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Scene, Sunday, May 20, 2007

I’ve been living in one sneezy, snot-ridden house for seven days straight now, surrounded by kids too sick to attend school but with just enough energy to drive me nuts.

It could be worse, the harsh cold virus making its way through our home has, so far, hit one victim at a time, beginning with Jimmy.

With the exception of his father, Jimmy is, by far, the most difficult patient to take care of. Both of them become complete babies when they are sick, unable to muster the strength to even get up and pour a glass of water.

Jimmy also uses it as an excuse not to take a shower.

After going to bed with a sore throat last Friday night, Jimmy groaned in misery on the couch the next morning, informing me there was no way he could make it to his lacrosse game.

I took a close look at my son and agreed. Then I told his brothers to take it easy on their sick sibling, which meant resisting the urge to tease him and avoiding all hand-to-hand combat.

This particular virus has no effect on the kids’ appetites. Come to think of it, I’ve spent a lot more time cooking over the past few days and giving in to special requests.

For example, between the last paragraph and this one, I started heating up a pot of chicken noodle soup on the stove for Tommy. When I suggested he wait a while and let his waffles settle on his stomach first, he said, “No Mama, it feels like I need some chicken soup now.”

The situation was different after four days of taking such requests/orders from Jimmy, who even managed to exaggerate his symptoms and get an extra day off from school.

He had tested negative for strep throat on Monday, so technically, it was OK to send him to school the next morning.

But half an hour of listening to my eldest cough and cough and cough and tell me what misery he was in convinced me to give in and call the school absentee line. Jimmy perked up right away, but not before I insisted on a dose of cough medicine.

I made sure to pick something from our medicine cabinet that claimed to be “non-drowsy.” It should have had a warning that said, “This medicine could turn a very active, talkative child into a maniac.”

I’ve never seen my son behave the way he did for the next few hours. Even he admitted to feeling “hyper,” a word Jimmy does not like to be called. “If I sent you to school now, they’d send you back,” I joked.

Tommy is the opposite of Jimmy when it comes to missing school. He woke up this morning with a sore throat and horrible cough, but started to get dressed once we took his temperature and found it to be normal.

I asked Tommy why he was planning to go to school when he felt so bad. “So you think I should stay home today?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, resisting the urge to instead use one of the boys’ favorite expressions, “Well, duh!”

Ronnie has avoided catching this wretched virus so far but has tried to come up with his own symptoms as an excuse to stay home with his sick brothers. His skin has been itchy and his stomach “felt funny,” but this mom didn’t think it was serious enough to merit a day off from school.

So long as this ugly bug stays away from the boys’ daddy, I can handle all the extra work and worry that surrounds the care of sick Zichs. But if the Big One goes down, this part-time nurse is in trouble.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 16 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or find the Zichs online at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.

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