I have two fabulous posts in the works — one on making Sunday special and one on being a sober mama — and my plan was to sit down this afternoon and put the finishing touches on one of those. I had also planned on an epic homeschool week after two busy weeks filling in at work while the traditional school mamas were enjoying spring break, and before we spend our own little long weekend on the lake.
The best laid plans, though, are frequently ruined by vomit.
That’s a saying, right?
The stomach bug, which is one of my absolute most hated of all illnesses, struck Friday night. It hit my second-born, who has asthma, frequently coughs until he vomits, and has a sensitive gag reflex, so I was hoping against all hope that it was a fluke.
My oldest went down about an hour ago.
So instead of polishing off my happy-go-lucky posts I have in the works, I’m writing what I know right this second. What I know right now is that germs are for real and if you think you have a good immune system it’s likely you’re just really good at avoiding people who cough directly into your mouth.
I’ve been at this parenting thing for over 11 years now and with four boys, I’ve dealt with my share of illnesses. I generally take it all in stride until I get sick, at which point I turn into a whiny baby that no man-cold can top.
For those of you new to this sick kid game, I’m here to offer up some tips for surviving the torture that is sick season that won’t end:
1. It is not your fault.
Do you hear me? Y’all, I’ve done everything. There have been years when we barely left the house and years we decided to just go wherever we needed to go and throw caution to the wind. I’ve bleached everything that doesn’t move and I’ve left my boys to boost their immune systems by frolicking in dirt. We’ve taken daily multivitamins, eaten vegan, vegetarian, paleo, then we’ve eaten junk food and not touched supplements. I’ve used essential oils, drowned my house in Lysol, carried hand sanitizer in my pocket, wiped down carts at the grocery store, and refused to shake hands during that awful greeting time at church. You know what? We still got sick. Every year. Lots and lots without fail. The very first pediatrician my children saw looked into my worried eyes and said, “Kids get 6-9 colds per year and most of those are in the colder months. Stop worrying.” Think about that. Six to nine colds per year. That doesn’t include the flu, strep, stomach bug, roseola, the dreaded hand foot and mouth disease, ringworm, or whatever else tiny humans pick up. Now multiply that by how many children you have. Yes, it’s going to feel like they’re sick ALL THE TIME. It’s normal, and it does build their immune system. My older boys are sick less than their little brothers because their immune systems have gotten stronger by fighting the yearly funk.
2. Have a cabinet for sick supplies and make sure it stays stocked.
I keep bleach, Lysol, latex gloves, pedialyte or gatorade, crackers, anti-nausea meds, ibuprofen and Tylenol, Benadryl, and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting. You do not want to end up running to the store with a barfing kid because you need gatorade.
3. When dealing with the stomach bug, remember: once vomiting starts, take nothing by mouth except ice chips until there has been no puking for at least three hours.
Take nothing solid until vomiting has stopped for 24 hours. After vomiting has stopped, follow the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, as those foods are easy on a queasy tummy. No matter what your kid says, do not under any circumstances allow colored popsicles or drinks. I’m here to tell you that strawberry popsicle barf stains, as does blue gatorade. Zofran is a lifesaver and we keep it in our cabinet at all times. We typically institute “sick couch” as soon as someone throws up: I cover the couch with a blanket, bring the sick kid’s pillow, blanket, and stuffed animals down, and lay kiddo on the couch with a puke bucket. If you opt for keeping your kiddo in bed, make sure to put a puke bucket on BOTH sides of the bed. If you only place a puke bucket on one side of the bed, there is a 99.9% change said kid will barf on the other side. It’s science.
4. Just when you think sick season is over, it will hit again.
We are always fighting bugs October-February, then usually ease off in March. April often brings another round of illness as does June. Why? No idea. But this has been the pattern I’ve noticed over the last several years and it’s my reminder not to get too excited when spring rolls around.
5. Bleach and Lysol, Lysol and bleach.
Look, I love essential oils. I have a whole cabinet of essential oils and have been diffusing thieves like it’s going out of style. However, hospitals use bleach and Lysol, so when vomit is involved or — God forbid — the flu, I’m going to diffuse some thieves oil while bleaching and lysoling every non-living thing within my reach. At the height of flu season I may Lysol you. We’re still going to get sick, but we don’t have to wallow in it in our own home. Throw on a pair of latex gloves, grab a bucket and sponge, turn on some gangsta rap (or your motivating music of choice), and go full-on germ killa.
6. Show yourself some grace.
Germs are everywhere and your kiddos are drawn to them like moths to a flame. Order a pizza, soak in the bathtub, stay in your pjs all day — whatever it takes to recharge your battery. Taking care of sickly children is hard on a body and the last thing they need is for you to wear yourself down so that you’re sick, too.