It’s happening all around the city — illnesses in all varieties are going around. I’ve heard rumors from other moms in the pickup line and warnings from teachers to keep the infected home. Germs are everywhere this time of year.

And my children and husband are in some kind of secret competition to see who can collect the most of them.

Zach was the first to bring something home. His achiness, chills and sore throat seemed harmless enough since he’s able to mostly take care of himself. Well, harmless until my 1-year-old picked it up. And whatever it was morphed into a super virus that skyrocketed his temperature to 106 degrees and ended in a nasty round of croup. From there, the other four children picked up the cold, spreading more germs around with their constant bouts of coughing and sneezing.

While I worked to bleach the house and trudge through the germ-infested laundry, they continued to share. Now we’re to the point where I can’t remember when we were last healthy. I’m force-feeding them orange juice and ginger ale (an old family trick) and sending them to bed early, but I can’t keep up with how quickly they get each other sick.

Over the weekend, we had one of those rare, lovely Saturdays when we didn’t have anything to do. The kids seemed a little lethargic, but we had been so busy lately that I hoped they simply needed a day in their pajamas and some extra screen time.

By supper, I was passing out coats to the boys and shoving them in the van before urgent care closed for the night. Two confirmed cases of strep later, I drove home dreading the next few days.

Sure, strep is easy enough to take care of, but not when there are five children who find a way to pass it back and forth for weeks on end.

By the next morning, I regretted my decision to only take two of them to the doctor as I sat on the phone, begging the nurse’s line to call in a prescription for my oldest daughter. “It’s strep,” I promised them. “Her brothers were diagnosed last night.”

Good for them for not giving in to a desperate mother of five. “We have to see her first,” they stated firmly. I hung up the phone and considered how allergic to penicillin is too allergic?

Just kidding. I didn’t give her the boys’ antibiotic — even if it did briefly cross my mind.

My mom texted the next night to keep the healthy ones home since they’re clearly the carriers, but I knew better. They’re just biding their time, waiting for everyone to get better so they can have the sickness spotlight to themselves.

And I’m waiting, too, until my house isn’t a germ cesspool anymore and we’ve been able to put an end to our quarantine and rejoin society.

Meanwhile, I’m considering masks and rubber gloves as normal household attire, and parking myself at the stove, cooking up batches of my tried-and-true chicken noodle soup until the plague passes.

I’m just going to pray that being a mom comes with some kind of healthy super power. Because if I go down, God save us all.

***

Rachel Higginson is a married mom to five kids. She is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has received a Utopia Award for Best Contemporary Romance and Penned Con Award for Best Novella Series. She lives in Omaha.

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