Chickenpox 101 – tips for surviving chickenpox in children

chickenpox
chickenpox

So the pox is upon us. What’s weird is we thought we’d escaped it. There was an outbreak at school before half term, but it took the 5yo a full 10 days to break out. And break out he did (sorry for the generic pic but taking snaps of him when he’s ill for blogging purposes didn’t feel right). He went from one tiny armpit pimple (that we put down to a mozzie bite from Naples last weekend), to smothered in 5 hours – in his ears, hair, mouth…. every nook and cranny.

I have learnt a lot of pox-related dos and don’ts in the last week, so thought it was worth sharing a quick list*:

  • DO NOT give ibuprofen of any sort. It can make those carrying the chickenpox vaccine seriously ill. Stick to Calpol/paracetamol if they’ve got a fever.
  • Do keep them cool. It really reduces the itch factor.
  • Calamine lotion is fab for dabbing topically on the spots. It really helps with the scratching. The Aqueous version is better as it’s not so drying for their skin.
  • Try and teach them to pat rather than scratch if they’re itchy. Easier when they’re older, hard for littlies.
  • Piriton liquid has worked wonders at night to stop him scratching like a flea-riddled dog. However it knocks him straight out! So we’ve been keeping that for nighttime.
  • We have been popping the 5yo in a lukewarm bath a couple of times a day. We’ve been recommended to add the following by a homeopath and we’ve seen a MASSIVE difference in his comfort levels:

1/ Fill a cotton sock with oats (standard porridge type is fine) and hang it off the tap under warm running water. The oats are really soothing to the inflammed skin.

2/ Add a tablespoon of Sodium Bicarbonate and dissolve in the water. This is good for drying up the spots and keeping them clean and clear from infection.

3/ We’ve added 2 drops of tea tree and 2 drops of lavender essential oils to the bath for their antiseptic, healing and soothing qualities.

Now we just need to wait for the 2yo to start breaking out…

* It may seem a ridiculous disclaimer to have to point out, but I’m not a doctor. If you’re worried about your own child’s symptoms, that’s what the glorious NHS is for. Give your doc a call. These tips are working for us and our 5yo. They may do naff all for yours, or they may just save your sanity. Let me know!

 

 

CF Review: Quinny Zapp travel buggy

I put a little shout out on Instagram last month for this buggy as my first impressions were pretty good. I picked it up on a pre-loved site because while our day-to-day buggy, the Britax B-Motion 3, is completely brilliant, sturdy and a total workhorse (I honestly can’t recommend this buggy enough) – it is a behemoth, super heavy and not great for travelling.

Quinny Zapp
Quinny Zapp

We nipped over the Naples last weekend (read my guide to ‘Naples with kids’ from last year here) and I knew from taking the Britax last year I wanted something that would cope with the cobbled, uneven city streets, be easy to hop on and off public transport and super lightweight. The Quinny didn’t miss a beat.

Okay, in short:

Pros: It’s a simple 3-step umbrella style closure and it closes up REALLY small (27″ x 10″ x 11″) and weighs a featherweight 7.5kg (the Britax weighs a hefty 11kg). Great for small car boots, overhead lockers – or grandparents who don’t want a massive, whielding bit of kit to hump around.

Although the wheels are solid moulded ones, rather than proper air-filled tyres like the Britax, they took the nightmare Naples streets in their stride.

The 3-wheel formation was a breeze to steer.

Cons: We found it tipped back alarmingly easily. If the 2-year old (who only weighs 11kg) threw himself back hard in a strop it flung the buggy backwards. Not ideal. Obviously if your toddler is better behaved than mine (not hard), you can over-look this first point.

It’s quite short. I’m 5’10 and I found myself hunching a bit. I definitely wouldn’t recommend for over 6fters.

The shopping basket is tiny. And the sun visor too short to offer any real protection.

The back doesn’t have the option to lie-flat. So no chance of a quick nap. That said, in the middle of Naples, naps aren’t really likely, and the nosey 2-year old loved his upright vantage point. EDIT: The new generation Zapp Xtra 2 *does* have lie-back options, and you can switch the seat around from forward to rear facing.

Verdict: It’s not the perfect buggy and if I had to use it everyday it wouldn’t be practical (not sturdy enough, not enough storage, not good off-road), but if you’re looking for a super light-weight holiday/travel buggy, it’s a winner.

Quinny Zapp range from £195

Read my review of ‘Top 5 travel kit for kids’ here

If Harry Potter made loos…

This would be it…

Do you like what I did there?! I’m basically an architect. A bit of parcel tape and ta dah! One understairs loo, fit for this muggle family (I think our builder thinks I’m nuts).

Aaaaannyway, this is what I’m envisaging…

597aa2835dd448e68296f3ce0cc91c81Now all we have to agree* on is the wallpaper. I’ve always wanted the smallest room in the house to have AMAZING wacky, bold wallpaper (*when I say agree, I mean cajole my husband into agreeing with my choice).

Here are the options:

wallpaper moonstone wallpaper boats wallpaper cockatoos wallpaper booksI am totally team Cockatoo (Osborne & Little, Cockatoos by Quentin Blake) but Mr CF has deemed it too ‘Robin Williams Birdcage’, which frankly is a plus in my book… I’ll let you know if I break him…

Grief – what does it feel like?

Well, my plan to revive the blog went well didn’t it?! 12 months of nada. What can I say, life happened. I feel sporadically guilty that I should be sharing said life, but then well, life happens again. And I don’t.

Our hectic life is still happily nomadic; countrybebe is now a strapping 5yo, ensconced in school and his 21mo baby brother is a walking/talking whirlwind. We are still flitting back and forward to France every 6 weeks and plan to spend 2 months there this summer getting the next traunch of renovations done (I will update you – I promise!).

So, what’s prompted the reprive? Next week is 2 years since we lost my mummy and it’s got me thinking about the ever-shifting feeling, intensity and emotion that is grief. Then I read this and it summed it up so eloquently. Left simply as a comment on a bereavement post by ‘oldguy’:

what grief feels like

I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not.

I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents…

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. But I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it.

Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.

As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.

How amazing is that? When my parents first died I used to want to scream when people would say ‘time’s a healer’, or ‘the pain will lessen with time’. Part of you never wants to feel ‘less’, because that lessening signals a letting go, or an exceptance of something that will never be ‘ok’. However, a few years down the line I get it. I am still routinely floored by their loss, but it *does* come in waves rather than a constant battering. I do live my life in between those waves and I am definitely learning to weather the storm.

I know grief is really hard to articulate and can feel so internal and private, but if you want to share any comments below, or any other passages that helped you come to terms with grief, I’d love to hear them.

she-stood-in-the-stormCF x

Soundtrack to summer: Christophe Maé

You know when music can immediately zip you back to an exact moment in time – or can conjure up a feeling, period in your life or milestone in the first few bars?

christophe-mae-on-trace-laThis album by French chanteur, Christophe Maé is already going to be exactly that for me, this summer. It’s pop-y and beaty and catchy (yes it’s in French and I only understand 30% of what he’s singing, but it’s still catchy – okay?). Christophe Maé’s voice is Gauloise-smokingly gravelly (ding-dong) and the acoustic versions are dreamy. I appreciate Christophe is an award-winning, HUGELY famous singer in France but hey, he’s a discovery to me, okay?

christophe-maéErm, I don’t know, how do you review music? I heard one of his tracks on the radio (I love listening to French radio, it’s like non-stop Eurovision) and immediately googled it as I couldn’t get the chorus out my head all day, then hey presto, I bought the album. That’s a pretty ringing endorsement, right?

Go on, have a listen (il est ou le bonheur – his latest track SO CATCHY)

A summer in France… writing, renovation and relaxing

Reliving my childhood summers in France – renovating a manoir, writing and wrangling two under 5s

As a child, the day school broke up we would load up our 80s Volvo and head for the ferry ports. Hopping across ‘La Manche’ and down through France for summer in the Dordogne region – spending two months swimming in rivers, drinking watered down wine, gorging on soft fruits from the street markets and falling asleep to the sound of crickets… We would return on the eve of the autumn term, brown as berries with sun-bleached hair, freckly noses and a serious injection of vitamin D to see us through the winter. All my favourite childhood memories are wrapped up in those hazy, sun-drenched summer days and guess what?

photo 3Fast forward 30 years and yup, I’m in France. For a whole 8 weeks, by myself with the two boys (4 and 10 months). Gulp.

Copyright Countryfille 2016
Copyright Countryfille 2016

As a family, we bought this beauty last year as a place for the whole clan to convene for summers, en masse. The OH has had to stay in the UK for work so I am here principly to oversee the builders (as the only French speaker) and to forward plan the next phase of internal major works for winter.

Since buying the house we have been flitting back and forward, frantically slapping paint on the walls and trying to get the main rooms we use most frequently habitable and furnished. The house was far from derelict when we moved in – the double glazing had been done, central heating, wood burners, kitchen, bathroom etc – but there is still a mind-boggling ‘to do list’ to make this 3,000sqm behemoth the dream family home we know it can be.

Pool in progress! - Easter 2016
Pool in progress! – Easter 2016

With two under 5s in tow I’m not denting the ‘to do list’ at the rate I’d like, but as I finish projects I will post some before/afters and do a bit of a house and garden tour – everyone loves a nose round other people’s houses don’t they?!

The boys are astonishingly good at cracking on and entertaining themselves. The 4yo is train mad and has brought his whole set with him, so can be left engrossed for hours in fantasy worlds of landslides, derailments and cargo deliveries. The 10 month old just wants to be near me. Preferably clinging to my leg at all times, which makes painting and decorating a tad tricky, but it’s amazing how distracting a set of Tupperware and a noisy, flashing toy can be.

Throw into the mix a few writing projects I’ve taken on and it all feels a bit like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time!

That said, I am ensuring that it’s not all work, work, work (or is that werk, werk, werk?) and the 4yo and I sneak off to the newly finished pool every lunchtime while the baby sleeps to splosh about for a couple of hours.

2016-07-15 14.50.57-1As all our initial budget has evaporated, with only a quarter of the rooms furnished, I am having to get pretty creative to make any progress with the remaining portion of the house. I’ve been trawling local junk shops, antiques markets and charity shops and found some incredible pieces – again, expect various posts over the summer charting my French interiors finds.

photo
Copyright Countryfille 2016

It’s been 35 degrees and rising this week, which has been amazing – if not a little soporific! Mowing the 2 acres of lawns and orchards was a serious task with my little petrol push along mower!

2016-07-15 14.30.43We are heading to the beach at the weekend (we are approx. 90 mins from the Atlantic coast around Royan/La Rochelle) with friends and our steady stream of visitors (aka free labour) start arriving next week.

photo 1Until then, I hope you’re enjoying your summer! If you want more snaps from our French vacances you can follow me on Twitter for daily updates (@countryfille).

CF x

 

 

CF Eats: Leon’s ‘Happy Salads’ cookbook review

This new cookbook from Leon has seriously upped my salad game in time for summer in France

Is anyone else completely uninspired by the prospect of ‘salad’ this summer? We arrived in France on Sunday and on a whim I grabbed this new book from Leon in Waitrose before I left, in the hope that it may be my salvation over the next two months and help steer me out of the cheese aisle.

Copyright Countryfille 2016
Copyright Countryfille 2016

I have no excuse not to eat well here, our nearest market town has the most incredible bi-weekly street market – yes there are cheese and cured meats aplenty to indulge in but also tons of fresh, local fruit and veg – 101 different types of lettuce leaves and tomatoes (why do European tomatoes taste SOOOOO good?!)… but what else do I need for a killer salad? I can make a mean Niçoise and a half-decent Caesar, but that’s about it.

I’m only 4-5 recipes in but it has been a total game-changer. And a bit of a ‘duh’ moment. It’s full of really simple ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ combos. I really like that I can find all of the ingredients easily and inexpensively at the supermarket (capers, gherkins, avocados, sun-dried tomatoes, herbs, oils, vinegars etc), and lots of them double up. There’s nothing worse then having to buy a dozen ingredients that you only use a teaspoon’s worth off before letting them fester on the top-shelf of the fridge for all eternity.

Copyright Countryfille 2016
Copyright Countryfille 2016

My winner so far is the ‘chargrilled chicken and chorizo club classic’ a meaty, garlicky, finger-lickin’ salad. It was so good I FaceTimed my husband back in the UK to share the a-mazingness. I’m good like that.

Plenty of veggie, fish and meat options – all divided into ‘Classics, Naturally Fast (great for speedy lunches), Lunchbox (ditto picnics), Food for Friends, Food for Family – then a great section at the back for ‘crunchy things’ (who doesn’t love a crouton?!) and dressings.

Copyright Countryfille 2016
Copyright Countryfille 2016

It’s just a fab little book. If you need some oomph for your summer lunches, or ideas to pimp your BBQs, look no further. It’s rare that I find a cookbook where I know it is going to be my ‘go-to’ foodie inspiration week after week – this summer, this is it.

Copyright Countryfille 2016
Copyright Countryfille 2016

Leon ‘Happy Salads’, Octopus Books, £15.99

CF Travels: Top 5 travel essentials for kids

Copyright Countryfille 2016
Copyright Countryfille 2016

After travelling a dozen times to France in the last 18 months, plus last week’s jaunt to Italy and various UK staycations with the 4yo and 10mo in tow, I feel pretty qualified to impart my top bits of kit for travel with under 5s. For what it’s worth. None of these are sponsored and we own and love them all:

 

Snooze shade £24.99, www.snoozeshade.comSnoozeshadeThe 10mo is a stickler for routine, he likes his daytime naps and on holiday when it’s impractical to keep nipping back to our base so he can nap in his cot, this is a godsend. It keeps him shaded from the sun/wind/rain and gets things nice and dark. It’s universal and pops over pretty much any buggy. Imagine a sheet over a parrot’s cage. It’s a bit like that.

Travel blackout blind, GroAnywhere, £24.99, www.gro-store.com
gro anywhere travel blackout blindThe only stipulation my two have for a good night’s sleep is a room that’s darker than Lord Voldermort’s soul. It literally has to be ‘can’t see your hand in front of your face’ black. Which is fine at home with their industrial strength black-out blinds, not so easy in European high summer where it doesn’t get dark till 10pm. This travel black-out blind folds down to nothing and converts any window into a blackhole. Literally not a chink of light. Genius.

Travel highchair, £4.99, www.gro-store.com

gro bag chair harnessThis was a last minute purchase for Italy last week, how did I live without it?! It come in a teeny weeny bag that pops into my handbag or under the buggy and unfurls to reveal a slightly complicated to get your head around, yet non-the-less brilliant chair harness that converts pretty much ANY chair into a safe highchair for babies 6-30months. Just watch the assembly video before you go.

Britax Baby-Safe Sleeper, www.britax.co.uk

baby-safe-sleeper_blackthunder_02_br_2014_rt_72dpi_2000x2000We did the 15-hour journey to France when our youngest was 5-weeks. And have been doing it every 6 weeks since. I know. We must really love our new house. Recommendations are that babies under 6 months don’t sit all hunched up in their car seats for long journeys. Their spine doth protest. This lay-flat car seat from Britax is FAB. I was sceptical as self-titled ‘Captain Safety-Conscious’, but once fitted it is literally super-glued to the back seat and they have a three-point safety harness inside. It’s not compatiable in all cars and takes up pretty much all the back seat, but he was so snug and comfy and it clipped straight onto our Britax B-Agile 3 buggy base too, so we could whip him in and out the car with ease. Best bit of kit we’ve invested in so far. Our offspring are vertically challenged (seriously, on the 2nd percentile), but longer babies might not fit in this for the full 6 months. He was touching the bottom by 4. EDIT: Shit, I’ve just seen this item has been ‘retired’ by Britax. It’s still available from other online retailers, SNAP ONE UP WHILE YOU STILL CAN!

Baby Bjorn travel crib light, £199, www.babybjorn.co.uk

easy-to-store-carry-and-stow-in-any-baggage-space-travel-crib-light-babybjorn-739x1024I won’t have a bad word said against this travel cot. Yes, cheaper travel cots are available, but I defy you to find one with a comfier, thicker mattress, nor one you can set up one-handed while holding a sleeping baby. I rest my case. This still looks like new and our 4yo slept in it almost weekly till he was 2.5yo. It’s roomy, but folds into a neat travel case that wears a mere 6kg. That’s less than my cat. For us it doubles as a playpen during the day on hols and you can unzip it all from the sturdy steel frame when they projectile vomit at 2am. Bonus.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know your tried and tested travel essentials!

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