If you looked inside my children's bellies to see what they've ingested this last week, it would look something like this: three dusty Cheerios, a splinter of toast and one gallon of liquid "Cherry Blast" Tylenol.
At least they've been sick together, co-prisoners in the feverish, mucus-producing, rib-racking cough that necessitates a household lockdown. It's like a dreary preschool around here with two lethargic students who need to be carried everywhere and who occasionally bite each other.
We hug Dan goodbye, as he waltzes out the door each morning for work, knowing he's the last human we'll see until he returns thousands of hours later at the end of the day.
"Where are we going today, Mama?" Col asks in a pause between coughing spasms.
I remind him that we aren't going anywhere because he and Rose are still sick. This news makes us all about as cheerful as a stockbroker reading the morning news.
At the preschool for the young and the listless, I start the day by trudging through our over-played stack of library books while the kids bury their snotty faces into my shoulder, one on each side. We all yawn and I check the clock: 9:15 a.m.
Next, we pretend to eat. The kids still ask for food, mostly because they can remember once enjoying eating. I make them tiny bowls of oatmeal, scrambled eggs and toast and they stare, glassy eyed, at their food as if I've just served them plywood with a glass of WD-40.
When I commit the grave injustice of taking a phone call, it all unravels. Rose lurches at me, shrieking "Uppy Mommy," and Col rolls around on the kitchen floor moaning and grabbing for me with his little limbs. I pull the kids into my arms and their skin feels like Key West in high summer.
The Tylenol transforms our household in 20 minutes. Col starts "glue projects," squirting that Elmer's bottle like its shampoo and he's Cher's hairdresser. Rose stuffs pennies and nickels into socks, singing to herself. I catch my breath.
The kids are so relieved for the brief respite from fever that Col, like an affectionate drunk, slurs "I love you Mama," every 10 minutes. Rose clutches her coin-filled sock puppets and stumbles around the kitchen.
On the seventh day - calculating that no one had touched the Cherry Blast for two days and there was some serious noodle-eating the night before - we leave the house. We go to the post office and the bank. The kids, still gaunt and pale, though blooming with health, touch every surface within their reach. They crawl on the floor like babies and may have even licked a few of those line-delineating poles. I fight the urge to spray them down with hand sanitizer and lock them under my arms while I sign checks with a pen in my teeth.
Instead I remind myself of all the wonderful immunities they're getting from the bank's carpet.
Rachel Turiel's column runs the first and third Sunday of the month. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.