Eczema Jammies

Thursday, 31 March 2016

It's been quite a while since I posted anything about Eczema.

That wasn't intentional and it certainly wasn't because things have improved with nothing to report any more - if only!

The four eczema boys continue to be bothered in various ways with their eczema, and Ally (6) still remains the worst affected.


He is still covered with eczema head to toe. His skin is always extremely dry and can never seem to get enough moisturising, and he almost always has broken patches of skin in various places where the itch has become unbearable.


He has these little patches around his mouth, which almost never heal. This is about as good as they get...



And he nearly always has broken skin in the typical places where eczema is most common - wrists, elbows, ankles, behind the knees - as well as around his waist, top of his legs, his shoulders and the back of his armpits. I did say he had it everywhere!







One of the biggest ways to manage eczema, other than constant moisturising, is to minimise the damage done by scratching the itch. During the day we try our hardest to distract him (and 2 year old Fraser) when the itch gets bad. If you have a child with eczema you will know all about the daze that they go into when they start scratching. It feels so good to be relieving the itch that they keep on going, oblivious to the damage they are doing to their skin. You will have seen your child use anything to help relieve the itch - like a toy, or the carpet, or a part of your of their clothing.

The best way we can distract Fraser when his hands get unbearably itchy is by letting him play with cold water. Just a little basin of cold water with a couple of toys in it.




It can be hard enough to distract them during the day, but at night it is even harder. Ally still wakes up though the night with his itching, and by the time you get through to help settle him a lot of damage will have been done.

There are many different sleep garments on the market for children with eczema, and we have tried quite a lot of them out over the 16 years that we have been living with it! Some of the ones we have tried are just too warm. That's another trigger for the itch - overheating. Some of them just aren't soft enough, or go too bobbly too quickly, which means that rather than protect the skin they just mean that they can be used to rub the skin so much that it is still damaged.

A while ago we were sent these bamboo pyjamas by Everything for Eczema, and all these months later I still absolutely love them.




At first Ally wasn't too sure about them, as he was never a fan of any of the other types we have tried, but once they were on he too loved them. His favourite thing about them is that he thinks they make him look like a blue ninja! That's a pretty cool thing for a six year old boy.

The first thing I noticed about them is how gloriously soft they are. They are made from bamboo, which is not only soft but also naturally breathable and helps keep your little one from overheating. Bamboo also contains a natural anti-bacterial agent, which is no bad thing either. We have had these pjs for quite a few months now and even after repeated washing they are still soft and haven't gone bobbly at all.

The top has some large fold-over mitts, so that hands can still be free to play and read until bed-time.




The mitts have quite a large fold over part, so that fingers can't wiggle out easily in the middle of the night - a problem we have found with other garments in the past.






The bottoms have been designed with the feet part being more fitted, like a pair of socks attached. I really liked this, and it was this part that really made Ally feel like a ninja! It wasn't the ninja qualities that I liked though, but just the fact that they fit so well and comfortably. Other garments we have tried have had quite floppy feet and not been as comfortable to wear. The fact that the bottoms are loose at the rest of the leg, and not tight all the way up like the Tubifast garments we get from the doctor, is also great as Ally doesn't like anything touching the back of his knees as it irritates them more.



One final thing about these well designed jammies is that they are available to buy as two separates or together. This is so that if your little one has perhaps got short little legs then you could buy a smaller size of bottoms than the top and still get the perfect fit.

They also come in adult sizes, and my husband tried out one of these when his skin had a particularly bad flare up a few months ago. He too thought they were wonderfully soft, and saved his skin from damage. He has lived with eczema since he was a small boy and says that in some ways the scratching done by someone with eczema is a sort of self-harm, with many sufferers only finding relief when they draw blood.

Living with moderate to severe eczema is not easy, whether you are the sufferer or your child(ren), but even a little thing can be a big help. I certainly recommend these bamboo pyjamas - and the whole site Everything for Eczema -  as one of those little things to help, and so does Ally the ninja.

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Sickess and travels

Monday, 28 March 2016

A week ago today we were just coming to the end of a run of a horrible sickness bug for Ally (6) that ended up with him having a stay in Children's Ward in hospital.
He woke up as normal on the Thursday morning, but before he could get himself dressed for school he was sick. He spent the day feeling really miserable and was unable to keep anything down at all, not even water.


 

Sickness bugs never have good timing, but the boys and I had train, bus and ferry tickets booked for a trip up to my mum and dad's for the following Tuesday and so the timing of this one seemed particularly bad. Especially given how contagious they can be and their tendency to spread through families like wildfire! So I spent the day being almost obsessive about hand washing and cleaning up with bleach and disinfectant.

Through the night on Thursday night Fraser (2) went down with a milder version of the bug. He was sick a couple of times through the night and up until Friday lunchtime, but then he bounced back to normal again. Poor Ally, however, was still vomiting very regularly and still unable to keep any liquids down for long. I phoned our doctors surgery for a little advice as I have never known a sickness bug to last so long. Usually our experience has been that the vomiting lasts for between 12-24 hours and then there follows a few days of exhaustion and recovery. The doctor I spoke to said that although the pattern is usually one of sickness for 24 hours, it can last for around 48 hours and that Ally was just one of those unlucky ones. He also said that it was highly unlikely for Ally to still be sick by Saturday.

Unfortunately when Saturday came there was still no sign of the sickness easing and poor Ally was looking so pale and sad. By Saturday night I was becoming quite concerned about the possibility of dehydration and so phoned NHS24 for some advice. The nurse I spoke to said that as they were so busy the earliest appointment I could get with the emergency doctor was at 3.40am. She advised me to try giving him some crushed ice to see if liquids would stay down that way, and said that if he seemed to settle I could cancel that appointment.

I gave him some crushed ice at around 10.30 on Saturday night and he went to bed around half an hour later, without being sick. As he seemed to be sleeping to soundly and hadn't been sick for a couple of hours I decided to cancel the 3.40am appointment.

Unfortunately, soon after that he was sick again and soon the sickness was back with a vengeance. I phoned NHS24 again early on Sunday morning and this time was advised that rather than wait for an appointment with the emergency doctor I should take Ally straight to A&E.

After a short wait in the waiting area, with Ally clutching his little blue bucket in case of emergencies, we were seen by a lovely doctor. He discovered that Ally's blood sugar was extremely low, probably as a result of dehydration and decided that Ally would need both IV fluids and sugar, and that he would need to be admitted to Children's Ward so that they could keep an eye on him. He also said that they would give him some anti-sickness medicine to help give his tummy a rest.

They put some magic cream on his hands to numb them before putting in his IV, and while they waited the 45 minutes for it to take effect they suggested giving him some sugary juice to try and give his blood sugar a quick boost in the meantime. I reminded them that he had been unable to keep any liquids down but they said it was worth trying anyway. Unfortunately it came straight back up while the doctor was still talking to us!

While we waited those 45 minutes for them to do the IV he was sick around 4 more times!


 
Ally was very brave getting his IV put in. He was so dehydrated that it took an age for the doctor to get the amount of blood he needed for his blood tests. Then he was given some glucose intravenously, a dose of anti sickness medicine and started on his IV fluids.

The fluids and glucose worked their magic fairly quickly and before Ally was moved up to Children's Ward, around lunchtime, his blood sugar level had moved up to the lower level of normal.

The anti-sickness medicine had also worked and by around 4 o'clock in the afternoon, having not been sick since around 2, he asked if he could play the ipad. The whole time since he had started with his sickness he had no interest in doing anything at all but just lying around. He had also started chatting more, both to me and to the nurses, and I could see his little spark of life coming back.


 

By Sunday evening the sickness was still gone and he asked for a bowl of cereal. I've never seen anyone so delighted at being able to eat again!

He was, of course, exhausted after all he had been through and slept quite quickly after he had eaten his cereal.


 


The doctors kept him on the IV fluid and glucose throughout the night and by the time Monday morning came his face showed how much better he was feeling. I had been a little nervous that the sickness would return once the anti-sickness medicine had worn off, but there was no sign of that.


 

While we had been waiting in the waiting area of A&E on Sunday morning, we had been sitting near the drinks machine and Ally had told me that he wished he could have a drink of Oasis. I promised him that as soon as his sickness had passed I would buy him a bottle as a treat and so on our way out of the hospital on Tuesday morning we stopped at the hospital shop to buy a bottle for him.



 

Although he was still very pale, and very tired, he was so excited to not only have stopped being sick and to be out of hospital, but also that it meant that we could stick to our original plan of taking our exciting train/bus/ferry trip up to Granny and Shen's on Tuesday.

I was not only thankful that Ally was finally better, but that my extreme hand washing and insistence that the other boys do the same, as well as the constant cleaning and bleaching, helped make sure that nobody else - other than Fraser's milder version of it - went down with the bug either.

Our journey to Granny and Shen's went smoothly, and although I was equipped with some plastic bags just in case. we didn't need them!


 


It took a few days for the colour to return to Ally's cheeks, but his appetite didn't take long to return. In fact, he has spent the last week eating more than usual and I think he has been making up for all those days when he couldn't eat anything!

The doctor said that Ally's blood tests were all normal and that it was just a severe version of a sickness bug.

Isn't it amazing though, how quickly modern medicines can work, and how quickly children can bounce back again? Only a day after getting out of hospital and Ally was just about back to his normal bouncy, chatty, inquisitive self.

 

Once again, we are thankful for the NHS and how easy it is to get medical help when we need it.

I hope it's a loooong time before we have to deal with any more sickness bugs in our house though, and that we never have to face one as severe as this one was!
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Recipe of the Week - Custard Creams {Gluten, Dairy & Egg Free}

Thursday, 17 March 2016





These little biscuits have no resemblance to the more famous shop bought biscuits of the same name, as you can see above. They are an old recipe that I remember my mum making when we were children, and their name comes from the fact that they have custard powder in them.

Gluten free biscuit making can be a bit tricky as gluten free flours are so much drier, making biscuits much more crumbly. This is particularly a problem when it comes to rolling out the biscuit dough and cutting out the shapes.

These biscuits don't have that problem though. Firstly because they contain a large proportion of margarine, which keeps the dough moist, and secondly because you don't need to roll out the biscuit dough. Instead you take little handfuls of the mixture, roll it into balls and then flatten slightly.

The little bit of butter icing used to sandwich them together, as well as the little bit of chocolate that they are dipped in, also help keep these from being the dry as dust experience that a gluten free biscuit can so often be.

So, onto the recipe.

You will need:

For the biscuits
6oz dairy free margarine
2oz icing sugar
6oz Doves Farm Gluten Free Self Raising Flour
2 tblsp custard powder NOT instant custard mix
(I use Birds custard powder, but do just double check whichever brand you are using that it is gluten and dairy free)

100g dairy free chocolate (we love MooFree)

For the butter icing
2oz dairy free margarine
8oz icing sugar
1-2tsp dairy free milk

-Preheat the oven to 180C.

-Put the margarine and icing sugar in a bowl and cream together until light and fluffy. You can do this by hand with a wooden spoon but it is so much easier to do it in a mixer.

- Add the flour and custard powder and beat again until everything is mixed well together.

- Take a small handful of the dough and roll it into a ball - you might be better to flour your hands a little (using your free from flour, of course) so that it doesn't stick to your hands - and place on a greased baking tray.





-Using a floured fork, lightly press down and flatten each ball a little.





-Bake for around 20 minutes until golden brown, let them cool enough to handle and then put them on a cooling rack to cool properly.





-While the biscuits are cooling you can melt the chocolate (in a bowl over a pan of boiled water) and make the butter icing.

-To make the icing put the margarine and icing sugar in a bowl and beat together. Add the dairy free milk to help bring it together, but only add 1 tsp at first as it might be all you need.

- Once the biscuits are cool, dip half of them in the melted chocolate and place on a sheet of baking parchment or tin foil until the chocolate hardens.





- Finally, sandwich together two biscuits with a splodge of the butter icing in between them. You can do this by just spreading it on, or for a fancier look then pipe it in with a piping bag and star nozzle.




The same quantities of ingredients can be used to make these up using 'normal' ingredients too.

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Easy Peasy Easter Treat

Wednesday, 16 March 2016


It's no secret that we are huge fans of Peppermint Bark in our house. Every December we make at least a couple of trays a week, although it's not all for us to eat. We make some to bag up and give away as presents too.

Since we love it so much, and since the season for making it is so short, last year I had the amazing brainwave - well I thought it was amazing anyway - of adapting it to make an Easter version. I'm pretty sure that I shared the results last year, but it really can do no harm to share something so simple and delicious more than once, can it?

Even those with no baking skills whatsoever can rustle up a tray of this delight.




All you need to do is melt 300g white chocolate and spread in a lined rectangular baking tray. Let it harden in the fridge while you melt 300g milk chocolate and then spread this on top of the white layer. Lightly crush around 100/150g of mini eggs (I had bought one of the large bags and used half of it) and sprinkle over the top of the milk chocolate while warm. Then just let it all set and slice it into squares.

I use supermarket own brand basic/value/savers chocolate that costs 30p for a 100g bar to make this, so this treat is not only delicious but super savvy cost wise too. A whole tray will cost only around £2.80 and would make a lovely Easter gift if packaged up nicely. Much cheaper than an Easter Egg and you get more chocolate in it too! Win, win.

Now, if only I could think of a chocolate bark idea for summer and autumn then we would have one for every season of the year. Although perhaps that might not be such a good idea!

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Running for Scotland

Tuesday, 15 March 2016


At the weekend, James (16) had the exciting opportunity to represent Scotland for the Army Cadets in their Cross Country running competition.

James has been a regular at Army Cadets since the summer of 2013. Right from when he first joined he has taken the discipline of the cadets seriously, but in the last year he has been even more determined to attend as often as he possibly can, to volunteer for as many extra events as he is able to with his other commitments, and basically just to behave and do as much as possible to help him gain a promotion.

One requirement of his military discipline that I highly approve of is to wash and iron his own uniform!



As well as the chance to run for his country, James has had other great opportunities with the Cadets. Like attending the Edinburgh Military Tattoo last August with the Military Police, learning First Aid, and working towards the Duke of Edinburgh award (DofE). James completed the expedition for the Bronze level of Dof E with the cadets last Autumn and is now working on his 6 months volunteering and physical.


Cadets meet two evenings a week, and the cadets have the option to attend 4 local weekend camps a year and a two week annual camp down south in the summer. Attending the camps is optional but the cadets do miss out on some extra things like shooting practice and field craft if they don't go, and they need to gain the experience in order to work their way up the rankings.


There are also some optional sporting extras and it was through this that James took part in the Cross Country competition.

Last autumn he took part in the Scottish Cross Country competition. Those who finished in the first four positions of that race qualified to represent Scotland in last weekend's competition. James finished fourth in the qualifying race.

James has asthma, and when he was younger he suffered quite badly with it, needing hospitalised a couple of times in early primary school. He now seems to be growing out of it and has it very well managed. To see him running long distances like he does now is something we could never have imagined when he was much younger.

He doesn't attend any running clubs and so James voluntarily kept up his running training on his own. Nearly every morning before school, right through the cold, dark winter mornings, he would go out for a run at 6:30am, and be back home in the shower before his brothers were even out of their beds! He never needed anyone to get him out of bed in order to go running and his discipline was admirable.


His commitment paid off, and at the National event he helped the Scottish team come 2nd overall. He came home with his silver medal, and even more importantly to him, his Scottish colours. Very few cadets in his company have their colours and they are only given to those cadets who have represented their country at something. 






After all his healthy eating and training, he said that he wanted to slob out a bit once he was home on Saturday and so we had a treat of Krispy Kreme doughnuts - something we rarely buy - for him coming home.




Whenever he is away at camp, or just away for the night as he was this weekend, there are a couple of little people in the house who really miss him, They are always glad to have him home again. No one can read a Thomas story quite like your biggest brother!



James doesn't have any plans to join the regular army when he leaves school, although he still doesn't really know what he would like to do. He is a talented musician and artist and sees himself perhaps following one of these routes. He is especially leaning towards the idea of doing something with music - compostition, or music technology, or something similar.

But he appreciates the value of all that he is doing with the cadets, and all the life skills he is learning through them. 

I would honestly recommend getting your sons, or daughters, involved in one of the cadet forces for that very reason. It's not about playing with guns and learning to fight as some people think. It's about building character - I know that sounds so clich├ęd but you know what I mean - and learning so many different skills that will be valuable in the future workplace. Far more valuable than a lot of what they have to learn at school!


If you want to find out more about the Army Cadets you can do so here.

Makings - Rainy Day Cardigan

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

I fell in love with this cardigan after seeing it in last month's issue of Inside Crochet, and bought the magazine just so that I could get the pattern.

I had the perfect colours to make the rainbow in my Stylecraft Special DK yarn stash and set about making it straight away.



I didn't get far into making it when I realised there was a mistake in the pattern, my Instagram friends who were also making the cardigan confirmed this. So the week that I injured my foot, I emailed the magazine and received the corrected version of the pattern and started again.




Because I was using DK and not the Aran weight yarn used in the pattern, I had to add quite a few extra rows to the length of the cardigan and, thanks to the advice of an Instagram friend who had completed the cardigan in DK before me, I didn't make any of the decreases in the sleeves. I just kept on trying it on Fraser and measuring it against him until the lengths of everything looked right!




I also didn't add the cloud as it was in the pattern as it wouldn't have ended up sitting in the same place. Instead I decided to add a sun and cloud applique.




The sun motif is from Repeat Crafter Me and you can find the pattern for it here.

The cloud motif is one I came across on Pinterest. The link didn't go anywhere, it was just a photo of the pattern, so I don't know who or where to credit it to, although it does remind me of the style of a page from Simply Crochet Magazine. You can find the pattern here.

And here is the final 'ta-da' of the cardigan...



The crochet is all finished on it but I still haven't added any buttons. In my head I think it would look perfect with some little cloud or sun buttons, but I haven't been able to source any yet. If I can't find any then I think I'll use different coloured buttons, one from each colour of the rainbow.

The hardest thing now is getting a photo of the cardigan on it's intended wearer - a 2 year old who is rarely still, even when sitting down!









Perhaps I'll try and get a better photo of it on him once the buttons are all added on!

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Mother's Day

Monday, 7 March 2016

Ah, Mother's Day. 

The day when, by the looks of what is shared on social media, we can be led to think that everyone else has had a perfect Mother's Day. With their children bringing them breakfast in bed, showering them with gifts and then helping them to have a peaceful and relaxing day. 

For most of us that's not usually the whole picture though, and there is a lot left out of those social media posts - squabbling siblings anyone?

However, like I've said many times before, it's important to focus on the best bits of family life, and so this is how Mother's Day was in our house.


I'm not a fan of breakfast in bed - too many crumbs - so we had breakfast together in the kitchen. I have started writing down all the recipes that the boys can make in a special notebook and so Calum (13) used our pancake recipe to make a batch of these rather impressively sized gluten & dairy free pancakes. One was more than enough to fill you up!






For our Sunday lunch Calum was back in the kitchen baking an apple crumble, as well as assisting dad with cooking a roast chicken dinner. They were quite the kitchen dream team, and my Cath Kidston apron never looked so good!










It was David (10) who had the job of setting the table nicely. 










After a very tasty lunch, and with the potential for a quiet, lazy afternoon ahead of me, I looked out some yarn from my stash to make up a batch of simple, no need to think about them, granny squares.











It wasn't exactly a quiet afternoon, but then I didn't ever think that it would be!


The boys all chose some lovely house plants as gifts for me this year, and our fireplace is looking very colourful and spring like today.







The biggest of the plants came from the smallest boy. Apparently Fraser (2) picked up this plant when asked what he wanted to get for me and didn't want to look at anything else! The ceramic jar that it is sitting in is one that came from my granny's kitchen and that I usually keep by the kitchen sink for storing our washing up things in.




Mother's Day shouldn't be about how much we receive, or how much we have done for us though. To me Mother's Day is a day that reminds me how blessed I am. There are so many women who long to be mothers or who have lost a child that it seems very selfish if we grumble about things not being quite 'perfect' for our own Mother's Days.
I am very thankful for my husband and boys doing their best to give me a day off - even if it did mean there were quite a few questions about where things lived in the kitchen, how much of something did they need to make something, what dish would I use to put something in......

 
DESIGNED BY ECLAIR DESIGNS