Are you sicker than a 5th grader?

This school year is off to a fine start. In four weeks, I’ve missed a combined five days of work nursing sick kids. That’s 1.25 days missed per week, and it’s still warm out. I can’t wait to see what January looks like. Maybe I’ll be lucky and get fired by then, so I can open up my in-home hospital ward full time. It’s too bad nurses don’t wear the traditional white uniform with the Red Cross cap anymore. I bet I would rock that outfit. Scrubs do nothing for my figure.

I used to tell my wife I would happily become the at-home parent once all the kids were in school. I should be careful what I joke about. Now that all the kids are in school, I am being sucked into at-home parenthood whether I like it or not. This is not our best case scenario, as we’re a family that needs two incomes more than ever. Furthermore, we will continue to need two incomes until forever.

The snot and puke season normally starts around New Year’s Day and runs through the next New Year’s Eve, but it’s typically heaviest in the winter months. This year, we’ll be heading into those heavy months with a viral momentum. We’re really going to hit the ground puking.

I can’t decide between the casual, shirt sleeve frock (right), or the full, formal dress uniform (left) for my new school day outfit.

Aside from the normal viruses, we have in the past year contracted Hand Foot and Mouth Disease and Impetigo. At first, I suspected the doctor was just making up these names, as I’d not heard of them before they came home from school. But it turns out they’re real diseases kids get in the 21st century.

I grew up in a little ranch house, crowded with seven siblings, in the 1970s. If you had to pick one decade to be especially disease infested, wouldn’t you guess the ‘70s? But I don’t remember any of us getting diseases like this. We got the pukes for a day, then went back to school the next. Or we caught a cold and went to school anyway. Nobody caught anything you had to actually ask a doctor about. Our only spots were chicken pox.

I can’t remember any of us being down with the Flu. We might have had a cow with Hoof and Mouth Disease, but she kept that to herself. We once heard rumors of a kid, two towns over, getting Strep, but we couldn’t verify it since we rarely went more than one town over in our travels. It sounded bad though. Strep seemed like the Black Death to us. Now, my kids celebrate the Vernal Equinox with a case of Strep each year.

Is my memory bad or are kids sick more often now than we were 40+ years ago? If so, why? Is it all the anti-bacterial soap? Should we go back to washing their mouths out with good old fashioned lye soap?

Maybe instead of going to the pharmacy so often, we need to spend more time reaching under cows.

Hi, I’m Grumpy, and this is my brother, Sleepy – and this is my other brother, Sleepy

I know it’s going to be a difficult morning when I go to wake Buster. Buster is the closest kid we have to a morning person. After one week of school, I’ve formed the habit of getting him up first. I start off easy and work my way up to the hard cases.

It’s Tuesday morning, after the long Labor Day weekend. Last week went all right, but now they’ve had a four-day weekend to consider things and realize they dislike school just as much as they ever did. The new year hasn’t changed the fact that “The Man” is still holding them down with classroom rules and homework.

They’ve gone for the gusto over these four days off, trying to relive the entire summer in a long weekend. It’s time to pay the piper.

Buster (2nd grade) doesn’t sit up when I put my hand on his covers. I try to rub him awake. “I can’t,” he groans. “I’m too tired.” I pull the covers off him. He pulls them back on.

I move three feet below to the lower bunk. I don’t have high hopes for waking Big Man. Big Man (Kindergarten) is sleeping upside down. This isn’t a good sign he’s well-rested and ready to face a new day. He does not respond to any of my gentle attempts to rouse him. The lower bunk is like a bear cave. I contort myself to squeeze under the upper bunk without banging my head (which I’ve already done twice in 3.5 days of school). I grab the cub’s toe and drag him out of his hole.

Leaving Big Man in the bathroom to brush his teeth, at least the front ones, I return to Buster. All the tumult in the bunk below has made it impossible for him to get any rest. His spirit is broken and he allows me to carry him to the bathroom.

It’s now time to tackle the biggest Billy goat. At least Big Brother (6th grade) doesn’t have a bunk bed, so I won’t bruise myself waking him. He is larger though, so I have to pull by booth feet to drag him from the bed.

Downstairs, I offer the little boys breakfast. Buster answers all my overtures with grunts. Big Man says he isn’t hungry, but I don’t want to send them off with empty bellies. Big Man finally condescends to accept some bread and butter. I’ve got to get these kids off and get myself to work, so I don’t have time to negotiate him into a heartier meal.

I give Buster and pad and pen. I tell him to write what he wants to eat. He doesn’t know how to sound out grunts, so he writes Nothing. It’s spelled right.

I hate to send him to school like this, but he might learn a lesson from a hungry morning. Plus, he spelled Nothing right. It’s too early in the morning not to accept the victories these kids hand me.

This one’s all ready to go. Good work, Dad!

The many itches of summer

You haven’t seen a lot from this blog over the summer. There’s a good reason for that: I’ve been super busy scratching my butt and fantasizing about my retirement years. (Notes to self: 1- You are over 50 and still have three children under 11; 2- You will never retire; 3- Milk those fantasies.) In between these important activities, I’ve been doing a lot of writing, only not blog writing.

This is me fantasizing about my retirement lifestyle.

I’ve been writing things that you (i.e. the world in general) may never see. If these things do find the light of day, it won’t be for a few years. That’s the way writing goes though. You’ve got to really want to do it, because you can’t be motivated by any promise of fantastic rewards.

Now is the point where I contradict myself, because that is a blogger’s prerogative. I don’t really want to do it; I have to do it, because that’s who I am. It’s hard work, and I’d rather be spending my summer playing outside, but for some strange, intrinsic reason, I have to do it.

So that’s what I’ve been doing instead of regular blogging.

Sometimes bloggers apologize for having posting sporadically. I won’t do that, because I think it implies your life is somehow incomplete without regular doses of me in it. I’m not quite ready to make that assumption yet. However, if some atonement is necessary, I offer a fun and quick piece of flash fiction from my other blog (from which I’ve also been too absent). It’s sort of based on a true story, or a true fear anyhow, and it’s merely one quick click away: Last of the Good Proctologists (Reading time: 2-3 minutes)

Happy last days of summer to all my northern hemisphere friends!

Conversations with my wife: Diversity

In the car, my wife tells me about something she read online that has her very excited.

WIFE: There’s this company that will pay you $6,000 to eat just junk food for a month.

ME: Why are they doing that?

WIFE: They want you to eat just junk food and take their herbal supplement and see how you feel after a month. I guess their supplement is supposed to give you all the nutrition you need. I wanna do it!

ME: Is it just chips and candy?

WIFE: I’m sure you can eat fried food and burgers and stuff. It sounds great. We should both do it. Then we’d get $12,000. Just think, $12,000 for eating chicken wings and mozzarella sticks. It’s perfect.

Fire up the deep fryer! It’s greasy time!

ME: I don’t know that I could eat that kind of stuff for a solid month. Besides, I bet they want more diversity in their subjects.

WIFE: What are you taking about? A young, black woman – an old, white man. What could be more diverse than that?

ME: I was thinking more about environmental diversity, but since you put it that way, I guess they’d have to take us.

I hope their supplement doesn’t interact with my senility meds.