Last night I went to Walgreens to stock up on a variety of cold/cough/flu season supplies that were lacking in our arsenal. I spoke to my mother on the phone during the day to describe Vic’s symptoms to her and get some guidance about danger signs since the advice nurse that Sabs spoke to yesterday was less than helpful. The advice nurse recommended giving him a modified dose of adult-strength Triaminic and didn’t give us any indication of things to watch for that would mean a trip to the office or to the ER. I’m very thankful that my mother is a ready source of sensible advice that I can rely on in these instances, when the advice coming out of my pediatrician’s office seems lacking. To be fair, they were swamped with extremely sick kids and the nurse probably had red lights all over her phone and Vic isn’t very ill. But still, I’m glad I have a back up who is more than happy to share the breadth of her experience as a career pediatric nurse.

Mom’s advice was much more in line with my instincts as well and she was able to plug the gap in my knowledge about what to look for as a sign that an emergency could be at hand. She favors a more homeopathic approach for small children unless they’re much sicker than Vic is – home-made cough syrup without the strong cough suppressant drugs in it, steam treatments to open up the lungs and relieve congestion, vapo-rub to assist with the same. She also recommended infant Motrin to control the fever and any inflammation of tissues and infant Robitussin if the cough got really bad. Unfortunately, I didn’t have most of the items to carry out that treatment. I can make the cough syrup because we have Karo at home and lemon juice and warm water are easy to come by. I can do spot steam treatments by taking Vic into the bathroom, putting on the bath water and closing the door. But we didn’t have a vaporizer, or any of the other items on Mom’s list, hence the trip to Walgreens.

I wandered the aisles of the large one on Market St. in downtown San Francisco, looking and looking. The cold remedies were conveniently all located in one place – vapo-rub and Robitussin, but the vaporizers were in with the baby items and the Motrin was under painkillers, so I did a fair amount of going up one aisle and reading signs and then going down the next doing the same in search of everything I needed. Along the way, I bumped into other things needed around the house – more socks for Sabs to wear to school since most of the pairs he has have sprung irreparable holes, multivitamins to shore up my nutritional requirements, baby toothpaste for Vic – and the pile in my basket began to expand exponentially. Finally, I’d found everything and was considering getting another umbrella stroller to use on bus trips, but decided against hauling the thing on BART with a large bag of medecines and cold care supplies. I’m glad I made that decision, because by the time everything was rung up, I was staring a $76 bill in the face even though I picked Walgreens brand as much as possible during this particular foray. I gritted my teeth and just handed over my bank card. The total was more than I would have liked, but this will probably not be the only time we are sick this winter. Better to stock up now and be ready, than be caught empty-handed later.

I went home expecting to find a sick, tired, fairly listless baby by now, even though Sabs had said he had a fair amount of energy during the day. Instead, I walked into complete chaos, a very awake and very much, still energetic baby who didn’t look sick or act sick at all except for a runny nose. I’m trying to remind myself that spending all that money on supplies is preventative and we won’t have to incur the expense again any time soon. I used some of the vapo-rub on Vic last night and it seemed to help him breathe more easily through the night and avoid most of the coughing he experienced the night before from mucus pooling in the back of his throat.

Today though, I’m trying to figure out some bill-paying that needs to be done and feeling a mild edge of panic and dismay that the lovely Christmas present – a large sum of money – from Sabs’ grandparents will be a mere drop in the bucket in the overall scheme of our current financial picture. Simply put, we still haven’t recovered from moving to the new apartment and I really shouldn’t have gotten any Christmas presents for anyone, even though I spent very little. We’ve got a few months of belt-tightening ahead of us and I think it’s high time I finished going through my closets and selling some things on eBay to generate a little bit more of a safety cushion.