Friday, December 30, 2016

Attitude of Gratitude for 2016

It's been a looong time since my last blog post and a lot has happened in this time - some good, some really bad. This year has brought a lot of changes, challenges and new experiences. I have been on my own (with my BLT of course) for eight months and I think I've pretty much got it waxed, apart from the occasional repair that I need around the house, but all in all I I'm doing pretty well. To be honest the kids did mention that the house is getting darker as light bulbs are needing replacing, but nothing that an impromptu candle-lit dinner can't solve! Soon I'll have to tell them we're camping haha.

Even with all the challenges, there is so much to be grateful for. This little blog that you're reading, that I started a couple of years ago to document our lives has also become an outlet for me to write, vent and process. I started blogging to ensure that the details of our journey aren't lost and even though I haven't posted very often, it's now had over 51 000 views!! How crazy is that? So not only is it here for me to look back on and laugh, ponder or cry, it has also touched the lives of others, so that has made me very happy.

More gratitude and happiness - Tomato has been struggling at school this year and it has been heartbreaking to watch as her confidence took another dive and she truly believed she was stupid no matter how often I told her differently. After having her assessed and a few changes made, Tomato proudly handed me her final report with A's in 5 subjects!! She was beaming from ear to ear!! I am grateful to the grade head, who was also one of her teachers. She took a special interest in Tomato and made her feel special and two other teachers who really tried to help her with extra lessons and strategies to help her catch up when she fell behind. Teachers, not schools are important to childrens' education and "write on the slate of who they are." I am grateful that Lettuce and Bacon also had wonderful nurturing teachers this year.  Tomato FINALLY managed to get full attendance at school! After weeks away from school because of her skin, this was the first year she was at school every day and is so proud of her certificate - thank you Dr Aron! With her skin being managed beautifully and her marks improving, yesterday when we bought her stationery for 2017 Tomato said "I'm gonna nail grade 5!" ~ music to my ears. Tomato loves crafts and sings happily to herself and loves music and dancing.

Bacon has grown in leaps and bounds both physically (geez she's getting tall) and in confidence. At the beginning of the year I had to send an email to her teacher asking her to please look out for the children squashing Bacon into her seat because she got stuck between the child behind her desk and the one in front of her and was too shy to put up her hand for help so she missed getting a new reader and was devastated. I felt so sorry for her and the teacher was mortified. Bacon is very quiet but misses nothing, she's methodical and loves school, especially if she loves her teacher, which fortunately she has for grade 1 and 2. I'm hoping she gets a similar teacher in grade 3. Bacon is always excited to get homework, unlike her sister who rolls her eyes and laments the unfairness of homework! Bacon is known as Huggy Bear as she cannot give enough hugs.
Playing on the iPad on the counter

Lettuce has been attending a fantastic play school where he has thrived. He is more than ready for grade R. I haven't quite got myself round to getting his uniform (sob) he's growing up so fast and learning so much from his sisters. He spends lots of time practising his letters and numbers on his own and I leave him to it, trying not to encourage or dissuade him. The girls couldn't care less about learning letters at his age. Mema would be so proud of him, she loved teaching him and he can already read a few simple words! He is fascinated by anything that moves and always wants to know how it works. Looks like he's going to take after his dad and become an engineer. He's so proud to be a whole hand old and is quick with little maths sums. Of course he is a bit of a terror and is often booted unceremoniously out of Tomato's room. Lettuce saw his first real show this year and loved it - Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat. He sang along to all the songs with mom. Lettuce has a great sense of humour and he keeps us entertained.

In September the doctor informed me that I needed abdominal surgery. I wasn't convinced but after the doctors started with their fear-mongering, I gave up and booked myself in for the simple procedure - 2 nights in hospital and 7-10 days recovery. Perfect, I'd just book myself in during the school mid-term break and all would be done by the time the kids needed to be back at school and I needed to be back at work right? Wrong!

The surgery was a success (apparently) but I just wasn't healing. Time and time again I needed to go back to the surgeon as I wasn't able to sit or move without it being incredibly painful. Eventually I was re-hospitalized for infection for "just one night" of intravenous antibiotics, which became 5 nights, a CT scan, MRI and a lot of other painful procedures which I am hoping to forget. My brother and his wife took over my life. Not taking 'no' for an answer when I phoned in tears to say I had to be re-admitted, my SIL fetched me, took me to the hospital, got me settled in, came back later to light some fires under the nursing staff to get me pethidine and looked after my children like they were her own. I never had to give a thought to their well-being. That is possibly the greatest gift that anyone can give a mother in hospital.

Even though my recovery took, what seemed like forever, I have so much to be grateful for as friends and family all rushed to pitch in. I was fortunate to have so many concerned friends visit me in hospital and my brother brought the kids to visit twice so that I could have a bit of family time. I was relieved that they were so content to visit and then go without too much fuss because this year has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster for them. When I was discharged I was given a stern talking to by my brother, telling me that I would, under his direct orders, stay in bed until I was completely healed. I was in no shape to do anything anyway, but I probably would have tried like I did before and cause more damage. Sending my BLT to school with Uber was getting a little bit costly anyway! So I was stuck, flat on my back for 5 weeks while everyone ran around taking over my "to-do" list. 

My brother became Mr Mom, taking the kids to school, fetching them, bringing them to me for homework and studying, collecting them later, bathing, giving them dinner, putting them to bed, waking them up, making breakfast and then doing it all again and again for 5 weeks. It was ridiculously busy for him and his whole family. When Lettuce needed a battery for his toy, bro would go to the shop and get him one and fix his toy, when Tomato needed money for school, SIL provided, when Halloween came, my brother and nephew took the kids trick-or-treating while my SIL kept me company. When it was bakerman and Lettuce needed goodies to sell, my SIL made sure he made something. I cannot begin to explain how grateful I am to my brother, SIL and nephew who made it look so easy even though I knew it wasn't, especially during exam time and they were constantly juggling their schedules to include mine. 

Huge thanks to granny and grandpa who brought groceries, took up the slack when my brother and SIL couldn't fetch and carry and granny taking me to the homeopath which was what eventually pushed me over the healing edge, thank goodness! 
My friends were also phenomenal. Although I have thanked these people in person, I don't think they really realise how grateful I am. To the friend that took me to hospital at 5am and got me settled in; to the friend who was there when I woke up from surgery; to the friends that fetched and carried me to the doctor over and over again; to the friends who visited me in hospital; to the friend that came to visit me in hospital only to be told I was being discharged and she had to take me home; to the friends who stopped to buy me meds; to the friends who brought me groceries and prepared meals; to the friend that took me shopping when I was eventually able; to the friend who took my children to her house, fed them and took them to school and who offered for me to convalesce at her house; to the friend who dropped off flowers and chocolates and sent a voucher for reflexology; for my sister's friend who came to visit me to cheer me up and brought treats for the kids; to the amazing friend who made delicious home-cooked meals for all of us; to the friends that came to visit to allow me to not feel so isolated from the world; to the friend that heard that Lettuce wouldn't have a cake for his birthday and bought him one and came over with goodies to decorate it with him and the girls and make his birthday a lot of fun; to the same friend who took over my lecturing duties and helped me out of a tricky situation; to the friend who allowed us to gate crash her daughter's birthday party, so Lettuce could celebrate his first birthday with his friends; to the friends who phoned to check on me; to the friends who sent wonderful messages and the outpouring of love I received and to everyone else who helped, even in a small way and for those who offered, I am so very grateful.

Granny's cake
Party cake made by me 
Lettuce, who wasn't going to have any cake ended up having 3! One for school, one for his party and one at granny and grampa. The one I made with my BLT and it was so much fun to make a cake, ice it and dig pieces out!
Cake to take for school
Pizza from the boma
My partner and I made this - YUM!
One great thing that I have in common with all my friends is that we all love food..... and this year  awesome food was indeed consumed! To be honest a lot of this divine food involves a friend of mine who has a whole bunch of us over for dinner so often that we've even got a whatsapp group for our Tuesday dinners (don't be fooled by the name, they can happen on any night!) One of the many things I love about this friend is that she can whip up a three course meal for 10 people, including a roast with all the trimmings (including Yorkshire puddings) in 2 hours without breaking a sweat and it is D-I-V-I-N-E! This year she had a pizza oven installed in her new boma/ fire pit. The pizzas are divine and braaied marshies dipped in chocolate for desert are not too bad either - the kids love it! This same friend took us all on a cooking course for her birthday. We cooked up an Indian storm (a literal hell fire storm - it was flippin' hot!!) and we had an amazing evening with great company and awesome food! 
Homemade ice cream bowls

Sampling the soup
At my house the cooking is not as gourmet as at my friend's house, but we get by. The kids love crumpets, especially in different shapes and as you can see, Lettuce loved my broccoli soup that I made in bulk. I caught him sampling each tub while I wasn't looking! We have also tried some fun things like sprinkled ice cream bowls which the kids had fun making with balloons and lots of sprinkles. 

One thing you can be sure of, is that no matter what life throws at me, I will always find the humour in it. Like Bacon's reader with pertinent picture, I was crying I found it so hilarious - she of course did not. Every time she read "the king's hole" I collapsed and she was not impressed that I was not taking her reading seriously.
Bacon's reader in grade 2

Laughter truly is the best medicine and I take medication very seriously! With three little ones in the house it can be a laugh a minute! Even while typing this my BLT have just called me to the TV room so that we can all dance. They are so much fun, you can't be in a bad mood when you have to sing and dance all the time! Lettuce likes to talk in an American accent, Tomato loves to sing and make up her own songs and Bacon likes to dance on the coffee table (I know, I'm a bad parent but I started it when Mama Mia came on and let's face it you have to boogy on a table to Waterloo!!)

So together with the bad and the sad and the downright scary, there have been many wonderful times and although there were lots of tears this year (I also lost a school friend), many have been tears of joy and for that I am truly grateful. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Tomato's photograph
Last Monday I woke up and decided I wanted needed to go to Clarens in the Free State for the approaching 4 day weekend. The last time hubby and I went to Clarens was BC (before children) so it had been a while. Had I considered that perhaps such a sought-after leisure spot might possibly be booked out well before said Monday? No I had not. It had worked out fine booking "last minute" for Cape Town in December, so why not Clarens in August? Well, it was jam-packed full - dammit. But my good friend Google could tell that I was bummed and asked me gently if I would consider going further afield, outside of Clarens. Hmmm that sounded promising, so I found a fabulous little spot in Bethlehem. Did I know anything about Bethlehem apart from it being the birthplace of Jesus? No I did not. Have I been there before? No I had not. Have I travelled alone with 3 children further than Pretoria? No again. So I decided on the spur of the moment, that it was time I left my 60km radius comfort zone of Joburg and Pretoria and head for the Vrystaat just me and my BLT.

Oh, did I mention that this was so last minute, that I had completely forgotten that we had accepted an invitation to a birthday party for a friend of Lettuce? Oops! So I did as all good marketers do, we did PLOC - Planning, Leading, Organising and Controlling (ok I lost control a long time ago, but I can dream.) We got up early, packed, wrapped pressie, ate brekkie, attended the party and then hit the road! 

R-O-A-D T-R-I-P!!

I can highly recommend going on a road trip after a 4 year old's birthday party. The party packs doubled as fabulous padkos-lucky-dips and the cute little bags came in handy for car rubbish to be tossed at the next One-Stop. When we drove to Cape Town, there was tech equipment to keep B, L and T occupied and the car was silent the whole way down, we never heard from them, they didn't even need bathroom breaks. But, taking single parenthood in my stride, I was going the old-fashioned way - no iPads, iPods or tablets eeek! So once the radio began to crackle indicating that we were about to lose reception, it was up to us to entertain ourselves. We sang and laughed and played games the whole way there. Tomato fancies herself as a bit of a photographer, so she took loads of photos of the farms that we passed, to show her class mates because they're studying farming in Social Science.

Getting every last bit!
We arrived at Favor House late in the afternoon and the kids were super excited to find that it was situated on a farm with horses, cows, dogs and even springbok. They were out the car in a flash and soon became "farm children." Tomato now wants us to sell up and get a farm in Bethlehem (ah, if only....) Our accommodation was great, we all shared one huge room with a beautiful, modern ensuite bathroom and a little kitchenette. The proprietor was really lovely. She had a chocolate on each of our pillows waiting for us (kids were elated), I got Lindor and fancy nougat biscuits on my pillow (I was elated!) as well as a really thoughtful gesture of a bottle of milk in the fridge and homemade rusks at our little coffee/ tea station. There was DSTV so the kids were thrilled with the spoil of TV each night before bed. When it gets dark and the temperature drops below zero, there isn't much to do on the farm! 
Now this is how you make fudge!
Bacon's souvenir from Clarens

The following day we headed to Clarens and poked around in all the great little stores where B,L and T spent their holiday money - Bacon and Lettuce on wooden toys and Tomato on crystals. It was a real trip down memory lane for me. We went to see the church where I had sung at a wedding, which seemed like a lifetime ago. Then we headed to Clementines where a friend of mine, whom I haven't seen in 12 years, welcomed us and we had a great meal. We all played Hi-ho Cheerio and Monopoly between courses and then hit the shops... again. 

On the way back to our home-away-from-home, we stopped in at the Lesotho Highlands Water Project which was very cool and the kids played in the massive pipe. When we got back, the kids were allowed to feed the horses *happiness is* and play with the dogs and then we scoffed a whole lot of awesome goodies that we'd bought at the various little shops. NOTHING beats boerekos.  

What to do on Monday? Yo Goooogle!!! I was thinking Golden Gate. I wanted to see the beautiful sandstone mountains, which I adore. Even though sandstone is totally impractical as a tile, I insisted on putting it in our home when we built it, because I love the fossil remains that can be seen in the stone, and I can just feel the beauty and energy of it - it makes my soul happy. My good friend Google rushed to my aid and reminded me that there are trails/ hikes up these majestic mountains. My mind was made up. We had eaten enough over the past two days to satisfy an army, so a hike is just the activity we needed. Monday morning, after playing with the farm animals again, we hit the road to Golden Gate Highlands National Park.

After expressing utter shock and disbelief from Tomato and a lot of eye-rolling and heavy sighing that THIS is what we were going to do that particular day, the four of us trekked up one of the mountains to Echo Ravine - it was breathtaking. Most of the route was on a path, but the last stretch was rock climbing. We walked under a waterfall (more like a water spray thanks to the ongoing drought) and we really were "stuck between two mountains" as Tomato put it. Lettuce was amazing to watch, fearless but not careless, scampering over the rocks, carefully checking the stability of each one before stepping onto it, especially when we got to the high parts. It was really funny to hear this little dude singing the Final Countdown as we climbed! Tomato was a nervous wreck, convinced that we were going to get lost and die on the mountain with our bodies never to be recovered again. She kept asking "what if I fall?" and I kept saying "then I'll climb down and fetch you." Bacon just enjoyed the trail, very proud to be carrying some of the picnic goodies in her backpack that the girls had each received from granny and gramps for their birthdays. The views were fantastic and we stopped to have our picnic overlooking Golden Gate. It was blissful. I love the quietness of mountains and B, L and T even kept quiet long enough at one point for me to really enjoy the sound I refer to as "mountain stillness" while we picnicked and then Tomato could relax a bit.

After getting back (yes we did make it back without a search and rescue team) we headed back towards Clarens to consume all of the calories we had just burned! Gee you can't get out of that place without gaining 3-5kgs! Bakeries and eateries at every corner and all delicious things! We bought lunch and ate it on the grass in the square and Bacon climbed a tree. B, L and T went on a horse and carriage ride, after Tomato bartered the price down!! This from a child who wouldn't talk to strangers 18 months ago! Where does she come from?? I was super proud of her wheeling and dealing.
Dex the Ridgeback
The day we departed, our host was kind enough to take Tomato, Bacon and Lettuce on a horse ride, a little different from a pony ride, but they were thrilled! We weren't ready for the holiday to end, so we drove to a Cat Sanctuary and saw lions, white lions (there was a new baby born that morning), tigers, tiger cubs and black leopards. It was fascinating to learn about these animals and to watch them interact with humans like domestic cats.

Then we were homeward bound, again without anything except ourselves to keep us occupied. We had really amazing conversations about everything and anything. At one point Lettuce fell asleep and his sisters had a whale of a time asking him questions and he would nod or shake his head while asleep. My favourite question was "Lettuce do you want to have children with your girlfriend?" he obviously nodded in his sleep because Bacon then asked "do you want to adopt or make them yourself?" Haha where do they come up with these things? PS Bacon, there is no yes or no answer to that one!

Things I've learned on this trip:
  • My BLT are really fun little people
  • My BLT are flippen noisy in close confined spaces i.e. in a car
  • Lettuce hates my singing *sob*
  • Tomato and Bacon love my singing [that means Lettuce is outnumbered - yay!]
  • Bethlehem is freeeezing!! Even the monopoly box froze
  • Bethlehem has its own casino! 
  • Bethlehem is an awesome little town
  • Staying in a room with 3 little people who go to bed at 8pm, forces you to get HUGE amounts of sleep! I averaged 10 hours a night! 
If you've read this far and you're as OCD as I am, you're screaming "Jesus wasn't born in that Bethlehem!!" Thank you, I am aware of this, I spent a long time trying to explain that exact same thing to 3 little tots that didn't understand why they couldn't visit his manger. So instead we sang "Away in a Manger" while Lettuce blocked his ears and screamed! 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

She's a Perfect 10

I told her to find a safe place for her
glasses each night
Today my little Tomato has entered the world of double digits, she is "two hands," 10 years old. She's not so little anymore......

She, of course is over the moon to be a year older, but this year I'm not sharing her joy as much as I have on her other birthdays. As I reflect back on the past decade, what the hell happened? Ten years? That's cray cray. In seven years she will be writing her learner's license and expect us to put her behind the wheel of a car, when just seven short years ago she was still in a night nappy! It didn't help that the first thing she said to me this morning was "I'm half way to twenty!" *gulp*
She misses my mom terribly
and often draws pictures of her

When Tomato was born, a friend warned me, "don't wish her life away, it goes by so fast." I listened to that friend and thought about that advice many times over the past 10 years. When as an infant, Tomato didn't want to sleep, but preferred to cry from feed to feed, I stopped myself willing her to grow out of her infancy quickly and sleep through the night so that I could stop being zombie-mom. When finally she was sleeping through the night and teething hit, I dredged out those words and mulled them over. When night terrors made her sit bolt upright in bed and scream at the top of her lungs until I ran to comfort her, I remembered those words. 
Dressing up her brother

As the milestones came and went, I would think to myself "the years are flying by, my friend was right." But it took a lot of effort not to wish days, weeks, months away when life got tough. And boy did life get tough for this little girl. I often joked that if something was wrong with one of our children, it was bound to be with Tomato. We all went to the dentist, only Tomato needed fillings. We all went to the Optholmologist, Tomato needed glasses, the other two have 20/20 vision. One of her eyes was found to be "lazy" and we waged war every day for almost 3 years as I forced her to put a patch over one eye for 2 hours a day as recommended to increase her permanent vision. Many times she would cry so much the patch would slide off. 

Obviously her skin issues, which I have documented extensively on many other blog posts, brought a whole new minefield when I dragged her from doctor to specialist to "woo-woo" expert, desperately trying to find the elusive cure. I watched my happy little girl become depressed and desperate. I've also watched as her little body became bloated from the extensive cortisone that was prescribed and how her swollen body and raw skin would create a rift between her and the other children as she was teased and later bullied because she was in constant pain so was labelled as "weird." She just withdrew futher into herself. She is very sensitive and just as she was able to begin re-building her lost confidence, other issues came to the fore. The side-effects of that medication were the oppposite of cortisone and she lost weight almost overnight and while the medication worked, the physical side-affects were detrimental so they were stopped. Then last year my mom passed away and this has hit her very hard. This little girl, although only 10 years old, has had enough turmoil for someone double her age.

Concert Order of Events
No trolls? 
Sometimes in life you get thrown a curve ball. Tomato is my curve ball. Before she was born my life was going exactly as I thought it should, everything was going as planned. Suddenly along came someone who, not only doesn't want to draw in the lines, she doesn't even see the lines! She sees the beauty in everything and has such a huge heart. She loves anything arty and loves to please, although she wants her own way and will fight to the death to get it! I have learned that time is irrelevant to her, even though it is a war at home for us getting anywhere on time, she has taught me to chill a bit and not worry so much about being late. For my A-type personality this has been a challenge. Her love for animals is immense and her greatest wish is to have her own dog. She sees pictures in clouds and soap suds when the car is getting washed and she can get lost in her imagination for hours. She choreographs plays (and ropes in her brother and sister to perform), she dresses her brother up in dresses as often as she can, and she loves to dance and sing her own songs that she's made up, like a mad-thing. She has a fantastic sense of humour and loves a good knock-knock joke.

When Tomato broke my special bowl,
I got this note offering to replace it
My goal with my children has always been to keep them as young as possible for as long as possible, to prolong their childhoods. While this has worked to an extent, I see Tomato growing up and becoming a tween and entering that era of discovery of both herself and the world around her. I love that she sometimes still takes my hand while we're shopping, the extra hugs at night and the quick cuddles (when she's in the mood.) I can feel these are happening less and less as she exerts her independence. Soon I will become uncool and embarrassing (say what?) I'm sure the time is coming and it's scary. From the quiet, shy, introverted little girl who wouldn't speak to anyone, Tomato is coming out of her shell and happily asks shop assistants for the price of items that she wants and orders her own food at restaurants. She is blossoming. 

My wish for my little Tomato is that all the negatives that she has gone through in her short life, remain in the past 10 years and the next 10 are fantastic positive years full of wonder, excitement and discovery (without giving mom and dad too many grey hairs in the process!) 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

18 Months Later - The Crazy Eczema Mom

Before Dr Aron
I can't believe it's been 18 months already! I really did mean to write this blog post earlier, it was supposed to be an "Aronversary" post (Dr Aron Anniversary) but life happens. Funny how much time I now have on my hands, not having to constantly worry about bleach bathing, wet wrapping and smearing on every cream under the sun! When people ask how on earth I managed to enjoy life when Tomato had severe eczema? I can answer quite honestly that I didn't enjoy life at all, it was an endless struggle of coping, by putting one foot in front of the other, but no more! The "dark days of eczema" are behind us. It has now been a year and a half since I discovered Dr Aron and his amazing regimen, and our lives have changed completely, so it's time for a fun, happy post, where I throw myself under the bus (for your entertainment) and share all the cray-cray things I did in an attempt to get help for my little girl before finding Dr A.

Tomato does not like to talk about her eczema, so it really has become a distant bad memory. What brought it home for me today, and prompted me to write this follow-up, is that the mornings are getting cold here in South Africa, so Tomato wore tights to school for the first time since starting the Aron Regimen. When she got home she took them off and looked incredulous as they slid off her legs! I laughed at the look on her face and asked her what she was thinking and she replied "look, they just come right off!" I was puzzled and asked what she meant. She reminded me of how the tights used to stick to her eczema wounds and I would put her in the bath after school, with her stockings on, to soak and soften the scabs underneath and then gently peel the tights off trying not to damage her skin and make her bleed too badly. Sometimes, when it was too painful, I would be forced to cut the material off around the wounds, cutting slowly around each stuck area with tiny nail scissors and she would walk around with black bits of material stuck to the wounds. I had completely blocked out forgotten this horror and had no idea that that is why she didn't want to wear stockings last year, like her sister. Look how far we have come!

My story has been well-documented in various blog posts that I have written, prior to, and after finding Dr Aron. Some of the earlier posts were really horrible, I battle to read them myself and the photos take me back to a time that I would rather forget. Click on the following links if you'd like to see them or catch up on our eczema trials and tribulations:

Crazy Mom

I'm not completely mad, I promise but remember desperate times call for desperate measures, and we were desperate!

The time when Tomato was put under anaesthetic to have a tooth filled and I begged the anaesthetist if I could come into the theatre while she was knocked out and put cortisone (steroid) cream on her bleeding skin so that she wouldn't be aware of it burning. After a quick psychological analysis (later I learned that I was being assessed to see if I would freak out seeing my child lying lifeless on an operating table, because once the anaesthetic kicks in and the child goes limp, some parents can't deal with it) I was allowed to apply the steroids all over her and the nurses helped!  [note to self: it is VERY freaky to see your child under anaesthetic, when their limbs are limp and heavy and they look dead!] 

The time when, because of Tomato's eczema-induced anxiety, when the Naturopath needed 21 vials of blood, I asked the same anaesthetist mentioned above (she's never forgotten me) to put Tomato under anaesthetic to draw the blood. I felt like I was on Gray's Anatomy, suited up, passing blood vials to the anaesthetist, who was taking the blood, and I was re-attaching the mask on my daughter's face every time she began surfacing (it was a light anaesthetic) all the while watching her heart rate and oxygen levels which couldn't dip below certain levels. Then I grabbed the samples and ran outside to hubby who was waiting in the "getaway car" to get the blood to the lab within the 30 minute window period for one of the more sensitive tests. We were both nervous wrecks! 

Then the time I told a well-respected Dermatologist that he was "sick in his head" when he told me to hold my screaming 4 year old down and cream her even though it burned her! When I looked horrified and Tomato started sobbing and crept further into the corner of his room with big eyes, he condescendingly asked who the adult was in the situation, making out that it was my fault as I was bigger and stronger than her so it shouldn't be a problem to overpower her. I almost left without paying - how cruel. On the upside, as I was paying Tomato was clinging to my leg and shaking and said "Mommy that doctor was very scary" and I said loudly so that the whole waiting room could hear "Don't worry Sweetie, that doctor is an idiot and we're not going to do anything he said we should!" (Maybe this is why people remember me, and not in a good way!")

The times when I was so desperate for time out, I would leave the house as soon as hubby came home to take over and go to the supermarket. I would take a trolley and walk up and down the aisles of the supermarket crying my eyes out. I'm sure the staff thought I was insane as I would be in the store for ages, covering every square inch many times, but never buying anything, just crying for my little girl who was screaming from the bath water and ripping her skin apart at home. 

Then the time when I was convinced that Tomato was allergic to water because she was fine until she put a toe into the bath and then the itching would start. I was investigating different ways to clean her little body without water. She was getting dirtier and dirtier while I tried different waterless techniques! 

Spraying Avene Thermal Water on her mythical RSS
Then the time I was told she had Red Skin Syndrome (RSS which is a total myth) because her skin looked sunburned, but her skin was red and sore because of the bacteria. I spent hours putting tissue paper all over her body and spraying her cool with Avene thermal water to cool her down. She looked like a wet mummy!! Great in summer, but winter was not so much fun.

Then the time when, twice daily I would hide a big squeeze of steroid cream in the Vaseline jar (because they look alike) so that Tomato couldn't see that it was Advantan Fatty Ointment (steroid), as I applied it to her many bleeding areas. She hated all the creams, so I had to be devious.

Then the time I took Tomato to a spiritual healer. Tops were swung, mirrors were waved around, stones were thrown, energy was moved around and there was a lot of "hand swishing"" around her. She was sent home with natural probiotics and herbs.

Then the time I took Tomato to a hypnotherapist. She would NOT look at the pendulum and refused point blank to even try. She just kept her eyes shut. Money.Well.Spent. I then Googled hypnotherapy scripts to read to her while she slept (which was hardly ever) telling her that she should be calm and not scratch - haha.

Then the time I took Tomato to an Iridologist (they check your eyes). Prognosis: she needed more sleep. Duh!! Seriously??? Don't you think I know that? She's scratching all.night.long. She was sent home with Melatonin.

Then the time I had to cut a lock of Tomato's hair and give it to an exorcist who would remove the bad spirit that had entered her body. This would take place from afar! I'm not kidding! When I say we tried everything, we tried EVERYTHING! I only agreed to this because she didn't have to go there. Seemed very woo woo to me, I don't like dealing with this type of thing as I was brought up as a church-goer, but we were desperate.

Then the time I took her to a Body Talk practitioner. I was told to bath her in Avocado oil to heal her skin. I did that and she had a massive flare while still in the bath! But to be honest, I am thankful, as that was the day that I broke down and started looking online for a solution.

Then my absolute favourite blunder of all time........ telling Dr Aron on the phone that he sounded like a used car salesman because he promised me that, even though everything else I had tried hadn't worked, his cream would. And when I told him that I had heard it all before and I didn't think it would be any different this time, he told me I was going to eat those words and I said I would do so with pleasure (because even though I hoped it would work, I didn't want to be disappointed as I had before.) Today I am happily eating those words and admitting I was wrong!

The crazy list goes on and on and on........ thank you Dr Aron for not only giving me back my sanity, but giving me back my happy, smiling, itch-free little girl who was lost for 5 and a half years!!

Before eczema
Find out more about the Aron Regimen
Twitter @draroneczema
On the AR

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Epic Parenting Fail

School has just gone back to begin the second term and Tomato has decided to start a new extra mural. Because the extra mural ends later than usual, I collect her on my way back from work, so it's just the two of us in the car driving home.

While driving in the congested traffic, we discuss many different things. Yesterday we were stuck behind a truck for, what seemed like, an eternity. After covering numerous topics, I noticed the number plate on the truck started with the letters FRT. I was suddenly reminded of how, as kids, we used to make up names from the number plates. So, chuckling to myself, I said to Tomato "what word would you come up with using FRT?" [Now let me mention at this point, I was actually using this as a "teaching moment" because Tomato struggles with spelling and English in general, so I was very surprised and impressed with her answer.]

"First" said Tomato proudly! I had to do a second take, because as kids, we just added in a vowel and that was the word, so I was not expecting an extra letter, so I said "oh *gulp* yes, very well done, but if you just add ONE vowel what word do you get?" I saw her straining her brain to get to the answer that was so obvious to me that I was almost ready to blurt it out. But wait...... I saw the realisation dawning on her face..... she looked at me with a naughty look and said "Mommy!! That is a bad word!" Yay!! The teaching moment was paying off, I thought to myself proudly.
"Yes I know it's not a very nice word, but just say it"
"Do you really want me to say the bad word mommy?" she looked shocked. Hmmm now here's a bit of an ethical dilemma, I don't usally allow bad language at home, but now I was asking her to say it. Not ideal, but teaching wins over bad words, so I replied "Sure, just this once, becaise I want to know that you got it right. What vowel did you use?"
"I used a U" [Huh? That alone should have sounded a warning bell.]
"'U'? No it should be an 'A'. Sound the word out."
"I've got it!" She shrieked. "Must I really say it?"
"Yes! Say it!" I encouraged her, so pleased that she had finally worked it out........

"F*ck" she announced proudly! I nearly crashed the car.
"Whaaat?? NOOOOO!!! FART! IT SPELLS FART!! There's no 'C' or 'K', how on earth did you get that from FRT?"


Tomato was upset with me because she got the word wrong and I was stunned that she got that word from those letters. She was mad because she had sworn, but madder that I had told her to do it and then got mad. I was lementing my foolishness for starting the conversation in the first place.

I will never forget the day that I not only made my daughter say "The F-word" out loud, but I encouraged her to say it. Needless to say, the rest of the drive was about "very bad" words and just "bad" words and how to tell the difference. *Sigh* parenting.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Divorce is Not The End, it is the Beginning of a New Chapter

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine's ex-husband passed away after a long illness. It was incredibly sad. He was in his 40's and his children are still of school-going age.

I'm not sure of the exact details, but my friend dated him at school and they were married for quite some time before they divorced. Both parties eventually re-married and life continued. With children in the mix, there was always a fair amount of organising to ensure both parents got to spend quality time with their children. In order for this to happen, constant communication between the two was necessary. I'm sure in the beginning the conversations were strained, with emotions running high, having to talk to "the ex" but as the years passed, the conversations had grown into friendly, respectful and upbeat encounters, instead of sharp and abrupt messages. Both parents had wisely nurtured this relationship as co-parents to their beautiful children.

This is what good parents do, they put their childrens' needs above their own and build a new relationship with their child's other parent. I'm sure there were debates and disagreements along the way but these children weren't made to feel like pawns in a chess game, which often happens with divorce, they felt loved and had good relationships with both sets of parents.

The reason for this post, is that I watched the social process of this death from the outside and it really disturbed me. When the dad died, Facebook lit up with messages of love and sympathy and support for the family (social media really comes into its own during drastic, life-changing events.) Many messages were generic but some were intensely personal, remembering specific events that friends and family had enjoyed with the deceased, some knowing him for longer than 30 years. The messages were heartbreaking and everyone reached out to his wife and children, often tagging them and offering support. This was really lovely and must have given the family so much strength during their darkest hour.

What disturbed me, was that NOT ONE person mentioned "the ex," the mother of the deceased's children who now has the difficult task of helping her children navigate the turbulent waters of life without their father's guidance. The woman, who once stood at the alter, starry-eyed, imagining loving this man to eternity, the woman who had loved him and had his children, who had shared her hopes and fears and opened her soul to him during their time together, was hurting. She too had suffered a massive loss. I understand that the marriage was over and I'm not saying that she was still IN love with the man, but she definitely still loved him. He would always have a special place in her heart that nobody else could have, not romantically, but in a shared life-experience way, as her children's father. There will never be another call to talk about the kids, to rejoice in their achievements and commiserate in their disappointments. Having someone in your life for 28 years and then having them yanked from it, leaves a hole.

When I sent my friend a message to give her some support as she prepared for the funeral, I addressed this issue with her and she admitted that she was incredibly hurt. She knew her place, she was not the widow, but she was something. Those long-term friends who had posted personal messages and sent condolences to the family, had once been friends of hers too, they had been at her house, eaten at her table. Obviously in a divorce, friends will pick a side, but they knew her and they must have known that she was hurting, if nothing more than for her seeing her children lose their dad, but not a word was uttered typed to console her. Her final words haunted me, enough to write this post to remind people that although it's a tricky situation, keeping the peace with the new wife and not treading on toes, a simple text or phone call to "the ex" to express condolences, would not go amiss.

The words she wrote were as follows:
Reading all the messages has been heartbreaking. Not one acknowledgement to me the ex-wife.Who says my heart is not as sore as any one else? I just want to scream "Hello! I'm here too!" I'm so sad. It's like I was and am now nothing. I will just have to face the ugliness of it all. I am dreading the funeral but will be there to support my children, and my husband will be there to support me, as I say my final goodbye to the man who once was my life.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Meeting Dr Aron - A Dream Come True

For over a year we have used a medication on our young child, from a Dermatologist whom we had never met. Crazy huh? To be honest, when we started this treatment on our daughter, my husband and I told very few people. We only told our "inner circle." These are the people who had walked the long road of severe Atopic Dermatitis with us and had seen the way it destroyed relationships, family cohesion and eroded our child's self-esteem. The non-judgemental people who realised that we were desperate, sleep-deprived and had tried everything possible to save our little girl from her life of hell and understood why we were reluctantly putting our trust in a specialist who we had discovered on the Internet. Well it wasn't long before I was shouting it from the rooftops! We had found relief! It wasn't a cure but it was the start of the first "normal" year of my family's life! "Quality of life" now has new meaning to our family.

My mom passed away in September and as Christmas drew closer, I knew that I couldn't stay home and have Christmas in the same way I had done since my childhood, it would be too sad without my mom. I kept thinking of a song she liked from Joseph and His Technicolour Dream Coat with the lyrics "There's one less place at our table, there's one more tear in my eye" and I knew I couldn't handle that empty chair. So we decided on the spur of the moment to go away. Hubby and I asked the kids where they wanted to go on holiday and they all agreed on one place. Since her skin had healed many months before,Tomato had asked begged almost daily, to fly to Cape Town to meet the doctor who had helped her. After being put through the trauma of visiting doctor after doctor and applying cream after burning cream for five and a half years, it was amazing that this invisible doctor on the other side of an email, had achieved what no other could. It just didn't seem real. Tomato and I loved this man whom we had never met and only seen on an Internet video. I agreed with her, we had to go meet and thank this man.
Tomato with her hero

We compromised on the flying, borrowed Grampa's car (with TVs in the back - thanks Grampa!) and drove down to Cape Town. The trip was pretty amazing with 3 little noses glued to a screen! Our family has a "no screens during the week" policy, so they couldn't believe their luck at being able to watch movie after movie on an eighteen hour trip.

"What did you just say?"
Before we left I contacted Dr Aron's lovely wife Kate and asked if we could pop in for a visit. The Arons were on holiday but went out of their way to make a plan for Tomato to meet her hero at their holiday home, three days before Christmas. We drove the extra distance and all five of us descended on the Aron family! Tomato is a very sensitive child, so she began getting nervous as we got closer and I was reminded of how she used to tear her skin apart when she was nervous before. I have always watched TV shows with interest as people eventually meet their hero, usually a pop icon or actor. I have never been star-struck with any star, even my favourites, so I could imagine the excitement but I never felt it, until that day! Even I had started to become a bit nervous and excited as I was about to meet the man who had put his hand out to pull us all out of the black hole, where many others had purely dangled the carrot of hope without follow-through. 
Sharing a joke with Dr A

The poor man was attacked by us as he walked out his front door! After a year, we eventually got to meet, hug and thank the man who gave us back our daughter and allowed our lives to have some semblance of normality! It was surreal. He was human, with a great sense of humour too. We had a lovely afternoon with Dr A and Kate and the kids loved playing with the dogs and meeting Dr A's daughters and grandson. I think I was a bit gushy so eventually Dr A dryly stated that he would be at their holiday home for a few weeks and proposed that I come through each day between 2 and 4pm for hug-time haha! Little did he know that if he had been closer to where we were staying, I would have taken him up on that offer!!

Many patients had travelled to meet Dr Aron in Chicago where he presented his Aron Regime, and I think Tomato felt a bit left out that other children were meeting her hero but she hadn't. As we were leaving Tomato whispered to me "I think I'm the only special one who has been to Dr Aron's holiday house" and she was on cloud nine! After having one two more hugs and thanking the Arons for their hospitality, we started the two hour drive back to where we were staying, along the beautiful Cape coastline. It slowly dawned on me that both Tomato and I could tick one more item off our bucket lists. 

Thank you Dr Aron and Kate.

Tomato, Me, Kate and Dr Aron

Links to other blogs I have written about the Aron Regime and our journey with Atopic Eczema:

Skin Deep
The Eczema Chronicles
Is Avene the miracle we've been waiting for?
The Day I Found Dr Richard Aron and our Healing Journey Began
What is TSA and RSS?
Three Months After Starting with Dr Richard Aron
Nine Months Later with Dr Richard Aron