The stomach flu hit our family last week, turning our daughters into walking zombies and leaving all of us wishing for cast-iron stomachs.
You know it's bad when you're drinking a truckload of Sprite and viewing crackers as a good main course.
Joni even felt bad, coming down with the stomach flu on my birthday a week ago today. I don't think it had anything to do with the fact that I turned a year older. We didn't celebrate with a birthday cake in order to avoid the hazard of all those burning candles. So she couldn't have felt uneasy about it.
Clearly, it was the stomach flu and not my birthday that hit her so hard.
By Monday, Becca was on the ropes with nasal congestion and a stomach that felt like Jello. Within a day, the bad bug also had Bailey firmly in its grasp. By mid-week, I was starting to feel like food didn't like me.
The Christmas clock in the dining room still merrily chimed the hours, but no one was feeling the least bit joyful.
The opened presents remained scattered around the Christmas tree. Plans to put away all the holiday decorations were put on hold as were a number of other chores around the house.
Our living room turned into a makeshift hospital room full of sniffles, Kleenex and cold medicines.
We celebrated our first full week of the new year with Motrin and Benadryl. It's times like that when you realize the benefits of having three bathrooms in a house.
You know your children are feeling bad when they're glued to the couch and the living room floor and never once stand on their heads or twist themselves into pretzel shapes while watching television.
They were feeling so poorly that they didn't even have the heart to engage in good, old-fashioned sibling rivalry.
Joni took the kids to the hospital emergency room only to discover that Becca had contracted pink eye, which was nothing to wink at and simply added to the discomfort.
Armed with antibiotics for both girls, we hunkered down in our battle with the bug.
This was truly germ warfare, forcing us to miss school and work.
Thankfully, Saddam Hussein hasn't gotten the hang of germ warfare or Americans would be in serious need of a whole lot more cough medicine.
Of course, neither Becca nor Bailey has much taste for medicine. Becca, in particular, views medicines of any kind as poisons to be tolerated only as a last resort.
We had to plead to get her to take medicine. If only we had had Mary Poppins' magic elixir it would have been a lot easier.
Still, we managed to get our girls to take some liquid medicine as the germs continued to party in our home.
But by week's end, we had made headway in beating back those pesky germs.
There was still plenty of coughing going on, but the kids were back in school which meant that Joni and I could get back to work where we could worry about whether we made the right decision to send them back into the classroom or whether we should have just moved the whole family to Tampa for the winter.
Fortunately, the kids are starting to feel better. Our puppy, Cassie, is barking more than the kids, which is a good sign. For a while, it was difficult to discern her barking amid all the coughing.
Cassie wasn't bothered at all by the germ warfare. She went right on tearing up tissues with the zeal of an attack dog.
Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.