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Last spring, my four-year-old began to complain that his ear was hurting. This alone didn’t raise any red flags for us since between two kids, someone is basically always complaining about something, be it ears, knees, itches, or bumps. He wasn’t feverish and when I tugged on his earlobe it didn’t hurt, so I more or less chalked it up to a little lingering swimmer’s ear or maybe a touch of attention-seeking as he’s prone to do from time to time. He didn’t seem too bothered either and didn’t mention it again for the rest of the week.


The next week, though, on a few separate occasions, he mentioned that his ear, once again, was hurting. This time, he added,  it hurt “on the outside.” I took a look and couldn’t see anything, and again he wasn’t running a fever or sick in any other way, so we just went about our business as usual.

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Finally though, while rinsing his hair in the tub one night, I brushed the top edge of his ear with my hand and he winced. Curious, I folded the top of his ear back and tried to peer into the tiny crease. Sure enough, a purple lump was buried deep, deep inside, with two hair-thin legs sticking out of it.

It took both of us to hold him still while my husband removed the tick with tweezers. We are New Englanders, and this isn’t our first tick, so we knew the drill. We cleaned the area and applied antibiotic ointment throughout the week that followed. I monitored it for signs of infection or the telltale red ring that forms around Lyme-infected tick bites. We’d been through this before; I told myself we didn’t need to worry.

But a week later, he got sick. He spiked a fever to 104 with no other visible symptoms. He complained his knees hurt. He was miserable, and I felt horrible. Had I missed it? Did he have Lyme disease? What now?

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection primarily transmitted by Ixodes ticks, also known as deer or black-legged ticks. While many people believe that Lyme disease is only found on the east coast of the U.S., it is actually found throughout many other areas of the United States, as well as in more than sixty other countries. The CDC estimates that approximately 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease in the U.S. each year, but because the diagnosis is so difficult, some experts believe that the actual number of people afflicted may be much higher.  

I hurried my son off to the doctor. Too young for the conventional Lyme treatment, he took a three-week course of amoxicillin and was as good as new. But as we talked with friends and family, we realized that the questions we’d had were common among almost all of the caregivers we knew. How do you prevent ticks? What do you do when you find one? When should you call the doctor or treat for Lyme?

Luckily, I knew just who to ask.

Dr. Elizabeth McKeen is an Instructor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and is a practicing pediatrician at Pediatric Health Care Associates in Peabody, Massachusetts. She sat down to answer all the questions I had about treating and preventing Lyme Disease in children. Here is what she had to say:

What should a parent do when they find a tick on their child?

First things first: do not try to burn or freeze the tick off. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends first trying the soapy cotton ball technique. Soak a cotton ball in liquid soap and then apply this to the tick. Hold for 30 seconds and then remove. Often the tick will adhere to the cotton ball and will come off.

If this doesn’t work, use tweezers to gently grab the tick and pull straight upwards. Try to avoid twisting or crushing the tick. If the tick is truly a tiny deer tick (Ixodes scapulars), sometimes you will need to actually just scrape the tick off with the edge of the tweezers.

When done, apply a small amount of antibiotic 2-3 times per day until the area is healed.

When should I call the doctor about a tick?

Call your doctor anytime you are worried or have questions – especially since when it comes to tick-borne illnesses, googling can be misleading.

You should definitely call if your child has expanding redness around the area of the bite, or if your child develops a fever.

We see children in the office any time a caregiver is worried about the appearance of the area of the bite, if the family needs assistance removing the tick, or if the child has a fever or other systemic symptoms. If you feel uncomfortable removing the tick or if you’re afraid that part of the tick has been left behind, most physicians will remove it in the office for you.

What symptoms should I watch for after a tick bite?

Most tick bites are harmless. It is important to know that even if the tick is of the Ixodes scapularis species and you live in an area where Lyme is prevalent if you remove the tick within 24 hours, the chance of transmission of Lyme disease is essentially zero. (Note that other possible diseases may be transmitted more quickly.)

That said, here is the KEY point to be aware of: the rash that is the first presenting sign of early Lyme disease does not occur right after the tick bite. It tends to present one to three weeks after the tick bite occurs.

Thus, I recommend that families monitor the site of the tick bite for 30 days, and call their physician if they see a round or oval red rash expanding from the center of the tick bite.

Should I save the tick?

You can certainly save the tick and bring it to your doctor for help with identification by visualization. In years past, some labs would accept ticks for identification, but fewer and fewer are doing this, so your doctor may not send the tick out.

When should a child be treated prophylactically for Lyme?

In adults, and children over 8 years old, the Infectious Diseases Society of America recommends prophylaxis with a single dose of doxycycline if ALL of the following circumstances are met:

  1. if the tick was certainly an Ixodes Scapularis
  2. if the tick was likely in place for more than 36 hours
  3. if prophylaxis can be taken within 72 hours of the tick bite
  4. if the patient lives in an area where the rate of infection of I. Scapularis ticks with B. Burgdorferi is >20% (which it is in most of New England)
  5. if no contraindication to doxycycline exists.

For children under eight, prophylaxis is not recommended. This for two reasons.

First, Doxycycline is not safe to give to children under 8 because of permanent tooth dysplasia and discoloration that can occur.

Next, with amoxicillin (the only conceivable substitute for doxycycline in treating Lyme) there is no good data to guide an effective short term course. Thus, children would likely need to embark on a 3-week course of amoxicillin, which is equivalent to treating full-scale Lyme. The risks of this are thought to outweigh the benefits. As such, we rely on the well-proven excellent efficacy of antibiotic treatment of Lyme Disease if infection were to develop.

Are there ever scenarios in which I should worry about Lyme even if I have not found a tick on my child?

Yes, absolutely. In a small number of cases of Lyme disease, there is no history of tick bite. Thus, even if you did not see a tick on your child if he or she develops an expanding, red, round or oval rash, and you live in a Lyme endemic area, contact your child’s doctor for an evaluation.

Luckily, not long after my son began his 3-week course of amoxicillin, he began to feel better and his fever resolved. We finished the course of the medication, but we will never know for certain whether his fever was caused by Lyme disease.

One thing is certain, though. This spring, as the temperatures warm, we’ll be taking more care than usual to prevent tick bites. According to the CDC, ticks are most active from April to September, so tick season is just around the corner and this year is predicted to be a bad one, at least in New England.

Here are some ways to look after yourself and your little ones by practicing these keys to tick bite prevention:

  • Avoid direct contact with ticks. Try to avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grasses and leaf litter. When in areas such as these, try to keep to the center of the trail.
  • Repel ticks with DEET or permethrin. While parents may worry about applying DEET to their children, the FDA has deemed DEET in concentrations less than 30% safe for children over 2 months of age. When applying insect repellents to children, avoid their hands, around the eyes, and cut or irritated skin. If you would rather not use DEET, consider wearing clothing that has been treated with permethrin. You may purchase pretreated clothing or treat your own clothes at home.
  • Find and remove ticks from your body. Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within 2 hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you. Inspect your body for ticks, using a mirror if necessary. Areas where ticks are commonly found include: under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in the hair. Finally, tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors.
  • Do nightly tick checks on your child. If you live in an area where Lyme disease is a known risk, check your child for ticks nightly, even on days when you don’t believe he or she could have been exposed to them. Look in and around the folds of the ears, on the scalp/hair, and in the underwear area in particular. This will hopefully reveal any attached ticks in a timely manner and will reduce the risk of Lyme transmission significantly.

 

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

Our Partners

I am currently 38 weeks pregnant with my second child and I hate everything. Okay, not everything everything. I only hate slowly falling apart as a person. And I miss running. I also miss sitting in hard chairs without back pain. Oh, and I hate how my boobs slowly suffocate me if I'm not lying down at an angle.

I only hate not being able to fully empty my bladder which means I run to the bathroom every 10 minutes thinking I'm about to pee my pants. And I hate how long it takes. I also hate being tired. I hate the super large prenatal pills I take because really, who thought giving a gigantic pill that smells horrible to someone who is already gagging every 30 seconds was a good idea? But really, that's it.

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I am supposed to be grateful and glowing and be excited to meet my baby. And I am. Excited and grateful, but most definitely not glowing. I'm more like sweating a lot, which I guess makes you kind of glow?

The thing is—no one wants to hear the real answer to "How are you feeling?"

I take the opportunity to be honest every time I am asked. And this has not once been received well. An example of how this goes. let's say, at a wedding...

SOMEONE'S AUNT: How are you feeling?

ME: My body is on fire and if I have to sit on this hard Chiavari chair for another 15 minutes I may murder the groom or dive headfirst into the cake.

SOMEONE'S AUNT: Yeah but only a couple more weeks!

ME: Do you know how many days make up two weeks? 14 days.

Do you know how long a day is when you can't put weight on your left foot because of how bad your plantar fasciitis is?

Do you know how long a moment is when you've hit your daily limit of TUMS and you resort to shots of apple cider vinegar which burns as it goes down your already burning throat?

SOMEONE'S AUNT: You should really try to enjoy it.

ME: Yes I should. Right after I figure out how to poop properly. I haven't done that in a couple of months. So I live life in this lovely limbo between constipation and diarrhea… It's been great chatting. Please pour a glass of wine out for me and have a nice night.

Everyone wants to see "the bump" but "the bump" better look small.

I never feel comfortable showing off my bump, so I wear a series of black tents that don't make me look that pregnant. And I am constantly rewarded for it. People are constantly telling me how good I look and how I am carrying well, and here's the thing, I am not.

I gained 50lbs with this pregnancy and 50lbs with the last one. I am fat-shamed and threatened with C-sections every time I go to the doctor's office. Naked I look like something out of National Geographic but if I cover it up, the people rejoice.

It's not cool. If it's not socially acceptable to comment on a woman's body when she is not pregnant—let's not open the floodgates when she is pregnant. I'm still a person. A 34-year-old woman with a buffet of body image issues. That all didn't stop when I gained 50lbs… if you can imagine that.

No. I am not excited about any part of maternity leave and "my time off."

At some point during my last maternity leave, I watched the movie "The Room"—the one where the woman is a captor with her child in some creeps backyard and I had never felt more seen. My company is giving me six months of leave, which is amazing by today's standards. And it's amazing for my baby. But I also feel trapped with someone who can't laugh at my jokes or commiserate on how hard the day has been for both of us.

AND CAN WE GET REAL ABOUT NIPPLES.

How the… what they… but how are they… what color are they… and HOLY AREOLA are they spreading? And what the… is my shirt wet? Are they leaking…? Why are they leaking? Should they be leaking? Cool. Cool, cool, cool. My giant brown areola boobs leak now.

If you are the type that grooms the, uh, ya know, you won't be seeing anything for a while.

I don't want to get too into this because people I know may read this and believe it or not I have a line I don't want to cross. But let's just say I lost sight of the "land down under" a couple of months ago. So what's going on "south of the border" is anyone's guess. I look forward to seeing her again someday so we can evaluate the damage and align on our approach to the situation together.

Okay, now if you'll excuse me, I have a cervix to soften and labor to induce.

So I have six dates to eat, some pineapple to cut, a TUMS and a Pepcid AC to take, a prenatal yoga class to go to, a birthing ball to bounce on, an Evening Primrose Oil supplement to swallow, some Red Raspberry Leaf tea to steep, an acupressure appointment to get to, some awkward sex to attempt right after I rub some Clary Sage essential diluted oil on my belly.

It goes fast, enjoy it!

Life

No matter our age or gender, hugs are the universal language of love. Hugging our babies when they are sad, hurt or disappointed lets them know they are safe and cared for, and can help alleviate some of their emotional pain.

But research has shown that hugs do more than just provide comfort. In fact, children need this type of stimulation to grow stronger and happier.

Studies show that hugs can enhance a child's physical growth by triggering the release of oxytocin—yes, that same hormone that your brain released to onset your labor and help you bond with your baby. When oxytocin levels in the blood are increased, several other hormone levels increase, too, promoting growth in cells, tissues and neurons. Other studies have shown that the absence of a nurturing touch can cause the brain to suppress cell responses to these growth hormones.

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Plus, those hugs a child receives in their early years are also important for their emotional development. When a baby is born, they have about 50 trillion synapses (the connection between two nerve cells) in their brain—that's about 100-times the number of stars in the Milky Way! This network of synapses grows rapidly during the first year and continues to do so up to the age of three when a child's brain will have 1000 trillion (!) of them.

As a baby grows, more connections in the brain are added based on daily life. But not all of the synapses will remain as the child grows. Life experience will activate certain neurons, create new connections among them and strengthen existing connections—and unused connections eventually will be eliminated in a process called synaptic pruning. During this pruning, the connections in the brain that are frequently used are preserved, and those that are not are eliminated. All to make the brain more efficient and boost brainpower.

Research has found that it is important to expose a child's brain to positive stimulation in order to preserve the right connections. For example, if we consistently show a child love and care, those related connections in their brain will develop and strengthen over time. Without love and care, the corresponding brain cells atrophy and eventually will be removed from the child's brain network, making it difficult for them to comprehend what is essential to create healthy, meaningful relationships later in life.

Bottom line: What we do during a child's formative years can have lifelong effects on their health and happiness. Keep those snuggles coming, mama.

Learn + Play

It was one of those mornings all moms know about. I was tired, my daughter was tired and we were running late for school. My daughter was in her school uniform, her backpack was organized for the day, and her snack box was filled with healthy treats to keep her fueled. Yet I was still in my pajamas. My hair was pulled up in a messy bun, and my glasses—the gold glittery ones that my girl says look like they belong to a grandma from Las Vegas—were sliding down my nose.

As I pulled up to the school's entrance, there she was: another mom dropping off her 3rd grader. She was dressed in heels and a form-fitting dress with her hair perfectly styled and cascading down her back. I felt like the biggest wallflower on the planet. Then my heart panicked. Dear God, please-oh-pretty-please make sure the principal is there to open the back passenger door. Please, don't make me have to step out of this car!

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Long story short, the principal met us and he opened the back door and greeted my girl. I inched out of the parking lot, pulled onto the street and headed home.

Then an unkind voice entered my head. It said that I wasn't enough.

I wasn't as good as the mom who, at 8:00 in the morning, was already perfectly outfitted for her day and ready to walk the runway of life. I pulled my car over, put my head on the steering wheel, and let out a long, hard sigh.

Have you ever felt this way? It's not uncommon that we, as mothers, can find ourselves living in black and white when it seems everyone else is living in full color. Life seems a little lackluster, at times. Where did that "together" woman go who once had time for wardrobe planning and long, warm showers? Moreover, when did the voice of insecurity enter whose sole occupation is to whisper of her inadequacies?

How do you silence that voice? Where do you go to remind yourself of your worth, while you're reminding everyone else—your kids, your partner, your friends—of theirs? How do you fall back in love with yourself and with your life? How do you return to the empowering sound of truth?

When it seems that I've fallen out of love with the woman I see in the mirror, there are two key things that I do to connect back with my true voice. The voice that speaks of my value and my worth.

These two keys help me tune into it:

First I initiate what I like to call irrational self-love. Irrational self-love is all about loving yourself without conditions. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the ability to see their mothers as truly happy and in love with who they are. Our example of being comfortable in our own skin can help our kids grow to be real, whole, and joy-filled people who are comfortable in their own skin.

I cannot give and serve from a place of depletion. Irrational self-love tells me that I'm worthy and of value, whether I find myself in my jammies or in a sequined gown. That's the mama I want my daughter to know and see exemplified before her every, single day. We should be willing to love ourselves scars, flaws and all. That's irrational self-love and it will transform your life.

Then I rally back with radical forgiveness. I'm tougher on myself than on anyone else in this life. Sometimes I practice diminishing self-talk and hold on to limiting beliefs. Yet when I hold tight to pain and when I keep score of hurt, I ultimately imprison myself. When I forgive—with radical and wide-sweeping forgiveness—I set myself free. This freedom throws open the door to loving myself, and my life, again. And, when you're in love with your life, that joy spills over and buoys up everything and everyone you touch.

Who or what do you need to forgive, right now? Even if the person you need to forgive is yourself, please let go of the burdens inside that are weighing you down. You didn't clean the dishes after dinner last night? It's okay. You drove to your daughter's school in your pj's this morning? It's alright. Forgive. Let it go, mamas. Let it go.

It's amazing just how freeing forgiveness is. It will bring you back to what matters most and that's love for yourself, your life and for all those around you.

When the day has gone less than smooth, when it seems like motherhood has the upper hand on myself —I take action. Give yourself a good dose of irrational love and radical forgiveness. You're a beautiful and brave mama.

Sometimes, we all just need a little reminder.

Life

Finding the perfect gift for your loved ones can be a tough task, but if you have a beauty buff on your holiday shopping list, then Pinterest has you covered. The leading destination for inspiration just released their Pinterest 2019 Holiday Shopping report, where they curated the best of the best gift ideas. Digging into their data, they pulled some of the top-shopped and most-searched products of the entire year to curate the must-have list beauty lovers will want to open up this year.

Here's what's we're adding to our carts (okay, fine, buying for our best friends):

Boy Brow grooming pomade

boy brow grooming pomade

Think of this as a mini mascara. The brush-able, creamy wax thickens and shapes your brows, giving them a fuller appearance. If you're not ready to commit to a color, the clear works wonders for daily grooming.

$16

Deep condition + repair hair care

lus brands deep conditioner

If your favorite person has curly locks, this deep conditioner will be their holy grail. It nourishes dry hair with natural ingredients and doesn't weigh down bouncy curls.

$44

Subliminal platinum bronze palette

subliminal platinum bronze palette

A palette so good, it's practically sold out everywhere. The golden taupes and velvety bronzes look gorgeous on any skin tone and the pigment lasts forever.

$65

Maelove glow maker

maelove glow maker

A great vitamin C serum is a must-have in any beauty buff's cabinet, but there's a lot on the market. This one has a blend of vitamins C, E, hyaluronic acid and ferulic acid—the perfect combo for hydrated and brightened skin at a great price point.

$27.95

Pantene festival hair kit

pantene festival hair kit

Don't let 'festival' fool you when it comes to this kit—it's perfect to have on hand even if a night out isn't on your agenda. With dry shampoo, hairspray, a nourishing mask, rescue shot and frizz iron, no one will be able to tell you haven't washed it in a week.

$10.76

Balm Dotcom lip balm

balm dotcom

Aside from the cheeky name, this has an incredible formula that's made it a cult favorite for a while now. Pro tip: Grab the original and use it as a skin salve for the dryer months.

$12

ColourPop eyeshadow palette

eyeshadow palette colourpop

With rich pigment at an affordable price, you can't go wrong with one of these palettes. Use it as eyeshadow, liner or use a larger brush to add as a cheek tint or highlight.

$16

Mini MAC lipsticks

mini mac lipstick

The creamy best-selling shades in a mini version. Throw in each bag of yours so you're never without a quick swatch of color.

$10.20

L'Oreal voluminous carbon black volume building mascara

loreal carbon mascara

If there's one beauty product I can't live without, it's mascara. I've tried everything from budget-friendly drugstore buys to high-end name brand picks and this one is always on rotation in my makeup bag. Buildable color that doesn't flake.

$8.99

NYX sweet cheeks creamy powder blush matte

nyx sweet cheeks blush

Super-pigmented shades that has a creamy smooth finish. A little goes a long way, but it's buildable so start small and then add more as you need.

$7.50

CHI deep brilliance hair iron

chi hair straightener

My first hair straightener was a CHI and this brand hasn't disappointed since all those years ago. This one was created specifically for treated or textured hair, helping to maintain moisture even with the heat.

$79.95
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