- The supplies I keep on hand
- The strategies I implement
- What if mom is sick, too?
- Finishing up well - getting back into the swing of things
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
When I wake up in the morning and discover that someone or multiple people have the flu, that is not the time for me to need to head to the store. I try to have as much on hand already as possible, and then later that evening when Bob is home one of us can run to the store for additional items we may need or are running out of. So these items listed below are the things I have on hand all the time.
*Emergen-C ~ We buy this yummy liquid vitamin C drink at Costco in large quantities, but I only give it to the family when there is sickness in the house, or we've become aware that we were exposed to a bad bug and I need to take preventative measures. It is what our naturopathic chiropractor recommends to build immune systems. And I have the entire family start taking it whenever sickness enters into the house. The grown ups and big kids (ages 17 & 16) take one envelope serving; our "middle kids" (ages 12, 9, and 8) share 2 envelopes between them; and our "littles" (ages 6, 5, 4 & 4) share one envelope between them.
I run out of classes during the day if all the kids use 9 glasses twice in a day, so rather than do that I just get out some plastic toddler cups and mark them with masking tape and each child's first initial. After each use I just rinse them all with hot water but don't worry about germs because they'll just keep using their own cup as long as they're sick.
* "Flu Coke" ~ I keep one 16 oz. bottle of coke in the pantry just for that person who ends up throwing up one day and needs that Coke syrup to calm their stomach. I open the bottle, pour some in to a glass and "flatten" it (stir it until the carbonation is out, because that can upset someone's stomach), and let them sip on it a few tablespoons at a time every 30 min. as long as they can keep it down.
* Oyster soda crackers ~ The baking soda in soda crackers also calms the churning stomach acid, and the white flour is very easy to digest. I buy the oyster crackers rather than the Saltines because someone can pop the whole cracker into their mouth without leaving crumbs in the bed or couch, unlike the large, square Saltines.
* B.R.A.T. diet ~ These are foods that are very easy on a flu stomach: Bananas, white Rice, Apple sauce, Tea. I usually don't have bananas at home (they get eaten quickly here), so these are items I usually ask Bob to stop at the store for on his way home from work to help that child with the flu get some food down. But apple sauce we get from Costco (no sugar added) and it keeps for a long time so is easy to have on hand.
* Walkie talkies ~ These have really been invaluable (Costco has a great set). *smile* If a child is in their bedroom, or in the play room on the floor, or in a bathroom on a blanket on the floor, they can call me easily using our walkie talkies. I have used them myself actually, too, on the rare occasion that I've gotten the flu and need to call Bob (before I had a smart phone to text with). This way no one has to get up to get help, they don't have to get my attention over the noise of the busy house, and they don't have to rely upon someone else to deliver an accurate message. *wink*
* Dish tubs ~ I now have 5 of these plastic at home since the one time that I had the 5 oldest all throwing up simultaneously. *whew* That was bad. But these tubs were a life saver. They're light weight, they're not tall so do not tip over easily and can be leaned in to easily from a sitting or lying down position, and they rinse out very easily. I just have each person keep one with them wherever they're lying down.
* "Nose clothes" ~ I keep the cloth baby burp cloths that I made when the babies were little handy for children to use on their nose when they are congested to keep their skin from getting raw from blowing with tissue all the time. I made a pink patterned baby girl set and a blue patterned baby boy set, and I also made each side of the cloth with a different, complimentary fabric. This is nice because we can remember if the person using it now is a boy or a girl by the color, and even remember that when helping a young one use it we always put our hand on the plaid side, for example, and use the floral side on their face so we never grab the "used" side accidentally and get a surprise on our hand. *smile*
* Tissue box garbage cans ~ When people are using a ton of tissues, then we keep an empty tissue box near to them as well for them to stuff their used tissues in to. This way the tissues are far less likely to wind up all over the floor where they're lying and for other people to pick the dirty tissues up and spread germs.
* A personal steamer ~ Amazing for killing the bacteria causing sinus infections and such. For a little extra boost when you are think you may be fighting a sinus infection you can add a couple drops of eucalyptus oil. We have found that this can be very helpful if you feel like you need more than just a decongestant with the steam. Rite Aid sells these.
* Oscillococcinum ~ Great at fighting flu symptoms naturally. Simply place a pin-head size bead underneath one's tongue and it dissolves almost instantly and tastes like sugar. It can be found on the shelf of many grocery stores or drug stores.
THE STRATEGIES I IMPLEMENT
These ideas are my plan of attack when I have a bunch or all of the children sick simultaneously. The ideas help the house be as pleasant as possible during those days, help me to actually enjoy the time rather than just counting the minutes until it's over, and I think helps people heal more quickly as well.
* Quiet play ~ Our little ones pretty much always need to play even when sick, I get out things that are quiet. I get out blankets or beach towels for them to play with, stuffed animals, their personal teddy bears, books, puzzles, audio books (but not all of these things at once), plus we watch some movies as well and I do a lot of reading aloud. And I keep in mind that even if a child is not also sick, they've been exposed and so the resting for them can help their body fight better to prevent them from actually getting sick.
* Clean kids & house basics ~ Even when children have goopy noses, and are possibly throwing up, I strive to keep them clean. They feel better when their face and eyes aren't stiff or sticky, I feel better snuggling with them, the older kids better enjoy helping care for young ones if I have their help, and honestly - the house just smells better. If they live in the same pajamas for days on end the house starts to feel really stuffy and stinky. So I have them put on fresh pj's and underwear every day, we run the ceiling or mini box fans to circulate the air nicely, and I use baby wipes all...the...time. *chuckle*
I also keep up with the dishes and keeping the laundry clean. Having a sink full of dirty dishes and laundry stacking up in hallways or bedrooms is really disheartening to me, and makes a big difference in my attitude and enjoyment in our days when these things are done. During a sick week I don't try to keep up with the deep cleaning (more on that later) but we do need clean dishes and clothes and I do not want to see those stacking up around me.
* What to eat? ~ We do not eat very much sugar in our house, but the little bit that we may consume is instantly eliminated when there's sickness in the house. Sugar feeds a virus. And when we do not eat sugar, we pretty much do not get sick.
We also result to "snack food" lunches and dinners, which means trail mix, peanuts, crackers, cheese, fruit, and cut up veggies. These do not require preparation time, and they can be eaten in any quantity needed. We also do enjoy homemade soups, which also do a nice left-over meal and tastes good to most of the "eaters". When there's sickness in the house most of the family isn't eating much if anything, so we keep it very simple. And if I do cook a dinner it needs to be one with great left-overs, because again the amount that will be consumed that week is unpredictable and I don't want to just throw away most of a meal.
When kids are starting to perk up a little bit but are still sick, I like to make a couple different flavors of home made popcorn as a treat that doesn't contain sugar. I make popcorn using olive oil and sea salt (per the directions on the Orville Redenbacher container of popcorn kernels), and one batch I also sprinkle on some taco seasoning (also from Costco). Popcorn is very easy to digest (even with the touch of olive oil, from our experience) and it brings some smiles.
For kids with the stomach flu we start with just soda crackers and Coke and then move in to the B.R.A.T. diet (both described above). If a child's tummy has kept down a small quantity of one of these foods for 30 minutes then they get to have some more.
* What to let go of ~I do keep up with the dishes and laundry, but I let go of the deep cleaning for that week, and we do not homeschool during sickness either. If kids have colds but aren't too miserable then we school through it, letting go of some small things if necessary. But if multiple kids have fevers and nausea then we just let school go and we catch up later. We really don't even have this intensity of sickness even once in a school year usually so it's not that big of a deal when we need to relax school for a few days or a week.
* Quarantine kids? ~ If we have one child who's really sick, and they're older than about age 9 then I may quarantine them to their room with some books or audio books and try to avoid everyone getting sick. But if there's a whole bunch of kids sick or if they're younger then I do not worry about it. Little ones would not understand being removed from the family and they need too much of my attention, love, and help to be set apart.
We teach the kids to cover their mouths when they cough, and wash and Purell their hands as much as possible when they're sick, but other than that I don't discourage kids from hugging, kissing each other, or snuggling. It's just not worth it. *smile* To me, it's more important that they have loves from each other than avoiding spreading germs, and especially so for all the real little ones who need extra hugs and kisses when they don't feel good.
* Blanket on the floor ~ When I've had a couple very little ones throwing up then I spread out a large blanket on the floor in the family room and keep them playing on that blanket. When they throw up on it then I scoop it up and replace it with a new blanket down and keep going.
WHAT IF MOM IS SICK?
Well this is a short and sweet answer. *chuckle* When we had real little ones then I had them stay with their play activities (cribs, pack-n-plays, play yards, etc.) and our oldest daughters just rotate the children through those and get activities ready for them. I would declare a movie day for the other kids, even if they're not sick themselves, to just help them to be quiet and easier for the older girls to manage without relational squabbles. I would have the older children stay with the younger ones if necessary (or at least close at hand) for the movies even if they may normally choose to do something else with their time, to help the younger ones do well. We would have "snack food" meals (as described above). And if it's not the stomach flu then I would take a "big gun" like DayQuil to help myself be on duty when necessary. I have very rarely gotten the stomach flu, and when I have been totally incapacitated that way my husband has stayed home from work that day; but if he was not able then this would be my plan and I would get by. Not so fun, I know.
FINISHING UP WELL
When we are all feeling better and are ready to get back in to real life then we do a couple of main things.
* Expect re-training ~ I need to recognize that it may take a couple of days to do some re-training of house hold rules when everyone is back to normal. They need to get back in to being productive with their time (and out of the pattern of watching movies or reading books all day long) doing school and other projects.
They also need to stop serving themselves food from the pantry whenever they feel like it. When we are not having regular meals, then sick people need to eat little bits at varying times as they are able or desire to. But usually in the Shupe home we have meals and do not snack all day here otherwise they are not inclined to eat the meals. I have 1-2 people serving food at a time as we do not have room in our tiny kitchen and dining room to have them cluttered with people all coming and going. Normally, everyone sits at the table and the servers do the serving. So we get back to that when we're healthy again.
* Cleaning up ~ I also like to declare a big cleaning day to mark the last day of sickness. We do the bathrooms, mop the floors, dust, and basically get caught up on all the things that we skipped when everyone was sick. It feels so good to me to be caught up this way again, and it helps me relax during the sick week as well knowing that the mess is not indefinite but will be cleaned back up as soon as we're all better and working again as a team. It's a breath of fresh air in the house, and I consider it just part of having been sick; especially when myself and Bob have been sick as well as the kids. It is one more day of no school, but it's important for our well being and helps us feel all the more ready when we jump back in.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~I know that these simple ideas are not hugely profound or earth shaking. *smile* But I hope this post might give you some extra ideas that brighten your days when everyone is sick, and maybe it removes some of the mystery for what it can mean to have sickness at home when there's a lot of children. It's very do-able. Just like any other practical areas of life as a large family.
Blessings on your efforts and your health,
You might also enjoy my related posts:
Family Participation: Chores for Kids
Sleep Better - How to Make Your Bedroom a Better Place to Recharge