!! New Challenger Approaching !!

Man oh man, what have I been up to?! A whole lot of nothing, really. I can’t believe I forgot to post this here lol. I guess mostly everyone knows already but I’ll post anyway. Diana, Aria and I are expecting another addition to the family in May 2019!

I decided to do something a little different this time – using a Super Smash Bros-related concept paired with cars. For those of you that don’t know about the Super Smash Bros game – it’s a fighter game that has multiple characters that join the battle as you progress through the game. As you unlock each character, you get a “New challenger approaching” message and a silhouette of the character before you battle to try and unlock them. I tried to use that same concept with our cars – showing the “current” roster and then showing a darker, shadowy silhouette of the new car to portray the new baby.

We’re not sure yet on if it’s a boy or a girl – we don’t find out until the end of December – but whatever it is, I think we’re ready to have our hands full(er?) again. We always joke that we’re gonna have ANOTHER one whenever Aria starts being a butthead. We’re super stoked though – the more the merrier :).

Some other things I’ve been working on…

I’ve picked up an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil and have really been spending a lot of my free time to illustrating/sketching/painting and trying to “hone” my skills. I truly haven’t drawn in years and it was something that I enjoyed a lot when I was a kid. I would go through packs of paper learning to draw and then I kind of just fell off the wagon.

I tried again using my computer/mouse and Adobe Illustrator but the mouse and clicking reference points to create lines and such just wasn’t working out for me so I gave up there too. The iPad however, makes it feel like an awesome combination of traditional pencil/paper drawing mixed with the digital benefits of layers and effects of Illustrator and I’ve been able to finally put the ideas in my head onto a canvas of some sort. As you saw in my previous post – I was able to make one shirt out of one of the first designs I finished. I have a few more that I just keep jumping back and forth on but I’ll post as I finish them.

To be honest, almost all of my free time now has been spent drawing – so that’s where you’ll find me. LOL!

To Have an Imagination Again…

Now that Aria is big enough to just do things on her own, I’m having a little more fun with being able to take pictures of her while she plays. I’m beginning to like taking pictures of people more than cars LOL.

One of the things that I’ve been wanting to do is just get some candid shots of Aria playing – not in a creepy way – but just to be able to illustrate how strong a child’s imagination is in a photo. With a little patience and some good timing, you can get some images that evoke a little imagination in yourself that you might have just overlooked if you were just watching. My goal yesterday was to do just that – I wanted to capture Aria in her own world and wonder. I essentially wanted to create the same fairy tale surrounding that children find themselves in – free of worry and the hustle and bustle of the things that burden adults. I think I was able to do a little bit of it, and I wanted to share it with everyone here. Lately, there’s been a little more than cars here at lifewithjson – I think everyone deserves to be a kid once in a while and what better way to do it than to watch and learn…

“Are you hiding something from me, Bun Bun?” Aria’s facial expressions can switch from sweet to menacing real quick. Here she questions Bun Bun on some mischief he might have gotten into”.

“I’m your captain now” as she commands the fighter jet.

It doesn’t matter how many times she reads this book, it’s like she’s seeing it for the first time, every time.

“Do you like the book, Bun Bun?” Aria often checks on her stuffed toys to make sure they’re OK and doing what she asks.

And occasionally, she’ll give them hugs for being there for her.

If they’re lucky, they’ll get french kisses too.

And sometimes she just likes to relax and rest in between all the running and jumping around.

They were having a conversation of some sort – not in any language that I knew, but they all understood each other well. Must be talking about what to play with tomorrow.

And one last photo with a slightly different edit to it. I typically like the cooler tones in pictures, but the setting in these photos called for a warmer, vintage look. The sun coming through at sunset was perfect and the blinds helped create a nice effect on her and everything around her.

There’s something about these photos that invokes a sense of calm in me and I’m not sure if that’s because it’s Aria or because it really does capture some sort of peace that I’ve been missing lately. Either way – pretty happy with how the photos turned out – what do you guys think?

We’ll be installing JC’s new coilovers on Sunday and I’ll likely have some pics from that but then I’ll be in Chicago all of next week, so probably no content after that until I get back!

Aria’s Battle with Eczema and How We Helped Her!

EDIT – September 6, 2018

I’ve recently been made aware of a recall by Health Canada on Jian Pai thanks to a fellow reader – Lydia. I’ve posted the links below for your reference and your personal judgement on the use of this cream. Again, I’m not affiliated with this company or cream nor am I a doctor or healthcare specialist. As a desperate parent that stumbled upon this a year ago, we tried this and it worked magically. In fact, we still haven’t finished the first bottle as that’s how little we’ve actually had to use it.¬†

Whether you continue to decide to keep using it is up to you and any harmful effects or issues is your responsibility. From my personal perspective, this still outweighs many options given by doctors such as Elidel – which is known to cause cancer and other irritating Steroid creams. Read on at your own leisure and please do your own research in order to inform your decisions about the cream and any other medical product you choose to use.

https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/advisory—jian-pai-natural-skin-care-cream-contains-antifungal-drugs-not-listed-on-the-label-which-may-pose-serious-health-risks-689919081.html

http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2018/67526r-eng.php

~END UPDATE~

It’s been almost 15 months with Aria and it’s definitely been a journey of surprises and unexpectedly¬† great things. Like every good thing in life, there are also some bad things that sit shotgun with them. Most of the time, parents only ever talk about the good because that’s really all we want you to know. Very rarely will we talk about the bad – for many legitimate reasons too – perhaps to hide the fact that your baby isn’t perfect or that you could be doing something wrong. I get it, because if something is “wrong” with your kid, then the parent must be doing something “wrong” too, right? Babies are perfect and they can’t be anything but perfect. Unfortunately, that’s not the case all the time…

In Aria’s case, she’s been battling eczema for the last 8 months of her life. Not an uncommon thing to be fighting, but definitely not perfect. Ever since Aria’s been born, she’s had a case of mild eczema – I say mild because it’s been mainly red cheeks, and some redness on her ankles, wrists and inside of her arms and legs. It’s not terrible, but it’s unsightly and it causes us more grief than it does for her. But as a parent – you want your baby to be perfect, and look good and feel good – even if they don’t know it. You can’t blame us, right? You would want the same for your kid.

Anyway, the reason for this post is more for information and a look into the eczema battle from our point of view. I know from the moment we knew Aria had eczema, Diana and I were always looking for others online for guidance, for information, for treatment that “worked” and you always end up with the same thing: steroids, paid bloggers writing about some OTC product that “magically” worked, and in some cases – the eczema just also “magically” went away. Our case for the last 7 months has been steroids and other creams that I’ll talk about, and the latter two “magical” options never graced us… So we had to look at other options. Those of you that do have eczema/kids with eczema can breathe a sigh of relief – I’m not being paid. I’m writing this because there isn’t enough true and real-life information out there and maybe this will help ease your minds. So if you’re in the same boat as us – read on. I hope that this will provide a solution or another option. For those of you who are used to my car stuff – sorry. I felt that this was important enough to share publicly.

I wanted to share some pictures of Aria with her eczema when it flared up starting from when she was smaller. At the time, it didn’t look “that bad”. When we look back now, my heart breaks that it actually did look “that bad”. Like I said before, it probably caused us more discomfort than it did her. She never really scratched and it never seemed to bother her – but it was unsightly. We used creams and lotioned her well but it would come and go – never completely, though.

Another of it on her face. When she was younger, the eczema was mainly on her face and less on her body.

As she got older though, the eczema started to move from her face to her ankles and wrists. You can see here, this was almost at the most stressful and frustrating time for us. The eczema would flare up on her wrists and she would just scratch. She would scratch until it bled and opened up her skin and we couldn’t do a thing about it. Diana and I were at the point where we were on her like hawks – always waiting for the moment for her to scratch only to stop her as quick as we could. You know how you never want to be a helicopter parent? Eczema forced us to be – for all the wrong reasons.

There were times where we were unable to do this. In the car – you would see her just go at her wrists and you can’t do anything while driving besides try and reach back and grab her hand away while also trying to drive safely only to have her back to scratching the moment you got your hands on the wheel again. At night when she’s sleeping, and she scratches while asleep and you don’t even know that it’s happening. It’s times like this where you’re helpless and you’re at a loss because there’s literally nothing you can do. This is the frustrating part because we would spend every waking second making sure she wasn’t scratching her wrists open only to have her open them up again when we couldn’t do anything.

Of course, as a baby – she didn’t know any better. Aria was good that way because she would scratch to relieve an itch and she didn’t know it was bleeding. Hell, I don’t even think she knew it hurt. She never cried over it, she never showed pain… It’s just extremely sad to see because if my wrists were like that, I would be crying. One of the toughest parts about dealing with eczema in a baby is that they don’t know what’s wrong and what not to do to it… You have to know for them.

Our next step was to try and protect her wrists. They would go from healed to opened again every few days and that’s what was frustrating. We couldn’t blame Aria because all she knew was that she was itchy. There really was no one to blame and in times like this, you really wish there was. Maybe the doctor for not prescribing the perfect medicine? No, because medicine can only do so much.

We decided to get some polysporin and gauze to cover them up and heal up the opened wounds. It worked for the most part but Aria got smart and was able to start scratching underneath the gauze and we were back to square one again.

Anyway, we got to the point where we were desperate. We were willing to do literally anything to stop her from scratching her wrists. I came up with the idea of cutting up one of her onesies, and sewing socks onto the ends of it so that we could put it on her when we couldn’t do anything about it. So we did just that – I cut up her onesie and Diana sewed on some socks. The above is the result and I’ll tell you – this was one of the silliest, yet smartest things we wished we had done sooner. It stopped her from scratching up her wrists but it didn’t “fix” the problem. We were just trying to find band-aid methods until we found a solution. At this point, we were at a loss and pretty much out of hope to find any solution at all. It got to the point (after months of putting this contraption on her) that she was used to the routine. It’s kind of cute that she knows “alright, I have to put this jacket on now before we go out or before I go to sleep” and she just sorta expected it.

You might be saying to yourself now – “maybe they didn’t do this” or “maybe they didn’t do that”. Here’s what I’ll do, I’ll tell you EVERYTHING that we did do… Just so we’re all on the same page and so that we can align on how desperate Diana and I got on trying to make this go away. Sure, maybe there is something we missed, but I felt like we did what we could and knew.

I’ll go through the routine and the products we used will follow after. The routine stayed pretty much the same over the course of the last 8 months but the products we used changed.

  • We bathed her everyday and put lotion on her immediately after to keep moisture in.
  • We tried not bathing her everyday (as per recommendations) thinking bathing often was irritating her skin. Turns out, not bathing everyday made it worse.
  • We wash her face and hands after every meal – if food stayed on, it made her eczema worse.
  • We lotioned her up religiously… And I mean RELIGIOUSLY. Every chance we got, we were putting cream on her skin so it wouldn’t itch and get dry.
  • We watched what she was eating carefully – fruits like Kiwi would make her itch even though she loved them. We would test new foods over the course of a few days just to make sure it wouldn’t cause an flare up.
  • We put a humidifier in her room to moisten the air and keep her skin from drying. (didn’t help).

Here’s a list of the products we used, what worked, and what didn’t work. I’m not saying it won’t work for you/your kid, but it didn’t do anything for Aria.

What worked:

  • Aveeno Eczema Night Balm – this was a thick cream we used at night that kept her skin moisturized nicely. We ended up using this throughout the day.
  • Aveeno Eczema Wash – probably still the best wash we’ve tried. It keeps her skin moisturized and doesn’t strip it dry – even with soft water.
  • Aveeno Lightly Scented Moisturizer – another good moisturizer. We ended up putting this on first with the night balm layered on top of it with good results.
  • Burt’s Bee’s Baby Bee Ointment – we tried this out in the later stages of her eczema and it worked well. The smell was not great but it seemed to keep her flare ups at bay very well, provided that we use it often during the day and at night.
  • Aquaphor Ointment – this worked well for a short amount of time to keep the moisture in at night. It’s greasy like Vaseline so it wasn’t ideal all day.
  • Vaseline Petroleum Jelly – another basic product that worked well but still not ideal.
  • **Steroid – I put asterisks here because this will inevitably come up. I’ll talk more about it later, but it was a product we used for about 7 months. It never healed it or made it go away, but it kept flare ups down. Not the best thing we wanted to use for that long (despite what doctors tell us).
  • **Jian Pai. This is the magic cream. I’ll talk more about this below.

What didn’t work:

  • Cetaphil baby wash – this was terrible. It looked like it burned her skin. It turned it all red and she flared up.
  • Cetaphil baby lotion – same as above.
    • I’d note that we only tried this because a “paid blog” said this was amazing. For Aria, it was nothing short of terrible.
  • Live Clean Baby wash – dried out her skin, flare ups happened immediately after bath.
  • Live Clean Baby lotion – not moisturizing enough. Scented products don’t typically work well with Aria’s eczema.
  • Dove Baby Rich Moisture – despite the name – not very moisturizing. Didn’t do anything for Aria.
  • Aveeno Baby Soothing Relief Wash – surprisingly this was not a good product either compared to Aveeno’s Eczema cream wash. Did nothing.
  • Skin Fix – a cream I was undecided on where to put. I’m putting it on the “did not work” section because while we used it for a long time, it never cleared anything up nor stop flare ups. It might have only helped the itch for a short amount of time.
  • **Elidel – if you’ve had eczema, at one point or another – your doctor will prescribe you Elidel. It’s a cream not meant to be used on kids under 2 and there is a risk that this cream causes cancer. Well, we used it as per the doctors recommendation and it did absolutely nothing. We used it for a period of 2 weeks but to no avail. We stopped use of this cream immediately after.
  • **Stronger steroid cream – we got prescribed stronger steroids for short-term use as well which did maybe a little better than the low strength one, but we stopped using that too pretty quickly as it didn’t appear to help much more.

Now, there’s tons more products out there and if we didn’t come across Jian Pai (as mentioned above), you can bet your asses we would’ve kept trying. We’ve probably spent nearly $200 on different products, methods, and items to try and help Aria out and each time, you hope that this next product was the magical answer only to find out it made the eczema worse or didn’t do anything at all…

Now, I want to show you what I mean by us being “desperate” is and just how bad it got. I’m not joking when we say it’s been the most frustrating and stressful thing we’ve had to deal with for Aria – and even looking at this picture today makes my stomach turn. This was when she was in the car and just scratched away. We took her to the hospital immediately after and all we got was more head-scratching doctors and we ended up leaving with a stronger prescription. My problem with this is that after all these months, the only thing doctors have thrown at us has been steroids, stronger steroids, creams that can cause cancer, and nothing helps. In their defense, they can only prescribe what they know and if the first thing doesn’t work, something stronger must be better right? Is it safe? I don’t know but as I keep mentioning – you get desperate and do anything to help your kid out.

Let’s just get to what you’ve been waiting for – if you’re still reading, you’re probably wondering what this magic cream is and maybe it’ll help you. The cream is called Jian Pai – it’s an Asian cream that’s free of steroids. (I’m going to start to sound like a paid blogger now, but believe me – I’m not. I’ll even pay this company more money for what it’s done to help Aria). Here’s a picture for reference.

I like to say that this is where the stars aligned for us and Aria because we only stumbled across this cream by chance. 4 months ago, when Aria’s hand was as bad as that picture above, our doctor referred us to a skin specialist. That appointment was just last week – that means we had to wait¬†4 MONTHS to see a doctor all the while her wrist was open. I get it, specialists are busy and we’re not the only people with problems in the world – so we bit our tongues and sucked it up until our appointment… Which I’ll talk about again at the end of all this. A few weeks before this specialist appointment, Diana was mentioning to her boss that she needed the day off for Aria. Her boss asked her what it was for, and she casually mentioned that Aria has been battling eczema for a while and we’re hoping to get some answers. She told Diana about Jian Pai and how it was amazing for her own skin and her battle with eczema. She listed off all the same medications doctors prescribed her that Aria had been prescribed. At this point – we’re willing to try anything – so we tried this. I went out to the nearest T&T market with the herbal store we always walk by and picked this small bottle up for $40.

Brace yourselves. We tried it that night – you put it on twice a day – once in the morning and once at night. In three days… THREE. DAYS. her eczema had cleared up. Literally all the redness and bumps and scratching that had been tormenting Aria just… Magically. Went. Away. It’s been a few weeks now since we’ve been using this cream and her skin is back to it’s beautiful, smooth, eczema-free baby skin we once knew. This is how a baby’s skin should look, we thought. How, after all this time, have we not known about this? Why don’t more people know about this? Why don’t doctor’s know about this? We haven’t put Jian Pai on her for a couple days and she hasn’t had a flare up since… If we start to see it coming back, one application and it’s gone again. It hasn’t been long enough to gauge how well this works but it has been long enough to tell you that no other product or medication or steroid has “fixed” Aria’s eczema like this has.

I’m no believer in magic, and I sure as hell don’t believe in Asian beliefs about drinking tea to make pimples go away or eating root to make you live longer but I think I can stand behind this cream and I’m confident that if you or your kid had anything like Aria did, this would be better than any product you’re using now. The best thing about this cream is that it’s all natural – no steroids, no nothing. I’m not worried every time I put it on Aria that it’s doing something else other than just working the way it should.

Anyway, I wanted to end this post with the skin appointment we waited 4 months for. Months leading up to the appointment, we were anxious because we held all our hope that this specialist was going to solve our problems and was going to tell us finally what was wrong with her skin. After Jian Pai, (2 weeks before her appointment) we weren’t sure what to tell the specialist because she was all good. No sign of eczema, no sign of flare-ups, nothing. But we went anyway…

I’m not going to name the doctor, but if you put the pieces together, you can figure it out yourself if you care enough. We were referred to the Market Mall Dermatology – apparently one of the only specialists in Calgary that look at eczema issues in children. Prior to the appointment, we were told to bring everything that we are currently using, so we did just that. Finally, the day had come – we didn’t go in with much expectations since Aria had already been healed, but we were hoping for maybe some sympathy, some knowledge, or maybe some insight to what it could have been.

We walked into the waiting room… Anxiously waiting to show what was left of Aria’s eczema, the products, the pictures of what it had looked like. The doctor came in, stated that he heard Aria had eczema from our family doctor and began prescribing the steroid and Elidel we had already been prescribed. He was talking so fast that Diana had to interupt to tell him we’re already using that. He said “Oh”, and listed off another one and mentioned that it should only be used by children over 2 but that it’s perfectly safe. He looked at Aria and said “don’t worry, we’ll get you all cleared up”, turned to his assistant and told her to write up the prescription and left.

Wait a second. He didn’t look at Aria, he didn’t care to see what her eczema looked like, he didn’t look at the products we used, he didn’t even care to think if what he was prescribing us was what we were already using. The thing that really puts me off about it all is that he didn’t even care to see that Aria was actually all healed up. The point of the appointment (for us, anyway) was truly unnecessary – we didn’t need to be there, but we were because we had waited so long and clung onto some hope that he might tell us we were fighting something wrong all along. Instead, he prescribed creams and medicines to a perfectly fine and healthy little girl – not knowing anything else about her. This was the worst doctor I’ve ever met. I don’t know him, but that 1 minute appointment was enough to know that I would never recommend or go to him again for anything.

It’s been a week since that appointment and Aria is still better than ever. We still follow our routine because we’re not sure if changing it will make her skin flare up again, but she hasn’t scratched once in about a month. No redness, no open wounds… She’s just back to normal. I guess I’m writing all of this because I feel like we went through hell and we exhausted almost everything until we came across Jian Pai and if we hadn’t, we would’ve kept going until we found a way to help her. I’m writing because of how mad I am that a specialist – who we waited 4 months to see – didn’t care to actually treat his patient, but instead threw more drugs at the problem that wasn’t even there. I’m writing to hopefully help anyone else who is going through the same hell we did. I truly hope this helps… Feel free to email me or leave me comments if you have any questions!

Happy First Birthday to Round Face Kid

To Round Face Kid,

A year has come and gone and it seems like just yesterday that we were waiting anxiously for you to arrive in the hospital. Up until that day, we thought our lives were perfect and every puzzle had been put together. The truth of the matter is that you were actually the last piece of the puzzle we didn’t know that we were missing.

The beginning was hard. It was scary and challenging and exciting. Before you, we would never – in a million years – imagine how difficult being a parent would be. It’s something everyone tells you about but it’s also something you would never understand until you have lived it. Most new parents are truly naive – not through anyone’s fault – but through the lack of experience. Over time, your Mom and I learned how to hold you, rock you, burp you a certain way, and every little thing that no one else can do quite the same. Over time, you developed a personality – sassy and stubborn – tracing back to your Mom and I, respectively…

Sassy. My favourite definition of this is that you possess an ungodly amount of cool (or at least you think you do). You are so like your Mom that it makes my head spin. If I’m not receiving sass from you, it’s from Mom. If it’s not from Mom, it’s from you. And if I’m not receiving sass, the both of you are sleeping. Thank you for being a mini-Mom – it reminds me of the love I’ve had for her since I was 14; childish and playful. You make us feel like kids again, and I think that’s what we love most about you. You’ve revived our imaginations – a skill that often gets lost as you grow up. Please don’t ever stop imagining.

You’re stubborn. My God, you are stubborn. Now I know why Mom has a hard time dealing with me. You knew how to put your foot down before you could even sit. I like that. I like that you know what you want and will say no when you just don’t feel like it. That will help with dealing with boys when you’re older (please don’t get older). I like to think that your stubbornness helps you discover the pieces of who you are; it creates a solid foundation of personality in you that becomes hard to break. That’s what we want you to be – unbreakable – because you’ll find that the world and some people you meet will try to break you. Keep that foot down and you won’t crumble, kid.

Thank you for letting us be your parents. Thank you for running us through our paces and allowing us to make mistakes with you and at the same time, have the best success of our lives with you. Thank you for teaching us things that we never knew we cared to learn. Watching you take everything in and understanding little things we have learned to overlook is the best experience we could ask for. One of my favourite things to do is watch your gaze when you see something new and trying to imagine what you’re thinking and to make sure how silent I need to be because that moment might be one of the most exciting and amazing things in your life. Being present in the moment with you is far more important than trying to handle too many things at once because we would hate to miss all of your first experiences. Thank you for choosing our hands to reach out to and trusting in us to give you more. That feeling never dies.

Today, you’re one. ONE. 365 days old and this was the fastest year of our lives. I hope the next goes by slower – at least a little bit so that I can take some time to reflect some more at all you’ve done. If someone asked me – what I am sad about the most, it would be that there were nights where we wished you were able to put yourself to sleep without us carrying you all night. Now, there is no more carrying and rocking because you don’t need us as much anymore. I’m sad that I have to come to terms with not doing that ever again. That we might have carried and put you down to sleep for the last time and that there are going to be more moments like this. I’m happy you’re a big girl now but you’re always going to be our baby girl. Even if it’s just carrying you like a baby for fun, it will always be special for me.

With that, we wish you a happy first birthday. We wish that you stay curious and question everything you don’t understand. We wish that you remain eager and continue to smile at everything you enjoy and that happiness is what makes up most of all your days. We – selfishly – wish that you stay forever small and cuddle in our arms when you’re tired and that your chubby little fingers continue to grab on when you don’t want to go. You’re going to grow up to change the world one day – and even if it isn’t everyone’s world, you’ve at least changed ours. Happy Birthday, Aria!

Love,

Mom & Dad