Monday, January 31, 2011

The eczema trail continues...

Last weekend, Max and I watched the snowstorm of the winter from the hospital window, the sky white around the fuzzy yellow lights, the cars sliding and spinning their wheels in the parking lot, the plows worked away through the night. Max had been admitted for a skin infection. His eczema we have been battling had apparently made a freeway for a germ, making his rash exponentionally worse over the couple weeks since Christmas.

Maxwell last week.
My last post, starring our boy Max on his 'half-birthday', was taken despite the whole-body rash, as I decided this might be our new normal. It was a bit of an odd pick for my this moment post, but he had just learned to sit up that day and was enjoying a happy moment, something that had been so rare through the last few weeks. The poor guy was so sore and upset, despite our best efforts only his little nose was rash free. We were feeling at the end of our rope, not sure what to do to help him. Two days later, after nearly two weeks of sleepless nights for both Max and us, feeling like the appointment we had made with our family doctor would never arrive, we went to emergency. There we happened upon a pediatrician who sent us to the pediatric wing of the hospital an hour away that afternoon.

Four days and nights of cream dosings, antibiotics, tylenol, and wet dressings later (a technique I had never heard of but am now a huge fan of, where baby gets moisturized then put to bed in wet jammies, waking up in the morning to dry jammies with lovely moist and more clear skin), we brought home a relatively rash-free and much happier and well-rested Maxwell. Mommy was also much happier and well-rested. 
A much happier Max this week.
I have pictures of the whole event on my cell phone (happy pictures, of a really cute baby in hospital pyjamas making steady progress), but unfortunately the cell phone has sprouted legs (perhaps 2 year old legs named Claire?) and walked off at the moment. Hopefully, those pictures will follow. (Found it! In Claire's toy puppy kennel of course, why wouldn't that be the first obvious place to look?)

Starting to look so much better!

Calling Doctor Max...

Now that he was really starting to feel better, we got downright bored. With all the lotion in it combined with his hair that had rubbed off on the sides, Max had one mighty fine mohawk.

Rocking the do.
I stayed with Max, of course, which was strange and good all at the same time. It took three days for the nurses to realize the hospital feeds moms of breastfed patients, making my life a little difficult. It took two days for me to stop being an anxious jerk. And it was so quiet, Max and I missed everyone and our busy house very much. But at the same time, as the fourth babe, Max has never enjoyed so much of my undivided attention. And having a bit of quiet time was undoubtedly good to remind myself that although it's my baby so it's a huge deal to me, it's comparitively a very small, manageable health issue we're lucky to be dealing with and I would do well to be thankful. Around day two, I felt my shoulders begin to relax as Max showed signs of improvement. I tried (am still trying) to shoo away my admonitions about the drugs being used on my baby, with a dose of realism that I don't have a better answer, that Max couldn't live the way things were, that the chemical cocktail was the very thing making my baby feel better, sleep, play.

Back home, enjoying his built in entertainers, an act we appreciate all the more now.

As we were bringing Max out of the hospital though, I couldn't help but feel nervous. I was reminded of the day we emerged from the hospital with our newborn Thane, our firstborn, the anxious moment of taking this delicate bundle away with us. Would all the strides Max had made be undone at our house? Our dusty wood-heated renovation project with cats and a busy mom who doesn't clean enough?

A little Vitamin D and Grammie love can make a guy feel better.
My awesome mom and sister and a friend came to the rescue to help me clean the house from top to bottom and catch up on laundry (which prompted Troy to point out there was a strong argument for polegamy), attempting to at least start from a good, hopefully healthy environment. We're so lucky my mother-in-law came up this week as well, helping us a great deal in getting back in the swing of things. We reluctantly returned one cat (the one that is twice as big and sheds like crazy) to the vet where we had originally got the two cats from in the fall. I know, sacrilege to the pet owners out there. And we took notice of the humidity in our house (or lack of rather, not registering on the barometer) and installed a humidifier on our furnace. The central vac is on it's way soon, to make dustbusting easier and hopefully therefore more frequent. Max now sports a new hazelwood necklace, supposed to bring his skin from acidic to alkaline (a state that doesn't support disease). In the very least, it's cute as hell.

Even before the hospital visit, I had upped my vitamin B's, omega 3's, water, and probiotics intake, hoping to help Max's skin recoup. We've addressed soaps and laundry detergent already, and didn't use scented or extraneous products to begin with. We had begun acupuncture appointments for Max before the hospital visit (a non-needle kind of allergy therapy).

Despite all this, there have definitely been flare-ups. The rashes on his little face especially, where I don't put as much hydrocortisone, will flare up and go away several times a day. If I stop applying the hydrocortisone twice a day, it comes back all over quite quickly, although with close care it's definitely a thousand times better than before. It's quite mysterious.


My ray of hope that we won't have to just wait until he grows out of it or settle in with it for the long run?


I hold on to the belief that we are what we eat. While I definitely took an unhealthy nosedive in the food department this week (I'll chalk it up to stress?), I've called to make an appointment with a naturopathic doctor recommended to me. While a little slow to get to this step, not sure of who to call since we haven't had to make that connection yet here, I had a hopeful conversation with a couple of new friends about the success they've had with this doctor and diet changes. One had a similar story with her breastfed baby boy, eczema from four to seven months, to be cured in one week by eliminating wheat from her diet, a success story I've read so often. Food allergies, candida overgrowth, ph imbalance - I'm not sure where the problem lies, but I'm hoping we can pin it down. To quote a facebook friend of mine (I'll give her the indirect credit because I'm not sure who she was quoting), "The evidence for nutritional therapy is becoming so strong that if the doctors of today don’t become nutritionists, the nutritionists will become the doctors of tomorrow."

I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, I'll also keep searching for that cellphone with my pictures that's gone MIA? 

For good measure, I'll leave you with one more picture of my boy who's wrung my heart out so often lately. Sleeping in Mommy's arms, because nowhere else will do when you're not feeling so good.

Friday, January 21, 2011

{this moment}

"A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.
A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The quick Christmas recap

Christmas this year at our house ran right into January bustle... it's just now, mid-January, that I've had time to pause. Albeit late, I didn't want Christmas to go unmarked on here, so I thought I'd still recap anyway. Grab a tea, it's really a not-so-quick recap!

After a month of kids celebrations at the library, their school, Beavers and Cubs, we headed to Nova Scotia early to spend the holidays with Troy's family, squishing all of us into their home for ten days. Come Christmas morning there were eleven stockings hung on the chimney with care! Although they always love to see us come I'm sure they were glad to have some quiet and breathing room again when we drove off.

We went down the weekend before Christmas to make it to Troy's mom's family party there. The days flew by. We had such a jam packed week that we sat at the beginning of it to schedule our days (highly recomended). We fit everything in and had time to sit cozy and visit as well. We each did a little shopping (for me, things I had saved to pick up when we got to the 'big city', for Troy, more like his entire shopping list), visited with friends, cooked, crafted, and visited with each other. The kids went to Claytime (a pottery place for kids, where they pick out their piece, paint on their glazes and pick it up later after it's been fired) and they went to a movie with Grammie and their aunt Kaylea, something that's become a bit of a tradition when they get together, and this time Claire was big enough to go too!

We all went to see a Christmas Carol, a one man show that was amazing, funny and entertaining, and the way this actor could morph from one character to another was art. It was also a bit of an art keeping Claire and Max quiet, but it was really for us and the big boys. Seth rated the scariness factor of each ghost afterwards, Jake Marley won the prize with his grey face and chains. I clearly remember my parents taking us to the theatre when my sisters and I were little, how grand I felt and how exciting it was, getting dressed up and filing in to the fancy theatre, listening to the songs and watching the actors in the dark.

On Christmas eve I hadn't managed to fit in a visit yet with my sister and nephew, who also live in Halifax, so with my three boys (miss Claire needing some rest at home with Daddy), we got together for brunch and to visit the art gallery. I've been making a point of visiting galleries and openings more often since starting my job at the gallery here, picking up tips along the way, but mostly I didn't realize how seldom we took advantage of the cultural opportunities that surrounded us when we lived near the city, until of course they weren't so readily available anymore. Anyway, the gallery was a fantastic way to spend a Christmas eve morning. I can't find it on the AGNS site, but our favorite was an exhibit of hanging plants lined with sensors (invisible to us) that 'talked' to you. High pitched and aggravated little 'plant voices' if you moved aggressively, lower and melodious when you were gentle and slow. We could have played in that one exhibit for hours. There was one floor that offered a family booklet to accompany it, a sort of Where's Waldo of questions to help parents draw in the younger viewers. And the exhibit, Arboretum, a collection of tree art from over the ages, was pretty good, but the tree-table that accompanied it, with paper and pencils encouraging little ones to draw their own tree experiences, was fantastic! And there was the Maud Lewis exhibit to end it off, something about her intrigues little viewers. Maybe it's the colors, or her pint size real-life house on display in the gallery, or her own diminutive stature that seems so approachable to their little selves.

Then, Christmas morning was here with a blur of gift unwrapping, so many beautiful and thoughtful gifts that I think I'll do a few gifts posts this week. Everyone anxious to watch others open the gifts they had given, the kids throwing aside the clothes (a behaviour we're working on, the appropriate 'pause, smile, and appreciate' tactic), waffles and fruit and sausage for breakfast, a glorious turkey dinner in the afternoon, popping in to see Troy's grandmother and family on his father's side, and visiting a favorite aunt and uncle in the evening.

Boxing day we packed up the van, full to the gills, including the top carrier signifying our truely family vehicle (no cool left in our drive I tell you!), and drove the five hours home. To rest you think?


Onward to second Christmas!!!

Boxing day evening was a family event at my grandmother's, Bestmaur to my kids and nephew and nieces. Gifts and dessert were a nice topping after the long drive.

The day after boxing day was our second Christmas, in New Brunswick with Grampie and Grammie here. As both of my sisters kids had spent true Christmas morning with their fathers, and we had been in Nova Scotia with Troy's family, my parents had declared Christmas at their house to happen on the 27th this year. It was perfect. We had saved our presents from them and to them under the tree at their house, as had they, and we drove over in our jammies when we woke up. We joined my sisters, my nephew and nieces, and my parents who had spent the night there and were just finishing up discovering their stockings. The gift opening commenced again and we had a cozy snowed in day in pj's, with crepes for breakfast and another afternoon turkey feast.

In the following few days we visited lots with my sister and nephew, their turn to be visitors from Halifax, had a sliding party at our house, complete with hot chocolate and warm milk afterwards, and another family party with wonderful munchies and cousins gift exchange followed, this time with my mom's family.

Needless to say, we rung in New Year's tucked soundly into our beds, no energy left to party one more time.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Detective work, Mama style.

I feel like a genius!

I may have just figured out Max's mysterious rash. I hope.

Max has had this rash for a month and a half. In the last week of November he had a small rash on his back quickly cover his whole little body, like a switch had been flicked. After a week of it getting progressively worse and him getting progressively grumpier, and I'm assuming itchier, the poor little guy, I finally went to the doctor with him.

I have eczema, and the prompt diagnosis was that it must be eczema. I've gone through the last month racking my brain for what it could be, refusing to believe Max has a lifelong eczema we have to treat with frequent coatings of hydrocortisone cream.

Through my experience with eczema, I've learned it's essentially an allergy related rash. In that way, as allergies are, it's also partly hereditary. External factors like fragrances can irritate it, but it really comes down to diet CAUSING it. For me anyway.

When I was little I had a food allergy list soooo long, I remember it embarrassed me when babysitters came over. Most of those I have grown out of, but if I now have a lot of one of those things, like milk, my skin will let me know. As an adult I've often thought of attempting to eradicate dairy and/or wheat completely from my diet, two of the most common allergens, to see if I could 'cure' the eczema altogther, but apparently it doesn't bother me enough to push me to that dedication. I have attempted to move loosely towards a Paleo diet though, a diet composed of meat and veggies and a bit of fruit. Troy likes Paleo from a fitness standpoint, what Paleo is well-known for, where the allergy factor interests me. The Paleo diet is based on the theory that our bodies have not evolved to where our methods of food 'gathering' have. Our bodies do not know what to do with post-agricultural foods like grains and processed food like milk from other animals. Paleo theory actually points to grains as carriers of lectins, poisonous cancer causing agents. This is why these foods need to be cooked before eaten, but even cooking leaves trace amounts that build up in our systems. Paleo of course also eliminates the junk pretend food, the processed chemical concoctions we try to pass off as food.

So in that vein in my search for what was suddenly bothering my poor little man, I came across this article on La Leche discussing food allergies and breastfed babes. It's a really good article, you should read it. It's hard to summarize, but here are a few sections that stood out to me:
"The earlier and more often a food is ingested, the greater likelihood it has of becoming an allergen. Babies tend to be most allergic to the foods they have been offered first. While a baby is exclusively breastfed, he is only exposed to the foods his mother eats and secretes in her milk, so his exposure to potential allergens is minimized.
Protection from allergies is one of the most important benefits of breastfeeding. The incidence of cow's milk allergies is up to seven times greater in babies who are fed artificial baby milk instead of human milk.
Breastfeeding protects against allergies in two ways. The first and most obvious reason breastfed babies have fewer allergies is that they are exposed to fewer allergens in the first months of life. They aren't given formula based cow's milk or soy products. Less exposure to these foods means less chance of allergy later on.
..sensitive babies may react to cow's milk in their mothers' diet. Small amounts of cow's milk protein may appear in a mother's milk and provoke a response in her baby, even if the mother herself is not allergic to cow's milk. If there is a family history of milk allergies, a mother may prefer to avoid dairy products in her diet as well as not offering them directly to her baby."
So to defend against the food allergies Max seemed to be exhibiting (or so I thought), it encouraged me to continue to exclusively breastfeed and delay solids for Max until even 9-12 months to expose him to as few allergens as possible, and eliminate dairy, the food that tops all food as an allergen, from my own diet. After all, what you won't do for yourself, you will do for your kids!

But wait. While I think all of this is very interesting and wanted to pass along, tonight I realized it might not be pertinent to Max at all!

Tonight, I was lathering Max with the hydrocortisone I detest so much (I have a long history of being bitter that despite my healthy choices my skin remains dependant on the stuff, let alone using it on my perfect little babe). And I realized, he had NO RASH AT ALL where his diaper goes. His little bum was as soft and clear as only a baby bum can be, and there was a distinct line on his back where the rash stopped. I turned him over and of course there on his thighs were two more lines where the rash stopped. So that meant... that the rash was caused by his clothes! And his bedding!

Really? I didn't notice this before?

About a month and a half ago I had bought a big bottle of this natural (truely, not green-washed) anti-bacterial soap called Thieves. Which I love. It's made of ingredients like cloves, rosemary, lemon, and cinnamon that disinfect without alcohol and harsh chemical antibacterials, and protect against germs as well. I use a capful as soap in the water when I mop the floor, I have a handwash with it, and a waterless hand sanitizer of it. I used to just have a small bottle of it and add it occasionally to the laundry on particularily gross loads like the boys socks. It smells good though and I figured we could use the anti-bacterial nature in more of our things, so since it's fragrance doesn't bother my sensitive skin I didn't think twice about adding it to all of our laundry loads once I got the large bottle.

I guess there can be too much of a good thing.

I must be the most stunned person in the world. But if this is it, and it really is just the soap that's too harsh for his delicate little skin, I am going to be sooo relieved. Deliriously happy.

Tomorrow, I'm going to rewash all of his bedding and clothes and see how we make out. Here's crossing my fingers!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tea break

So tired this morning. So uninspired to do great things in my house. Which so desperately needs great things today.

It's been a long run this week. The last two days were spent traveling for appointments with Seth, dropping Claire off at babysitters and trekking with the rest of the crew. Max has sucked up a lot of my days and nights, between rashes and fevers and general fussiness. Teething perhaps? My feeling is if he's like the rest of my late teethers, it's just round one of a tooth we'll see in a few months.

Mommy's hands being full with Max has left Claire running rampant, slightly bored and ignored, and the boys, STILL off school for Christmas holidays (all the way until January 11th!), without Mommy having the initiative to push, playing too many videogames and having too much indoor time.

I've set the timer though. Max has gone down for a much needed nap, maybe as much needed by Mommy as him. In half an hour, I will be done my tea, and my break. And I will do something. Anything really will be a good start. The kids screen time will be done. Even just back to lego would be good enough for me this morning.

The playroom is a pile of leftover Christmas chaos. A forlorn looking tree stands mostly bare, a handful of decorations hanging in there. The bins and boxes lay everywhere, half full, half barfed onto the shelves throughout the room, in an attempt to keep the breakables out of Miss Invincibles hands. The playroom chaos is spilling into the dining room, where legos, old and new Christmas present additions, are burst open on the dining room table, we've been carving out a space to eat for three evenings now. The garbage is overflowing. The counters are full of dishes, a Christmas angel, a birdhouse Thane made that has yet to be hung. Oh, and there's my sunglasses. I should put those away, I'll be wondering where they are later. And in the back of my mind I know the laundry is climbing slowly up out of their bins, ready to attck me. I know because Max has no clean onesies. There's leftover pre-Christmas sewing chaos taking over the office, somehow in this house I still have no permanent sewing home. Everything needs dusted and vacuumed, but it's tough to do when you can't see the floor. The tv room is full of bins of baby girl clothes that I need to figure out what to do with. I would like to give them away, how is it I can't find anyone to give them too? I need those bins empty to hold the clothes the kids are growing out of now, to get the pile of too small clothes off my dryer. Oh, the laundry room. The cat litter. Gross.

Where do I start on a morning like this?

Uh oh. There's the timer.

Um. The garbage.

As good a place to start as any I guess.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The crib break

Tonight I write as I sit at the top of the stairs.

Why is that?

Well, we have a runner.

A runner who climbs as well. A runner who is swift and silent, cunning and bold.

And she's only two and a half.

Miss Claire has decided, since the week before Christmas, that her crib is only good for practicing mountain climbing. In she goes at bedtime, and out she comes as soon as she thinks you're gone.

So we've had to take up the old bedtime post, something we haven't had to pull out since Thane was this age and causing a bedtime riot of his own. Unfortunately with Thane however, we didn't stumble across the post until he was well aware that it was much more fun out of bed than in. So it was a long battle, sometimes one I feel we're still fighting. We pulled the lucky card with Seth. He just liked to sleep. He did climb out of his crib as well, but then thought his big boy bed was equally as awesome as his crib.

'Sitting quietly outside their door, and just putting them back in their bed when you hear them get out' is what we fondly refer to as the post. Quite simple, but sometimes timestaking. In our experience though, worth it in the long run. I know that sounds normal, but it's different than vegging in the living room and waiting until you hear they've made their way downstairs and are playing with their kitchen, or realize they've been playing in their room for an hour when you thought they were asleep. We've done that a lot. Putting them back to bed as soon as their feet hit the floor has made all the difference for us. Seems to cement the idea that it's bedtime. Or maybe they just get bored and fall asleep. Whatever parenting article I read this from in the first place recommended sitting in their room. Which helps if you don't want to feel like the jailor outside their cell, but we just had to refrain from making eye contact with the toddler who thinks it's hilarious that you're sitting silently in their room in the dark. It is weird indeed. And plus in their room you can't read or blog while you wait it out.

Our success with Claire's bedtime also depends on how much she napped that day. We soon realized after the crib-break that she wasn't that tired at bedtime, and to keep her in bed in the evening the afternoon nap might have to go. But she's sooo tired by four o'clock, silly tired. Touching, pulling apart everything, crying when you say she can't walk around with a full pickle jar, actually running in circles tired.

Do you have set in stone routines at bedtime? I actually try not to. I don't want to have the seven step detailed instructions for a babysitter, I don't want to encourage that anything is permanent, and sometimes, okay often, with this many people you just can't ensure there won't be something come up that gets in the way (say a mommy busy with a not-sleeping but tired and fussy Max, and a Daddy attempting to do the three in one bedtime tuck-ins). We stick to teeth brushing, a book, a kiss and goodnight. That obviously is an ideal that may never be realized at our house (I have to Peeeee! I told you to pee before you went upstairs! I didn't have to pee THEN!), but the goal none-the-less.

Max is another story entirely. He is his own bedtime boss. More on that tomorrow perhaps?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year

A new year. A new day. Like everyday, a chance to wake up, be new, do better, live passionately, care deeply, learn more, speak gently.

But unlike anyday, the new year brings with it the pause for reflection.

2010 will be missed. It was a momentous year for me. I had a strong feeling of arrival this year. The realization this year that somewhere along the way I had stopped straining to figure out who I was and had just started being it. Not just tossing ideas around in my head about who I am, what I should do, should be, want to do, want to be. Just being. Being in the present. Still mindful and ever-questioning, but no longer straining.

Maybe it was the move to what I can only foresee as being our family home. Maybe it was getting a job that fulfills my childhood aspirations of what I thought I would be when I grew up. Maybe it was the birth of our fourth baby, and surely our last?

In 2010 I realized how much had happened in the last 10 years. From an 18 year old trying to be an adult, to the 28 year old who feels like I've actually got there. My 18 year old self would be shocked if I had seen what the next 10 years held for me. I may have ran screaming in the other direction.

7 addresses, 5 vehicles, 4 babies, two houses, and one degree. Our wedding. One miscarraige. 10 Jobs? Probably more. Two Vanier cups for Troy, and one degree as well.

In ten years, I've hosted at least 15 kids birthday parties and changed roughly 16000 diapers.

Wow. 16000 diapers?

We've attended at least six funerals, celebrated at least six weddings, and watched 2 family divorces unfold. Which feel like a death in the family. Illnesses and injuries, health and fun, losses and wins. Deadlines. Stress. Mistakes, learning, and growth. We've been through empty bank accounts and big payments. Celebrations and holidays.

We've watched first smiles, first steps, first falls, lost sleep over transitions, out of diapers, into big beds, out of naps, into school. We've watched understanding spark, words form, readers bloom.

And through all that, we're here. We sit cozy on a New Year's morning. It's peaceful. We're okay. Through the crazy rollercoaster of ups and downs, the rythmic and familiar merry-go-round cycles on. In hours, days, seasons and years.

I can't wait to see what I will have seen when I'm 38. What I will have done in ten more years.

It's awe-inspiring.

To quote a friend who quoted Longfellow this morning:
"Look not mournfully into the past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve the present. It is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future, without fear, and with a (wo)manly heart".

Onward to 2011.

I'm so excited to see what happens next.
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