. I myself love the stripy, summery one-piece suits that remind me of my own childhood and look downright adorable on kids. I usually picked one up at Target each trip home to have on hand overseas, but she rarely wore them after the age of 3. 

As Sojo is growing older, she is more and more modest and is totally opposed to one-piece swimming suits. There was once a huge kerfuffle on a weekend trip when a one-piece was her only option, and she felt strongly that certain body parts were HANGING OUT for all the world to see. We had to convince her that nothing was hanging out, but she felt so uncomfortable that we had her go online with us afterwards to find a bathing suit that she felt more at home in. She chose a rash guard and boy shorts, and we thought we had found a solution of what was good for her comfort level. 

However, wouldn't you know that the boy shorts are pretty darn short and, again, parts are hanging out that she doesn't want hanging out. We lived with it this year as it was better than it was, but she still wasn't totally at ease. 

Then, we went to Bahrain a few weeks ago, and we saw a sport store with the very modest swimwear that is found here in the Middle East. The longer, to-the-knee shorts were perfect for her, and she was thrilled to give them a go at a recent Water Fun day on our compound. Watching her run around with such ease, and with absolutely nothing hanging out, was so wonderful to see as a mom. 


And she looks downright beautiful. 

Monday, May 04, 2015

Shorts


Two ponytails and this type of outfit bring me back to my own childhood, and I couldn't resist taking a photo in front of our school. 

And the shorts. Those little legs sticking out of them are adorable. Dale and I both still can't believe that she is healthy enough to actually wear shorts. For years, with her eczema so horrible, shorts were out of the question as that much exposed skin would be too tempting to scratch to pieces. We are so happy for her that she now leads a more comfortable life, complete with wearing shorts. 

Almost done with 2nd grade, this girl. So exciting and beautiful to watch her growing up. She is such a compassionate person, and we are proud to be her parents. 

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Book Character Day

Our school had a super cute Book Character parade for Reading Week, and Sojo dressed up as one of her favorites, Franny K. Stein. She's a girl mad scientist that is quite funny. An added bonus was that she got to carry a stuffed animal to school, something she wishes she could do each and every day.



Love that girl. 

Friday, April 03, 2015

Shamal Wear

Last night, we had the biggest shamal we've seen since moving to Saudi. The wind whipped the sand around all night long, and it was like snow on the ground this morning.

Sojo needed to have her eyes protected, so she wore these awesome glasses.



And in a completely unrelated photo, I snapped this the other night of her reading in bed. Not something she chooses often (she always prefers that we read to her), but this Roscoe Riley book was so good that she finished it in one gulp. We love catching her looking so big.