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When Life Gives You Stomach Bugs…

…pack a bucket.

2021 has started off explosively…. and not in a good way. As if 2020 hadn’t been enough to knock all of us senseless, here comes the New Year on a bender. COVID, quarantines, masks, virtual schooling, job loss — we’ve experienced constant historical events and, I think I speak for all of us when I say, it’s gotten old FAST.

Parenting in all of the nonsense has certainly been a stay-at-home adventure that I’m sure most of you can relate to. Our lives stopped (basically) on a dime back in March and humanity as we knew it was shuttled in to virtual learning, virtual working (or, like in mine and my husband’s case, lack of working altogether), virtual everything. This world-wide-web, instant-gratification generation still proved that we as a people still crave outside human interaction. In short: it’s been nothing less than a dumpster fire.

Some things that have not changed on the parenting front are tummy aches, booboos, and other such childhood ailments. That, my friends, is where this story and the things I’ve picked up on over the years begins.

My boys are attending school on campus because my husband and I work. Virtual is just not an option for us. Besides the work factor, my kids learn better in a traditional school setting. Our school is amazing and has done a stellar job at keeping things as “normal” as possible as well as keeping our kiddos safe. So far, so good (praise!). That said, kids are gross in general. Colds, flus, and stomach viruses are basically unavoidable. My kids pick up everything like a bad habit, so I knew they’d be sick soon when I heard a stomach flu was making the rounds. Man, when they get sick they go big. Both my middle and youngest woke up sick last Saturday morning with no end in sight. I registered almost 2,000 steps on my FitBit between 1AM & 8AM just cleaning rugs, couches, blankets and children. By the time I got them both settled in and I tried to do likewise (about 4AM), I was exhausted. Unfortunately, and I’m sure you mommas can understand, I startled awake in mild panic with every cough, sniffle, and sudden movement from the boys. Both boys woke up around 830, which meant I only got a solid 30 minutes of sleep. Thankfully, they bounced back relatively quickly. This momma sure could’ve used a solid eight hours — although I’d have settled for at least a few hours uninterrupted.

That said, here are a few things that I wish I’d have known going into this parenting gig:

  1. Invest in buckets. Y’all, I cannot stress this enough. If you can buy buckets by the dozen, do it. I keep one in my car and we have several in the house for times such as these. Believe me when I say you’ll much rather clean a bucket than have to scrub a carpet at 2AM. However, when accidents happen (and they will) make sure you have…
  2. Kitty litter & baking soda. Do yourself a favor and don’t skimp on the kitty litter. I mean, it doesn’t need to have gold flakes in it or anything, but you’ll want something that won’t morph into a gelatinous mess when all you’re trying to do is restore some semblance of order in the house at the buttcrack of dawn.
  3. Any beverages need to be sugar free. I almost didn’t add this one, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t consider the effect sugar can have on a sick stomach. Basically, it’s not great. Stock up on sugar free ginger ale, Gatorade, and Pedialyte. This will help hydrate the body without stimulating another bout of tummy upset. Plus, at least for my kids, it helps control the urge to take long gulps. The taste isn’t bad, but my kids sip these beverages slowly rather than sucking them down in .02 seconds.
  4. Mattress protectors. It never hurts to have a few cheap mattress covers on hand. My boys like to sleep on the couch when they’re sick (I did when I was a kid, too), and a twin size mattress cover will cover the most couch cushion sets without issue. Obviously, these are great for actual beds, as well. So… not a bad investment in general. I don’t leave them on mattresses all the time because the noise drives me nuts, but I learn to deal with it during stomach flu attacks.
  5. Emetrol & kids’ Pepto tablets will be your besties. I just found Emetrol this past go ’round so maybe I’m late to the game, but Y’ALL. I love that it didn’t make my kids sleepy but that it helped soothe their tummies enough to help make them comfortable for sleep. I don’t like giving my kids anything that might make them drowsy, but know that they’re like me enough to not handle nausea well. This is something that will be a permanent medicine cabinet fixture in the Paul home. BONUS POINTS: it’s safe for kids 2 and up.
  6. And last but not least, find Febreze Pet Odor Eliminator. “But Sarah, that’s dumb.” Nah, girl. Hear me out. This stuff doesn’t mask rough odors — it totally annihilates them. Plus, it leaves a clean scent that isn’t overwhelming, flowery, or super sweet. When I say it smells clean, I mean it. smells. CLEAN. And it completely covers that puke smell that even the most iron-gutted individual struggles with tolerating.

I’m sure there are other things I could point out that I’m just not thinking about, but I think you get the idea. If you take nothing away from this except, please do yourself a favor and remember to “Invest in buckets”.

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5 Things I Wish I’d Known About Plumbing

Hey, y’all!  Sorry for the long absence; we’ve been battling bathroom plumbing issues the past week and tried to get a handle on them over the weekend.  Honestly, it’s been a long-time coming.  Our house is about 40-45 years old, and the previous owners did a rough job of “doctoring” the problems rather than properly fix them.  Nothing serious, but definitely a pain in the gluteus maximus.  One big problem we’ve been dealing with, especially recently, has been the bathroom plumbing.  None of it was installed correctly and totally half-assed.  The existing piping, according to our plumber, is likely as old as the house.  We decided to go ahead and get an estimate on what it would cost to re-pipe the entire house and, surprisingly, it isn’t awful.  Granted, we live in a small 1,350 sqft home.  Hopefully soon that will all be changed out, however, and we’re anticipating that the new works will at least slightly increase our home value.

Anyway, prior to calling a plumber my husband, dad, and I attempted to flush out the situation to attempt to save some cash.  I’m not currently working, so we’re on a pretty tight budget.  But, as luck almost always has it, we wound up spending twice as much on plumbing “band-aids” than we did on an actual plumber coming to fix our toilet disaster.  Lesson learned, ladies.  Occasionally, you may get lucky and be able to plunge or Drano the problem away.  But always, always, always stop after $30.  If thirty bucks ain’t solving shit, then an additional $20, $40, or $60 won’t, either.  HEED MY WARNING.  You are speaking to the queen of frugality, y’all.  When it comes to plumbing, tread lightly.  Which brings me to what I’m driving at today:

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1) Never, under any circumstances, pour grease down a drain.  This includes any type of grease and all drain types.  The damage won’t be instantaneous, but over time the fat and grease deposits collect and clog your system.  This can leave you with an overflow of sewage in your house.  Believe me, you don’t want that.  It may take 5, 10, or 15 years, but it’ll happen and it can be an expensive fix depending on whether you’re on septic tank or city sewage.  Don’t chance it.

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  • What to do instead: use a container (I use old detergent bottles) to catch the grease and a funnel (if necessary) to help direct it.  Wipe out any residue with a paper towel.  If any grease does get down the drain, pour some detergent that breaks down grease and hot water down the pipes to help further knock out the deposits.  Which brings me to….

2) Use a tough detergent.  Realistically, you can’t keep all the grease from escaping a pan or plate and going down the sink.  It’s gonna happen.  But, you can use a high-quality, non-store brand to help the eliminate any problems.  Again, I’m the Frugality Queen and I use a ton of store brand items, but dish detergent ain’t one of them.  I’ve even stopped using store brand and/or cheap laundry detergent due to the weird build-up they leave on my washer.  If it’s going down your plumbin’, make sure it’s properly suddin’.  You want your pipes as close to grime-free as possible.
3) On the opposite end of the toughness spectrum, you want to use something that easily degrades in the TP department.  Now listen, y’all.  I don’t mean use TP that don’t hold to blowing your nose, but it is SO important that you flush stuff that won’t clog or slowly disintegrate.  Our plumber recommends Scott or Angel Soft.  I’m not affiliated with either of those brands in a marketing sense, but I can tell you from experience that Angel Soft is where it’s at as far as being durable enough for a wipe but easily breaks down for pipes.  If you don’t use either of those brands, then be sure to follow-up monthly with toilet or plumbing enzymes such as Roto-Rooter.  In fact, Roto-Rooter has a toilet safe formula that is okay for those particular pipes.

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4) Invest in a good plumbing upkeep schedule.  Honest to God, this has really helped us keep BIG problems at bay.  There are all kinds of products that you can use to help things flowing well.  INVEST, INVEST, INVEST.  That bottle of Roto Rooter or Drano may cost $15, but fifteen bucks is a far cry from $1,500.  Again, been there — done that.  Looking for more of a green clean?  Check out Grove Collaborative for those options!
5) When in doubt, don’t flush it.  I’m not always 100% sold on “flushable” wet wipes and, as it turns out, neither are most plumbers.  Obviously you don’t want to stick other hygiene products, toys, etc., in the toilet, but sometimes crap happens.  You want to be prepared for the inevitable — especially if you have children or if you keep little incidentals around the facilities.  Lemme fill you in on a secret, guys: while it’s always good to have a normal vacuum, it’s also awesome to have a wet/dry ShopVac.  “What does this have to do with plumbing, Sarah?”  Well, I’ll tell you.  Having a ShopVac is freaking great for spills and floods.  Guess what it’s also good for?  Getting close-proximity clogs out of toilets.  Toys, stuck wet wipes, you name it — if it’s stuck within reach of an attached nozzle, you’re golden.  It’ll suck the lost item right out of there, no plumber needed.  BE CAREFUL not to push down on the object — you want the nozzle just close enough to pull whatever is stuck, out.  Bonus points: most ShopVacs have a reverse option.  Go outside or to a bathtub and let the vacuum do the rest (if using a tub make sure to have a drain catch installed so the object doesn’t relodge into another pipe).

Plumbing work is no fun and cleaning up water back-up is a nightmare.  Hopefully these five tips help you to have a better experience, whether you rent or own!

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Do you have any helpful plumbing tips?  Jot ’em down in the comments below!  I’m always game to add to my home-owner hack arsenal!