Below you will find a list of items for you, parent, to have a fighting chance at conquering this year’s flu season. I will link everything to Amazon, not because I am paid, but because that is how I live my life. I was lying in bed the other night debating ridding myself from the shackles of a Prime membership because if the hand causes you to sin you must lop it off. And handless, I would be greatly impeded on my quest to spend mortgage money on books.
You can be confident in these recommendations because, with five children, the flu remains my greatest adversary, and yet, I feel I am destined to conquer it. The year all seven of us jointly succumbed to its powers, our youngest was only three months old. The big kids were desperate for snow, so we decided to spend a weekend at a friend’s cabin in the mountains. My husband, henceforth Patient Zero, was hit on Saturday. By Sunday he was barely awake for packing, and two offspring had begun coughing. He dozed off twice with coffee in his hand. Because he was becoming increasingly disoriented, we decided to get off the mountain as soon as possible. Unfortunately for us, there were two hindering factors: one, the onset of a major snowstorm, and two, the snow chains we borrowed from a friend got wrapped around the axel of our van as we exited, a quarter mile from the cabin.
What happened next is a blur of activity in which I wrapped the baby in every available blanket and rushed him back to the cabin. I must have entrusted the other four to God. I remember yelling something to that effect into the howling wind. We had no food, no way off the mountain and AAA wouldn’t give us the time of day. Patient Zero spent the better part of the morning feverishly ripping chains off the mangled axel while we helpfully stared at him from inside the warm cabin. We skidded partway down the mountain without any chains at all until we stopped at a gas station. Patient Zero had exerted himself to the point of collapse and could barely switch seats with me. I saw him close his eyes, unable to open them again. I looked at all my babies in the rearview mirror. I watched the flakes pile up on the windshield. This is how we all die, I thought. I spotted 3 teenage snowboarders and offered them all the money in my wallet to put the chains back on our car. The tallest one flicked my hands off his collar as he leaned away from me. “Woah, okMa’am”, he said to me. Even though I would drive down that mountain and straight to the E.R. where Patient Zero would get promptly diagnosed with Rhabdomyolysis, and even though my fear was so strong that I tasted the death of my entire family like metal on my tongue that day- the memory that sticks the most is that punk calling me ‘Ma’am’. I had not yet been made aware that I was old enough to be aMa’am. I felt my shoulders relax as I unclenched my fists from the lapel of his puffy jacket. I plastered on a thin smile and willed my forehead wrinkles back into place. It was all very distressing.
Anyhow, flu season.
You will need towels. These towels are henceforth dog grooming towels and barf towels only. Choose wisely. You will cover your children and every surface they touch. You will line the floor next to their bed with them because a towel is easier to bleach than a whole swath of carpet. You will also need tiny washcloths. Not the basic ones. You need the infant ones, that are thin and soothy. Get them wet and they refrigerate/freeze nicely, and are perfect forehead size. Most importantly, they do not require parental readjustment every 30 seconds like the heavy, grainy, waffly ones.
Hot humidifier. Not cold. Now, this is up for debate because of the steam/toddler combination. This is good for infants who haven’t yet mastered a crib escape or pre-school aged kids and up who can harness their ill-fated desire to burn off appendages.
UV wand: Amazon, do you see all these links? Give a girl some kickbacks. You weaken my resolve to give you up. Before you, where would one have procured such a device? The angel on my shoulder says, “you don’t even watch the free shows, and who knows how much you could save if everything you liked wasn’t one click away?” and the devil prime troll says, “where would you be without your UV wand? You’ve spent too much time purchasing from the couch to even find such a thing in the real world.” Anyhow, I’m not entirely sure how this works but I hover it over our toothbrushes and the handles of my refrigerator and feel better about life. I think it sets germs on fire or explodes them. Whatever UV rays do. Science.
Hidden sustenance: you’re going to want to find a spot in your home where you can hide a few bottles of juice and crackers. Hydration in flu season is key, and unfortunately sickness brings out kids’ natural finicky-ness about their sustenance’s. Do not, under any circumstances, leave this to chance. Otter pops stashed in your freezer are gone in minutes. Otter pops pre-frozen in the back of the pantry are gold to you when the kids start barfing and your spouse has abandoned you to work since “someone has to pay the mortgage”. You are in this alone. Make a stash in the back of the pantry today. This is not hard. Everyone in your family only scans the front row anyway. Anything behind the front row is like the wardrobe in Narnia, it is a whole other world. Magical centaurs could be back there and nobody would be the wiser. You could hide specialty chocolates or bars of gold back there and I bet not even a robber would find them. Don’t come break into my house thinking I have gold bars. I don’t. But maybe I should get some now that I’m thinking about it. I wonder if they’re on Prime.
Queen Blow up Mattress– I cannot overestimate the importance of this item. This has saved my life on so many occasions that I now have a whole section of my linen closet dedicated to the sheets that match it. Here’s why. The flu will begin at night. I don’t know why this happens, but without fail, everyone is rainbows and lollipops at dinner. “Kids, anyone want more of this 8-layer lasagna? Did everyone get enough blackberry cobbler? Maybe if we get peckish later we can finish off the queso! Why not? We won’t ever see it again!”
But we will. We will see it again.
Around 2 am, there will be a creak on your floorboards and a whispered confession from a warm, wet, distant source. This murky voice will come to you in waves, ripping you out of a wonderful dream. It is the marsh-like quality of the voice and the accompanying stench that will drag you out of your slumber. It will whisper, “I think I threw up in my bed.” Kids like to declare actualities as though they could be possibilities. I assume this is meant to soften the blow. They say things like, “I think the T.V. stopped working”, knowing full well they tried to wedge a bagel bite in the DVD player to see if it would spin. “I think my project is due in the morning.” “I think I threw up in my bed, I might not have. It could have been a dream. I’m not entirely sure. My breath may be that of a skunk corpse rotting in a compost heap simply by chance.”
At this point you will bolt out of bed to confirm the sad reality you already knew deep down in your heart. You have one of two options here. Option one: Take the child into bed with you and throw an aforementioned towel on the carnage. No one is here to judge. Option Two: strip the sheets off the bed and start from scratch. Neither of these options are viable, and I’ll tell you why. If you remake your child’s bed, you will surely repeat this charade in 45 minutes. This could go on all night, or until you run out of sheets. That may tempt you to give up and bring the child into bed with you, reasoning that you will hear the first gags and be able to rush the sleeping child to the toilet. This is also a mistake. The child will absolutely barf again, and you have misjudged your late-night prowess. You will be in such a state of exhaustion you will miss the cascade until it is in your hair and dripping through your mattress pad. This choice has long-lasting repercussions. Even if you bleach every aspect of bedding and mattress, vomit is a smell that cannot be fully eradicated. It will come for you 3 months from now when everyone is well and your life is at ease. You will turn over in the middle of the night and catch the faintest whiff of fermented queso. Is it your imagination? Are you coming down with something? You do a gag test to see. Can it really last that long? Personally, I could sense the remains years after our incident. I never really had peace again until a decade later when we upgraded to a king. Learn from me. In-bed vomiting is a merciless ghost. She will haunt you for life.
Enter option 3! The blow-up mattress. So many things about this are applicable to barfing children, that I don’t even understand how this is not already a niche market. You unroll it from under a bed or wherever you store it. You press a button, it blows up. You don’t even have to fully wake up for any of this. It has a wipeable surface, so who even cares. It is low to the ground so the barf bowl is eye level. I could go on.
Now is not the time to be a cheapskate. You’ll noticed I linked to a queen mattress. Not a twin. A queen. A king is too big to fit on the floor of your bedroom and a twin means you won’t fit on it with them. It is imperative that they think you are sleeping with them, so that when they finally drift off to sleep, you can ninja roll off it, into your own bed, which does not smell like vomit.
Godspeed, fellow warriors.