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Sick Days

I have always been in awe of people who dedicate their lives to taking care of the sick and elderly. What a noble and selfless thing to do. I also know that I could never do it. I am not that friend that will come watch movies with you and nurse you back to health. I’d like to be, but I’m not. My husband is lucky that he gets a version of that, although I usually sit on the opposite couch. It’s not that I’m a germaphobe (or maybe I am a little bit), it’s just that I’m not that great at being comforting in those situations. But I try really hard. And having kids has definitely forced me to be better!

When my now-husband told me he wanted to join the military nearly a decade ago, I told him I wasn’t having kids while he was active. I just wasn’t. He said okay. Of course then we grew up a little, went through a deployment without a baby and decided we were ready. I’ve since handled a deployment with a 3-9 month old, and Kate has managed to wrangle a toddler and give birth while her husband was deployed, so it’s fair to say we’ve grown up even more. But with another deployment looming, my number one worry is always this: What if the kids get sick or hurt? What if I do? Can I handle it on my own? HOW will I handle it? The same concern that made me tell my husband my bottom line ten years ago still lives on today.

Now let’s just take a moment to talk about 2019. Kate and I agree, it has been ROUGH. Why? Well, mostly a thing called preschool. We have paid dearly for those short hours of “free time” we have been granted each week. It seems our kids have caught everything imaginable in a span of 7 months: Strep, ear infections, stomach bugs, cold after cold after cold, pink eye. Not to mention fire ant bites, poison ivy, bee stings, sun burn, mysterious rashes. It’s like 2019 hit and the tides turned. My historically healthy family took hit after hit, and I think our attendance rate was probably like 60%. And when you have more kids, you would think you just get more comfortable with sickness, which I guess is partially true, but it feels more like the fear just doubles. Or triples. Or quadruples, depending on how many kids you have. When one kid gets a stomach bug and you are just waiting on the edge of your seat to see what will happen next. Will it take everyone down or are we in the clear? Let’s just say I expect to be seeing some grey hairs sprout sooner rather than later after this plague of a year.

Some of you reading this may have little ones and now be scared to death of preschool, which, I’m sorry I probably can’t calm your fears there! Know that our preschoolers LOVE IT and I just hope it pays off with better immune systems in grade school. But some of you will have much more experience under your belts than us. I can only imagine the knowledge and psychological damage that 18+ years of being the in-house nurse will bring. However; here are some of the things we do, both to keep sickness at bay, and treat it when it comes:

Vitamins

Vitamins and a healthy diet never hurt. We have some favorite vitamins we give our over twos. Some have been found to be more tasty than others, but with so many gummy varieties our kids never complain too much.

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry syrup can now be found at most convenience stores. It’s a great immune booster and my kids love how it tastes. Just a little bit, based on their age/weight, once a day and they are good to go. You can also make your own at home!

Essential Oils

It took me awhile to hop on the essential oil train, mostly because I didn’t understand the basics. How do you use them? How do you apply them? How do you mix them? And while I am no guru, I do love putting some doTERRA On Guard in our diffuser when illness is looming. I also use lavender and blends like Serenity and Breathe in my girls’ rooms while they sleep if they are stuffy or under the weather.

Young living also has a kids department that I love for both of my children. The Sleepyize and SniffleEase have come in handy multiple times this year. You can put them into the diffuser or directly onto your child. They are already diluted and they smell so calming.

Leave Shoes at the Front Door

I am the biggest people pleaser, and it makes me really uncomfortable to ask friends and family to please take their shoes off at the door. Especially if they are elderly. Even my husband has lace-up work boots which you can’t exactly kick-off. However, I came across an article referenced on Huffington Post revealing that an average of 421,000 bacteria are found on the outsides of shoes. I mean, think about where your shoes have been…the McDonalds restroom? The doctor’s office? Walking through an elementary school even? You don’t need to bring all of those germs into your home and rugs where, lets be honest, your kids eat. I remember washing my first child’s pacifier for the first few months, every time it hit the floor. My second child was lucky if it got washed off if it hit the floor of a restaurant, and eating fallen snacks off the living room carpet is commonplace. An easy way to minimize exposure to germs and bacteria is to put a bench or chair by your entryway along with a “shoe spot” and ask guests to please remove shoes. I use a little (washable) accent rug for highlighting the shoe spot. If you have a porch or mud room, you can make a designated area there too.

Wash Those Hands

This is the most obvious but also the easiest and most effective thing you can do. Wash hands after coming in from running errands. Wash hands before eating meals and snacks. Wash hands after school. Wash hands, wash hands, wash hands.

Clean Clothes

This may be overkill, but when we get home from preschool or the doctor’s office or hospital, we change clothes. Kids roll around all over the place, including places they shouldn’t, and I don’t really want the doctor’s waiting room all over my couch. It’s an easy thing that may save you from a few sniffles.

Keep Staple Items on Hand

Last week I had to haul my sick preschooler and tired toddler to Walgreen’s at bedtime for medicine. Don’t be like me. Be prepared. Running out is not always easy or doable, so make sure you have in-date medications just in case to at least manage pain and fever. Infant Tylenol, Children’s Tylenol, IB proffen, Lysol, and an ice pack at bare minimum.

Take Them Outside

Taking your kids outside not only allows them to explore and release energy, but it also improves their overall health. I stumbled upon this article from Stanford Health and they went over all the benefits of taking your kiddos outdoors. Being outdoors is an easy way to boost your child’s immune system. Now, this is obviously weather determinate, but whenever we can get outside even if it’s just for 15 minutes, we go. In Sweden, parents put babies outside to nap in freezing temps with the belief that fresh air, specifically cold fresh air, improves their health and keeps away some of the winter illness that circulate.

First Aid Kit Basics

Aside from the medicines mentioned above, keeping basic first aid supplies will help set your mind at ease as well. I actually purchased a pre-made first aid kit for a camping trip from Walmart because it came in a handy, easy-to-identify red box. I took some of the surplus supplies out to make room to add a few extra things. It stays in my van, so I have it at home or away, and it includes:

  • Band-aids in various sizes
  • Butterfly bandages, for those almost-stitch-worthy cuts (which has saved us a trip to the doctor, BTW)
  • Gauze
  • Tape
  • Benadryl, for any sudden allergic reactions
  • Dermoplast Spray, as a quick topical pain reliever for scrapes and cuts
  • Insect Bite Relief stick
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Instant Ice Pack

Keep in mind we go camping a lot and spend time in the woods, so we try to cover our bases when we are in remote areas, but to be honest I have used this first aid kit more around town, and pulled it out of the car for my kids and friends’ kids several times.

Less Common Approaches

I cannot say these are tried and true by us, but interesting tips I’ve heard over the years. One is cutting an onion in half and placing it beside the bed of the sick child. Historically people believed this kept the flu from spreading as onions have the capability to absorb bacteria. That is why some people use them to soak up bad odors in the fridge or pantry, and also why you shouldn’t eat an onion stored in the fridge long after it’s been cut. Some people go as far as to put cut onions in their socks to “absorb” the bacteria or virus overnight while they sleep.

Another hearsay tip is drinking grape juice to keep stomach bugs at bay. Supposedly if you have been exposed to someone with the virus you should drink grape juice which has a pH level that inhibits the virus from multiplying in your stomach, and therefore keeps you from actually experiencing the full force of the bug. Couldn’t hurt to try, right?!

Now this IS one tried and true remedy, but less common for sure. Judging from my non-Southern friends’ reaction, I am pretty sure it’s a Southern thing. For bee and wasp stings, wetting tobacco (either loose chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco, or unrolling a cigarette) and placing it directly on the sting helps significantly take the pain away. And spoiler alert folks, you usually “wet” the tobacco with saliva! I clearly remember my dad doing this when I was little and stepped on a bee, and my husband quickly reminded me of this remedy when my youngest was stung by paper wasps earlier this summer. It works!

What are some uncommon tips and tricks you have to keep your children from getting sick that you’d like to share? I don’t know about you, but any way to prevent sickness is well worth a house free of coughing, sneezing, or puking. Are you with me?

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate

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Summertime Fun: Ice Block Toy Hunt

We are in the midst of a heat wave, so this was a perfect cool down activity. Your little ones will need to be supervised, in case they get a little too excited with their mallets.

What you will need:

  • A plastic container
  • Toys
  • Mallet or Hammer
  • Water
  • Freezer

Fill up with container with some toys and water. Throw it in the freezer over night until it is completely frozen. Once it is frozen, let the fun begin!

We started off using a hammer to break big chunks of ice off. Gray was so excited to be able to use a hammer. He is a Mr. Fix it, so using a big hammer made his day! Once we got large chunks off we moved to using the mallet, so we didn’t break any of the plastic toys.

The surprise of each new toy being found was amazing! We found toy after toy and kept chipping off at the large block. The heat helped melt some pieces away as we went and the ice was a nice cooldown treat.

My favorite part of this activity was wanting Gray figure out different ways to get the toys out. He started with the big hammer then the mallet. When those options weren’t working fast enough he dropped the large block on the concrete. After the block became smaller chunks, he used his hands to break small parts off. It was so entertaining watching his wheels turn and him problem solve.

Once all the toys were rescued from the ice block, we smashed the left over pieces. This activity wasn’t just for Gray, even Charlie got into the fun!

If you don’t have a container you could totally do this with an ice tray as well.

XO Kate & Elizabeth

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Alphabet Search

Repetition is a great tool to use when teaching your child their alphabet, but that doesn’t mean you have to do the same activity over and over again. Creating new activities for Gray keeps him interested and his wheels turning.

So, I put two of his favorite things together the dotters and a simple sensory activity

What you will need:

  • Dotters
  • Container
  • Beans or Rice
  • Letters
  • Alphabet form

To get started, fill your container with the beans. Stick the letters in the beans so that the tops are shown. Let your little one pick out a letter and then find it on their paper.

Once they have found each letter, let them go to down with the dotter. This was of course Gray’s favorite part. He chose different colors for each letter and made it his own. Unscrewing and screwing back on the tops is also a great fine motor skill activity.

He was so proud of himself once he had found all the letters. We will definitely be doing this activity again, but maybe with numbers next time. I have attached 3 files for you to choose from! Click here to see them.

XO Kate & Elizabeth

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Beat the Beach: How to Actually Enjoy Taking Your Kids Along

For starters, I’d like to take a moment of silence and remember what the beach was like without kids, when your biggest worries were tan lines and a solid beach read. A drink that you enjoyed cold, maybe even alcoholic, and listening to the soothing roar of the wind and ocean. Is it time to go home? Oh wait, doesn’t matter, because you don’t have to feed anyone but yourself. Stay as long as you want!

Okay, moment over, because the beach is much different now. Swim diapers, keeping mountains of sand out of every orifice of one’s face and vehicle, snacks snacks and more snacks, sunscreen applications, etc. Ahhhh, I feel relaxed just thinking about it. Even for those of us lucky to live by the seashore, a trip to the beach requires planning and bringing the right things, but we think we have figured out how to narrow down what is truly needed and still make sure everyone has a good time. Some of my favorite childhood memories take place on the beach, and I want to make sure my children have the opportunities to make their best memories too.

Baby Powder

If you don’t already know, this magic substance removes sand like a mofo. I keep a bottle of it in our car just for this reason, and it works perfectly for sweaty playground sand too. Just generously apply and watch that beige demon fall right off. Otherwise, as well all know, it clings to the car carpet and bathtub for ages.

Bucket & Shovel

You do not need to load up the wagon with a ton of beach toys. A simple bucket and shovel is all they really need. Between chasing birds, running from the waves, and playing with seashells, an exorbitant amount of sand toys aren’t necessary. Give kids the chance be creative in their surroundings and make their own fun. This also decreases the amount of things you have to lug to and from the beach.

Fitted Sheet

Flip that bad boy upside down, put something in each corner to hold the sides up, and just like that you have a little “sand free” area. This is great for when your little one isn’t mobile. It makes a safe area for them to lay, crawl, and sit without sand getting everywhere. Now, if you have mobile kiddos this will not stay sand free for long, but probably a little more so than a normal towel or beach mat.

Canopy

Our canopy has been the best beach accessory we have ever purchased. It is big enough for everyone to fit under and is a great retreat from the heat. Our lunches, naps, and breaks from the sun are all done under our canopy. All beachgoers know that umbrellas and tents can take some trial and error. Some work well, some don’t. You don’t want to always be battling the beach breeze. Canopies are the perfect pop up solution when you need a little shade for little people.

Snacks & Water

This may sound obvious, but bring a ton of snacks and water. Like how much you think you will need times three. From the heat of the sun to the nonstop playing, snacks and water are key. I know I get a serious case of the hangeries and so do my kids. So, I always make sure I have more snacks and water then I think I will need. Some of our favorites: Watermelon, cucumbers, goldfish, and strawberries.

Frozen Juice Boxes

One of my favorite childhood “snacks” was a frozen juice box, and they are so easy and portable. Take your favorite brand of juice box (pouches like CapriSun work too, but are a little harder to hold for little people) and stick a few in the freezer the day before. Take them to the beach with a few spoons and peel open the top of the box. (Save those tiny straws for another day!) What you end up with is a perfect little juice slushy in a disposable box that’s easy to carry around. They stay frozen better than popsicles due to the box, and you can pick sugar-free juice boxes if that is something you are into. A great beach hack to get your kids to slow down and hydrate.

UV Shirts

My preschooler could hang out at the beach all day long. She loves it and never wants to leave, but one of the challenges with having little babies too is that they can’t hang in the sun as long. One of the best beach investments I’ve made are these UV shirts. They are 50 SPF and lightweight, plus I bought them in white to keep my kids as cool as possible. Of course always use sunscreen, but when we have been at the beach for awhile I tend to throw one of these on my youngest to make sure her less-experienced skin doesn’t get too much color.

Trash bag

This may seem like a no brainer, but a trash bag is always a must when packing for the beach. There is already so much trash on our beaches that we do not need to add anymore. Bringing your own trash bag allows you to easily transport all your trash and anything that you may find while walking the shore from the beach. Help safe those cute little sea animals and help our beaches clean.

Seine Net & Kritter Keeper

If you have little nature lovers like we do, a seine net (or casting net) is a great thing to have. On my family beach trips my dad always brought one along. We would set up a glass tank on the deck of our beach house and have a little aquarium to watch for the week, and then we’d set them all free. For a day trip option, bring along a portable Kritter Keeper. There are so many creatures right there in the waves- seahorses, shrimp, small fish, hermit craps, pipe fish…your little ones will LOVE IT and you almost always catch SOMETHING with a seine net. It’s a great way to slow down and take the time to touch and learn on the beach.

Sunscreen

Apply before you unleash your kiddos to the beach, then reapply, and reapply again. Sunscreen is such an important part of going to the beach. If you apply before they see the waves, you have a better chase of them staying still long enough to cover their entire body. Then once snack or lunch time rolls around reapply again. They will be too focused on eating to escape. Finding a good spray sunscreen is great for quick and mess-free reapplication.

Make-Up Brush

This is a wonderful beach hack that I have to credit my husband for! Our oldest always gets sand in her eyes, but hates hates hates water in her eyes, so trying to flush out the sand is a NIGHTMARE. We have started throwing an unused make-up brush (just a cheap, soft one I grabbed at Target!) and using that to brush sand from eyes and eyelashes. Usually it does the trick! For rubbed-in sand you may have to break out the water bottle too, but this has definitely saved us a few tears on multiple occasions.

As you head to the beach, go with an open mind. Know that the beach with kids is a completely different experience than going alone. There will be so much sand, in bathing suits, their mouths, and your car. Don’t stress it, it will eventually disappear. Just think of sand as the glitter of the beach. So, go and enjoy making those memories with your little ones, and we hope some of these ideas helped make it that much more fun!

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate

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Messy Play! Shower Curtain Painting.

With the help of some nice weather and a shower curtain, our morning was spent outside painting.

Both of my kiddos have been messy art enthusiasts since the first time they felt paint. With every project we do they end up being covered from their head to their toes. So, we decided to take out painting outside. With some washable paint, paintbrushes, and shower curtain liner they went to town.

What you will need:

  • Washable paint (I know these are a little pricey, but they last for a long time!)
  • A shower curtain liner
  • Paint brushes
  • Tape
  • Something to put the paint on

Before the kiddos headed outside, I took some tape and taped the ends of the shower curtain to the fence. We poured the paint on the plates, gave each kiddo a paintbrush, and let them go to town.

They started off with paint brushes and quickly changed to finger painting! They mixed colors, painted the curtain, and some on the fence. Thankfully, the washable paint sprayed right off with the hose.

The kids had so much fun smearing the paint on the curtain together and making handprints all over. Grayson is already requesting to paint again! I am sure this will be an activity we do many more times over the summer. The best part, clean up was so easy. Spray everything with the hose, from the kids to the curtain. The paint washed out and I kept it hung up to dry.

XO Kate & Elizabeth

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Flashlight Look and Find

We have played a ton of flashlight type games, but this one was a little different. We didn’t need any batteries, just some imagination. And let me tell you, his imagination went wild and I am sure your child’s will too.

What you will need:

Let’s get started! First, pick your theme. My son is in love with all things construction, so that’s what I picked. Once you have your theme you can either find a picture and trace it or if you are more artistically inclined, draw your own.

For my picture, I added a little challenge for my son. I hid the letters of his name throughout the pictures for him to find. You can hide letters, numbers, or shapes in your picture to make it even more fun.

Once your picture is complete, take out the picture you traced (if you used one), and insert the black construction paper into the bag. Now we can get started on the flashlight! It’s super easy you guys, I promise. Draw a simple flashlight, cut it out, but leave some white paper showing as if its the light shining. I have a picture of it below to help you visualize.

You are now ready to start your flashlight hunt! Have you little one put the flashlight into the bag and watch the magic happen. The drawing will pop out from behind the black paper and look as though a light is being shown on it. Grayson’s face lit up with surprise as he moved the flashlight from left to right.

A few tips!

  • You need to use permanent marker or else it will all wipe off.
  • Let the marker dry before handing it over to your kiddo or you’ll end up with a smudged mess.
  • The most important tip, it doesn’t have to be perfect. They will love it no matter what.

XO Kate & Elizabeth

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He’ll Never Know

It’s 5:30am. Still dark. My preschooler walks in, to my side of the bed of course. I nudge my husband. “Can you get up with the kids? I had a rough night.”

You can tell them, but they won’t know. They may see the tip of the iceberg that is motherhood, but they don’t see what lies underneath. The feelings behind the tears, the mom guilt, the aching body, the worry you aren’t doing things right, the magic and overwhelming exhaustion of what it means to be the one everyone needs something from. To be mom.

Last night I was rocking my toddler back to sleep. It was 4am. The one who rarely wakes overnight anymore. The one who hardly ever wakes up crying. I heard her fuss, heard discomfort in her cry, and glanced at the clock. For thirty seconds or so I continued to listen without moving. Was she in pain? Was it her teeth? Is she sick? Maybe she’s thirsty. Will she go back to bed? Beside me, my husband sleeps. I roll out of bed and fill a cup of water, grab a new diaper, and head into her room. She giggles. “Great, I’ve been duped,” I think. She sips water while I change her diaper, then I rock with her for a bit. My mind drifts between wishing for my bed and realizing one day I’ll wish for this moment again, when she’s small enough to cuddle and rock in my arms. I hug her a little tighter, stay in her room a little longer, and try to be thankful she’s okay and all is well.

A few hours before this, my preschooler came in. She went to bed at 10pm, pretty much yanking any “me time” right out from under me. My husband and I tried to watch a movie together, and I fell asleep on the couch. So now it’s past midnight, and she’s standing by the bed. My side, of course. She doesn’t want to sleep in her room. She can’t find her bear. She’s thirsty. I rolled out of bed, got her more water, found the missing bear, tucked her in, told her goodnight. I crawl back in bed and wonder if she’s going to go back to an early bedtime? Will she eventually start to sleep in? Today is the first day back at preschool. I hope she doesn’t catch as many viruses as she did last year. Am I giving her enough attention? What can I do today to help her learn? Beside me, my husband sleeps. Eventually I drift back to sleep too. For a bit.

I was unprepared for the constant mental exhaustion that is motherhood. Mom brains run 24/7. A mantra I repeat to myself when I get overwhelmed is “Worry is a prayer for the unwanted.” I know it’s true, but worry is inevitable. Am I strong enough for this? We want another child, can I handle it? Am I patient enough? Who will I ask to help me if one of my kids has to go to the ER and my husband is gone? I hate asking for help. Will I be able to ask for help? I lost my temper today. Will that effect them long term? Are they going to have tempers too? Are they going to be kind to others? Am I kind enough to them? Am I doing my best?

These are thoughts that go through my mind all the time. When I have a quiet moment to myself, when I am trying to fall asleep, when I am holding back tears. I try to self-soothe by reassuring myself I wouldn’t be given more than I can handle. I have great family. My kids are good kids. I have friends who will help if I ask. There are families who deal with so much, we have it so good. I know these things are true, but they don’t erase the words that fill my mind in the silence. Beyond the worries, there’s filling up our mental plates: What is for dinner? When is their next dentist appointment? Did I pay preschool tuition? What can I plan for today to keep these little people active? Are there any bills I forgot about? When should kids know their ABC’s, are we behind? When does my car need an oil change? Stolen sleep. Silent worries. A neverending to-do list. A house that is never as clean as I’d like. A project left incomplete. A book unread. Laundry for days. Mom guilt. Stress. Feeling less than. Waking up feeling this way, before even the sun. Beside me, he sleeps. He’ll never know.

It’s hard, feeling the weight of all this, the weight that is motherhood, before the sun even rises. When you’re exhausted and can’t rest. You can say it, explain it, cry it out, he can even take a shift now and then, but he’ll never know what it’s like all the time. Just like I’ll never know his stresses at work, or what it’s like to leave his babies for months at a time, even half a year. Worrying about providing for his family. Worrying about retirement. Missing holidays and birthdays and milestones while he’s away. I’ll never know.

Motherhood is hard. Fatherhood is hard. Parenting is hard. These are facts.

I have amazing children. I can handle anything thrown my way. I am a great mom. These are also facts.

To anyone who feels like they aren’t enough, or whose emotions go misconstrued, or who cries when you feel you shouldn’t, just know we all feel that way sometimes. It means you are better than you think, braver than you know, and as strong as you need to be. When you are grumpy and short-tempered with your family and worry everyone sees you as a monster, take comfort in this: Your husband knows the real you, he knows you are tired, and is thankful for everything you do. He isn’t thinking badly about you, he just hopes you’re okay. Your kids forgot about it almost as soon as it happened. They are worried about snacks and playtime, and they will still choose you over dad for everything. Your babies love you endlessly, they are loving little blank canvases. They just want to touch you and be near you, no matter what you say or do. The only person upset at you, is you. And you are doing just fine.

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate