5 Ways to Keep Kids Healthy During Cold & Cough Season

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Winter is coming. Which means so is cold and cough season for your kids.

The start of school plus the onslaught of cold temperatures means it’s no so much a matter of if your kids will get sick, but when. But just because winter coughs and colds seem inevitable doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to prevent them, and then treat them effectively once they arrive.

5. Make Sure They Wash Their Hands
Tell your kids to wash their hands. And then, when they either forget or choose to ignore you, physically walk them in to the bathroom and force them to do it like the mean task master you are. Because honestly, it’s that important. Cold and flu are caused by viruses, and they are not airborne (meaning you can’t get sick just from being in the same room with someone with a cold). It has to be from direct contact. So every time you blow your nose and get some on you or cough into your hand and then have contact with people, you’re spreading the problem. That’s why washing your hands is so vital to stop the spread. Also, teach kids to sneeze into the crook of their elbows instead of their hands.

4. Make Sure They Get Lots of Rest
For reasons researchers still fully don’t understand, getting lots of sleep wards off sickness. Studies have shown a lack of ample sleep leads to decreased immunity, including fewer white blood cells (which help our bodies fight against infection) and antibodies (which fight against germs). Generally speaking, toddlers need between 11 and 13 hours of a sleep a night, while young, schoolchildren require approximately 10-11 hours a night. If you have a tween, shoot for 9-10 hours with teenagers needing 8-9 hours a day.

3. Make Sure They Sing
You’re probably thinking “Huh? Is this guy crazy?” The answer could still be yes, but it has nothing to do with this advice. Japanese researchers tested blood and saliva from a test group before and after they engaged in copious amounts of singing. They found after the singing was finished, the level of stress-related hormones dropped while immunoglobulin A — which helps battle viruses and bacteria — rose. The good news is your kids will have a stronger immune system, but the bad news is you’re going to have to listen to “Let It Go” a few more times. The things we do for our kids, right?

2. KEEP SICK KIDS HOME!!!
I get this one is tough because a lot of us rely on day care and school while we’re at work. But when kids get sick and go to school with dozens of other children who might not have read this article and don’t practice these tips, the likelihood of spreading viruses increases exponentially. So if your child does get sick, think quarantine. Lay low and stay in the house for a few days while you treat it, and don’t contribute to the germ/bacteria/virus farm that is daycare and school. Trust me, you don’t want it to come out that your kid is Patient Zero because then you’re THOSE parents. And no one wants to be those parents.

1. Use Little Remedies
If the cough and cold plague does descend upon your offspring, you’ll want to know the best way to treat it. For my money, I go with Little Remedies Cough & Immune Support. My wife and I are big on medicines that are as natural as possible, and this fits the bill. This product contains elderberry and honey to soothe sore throats and reduce coughing, and contains zero alcohol, saccharin, or high-fructose corn syrup. Any kids older than 12 months can have it, and my kids don’t mind the taste and benefit greatly. We use Little Remedies every time we can and we’re never disappointed.

***Disclaimer: I was compensated by Little Remedies for this post. However, I used their products way before they ever approached me and I stand by their effectiveness and endorse them 100%. Check out their website and Facebook page.

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Christmas Trees: Should You Buy Real or Fake?

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There are two types of people in this world: those who buy real, live Christmas trees and those who hate joy.

The turkeys aren’t even in the oven yet for Thanksgiving, but make no mistake — Christmas is coming. And with it comes the age-old question of whether to buy a real Christmas tree or head to a department store to buy a plastic one. You can already see where I stand on this, which is firmly in the real tree camp. But when I posed this question online, I was startled by the number of you “Fakers” out there, who happily thumb your nose at Christmas with your artificial, pre-wired holiday spirit. 

But worse than that, I was devastated to find out my wife — who once shared my belief that the only REAL Christmas tree is a real Christmas tree — has gone to the artificial dark side.

Now, this isn’t a case of us living in an apartment complex that doesn’t allow for real trees, nor is it due to allergies. Those things are understandable and unfortunate. But alas, this ain’t that. This is about her being tired of picking out the tree, lugging it home, and making sure it’s straight and tended to. She doesn’t want to worry about watering it, dealing with the strings of lights, overloading outlets, and the kids and pets that inevitably tear it down. And she REALLY can’t stand the thought of finding pine needles in the carpet for the next six months.

There are certain things you discuss prior to deciding to spend the rest of your life with one person. We talked about the importance of raising our future kids as Patriots and Red Sox fans, and never dressing our family in matching clothes for family photos. You know, the important shit. And included in that was the promise that we would ALWAYS have a real Christmas tree.

But apparently unofficial vows made just before our legally binding wedding vows don’t count for anything anymore, because she’s bailing. On me, the kids, the tree, and Christmas in general. The only way I could’ve been more devastated is if she dressed my kids in New York Yankees gear and picked that exact moment for a family photo.

Now normally when these disagreements arise, I lose. Don’t get me wrong, I put up a good fight. But wives are formidable adversaries, and husbands have a tendency to strategically surrender so life can go on and occasional nookie can still be had. However, I just can’t let this stand. So sexy time be damned, I’m going to convince MJ of the multitude of reasons real trees trump fake ones, and keep the tradition alive.

So, the million dollar question, why buy a real Christmas tree?

First of all, the choosing of the tree is a time-honored tradition and beloved family activity in the Gouveia clan. Growing up, my parents would take my brother and I to the Christmas tree lot and immediately the entire scene became an exercise in debate and compromise. My mom wanted the short, fat trees. I wanted the perfectly dimensional tree that had no flat spots or bare patches anywhere. My brother wanted any tree that wasn’t the one I picked, and my father just wanted to point out the flaws in everyone else’s trees before he grabbed one we all didn’t love but could settle on. It was exhausting, frustrating, and time-consuming. And we all loved it. Still do.

Next we’d bring it home and get set up. We had a tree stand that was apparently made in the 19th century that was incapable of holding a tree upright. But that didn’t stop the three of us from manning the top and bottom, shouting “IS IT STRAIGHT?” to my mom, as she repeatedly said “A little that way…no the OTHER way!” I’m convinced this was retaliation for never allowing her the Liberty Bell shaped Christmas shrub she craved.

Next, after it was straight but still pretty tilted, we’d get the Christmas lights out. Naturally, those lights had been bunched up and thrown into a ball out of frustration the previous year, meaning the next 90 minutes consisted of trying to untangle the lights without one of us brutally murdering the other. Then my father would add tinsel. No one else liked tinsel because it’s messy and looks tacky, but I’m pretty sure it was his retaliation to my mom’s prior retaliation.

The rule in my house was the oldest child (me) puts on the first ornament, while the youngest child (my brother) gets to put the angel on top of the tree. As the oldest, I hated this rule with a passion because CLEARLY the angel on top of the tree is cooler. So after the prerequisite 15 minutes of me whining about unfair treatment at the hands of the “Golden Child” (my nickname for my brother), I’d throw on the most heinous ornament in our collection — a HUGE cigar that either looks like a ginormous erection or an unwieldy piece of poop, depending on your perspective.

Once it was all done, we sat back and took in the absolute, hands down best part of having a real tree — the smell. That intoxicating scent of pine for which there is no substitute. And yes, you can burn a pine-scented candle if you have a fake tree, but there’s no way it’s the same. Not even close.

Having a fake tree means a trip to the attic/basement instead of the Christmas tree lot. It means not bonding over rigging up the lights and skipping that feeling of accomplishment that comes with solving a particularly nasty tangle. You can also make watering the tree a chore for kids to learn responsibility. And the smell — sweet Georgia Brown the smell. That’s really the only reason you need.

You don’t buy fake, pre-carved pumpkins for Halloween, do you? Hell no. You buy fresh ones and get messy carving them every year. A little mess isn’t going to hurt anyone. So there are some pine needles? Big deal. And yes, I have pets and they like the tree. Did the cats chew on the lights? Yes, they did. But if you hate cats like I do, that could also work out in your favor.

A lot of this is tongue in cheek, of course, but I really am putting my foot down on this one. For me, Christmas isn’t Christmas without a real tree and it’s something I want my kids to have too.

So how about it folks, real or fake? Give me your reasons for each.

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The 11 Best Movie Dads of All Time

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Sometimes, when you have a lot of heavy crap going on and you just can’t write about it yet, you need need a distraction. And for me, that has always meant movies.

I love them. And the ones I don’t love, I love to hate. But ever since becoming a father, I’ve started paying special attention to one part of movies in particular — dads. I take a lot of inspiration from movies, and a recent discussion with my wife got us on the topic of some of the best dads in movies we could think of. Which, in turn, led to some pretty substantial disagreements in coming up with a Top 10.

She immediately jumped to classics such as Steve Martin in Father of the Bride. I’m sure she’s far from alone. But I didn’t like that movie in the early 90s when I first saw it, and I’m still not impressed with it. In making my own list, I noticed a few things that directly translate to my own role as father.

I tend to gravitate toward dads who aren’t perfect. Sure they have a lot of trouble out of the gate and beyond, but when push comes to shove they work to make sure they get their shit together. And although they might act tough, you can tell they love their kids completely and always do what’s best for them.

In making my list, the rules were simple. I need to have seen the film, and I didn’t include any animated movies (sorry Mufasa). Check it out and then we can argue about omissions and inclusions in the comments!

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Why I Have to Stop Saying “She’s Out of My League”

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I’ve been saying my wife is out of my league and too good for me for 10 solid years, ever since we started dating. Because…well, look at her and look at me. Many guys express similar sentiments about their wives, and we genuinely mean it as a compliment. Unfortunately, it’s a sentiment that’s really started to harm our marriage.

Background: the same scene has played out in a similar fashion over the years no matter where we go and who we meet. MJ’s beauty turns heads as she enters a room and attracts more than her fair share of attention. It’s not uncommon for strangers on a train to stop her and tell her exactly how gorgeous she is out of left field, even when I’m sitting right there. And speaking of me, I get looked at too. Only it’s very different.

They look at her, then they look at me. Once more at her, and then back to me with eyebrows raised. It’s the “Huh…how the hell did that happen?” look. Is he rich (he is not)? Is he famous (nope)? Did she lose a bet? Does he have her brainwashed? You get the point.

Even my friends, on our wedding day, asked her what the hell she was doing.

Did it sting? Yeah, it did. But instead of letting that show, I just embraced it and went with it. It became my go-to response and elicited laughs every time. Unfortunately, it stopped being a joke when, somewhere along the line, it became my reality.

I’d routinely ask MJ why she was with me. I’d demand to know how someone like her could possibly want to be with a schmuck like me. At first she’d give my ego a stroke and list out my good qualities, but that only lasted so long. Soon when I brought it up she’d just roll her eyes and say nothing. Until recently, when she had PLENTY to say about it.

“Do you have any idea how hurtful it is when you say that? First of all, women like confidence. I don’t want to hear about how awful you are and a list of everything you think is wrong with you as you throw yourself a pity party. Second, you have no idea how insulting it is to ME when you say these things about yourself. If you’re so clearly horrible and you have to constantly ask me why I married you, it makes me feel like an idiot for marrying someone I shouldn’t be married to, according to you. And if you tell someone the same thing long enough, they just might start to believe it.”

Whoa. She’s right. She’s 110% right in every way. And in a fit irony, I realized I now had a very concrete reason for feeling like an idiot.

Like many men, I spent a lot of time worried about leagues and whether I (as a self-described 5 on the 1 to 10 scale), had any business landing what I considered to be a hard 9 (if you need more info and a few laughs, check out this movie). But all those numbers, all those rankings — what a waste of time. Because come to find out, there are no leagues as far as my wife is concerned. The rankings don’t exist. They never did.

My raging insecurities put a genuine strain on my marriage. When I think of all the time I wasted basically trying to convince my wife I’m not good enough for her, I want to slap myself as I wonder “what the hell was I thinking?” But even worse, I’m sure I said some of that crap in front of my kids. Sam isn’t old enough to pick up on it, but Will sure is. So a few days ago when he said “Mom, you always look so pretty and dad doesn’t,” it didn’t surprise me at all. It just saddened me that I passed such a stupid message on to him.

Guys, our wives chose us for a reason. Hopefully, many reasons. We showed them love they never had, devotion they always wanted, and support they’ll always appreciate. And we’re attractive to them or else they wouldn’t be with us. We just need to realize it.

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How to Lower Your Cable Bill

As parents, we’re very into milestones. Unfortunately, not all milestones are positive ones.

Earlier this month, I received my monthly cable TV bill from Comcast (or Xfinity or whatever the hell they call themselves now), and something in me just snapped. It was $215 for wireless Internet, a cable TV package, and a landline — part of their Triple Play package. It had been much less in the beginning, but just kept creeping up and up and up until it became another car payment.

I’m partly to blame (and by partly I mean mostly) for this, as I’m an unmitigated TV nut. I have it on constantly, even when I’m not watching it. But usually I am watching it. Everything from news to sports to movies to sitcoms — you name it, I watch it.

But even a TV freak like me has limits, and $215 was mine.

When I stepped back and took an objective look, I realized a few things. First of all, there is absolutely no earthly reason to keep a landline. Second, yes we watch a lot of TV. But most of it wasn’t cable.

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I realized we almost exclusively use Netflix when we watch TV.  For $8.99 a month (plus the one-time $35 cost for a Chromecast to stream it to my TV in HD glory), we get thousands of movies, TV shows, and documentaries that keep us and our kids completely entertained. And while we do supplement it with a few other free and paid services, Netflix is the one we use the most by far.

Will, my 6-year-old, easily logs in to Netflix and chooses from his favorite titles we have set up for him. Things like:

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The Oscar’s Oasis one is especially wacky, and we would’ve never found it had we not been tooling around on Netflix looking for new stuff. Now it’s his favorite thing to watch.

But make no mistake, Netflix is hardly for kids. In fact, I’m pretty addicted to a whole bunch of shows including the following:

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And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Every month Netflix swaps out new movies and shows, and you’ll never lack for things to watch. Not to mention you’ll be paying as little as $8.99 to do it instead of hundreds of dollars. If you’re OK with harnessing the power of Netflix, then you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Even though you don’t want to completely cut the cord, you need to pretend you’re willing to do so when you call the cable company.

Most of their lower cost, special offers are for new customers. If that’s you, great. If not, you need to do a little wheeling and dealing. Telling them you’re planning to leave altogether usually does the trick and lo and behold, suddenly they’ll come up with some new offer they just started running in the last 12 seconds that includes you. Hooray. If that doesn’t work, don’t worry because you still have alternatives.

When Comcast wouldn’t offer us anything better, we simply ended my time as a customer there. And then we immediately began an account in my wife’s name with some downgrades. We gave up DVR and some of the premium channels, but kept HBO and Showtime. And by doing that, we were able to keep a lot of what we had but pay way, way less for it.

How much less? We reduced our monthly cable bill by $105 a month! I don’t know about you, but that makes a significant difference to my family. It can for you as well. Good luck!

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StreamTeamBadgeI’m happy to announce I’m now part of the Netflix Stream Team. Although I’m not receiving monetary compensation for my work, I have received free products and services. However, I’ve been using Netflix for years and my opinion, as always, is 100% my own.

Visit Netflix here to learn more or sign up for streaming, and check out the Netflix Facebook page as well.

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