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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

Motherhood, sharing, siblings, toddlers

This Is How We Share

Children are selfish. They live their little lives like we would often like to. Do what you want, when you want, how you want. Something breaks? Oh well. Decide to quit halfway through? Cool, let’s leave that for mom to finish. Want something someone else has? Grab it and RUN. Literally, run. It is our job, as boring, rule-following adults, to teach our children to tone it down a notch, basically.

When my first daughter was 18-24 months old, she really struggled with independent play. She wanted us involved in any and every activity, which was really tiring to say the least. Her go-to “play” was just to hand us everything. EVERYTHING! We made a fair amount of headway before baby sister came along, and continued to learn to play on our own. But, now as baby sister is walking around, of course she wants to get her paws on anything and everything. However; what really took me by surprise was that my oldest now wants to takeover everything my youngest has! Shouldn’t it be the other way around?! My youngest will play on her own and find her own toys, and my oldest tramples in to “play with her” with the best intentions, but ends up taking over the activity. And thus began my curiosity on how others reinforce sharing.

At first I just stuck with what I knew. We take turns. That makes sense and is fair, right? But while it seems simple to us, it really isn’t to the toddler mindset. They are giving up something that they don’t want to, not knowing when they will get it back. And in some cases sharing means not getting something back at all. When I tell my oldest to share her snack, she does so very reluctantly, understanding that this means she gets less snack (and therefore she usually starts eating much, much faster.) This seemed okay for awhile, but as my youngest grew more mobile it became less effective. How do you explain taking turns and asking for a toy when the littlest member of the family yanks a toy and runs with no intention of returning it? How do you make a 3 year old share her goldfish crackers and not expect your 1 year old to do the same? This technique left me struggling to explain “it’s because she’s a baby” and led to some confused and hurt expressions from my oldest (even though she always took it like a champ!)

Then we toured my daughter’s preschool, a cute little Montessori school a town over. I was introduced to a new ideology on sharing, and loved how simple it was. When another child is playing with a toy or activity, it is theirs for as long as they want it. Once they put the toy back it’s up for grabs again! What?! This blew my mind a little bit. I was always raised with same-time sharing in mind. Share or no one plays with it. My favorite results from this Montessori method are that they A) allow a child to fully play with an activity without having to pause their imagination and B) they learn patience. Waiting is hard, even for adults! Understanding early on that waiting is kind and a valuable life skill is amazing. This is also easier to enforce with smaller children, because they don’t have to understand when they can and can’t take a toy from another child and you don’t have to wrestle it back from them and try to explain they are sharing. No positive associations with that word right there!

My only hesitation with this method was, how do they learn to play together? If they are always waiting on a toy, WILL they play together? The answer is yes. I think that in the “waiting” and watching, the child playing with the toy first is allowed to shine and lead the playing. They create the rules for this short-term play and the second child adapts. In my experience at home, they always end up playing together, and if things start to go south the best method is distraction. Lead the other one to a new activity. My girls rarely battle over toys these days, so I think it’s a successful sharing practice! But as in most things in life, I always try to be open minded to trying new things. There is no black and white over here, we bend and stretch the rules to learn what works best for us.

So here are some tips for getting kids (age 1-3, because that’s the experience we have!) to share:

  • Watch their interactions first. Every child is different. Some will be content with the dynamic struck, even if one child is doing the majority of the playing. Let them try to work it out themselves. Aka, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it! If you notice a power struggle, step in and try a few of these tips.
  • Lead by example. Share your food with them. Share the TV. Share books or magazines with your spouse. Sit on the floor and play with a toy, then share it with them. Let them know you are sharing and they are doing a good job sharing with you. When they can associate good feelings of being played with to the word “share” they are more likely to want to do it on their own. They now understand this is a good action.
  • Encourage clean up. Not only does this save the adults in the house a ton of time, but it’s an important life skill to learn to be organized and see things through. It also is a clear cut signal that they are done with that toy or activity and it is now available again. No more abandoned toys in the middle of the floor and screaming, “I was still playing with that!”
  • Decide which toys are NOT to be shared. Whenever we have playdates we put our favorite bear and baby doll in our room. We know that those are special toys that we have decided that we do not need to share with others. Setting those aside also lets my toddler know that all other toys ARE to be shared. Between siblings, my oldest knows that toys in the living room can be shared and if she doesn’t want her sister to play with her favorite bear or baby doll then they should be left on her bed when she’s not playing with them. Personally, I believe that letting children have a special toy or two that they don’t have to share is important.
  • If a battle ensues, distract. Don’t try to over-explain sharing to them. They likely will be so focused on what they want to do in that moment that you might as well be speaking Chinese. Just allow the child to continue playing with their activity, and take the other one over to a new activity.

If you have any tips for us, please share! Especially for older kids as we are swimming in new waters every single day! What’s the saying? Once you get used to it, it changes? YEP!

Thank you for reading & keep us posted on what works for you!

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate