We Bought It

To school, or not to school… That was the question.

For the past two days, both Annie and Ella have been home, sick… but it was that kind of sick where you wonder if they’re pulling early Ferris Buellers on you or if they’re really down and out enough to stay home.

Don’t get me wrong – I would not wish serious illness on either of my children – but when that temperature rises over 100*F or there’s vomiting going on, at least you can be sure of whether or not they really need to stay home. Other times – like these past couple of days – it’s a lot more nebulous.

On Friday, Annie began showing signs that she was coming down with something. As we went out that night with a few other friends and their moms, I told them that I suspected that Annie’s cough was more than just an annoyance. Sure enough, 36 hours later we found ourselves in our pediatrician’s office during their Sunday morning emergency visiting hours with a diagnosis of bronchitis (or possibly walking pneumonia).

Y’all, Annie was miserable. There were times when she coughed so hard and so uncontrollably that I was actually worried she might break something. Two inhalers, Delsym doses, Benadryl, pain relievers, honey, tea, and Vicks VapoRub did almost nothing to alleviate her symptoms. The poor girl was coughing too much to sleep; after crawling into my bed at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning following a horrible night, she caught only an hour of fitful sleep before awakening and rushing to the bathroom to be sick. She coughed so much and so violently during the day, she became totally exhausted; she physically hurt. We knew she wouldn’t be in school on Monday.

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Little sleep on Saturday night leads to napping on Sunday.

{Side note: is coughing not the absolute worst? I mean, it’s not quite plague or pestilence or freakin’ measles (I can’t even begin to get into that whole fiasco; the selfishness of these people completely astounds me), but coughing is an enormous pain in the ass. I hate coughing, I hate coughs, and I hate listening to people cough. Mark my words: the person who develops a cure or an effective treatment for your plain old run-of-the-mill cough will become a gazillionaire. Or at least be Time‘s Person of the Year.}

Ella, by contrast, did not have anything so easily diagnosed. Her throat hurt and her nose was crazy stuffed but the pediatrician confirmed that it didn’t look like strep; lack of a fever or any other strep symptoms all point to a regular head cold. Colds are tricky, though; like prairie dogs or TV shows on Nick Jr, they’re deceptive – one moment, you think they’re harmless, and the next they’re destroying your lawn, causing your children to speak in nonsensical and exceedingly annoying catchphrases, and making your nose run so much you go through an entire box of tissues.

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When I picked up Annie’s antibiotics on Sunday, I decided to stock up on any and all accoutrements we might need to get the girls through the next few days. The pharmacist asked if I was purchasing the entire OTC aisle; I said I was and he agreed it was wise.

Yesterday morning, Eleanor bemoaned her achy throat and can’t-breathe nose but, without a telltale fever or spreading rash or oozy eyes, Nick and I couldn’t really see any reason not to send her to school; just not feeling good is hard to quantify and even harder to use as a definitive get-out-of-school-free card. We told her that we believed in her – she would be okay! Ibuprofen and kids’ generic Cold And Sinus medication would help her out! – but if she really felt awful, she could go to the nurse and have her call me (I’d be home with Annie, after all) and I’d go and get her.

When the phone rang at 10:08 a.m., I knew immediately what was up.

Admittedly, she didn’t look so good; she was droopy and her eyes just looked off. For the rest of the day, while Annie hacked up a lung and essentially went on a hunger strike, we three lounged around the living room — watching TV (we expunged NBC’s live version of “Peter Pan” from our DVR where it had been lying in wait since early December), using iPads, reading books, listening to audio books, playing games. When I texted Nick to tell him that Ella was coming home, he asked if I needed him to leave work to help – I told him that I appreciated the offer, but the girls really weren’t that sick and I had plenty of things around the house to keep me busy, so I’d be fine.

FAMOUS LAST WORDS.

Oh, I mean I was fine. It was well and truly fine, really. But those things to keep me busy? BWAHAHAHA. I did manage to do everyone’s laundry and send out a couple of necessary emails, but otherwise… NADA. The least productive home day of all time . I don’t know what kind of vortex pulled me into the living room and onto the couch next to the girls – maybe some weird sort of mostly-sick kid voodoo? – but I accomplished basically nothing except emptying garbage cans when they overflowed with tissues.

By the time Nick arrived home at 5:00 so that I could go to the grocery store, I felt like I was seeing daylight for the first time after a prison sentence. Or maybe leaving the theater after viewing Titanic. Given that Ella and Annie remained fever-free yesterday, I held *very* high hopes that they would return to school today.

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This was basically ALL DAY yesterday. Note that the laundry in the basket to the left is folded. BOO YAH.

Okay, wait. That’s true, but there’s a caveat.
I did hold high hopes that they would return to school this morning, but last night there was a not-so-small part of me that kind of hoped they would be home again today solely so that I wouldn’t have to pack either of them a lunch.

Yep. Packing lunches is so odious, I would (almost) rather that the girls stay home sick just to avoid it. IT HAS COME TO THIS.

Nick and I agreed that Annie should probably remain home for at least a couple of hours this morning; the last few days, she has sounded so awful after awakening, you’d think she’d escaped from the TB ward. I thought that Ella, on the other hand, was destined for school… until I saw her this morning and she looked even droopier than she had yesterday.

When I asked her how she felt compared to the day before, she said she felt the same – or worse – but definitely not better. Meaning that if we opted to send her to school anyway, she would likely just wind up in the nurse’s office again and ’round and ’round we’d go. SO THEY WERE BOTH HOME AGAIN TODAY but with fingers very crossed that they’d return this afternoon. Alas, by lunchtime – the witching hour in terms of taking Annie to class – both girls said they just felt so tired, they didn’t think they could go to school.

Cue the tiny violins.

I don’t think I’m a sucker. I run a pretty tight Don’t-Take-Any-Sh*t ship. But damned if I didn’t feel like I was being played by these little hooligans!

It also wasn’t quite as simple as, We’ll just stay home and cozy until you both feel hunky dory, the three of us looking lovingly at one another in the living room – thank goodness there’s nothing else going on! Because I teach piano on Tuesdays. And our awesome babysitter comes and watches the girls. And the students come to the house (where the bronchitis and super-cold germs have been marinating). And tonight we were supposed to have my grandmother over for dinner – which, in itself, was a raincheck from Sunday when Annie was first diagnosed.

This is the chapter of the parenting manual that is missing. (It’s entirely possible I ripped it out one night while tiny baby Ella was up screaming because we hadn’t yet figured out that she was lactose intolerant and I kept trying make her feel better by nursing her after I’d consumed heaps of the frozen lasagnas and creamy chicken casseroles I’d dutifully prepped before her birth.) How do you make these decisions? How do you know when your kid is really “sick enough” to stay home, when it isn’t cut and dried? How much do outside factors – job, babysitter, determining just how germ-infested your house really is and if it’s okay for piano students to be in it, desperately wanting to see your grandma but desperately not wanting to potentially give her bronchitis or a cold – come into play? What about missed school days? And how do we weigh in Ella’s chorus concert tomorrow (and missed practices yesterday and today)?

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My view for much of today: coffee table (clean!), vaseline for chapped lips, thermometer, tea, TV remote, and a tissue box to which the girls have taped a dirty tissue bag. So industrious, they are.

On the other hand… when it comes down to it, if the kids are sick, they’re sick – period, the end. I mean, how the heck was I supposed to argue with, I don’t have the energy to go to school and I feel the same as I did yesterday… when you decided I should stay home ? Sure, I could have forced them to go in – even refused to pick them up should the nurse call – so that I could teach piano and see my grandma… but in the end, what would it get me? Daughters who don’t trust that their mom is in their corner, who think their mother doesn’t believe them when they say they feel like crap? Teachers who looked sideways at my potentially ill offspring? At few hours of sanity?

Okay. That last part was seriously tempting.

In the end, we felt that, since they haven’t played this card before (that we know of), we needed to listen to them; they stayed home. I cancelled the babysitter and the piano lessons. Nick and I decided, if we didn’t think it wise for anyone else to be around the girls, that it would be really dubious to ask my grandmother over for dinner — we will take (another) raincheck.

And so it was that the girls and I spent another day at home, cozied up against the winter chill and snow (although not the blizzard that much of the Northeast received) – a sort-of snow day that was not a snow day. (Annie did ask if she could go sledding; that request was quickly nixed seeing how sick she was and all.) There was still television watching and iPad using and book reading, but there was also working out (OH MY HECK I AM SORE), cleaning, photo sorting, and cooking – so it was certainly more productive than yesterday.

I will say, however, that shoveling the ice rink – the only occasion I left the house all day – was just about the most glorious experience of ever.

Well, that and having Annie try to explain that her knees hurt when she walked because the doctor said she had walking ammonia.

And Ella finally getting around to reading some of the books that she hadn’t had time for.

As of right now, we are definitely a go to send the girls to school tomorrow. They’ve steadily felt better all day and, given the general level of tomfoolery that they’ve engaged in, I think they’re both as stir crazy as I am to get the heck out of dodge and back to their routine.

Maybe best of all, because Wednesday is much-beloved pizza day, I DO NOT HAVE TO MAKE ANY LUNCHES TONIGHT EITHER — can I get an amen! 

Once the girls are off and running, and after I’ve attended the yearbook meeting, taken photos of the school’s choruses, and climbed a monstrously tall ladder to take photos of every fifth grade homeroom (with the students formed into the numbers 2-0-1-5; it’s as brutal as it sounds – send good vibes, please) — but before Ella’s chorus concert tomorrow night — I plan to sit down with that parenting manual to see what we might have done differently, ’cause this stuff is hard. If you’ve got the missing chapter, I’m all ears.

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Given our recent Clean Eating push, I’ve been almost entirely avoiding alcohol since New Year’s – but tonight? Tonight I had a glass and I AM NOT SAD about it. (The goblet was a Christmas present from one of my aunts. It is plastic and largely unbreakable and awesome.)

 

 

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