Guest Blogger- Ashley Vender 

In honor of Eczema awareness month I asked a fellow eczema mom to share her story here! 

Meet Ashley and family:

Ashley Vender is a former consumer packaged goods marketer turned freelance consultant. She is a mother (and Dr Mom) to two children and lives on the Northshore of Chicago. She advocates for eczema awareness and treatment, serves on her son’s preschool board and believes in healthy, active living. She is also a hockey mom, soccer mom, home cook and an eternal optimist.  


“Why was I born this way?” The first time my daughter, 5, asked that question, she sputtered out the words between sobs. Her tiny shoulders were curled forward in defeat and her face was pure heartbreak. She was looking up at me from the bathtub, where she was soaking in bleach. It stung her skin, raw from yet another eczema flair. I wanted to cry—for her—too.

We’d just returned home from an emergency allergist appointment. The allergist had examined my daughter for signs of staph, and had once again told us to stay the course with the nightly (awful) regimen: a 10 minute soak in a bleach bath, followed by prescription steroids that also stung, followed by head-to-toe ointment. The morning regimen was more stinging steroids and ointment, and an oral allergy medicine to help with itching.

An emergency allergist appointment was nothing new for us, but this was the first appointment where my daughter was old enough to listen and process what was going on. She realized she wasn’t one of the lucky ones that outgrew eczema by age 5. She realized she wasn’t getting better, that the baths and creams she despised were not going away. She realized that she was different.


I’d realized my daughter was different when she was just days old. I remember asking the newborn photographer if she could retouch out the splotches on my daughter’s face. When friends and family came to meet her, I handed my daughter over with apologies for how rashy she looked. I asked about different creams and ointments and cleansers at every pediatrician appointment. We spent our first family vacation nervously keeping my daughter in the shade because the sun, sunscreen, and pool seemed to turn her even blotchier. By the time she was 11 months old, we’d been through a battery of allergy tests and tried our first (unsuccessful) elimination diet. But still, the red patches came.

We got on 3 month long wait lists with “the best” eczema specialists in the US. We spent small fortunes on “calming lotions” and kept leapfrogging to stronger levels of steroid creams. And still, the red patches came. Then the scratching started. So. Much. Scratching. My daughter stopped sleeping through the night during flare ups. She’d scratch until she bled in her sleep, then wake up in pain. We tried bleach baths for the first time, and adopted a bathing routine so complicated that either my husband or I had to be home from work every night in time for bathtime—no leaving something so important up to a nanny.


We planned family activities around our daughter’s skin. We traveled with our own soap, sheets, towels and enough creams and ointments to cover half the state of Illinois. We sent our daughter to preschool with special lotion and a list of restrictions, and still had an eczema flair so bad she missed a week of school and ended up on the Z-pack. We blew through our health insurance deductibles with rounds of testing and prescriptions that didn’t work. We saw multiple dermatologists, switched pediatricians three times and allergists three times, each time frustrated by the lack of options and ever decreasing quality of life for my daughter. Weeks were divided into “good skin days” and “bad skin days.” But all days were frustrating days. Because our daughter–no, our daughter’s skin–was different.

When my daughter asked that night in the bathtub why she “was born this way,” I had no good answer for why she had eczema, or for why it was so bad. My heartbreak matched hers. But what I did have was a promise. A promise to never stop looking for a solution, to never give up on her. I asked my whole universe (real friends, facebook friends, old coworkers, my entire family) to help me look for alternative treatments. To help me find a doctor that understood the link between eczema and quality of life. And…the universe answered.


My father-in-law (a physician himself) happened to play a round of golf with the inventor of CLn BodyWash. My FIL mentioned our daughter, and the inventor sent us a bottle of body wash to try. It was LIFE CHANGING. It gave my daughter all the therapeutic benefits of a bleach bath, but without the stinging or actual bleaching. Bathtime went from 30 minutes of tears, thrashing, spotted clothes and exhaustion to an easy, sweet childhood experience. And we’ve found that since she tolerates baths better, her skin needs fewer steroids. She is itching less (we think because bleach isn’t drying out her skin as much and that she is in water less) and therefore inflaming her eczema less. Our daughter is happy and she feels NORMAL–finally. We still have flare ups, but we deal with them better now. She attends a public school and has no restrictions. She plays ice hockey, goes to camp and is on a soccer team. And her skin does not hurt. I, as a mother, know I cannot make everything perfect for her always. But it feels pretty damn good to make her feel normal. Normal is enough for now.

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Part 2 Outside In…

So, we went back to the dermatologist and he said he hadn’t seen eczema that didn’t at least look like it had STARTED to heal, especially with the amount of medication she was on. 

It made me sad to think her legs and feet could possibly look like they did forever. I WAS REALLY WORRIED WE WOULD HAVE TO AMPUTATE HER PINKY TOE.


Thankfully, he did have good news… she qualified for a medical study. We were to use a bodywash 3 times a week. The directions were very specific to get skin wet, lather on and leave for 1-3 minutes and then rinse. 


I wasn’t sure at first what to think, but honestly we had no other options and nothing to lose!  And NOTHING else had worked. Was she going to be stuck with skin like this forever? 


12 weeks later I was more grateful than ever that we found CLn bodywash and that we were able to be in the study. We had no idea that a couple of bottles of bodywash would be so instrumental in our future.  

Isn’t it?

Here is a video describing what she went through and how one simple product significantly changed our lives.

 5 years later her skin is still clear and all the other issues she had have completely cleared up and NOT come back!  And she’s just a happy 7 year old doing her thing! 

From the Outside In (part 1)

You know I have read a lot about gut health and healing from the inside out, but our story is quite different. 


As you know, Rahrah battled skin problems the first 2.5 years of her life. What I haven’t shared is the battle was much much more than the eczema. 

Did you know she was seen for SEVERE reflux and had a gastro specialist because even at 18 months she wasn’t eating table foods and was aspirating her milk and baby foods? 

Did you know she was seeing a pulminologist and struggled with breathing?  We once moved her room upstairs and she wheezed so bad during her nap my husband had to take down her furniture and move her back to a room with wood floors?  How about that she had a bronchoscope and we were told eventually she will have to have her throat stretched because she has a narrowing in her airways they think was cause by her being intubated at birth?  


We were always worried about her and what was next. The skin was the icing on the cake. We were seeing doctors for our doctors. We were bleeding Co-pays!  The catalyst was her skin infection. 

Well maybe not the catalyst, but the ball started rolling after her inpatient stay for staph on her leg.   She was on a 30 day round of the most potent meds you can put in a 2 year old body and 5 topical steroids at once. She was diagnosed with a severe ear infection while on the meds. THAT SHOULD NOT HAPPEN!!!! 

We started having her tested for auto-immune disease…23 vials of blood from a baby…that  came back inconclusive. So here we were once again scratching our heads. 


We ended up back in the ER for staph on a toe. I fully expected them to possibly amputate her toe. We had to remove her earrings as eczema had basically eaten her ear lobes. 

Finally, after this visit we were given the go ahead to see a pediatric dermatologist. We got in and found a plan. We did that plan which included oral steroids, topical steroids and about a 45 minute a night skin prep…


Our bed time was not even pleasant as this chart looks nothing like our night.  Cross all that sweet routine out. And write go potty and prep skin…put topical meds in specific spots based on thickness, cover with aquaphor, put pjs on and put to bed. Nothing sweet, bath time fun didn’t exist. It was sheer exhaustion and worry creating our next steps. Just basic survival for what was our current situation. 
Our night continued like this: Wake up in middle of night. Do ritual again and change Jammies as wounds wept on the ones she was wearing and then dried,  stuck, reopening wounds. 

After 2 weeks of the craziness we had a follow up with the dermatologist and he had a new option…

Options were GREAT. I was willing to try ANYTHING! 

Part 2 coming tomorrow!  

Mindful

How many of you have children that notice things and point them out and it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up from embarrassment?  

One time, I was having my car serviced and 13 was 3.  It was Christmas time and she had been watching an obnoxious amount of Elmo’s Happy Holidays. The employee who escorted me to my car said,  “Happy Holidays!”  My daughter smiled and yelled, “Merry Christmas, NO  WAIT your black Happy Kwanza!” 

What did I do? Turn red, questioned my parenting…

Hoppped in the car and put the pedal to the metal…stumbled and choke on my words. FINALLY, gathered my thoughts  and began the teaching part. I talked to her about differences and that we don’t have to point out differences. EVEN WHEN WE NOTICE THEM!  


We talked about the obvious like people in wheel chairs and that IF she has questions we can talk about it later. And she is always allowed to ask me when we are alone.  I prodded with, “Did you know that people with glasses are different?”

I reminded her that she too is different. At the time she was an only child, and her body was different than Elmo, he has fur and is red. She doesn’t have fur and has light skin. Did I mention we PROMPTLY STOPPED watching “Happy Holiday with Elmo!” Just in case!  Lol. 

  
I tell you all this to share about this article well written by a loving mom that talks about her daughter (pictured below) and a skin condition she has.  She shares the heartbreak and challenge it is when walking through the store.   You can’t miss her daughter’s skin condition if you aren’t used to seeing it. However, just because her skin is different her feelings aren’t. 


We are obviously very aware of various skin conditions, but we are looking for ways to increase awareness and teachable moments for our kids.  

Also, if you know anyone with a skin condition feel free to tell them about our family. I would love to see if our favorite product can help them. And show them support they may not be getting elsewhere. 


Have your children ever embarrassed you by saying or noticing something? Share your stories.  What other life teachable moments come to mind?  

Also, please take time to click on this picture and read her story. 

Read here.

Change 

I’ve always been kind of a quieter, less outgoing, keep to myself, only if you are in my bubble kind of girl.  I was a mom, wife, daughter, aunt and sister. Which honestly, with kids CRAZY close together didn’t leave much energy for anything else. 

About year ago things started changing in my life. I was attending networking groups, growing my business and just generally stepping out of my comfort zone. For the 7 years prior I had been a stay at home mom and dabbler. I sold Scentsy, Advocare, crafted and just did what I could to make extra shopping money. And I guess if my dad were here he would say I looked for “what’s next.”

Looking back, I was searching for more!  I was looking for passion, excitement, change and purpose. And I had no idea. 

I didn’t know that I had become  complacent. Not unhappy or bored, but not excited and driven either. More like a hamster on his wheel…definitely not bad because I was a mom and I was doing everything I had wanted to do!  But something was missing in my day to day. 

Our family started attending a local church in January and we jumped all in. Our feet didn’t just get wet. It was our WHOLE body!  

Our kids were involved and I started to volunteer with the babies on Sunday. We went to some prayer meetings and every time we showed up it was us and the leaders of the church.  I went to a group called Brave, even when I told my mother in law months before I wasn’t Brave enough to go!  (Now, I am helping to keep that group growing). 


My business took off and it flourished. I was able to enjoy my kids, make money, meet people and start working on me. 

 to last week…I met with our Pastor and shared some ideas and thoughts that have been weighing heavy on me. 

I shared our “why” of how come we picked this church!  And we talked about direction. 

Check out how God has been working in me for today!  You can also hear what we are going to be up to and what I am super excited to be involved with. (It’s not super clear cause it was taken pretty far away and on an iPhone). But I am very excited about the future of our church. 


I can’t wait to see where we reach people. I can’t wait to see my church family grow and I cannot wait to see the new friends I am going to continue to be blessed with. The ones I have already made are making such a strong impact!  

I am not one that likes public speaking.  So, I was very nervous, but I survived. And I am now seeing why God started changing me.  And I can’t wait to see how I continue to change and put myself out there to share His word and how He has had a hand in my life all along, even when I might not have been living for my intended purpose. 


Have you ever started changing and not known why?  It’s exciting!  Keep your chin up. Open your mind to stepping WAY outside your comfort zone. You will be blessed in a way you could never imagine. 

Today, my heart is fuller, my family happier and my future is secure as I know my God has great plans for me!  

I dont know what all He is working on and I often wonder what He has in store for me, but I know it’s gonna be GOOD!  

Back to School Lunches 

As a mom of 4 I have to be somewhat organized!  Our house is not over the top organized in any way, but 4 kids can destroy a house in a nanosecond!  


I really try to stay on top of the chaos and keep life simple. I like to be “Yes!” Mom and if I am not on top of things all I can do is say “No!”  

This year we decided to try being more organized with lunches. We, me and my 8th grader who has amazingly made all the kid lunches every day, every school year!  I would say I’ve helped maybe a total of 10 times. 


I wanted to remove her stress of doing lunches and see if I could help simplify the process and be involved without having to be involved while getting four kids ready and out the door!  So we came to this conclusion: 

THE DOOR HANGER LUNCH SAVER:


The door hanger has 4 columns, one for each child. We put a fruit, we pre bag chips and a snack in each, then we get a sandwich and pack it.  The bottom 6th pocket holds 5 snacks one for each day. 

So basically, this is what the first week of school lunch consists of 48 pieces of bread, 48 strips of turkey bacon, 25 ounces of turkey, 20 bags of chips, 20 treats, 20 pieces of fruit, 15 pieces of cheese and 20 snacks! 

So now I can excitedly announce, “We have successfully made it through the first week of school with sandwiches!”
BUT and this is a big BUT!!!!  We need 4 water bottles that don’t LEAK!!!!  Like don’t LEAK AT ALL!  Suggestions please!!!  

Back to school 

So it’s back to school and today was Meet the Teacher. I created some cute little gifts for the teachers. 

That was fun, but more pressing issues are at hand. My baby is going into kinder and I am like, “UH he was just born and yeah I am not ready for this! OH and he has food allergies and I am supposed to trust people I hardly know with him?!? He’s  the baby and did I mention I think I just cured him of door licking? Oh and one last think I forgot to mention is he is the baby, my baby…baby of the FAM OH LEE”


So what do you tell the teachers about your kids?  Do you have kids that have food allergies?  How detailed do you go?  Do you have them wear shirts as a reminder?  Allergy bracelets?  


What about my daughter with skin issues do I tell them that? How about the one who has a harder time adjusting??  Ok where is that bubble to keep them in or that homeschool teacher I forgot to hire… So I can control EVERYTHING?!?


But really…One of my guys really DOES have severe food allergies. I have taught him about his allergens. He knows not to eat anything I haven’t sent with him.  The school only allows store bought snacks. And I took snacks for him to have when they celebrate birthdays in class. The teacher is someone I know and trust but still…this one could be serious and life threatening and I have pretty much been in control of him and his food for over 6 years!  
Will his teacher teach the kids this info?  Will the parents honor that?  Do they understand the severity of it? 


The pic above needs to be taught to kids who aren’t familiar. Parents please teach your kids if  they have something my son can’t have don’t touch him, don’t offer him anything and please please please don’t tease him. 

My boy is tough and doesn’t care, but some kid do. My youngest daughter suffered from severe, painful, ugly, yucky, oozy eczema. 


This is a common issue with kids with food allergies. My son does not have skin issues and my daughter doesn’t exhibit any signs of food sensitivity, thankfully! BUT if you see a kid with red, painful, scaly skin know they are probably battling a couple different beasts. Give them a smile, encourage your child to be a good friend. And teach them to think about them and their differences.  

On a similar but different note, we also have a son with a food dye sensitivity. His isn’t as severe as the one with the tree but allergy, but I’ll tell you what makes this mom as heart burst…


You just can’t believe the kindness his friends extend to him. I have had many moms call me and say, “Hey my son wants to know what doesn’t have dye in it so he can serve it at his party!” The kids don’t want my son to feel different and they want him to be included. Those parents have amazing kids and I am greatful. 
We do not want or expect people to do anything different for our kids, but it is kind to know they will!  

If you know anyone who suffers from food sensitivity, life threatening, or not skin conditions or any other difference send them our way.  We want to embrace those like us, cherish our differences and learn about others who are different than us.