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!

 

 

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

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!

CF Travels: Tips for long journeys with under 5s

So, we’re off back over the channel to France this week to meet the builders and get some more renovation plans scheduled for the summer (namely some more bathrooms, the house currently has an 11 bedroom: 1 bathroom ratio!). We are flitting back and forward every six weeks at the moment, which means we are become quite adept at 15-hour journeys with a new baby and a fidgety 4-year old.

Whilst my friends think I am nuts, this will be our 12th trip in 18 months, and my second solo one with the boys, so we have pretty much got the schedule down pat. It’s an early start (5.30am), but we are tucked up in our French beds by 9pm.

COPYRIGHT COUNTRYFILLE 2016
COPYRIGHT COUNTRYFILLE 2016

Which isn’t much of a hardship when we wake up to this:

COPYRIGHT COUNTRYFILLE 2016
COPYRIGHT COUNTRYFILLE 2016

The four-year old is hardened to it now, he’s been making the trek since he was 2. The excitement of being at the docks and then on the ferry still doesn’t grow old (the cranes! the smell of diesel! cargo!).Neither does the 12-hour window when all good parenting skills go out the window and he gets to play on the iPad for hours and eat more chocolate than he does in a month. Here he is at a pit-stop 10 hours in, slightly crazed on Mikados.

COPYRIGHT COUNTRYFILLE 2016
COPYRIGHT COUNTRYFILLE 2016

So, what are my top tips for travelling long distances with under 5s?

  1. Make life easy

Travelling with small people is exhausting for all concerned, so if it makes life that little bit easier to spend an extra £5 on a closer car park to the airport, to get the ready-made formula or say yes to ANOTHER ice cream – do it. You won’t ruin them, my mantra is ‘when in transit, all parenting bets are off’.

2. Plan, plan, plan

I am pretty confident that with a bit of forward planning I can pre-empt most scenarios on the journey now after a dozen trips. Before we leave I ensure we have plenty of blankets, water, snacks, batteries, toys, WIPES, a thermos of hot water (I had to give the 7mo a strip wash in a layby after a rather explosive bowel movement once), Calpol, first aid kit, audio books (hands down the best thing for car travel), spare clothing for everyone and chargers. Although I know the route in my sleep, we have often had to be diverted, or I simply want to know our ETA, so I use the Waze app to track our journey. I also have a travel wallet by my side that contains all our documents, passports, health cards etc, plus bank cards for tolls, spare Euros and driving licenses for when I get stopped for speeding. Ahem.

3. Make the journey fun

It might sound simple, but from the moment you close your front door, you are on holiday. Once I got into this mind-set, rather than having to ‘endure’ the journey to our destination, it made things easier. If you’re children are old enough, make the journey an adventure. We play stupid car games, discuss the sights we see from the car window, have frequently stops for a swing at the playpark or ice cream and sing, LOUDLY. Yes it makes the overall journey that little bit longer, but if we’re going to be stuck in a small metal box, hurtling down the motorway together for 15 hours, we might as well make it fun.

4. Pack light

Unless you are going to outer Mongolia, pack light. Ironically, having two small children has made me a much more efficient and frugal packer. Especially if you are travelling to the developed world, you can buy nappies anywhere people. Ditto wipes, toiletries, even a few cheap clothes. Obviously specific things like formula or medicines will need packing, but we now only take minimal clothes for the boys and do a big supermarket shop the day after we get there for the rest. I am also unabashed about siding up to another French mum in the supermarket and asking her advice on the best brands. I’m sure they think I’m nuts, but it’s great to get some insider advice when faced with a wall of jarred baby food.

5. Finally, aim low

I was a travel writer in a previous life, flitting off to the most incredible destinations as part of my day job. I remember fondly the days when I used to relax with a glass of fizz, waiting to be called for my flight, then don my eye mask and get in a good solid sleep on board…. Once you’re a parent you need to aim A LOT lower. As long as you don’t lose anyone, you avert most major tantrums and everyone remains on speaking terms you’ve won, and you’re on holiday!

If anyone is travelling to France this summer and wants any specific tips/advice then just ask!

 

 

Extended breastfeeding: when to wean….

Breastfeeding – is there a more divisive parenting topic?!

Well, here goes. I’m nailing my colours to the mast. I love breastfeeding. Hands down my favourite thing about motherhood thus far.

raffy feeding

Why? Because after two really hard labours ending in emergency c-sections (and a lot of tears), it helped me bond with my boys. It gave us that time together, just us, like a secret exclusive club, be it at 2am snuggled up in bed, or curled up on the sofa watching Friends re-runs. Whilst giving birth was obviously something I wasn’t so great at, this was something I COULD do. Others could help out with the nappy changes, winding and settling but feeding was MY role, it defined me as their mum.

But it wasn’t all rosy, milky joy however, don’t worry reader. Whilst most breastfeeding advocates will tell you breezily it’s ‘so easy/cheap/practical!’, I will beg to differ. It is bloody hard work; it’s a serious skill to master for both mother and baby (it took my eldest 5 days to successfully latch) and it takes serious determination to keep going, through growth spurts, teething, sore nipples and the big M, mastitis. In fact, in some ways, bottle feeding is infinitely easier. The onus isn’t entirely on you and your body which, after labour has quite frankly gone through enough trauma. But I say to all new mums that ask my bfing advice – if you can, stick with it, just to the month-mark. That maybe enough for you and your baby, but chances are your supply will have sorted itself out, you’ll have got over the 3-week growth spurt, aka the 24-hour feedathon, your baby will be a much more efficient feeder and you’ll be FLYING.

I could also bore you with the latest health stats on why it’s the bees-knees for their immune system and future health but I won’t. As much as I adore breastfeeding, I’m no sadist. I stuck at it because I loved it, not out of some feeling of duty or guilt. If it hadn’t worked for us I would have happily switched to bottles, in fact my husband has given both boys a bottle of formula at around 11pm each night to allow me to rest. I know, shock horror. Yet funnily enough all the scaremongering stories have yet to materialise. It didn’t give them breast:bottle confusion as every midwife swore it would, my milk supply didn’t dwindle and it kept me sane. Win-win.

So, the purpose of this long, rambling post is my current predicament: when to wean? Both boys were given solids from around six-months, whereas my eldest soon became supremely disinterested in the boob, favouring cottage pie and yoghurt over my own Gold Top, I am currently still nursing the 8mo every 4 hours or so. He eats well, sleeps 12 hours at night with just one feed, yet still breast feeds with such enthusiasm I can’t see him weaning any time soon. I’m in no rush, and I’m very fortunate that I can work from home around his feeds, so I figured I’d just leave it to happen naturally.

But in the last two months I’ve noticed my continued feeding has garnered some startling questions: ‘Isn’t he eating food by now?’, ‘Isn’t he too old to be doing that?’, ‘Haven’t you done that for long enough now?’, ‘he’s got teeth!!!!!’… yup. If you thought there wasn’t enough breastfeeding support for new mums, I can attest there is even less for extended breastfeeding… I can safely say I won’t be picking him up from school and shoving my boob in his gob, I figure as he gets more independent and active he will gradually become less bothered about it, but I’d love to hear from other bfing mums as to when they weaned? Did you experience any post-weaning depression? Do you feel it was the right length of time for you and your baby? Let me know!

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