Mary-ed Life

Thoughts on love, marriage, children, and random trivia.


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How to Survive Toddler Plague (a.k.a the Common Cold)

Three weeks ago, my daughter came home with a runny nose. She was up most of that night because the congestion in her nose kept waking her. The next day, I came down with the same cold. She was healthy again in two days. Thanks to asthma and exhaustion, I wasn’t feeling better for another two weeks. Just as I finally started to feel normal again, she came home from a  play date with a runny nose, again. I sighed, groaned, and braced myself for the very real possibility of another week or two of sickness.

You know, after eight years of teaching middle school, I thought my immune system was pretty tough. Then, I had my daughter. Now, one cold a month is pretty common. I consider myself marked if I manage to go two or three months.

Incidentally, I’m not writing this post to whine about how many germs my child brings home. After chanting the tennets of sharing for so many years, we parents can’t really complain when our children finally comply. I’m writing this post to share ways that I have learned to survive what I call “toddler plague” and the rest of the world calls “the common cold.”

First of all, make your child as comfortable as possible. This seems like a no brainer, but it is very important. If you are up half the night because your kid can’t sleep, both of you are going to suffer longer as your body fights off the cold. Here are some other things I couldn’t go without the first year:

Breastmilk – If you are sick, breastfeed as much as you can. Your body makes antibodies to fight the virus and they pass through the milk. Even when she was only weeks old, my daughter never suffered from colds as much as I did. The antibodies helped her get well faster.

Saline Nose Drops – When Ariana was a baby, I kept saline nose drops in the medicine cabinet at all times. I started a new bottle with each cold, and promptly bought a new one as soon as I used up an old one. The saline flushes out the nose, allowing baby to breathe better. This helps with nursing and sleeping. It also makes aspirating the nose easier.

A Nasal Aspirator – Nasal aspirators suck the mucus out of the nose. They are very useful, but most kids absolutely hate them. I only ever used the traditional bulb kind, but I’ve read there are others on the market that are less unpleasant.

Once your adorable baby becomes a toddler, the rules change. Most children are weaned by their first birthday, so the antibodies from breastmilk no longer help. (If you are still breastfeeding your toddler- good for you!) To further complicate things, traditional cold medicines are no longer recommended for children under age four. So what else can be done? Saline is still an excellent option, if your child will allow you to us it. As Ariana has gotten bigger, her willingness to cooperate with such things has mostly disappeared and I have had to adapt. Here are a few things I’ve discovered:

Pediacare Gentle Vapors Plug In – This is a non-medicinal plug in vaporizer. It fills your child’s room with vapors of menthol, eucalyptus, camphor, lavender, and chamomile. I use it during naptime and bedtime to help Ariana breathe and sleep.

Hyland’s Homeopathic Remedies – Hyland’s has an entire line of homeopathic remedies for colds, coughs, allergies, etc. The age recommendations vary by product. I like Hyland’s Cold and Cough (for ages 2+). It really helps Ariana’s cold symptoms and it tastes good, so she doesn’t mind taking it.

Mattress Elevation – I stuffed about four towels under the mattress at the head of Ariana’s bed. The slight elevation helped with drainage during the night so she coughed less and slept more.

Boogie Wipes – These saline wipes do a great job of cleaning up runny noses. They are very gentle and won’t irriate the skin around the nose like repetitive use of tissues or baby wipes can. They also smell good.

And finally, for the exhausted, soon-to-be-sick parents:

Emergen-C – This wonderful product gives you an excellent immunity boost. I took it for a week after Ariana came home with that second runny nose. I still suffered fatigue and a few headaches, but my nose never ran and I largely dodged the worst of it.

Chocolate – Hey, you’re sick. You deserve it.


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Potty Play By Play Part Four – One Step Forward, Ten Steps Back, Twelve Months

Potty Training, sigh.

I wrote once that, supposedly, easy-going children do exist, children that are relaxed and easily pleased and only want to please you (the parent). I also wrote that my daughter is absolutely not one of these fabled children. My daughter, Ariana, grows more beautiful and adorable with each passing day. She also grows more stubborn, hard-headed, and unyielding. To further complicate things, she isn’t stubborn about normal toddler things. She doesn’t really care what clothes she wears. She eats a wide variety of foods. She doesn’t cling to a specific color. She doesn’t have a favorite cup or plate and her favorite stuffed animal does not have to travel everywhere with us.

So what is she stubborn about? It varies. Right now she refuses to walk near elevators and will not consider changing the line-up of stuffed animals in her bed. Twelve months ago it was potty training. Twelve months ago I started training her. She did remarkably well. After two weeks, she was using the potty wonderfully, accepting her rewards proudly. She successfully did numbers one and two and even started going to the potty without prompting followed by success. Then, she decided she wanted control and the stalemate began.

I tried everything. It didn’t matter. I read everything and tried again. It didn’t matter. I bribed. I pleaded. I hunkered down. I lightened up. I worried. I didn’t worry. It didn’t matter.

Then, about three months ago, things started to progress again. It came about slowly. We would have a really good week with lots of successes followed by a week with no successes. This continued for a while and soon it petered out again.

I don’t know what possessed me at that point, but I got tough. I sat my stubborn daughter down and told her calmly and firmly that she needed to act like a big girl. Then, I sat myself down and stopped making excuses and letting myself let her slide.

Here is the formula that worked for us:

1. Find the kind of diaper/training pant that your child likes the least and use it.

I use Gerber cotton training pants at home (with waterproof PUL sewn to the outside to make them less messy). Ariana absolutely hates peeing in them because they get completely saturated. They are the only option at home during the day. Period.

I use cloth diapers made with natural fibers (cotton and bamboo) when we are out of the house. Natural fibers allow the child to feel wet. I also use these diapers at naptime.

2. I only use disposable diapers at night (and only then because my child is such a heavy wetter and a light sleeper). I only use disposable training pants when we travel.

3. I give half of one miniature cookie as a reward for peeing in the potty. Cookies are Ariana’s favorite thing in the world. She does not get them for any other reason (unless she is at Grandma’s house.)

4. I put Ariana on the potty at appropriate times. She is very predictable. Putting her on the potty when she really doesn’t need to go just frustrates her.

5. I keep a second potty in the back of my car. It is less scary than a big, public toilet.

6. I stay consistent and wait.

About a month ago, Ariana suddenly decided trying to potty train was worth her time. The first week she had a few successes. The second week she had two successes a day, every day. The third week she had no accidents (during waking hours). Last week, she still had no accidents and she successfully used the potty outside the house. She has not done “number two” in the potty since this most recent chain of success started, but I know that she will when she is ready.

Now that I can comfortably say she is training, I am slowly progressing forward. I have moved the potty into the bathroom (instead of keeping it in whatever room she is in). I’m letting her wear cloth training pants out of the house instead of diapers. Eventually we will tackle using the “big potty” and maybe wearing underwear. As long as she continues to consistently use her little potty, I’m not going to push the issue. I know I’m just a stubborn moment away from the whole thing stalling again. I have to stay positive. I have to stay consistent. No excuses.