The Desolation of Organization
No One Can Resist My Treat-y Balls

The Complete Illustrated Guide to Why We're Sick All the Goddamn Time

Whenever I mention the latest crappy cold or virus that's ricocheting around our house, there's inevitably at least one comment along the lines of, "Wow, your family gets sick more often than anyone I know. The hell is wrong with you guys?" 

Of course, they're always perfectly polite about it (as you all are, honestly, since this is a motherfucking CLASSY corner of the Internet), but it does make me worry that I'm portraying us all as a bunch of weak, vitamin-deficient consumptives who should've been Darwined out a couple generations ago thanks to our faulty immune systems.

In reality, it's more just a byproduct of having multiple children who go to multiple schools and classrooms. Here, let's do a visual.

Say you have a child.


Sooner or later, you may decide it's time send said child out of the house and into some kind of educational group or social setting. Daycare, preschool, gymnastics "class" where every primary-colored surface is given a perfunctory rub-down with Clorox wipes once a day by a staff of disinterested teenagers, etc. 

The peer population may start out small.


But eventually, it happens. You show up one day and there's a child there who should not be there. 


"Oh no," you say. "My daycare/preschool/infant yoga center has RULES. Kids leaking yellowish-green pestilence are to be kept at home! And everyone has to be fever- and diarrhea-free for 24 hours!"

You're adorable. And let me know how that works out for you. We will probably never know who these parents are — these negligent monsters who drop off children who are clearly coughing their fool heads off and wiping snot on the sleeves of their karate uniforms — but they are real and they are out there. (Although their phone calls from Beyoncé are probably fake as hell.) 

Anyway, back to our story. So five minutes later, everybody's sick, including your preshus snowflake.


And because you are not an inhuman hell-beast who ignores the basest principles of the social contract, you keep your feverish child home from school. With you. And your open mouth, which they will cough in. And your hair, which they will wipe snot in. And the rest of your exhausted, worn-to-a-nub body because your job doesn't care that your snowflake haz a fever and da shnifflez and is still making you work on that 57-page proposal.

And then a week later you take your newly-healthy child back to school, and on your way to pick them up you walk past a dad escorting his kid out, and the kid's face is covered in a fresh, oozing crust of infection-tinted mucus and it takes every last waning bit of restraint in your still-diseased self to keep yourself from flipping the fuck out right there in the parking lot, because JESUS CHRIST YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.

And here's where we get to the advanced math portion of today's post. Let's say you have more than just one child. Let's say, for reasons that may never be fully understood, you have...three.


And each of them also attends a daycare/school/toddler-basket-weaving course. And the class sizes get bigger as they get older, exposing them to more and more children.


And every single one those children is a hand-washing/cover-your-cough wildcard, plus a good number of them have siblings...


...who also attend school and/or glee club sectionals with other children, who also have siblings, and who are getting smaller and increasingly difficult to draw eyeballs on...


And so when cold season hits...


It's basically snot, everywhere. A constant barrage of All Of The Colds and everything else that's "Going Around Right Now," in every possible direction. You get the picture. 

(I will spare you the version I drew representing stomach flu season, however. It just wasn't up to my high artistic standards. It was also disgusting.) 

And it's especially rough if you are dealing with either 1) a newborn who is wearing you out and draining your life force, or 2) a child attending a new daycare/preschool/Advanced Placement Community Toy Sucking for the very first time and who hasn't been exposed to any of those particular germs before. We've met one or both of those criteria for (what feels like) 47 winters in a row. 




You didn't mention that
a) kids & adults spread sick germs BEFORE they even know they're sick
b) germs get spread at grocery stores, coffee shops, and other stores too
Yeah, let's just stay inside away from everyone all winter (which in ND is August-June) =)
It does get better when they are pre-teens & have already have several continual years of illness...


I'm one of those people who takes her toddler to daycare with the snotty nose. If I kept her home every time her nose ran, I would have to quit my job and we would be bankrupt. Boogers for everyone!


Yep, snotty nose and cough, but no fever? Kid will be at daycare. I follow their policy, which says that "respiratory infections" do not require your child be kept home unless they are feverish or too sick to participate in the activities of the day. I would not have a job anymore if I deviated from this policy! But, if it helps, I do sometimes feel guilty about it. Sometimes.


@Amie @Katie I guess I should have been more clear in my hyperbole here, but yeah, 1) I'm including myself because in the linked Beyonce post I know that a perfectly healthy kid can come down with something 5 minutes after you leave the house, and 2) there's a distinction between a runny nose (which most kids have non-stop between October - March) and kids who CLEARLY have some kind of respiratory/sinus infection. Ike caught one in December that kept him feverish and home for a full week, and then I got it, and then he came down with ANOTHER one almost immediately after returning to school, which meant we were all sick for the majority of Christmas break. GAAAHHH MAKE IT STOP.


And....Sunday School! A 'friend' informed me last week that her son had the flu all week but she felt he was well enough to send him to Sunday School. I told my son, "I don't care if he is covered in legos, you stay the heck away from that child!" Which was the Godly thing to do.


I hope you are really not coming down with something, Amalah! Your post really cracks me up (as does the cartoon ad on the right; is that for shingles?!). It reminds me of a classic & hilarious Bernie Mac Show episode, green goo and all. You can skip to 3:30 for the best part:


I feel a little like everyone must be wondering what is wrong with us anytime we post an illness to Facebook. Our two year old has had pink eye eight times. Eight! And we do all the ritual cleaning, but still. Eight!


I think people with older kids forget how sick their preschool aged kids get (IF they leave the house). My BIL's kids were always sick when they were little..always getting me and my then childless husband sick. Now their kids are adults and when ours were little we got the "damn, you guys are sick all the time" speech. I really think people just forget. It's a way of life when your kids are little and go places and do things. They are gross and sneeze on each other and all kinds of nastiness.


I love this post. I work in a pediatric office and we get calls everyday,starting at 8am,from moms who sent their snowflake to school and the nurse sends them home before class even starts. Tell me they didn't know their kid was sick!

Courtney in FL

@Karen you win for the day!! Love it!! Yes, Amalah still gets a sticker for the day too!

Katie in CA

I especially love it when my son brings home the germs from school, and the rest of us get sick, but not him.


I get comments on my FB all the time about how the heck can we all be sick all the time. By people with kids. Then I realize I have too many homeschoolers on my FB page. And I laugh. Because they have no clue.


Love the illustrations! I feel like I need to hand this out to people when I get the "Your kid is sick again??"

But seriously y'all can someone invent the portable kid bubble? ; )


When our oldest was about six months, my husband got sick. He would make it through the work week and then collapse on the weekends...leaving me with the baby. When he finally went to the doctor (because he had been sick for "four days") I had alerted the doc that this had been going on for 8 weekends and I needed him healthy, darn it! The doctor's advice to him? When your youngest is about 10, you should be just fine. Power through these viruses in the meantime.


Great post. Love the diagrams. And it is just so. true. Unfortunately.


"Community toy sucking" indeed. I'm sure it's not much comfort to you and your new germs to know that this was hysterically funny and also extremely to the point, but hey.


Omg, this may be my favorite post ever. You should draw more often!

Denice Johnson

All parenting books and official sciencey journals should contain this article. There has never been a better explanation. Also, the drawrings are spot bloodywell on.


This reminds me of Faberge Organics Shampoo with you telling two friends and them telling two friends. Except with snot.


In 2011, my eldest, then in 6th grade, was hospitalized with pneumonia. It seemed like every doctor we saw asked what school she went to and finally I got sick of it and asked what difference it made. They explained that they see different strains of different bugs at different schools and it helps them track the spread of illness by community. I told them I had kids in 4 different schools and I got "Oh. You're a spreader." Gee, thanks doc.


I know of a few adults who drag themselves to work while sick - specifically right near my office. Don't look surprised when I start spraying Lysol in your direction. I have enough germs at home with 2 school age kids, so I don't need anymore, thankyouverymuch.


Yep I meet both criteria. A 2.5 month old baby and an almost 3yo in a new ballet program. I've stocked up on tissues and cough drops in anticipation of the sickness that will hit me eventually. At least you can laugh about it, right?

Katie K.

My kiddo has asthma and was sick and absent from school almost 90% of the school year. Why? Because just as Amy portrayed with her elaborate artwork, as soon as my kiddo was nursed back to perfect health and was able to return to school the kiddo would catch something off of a classmate. I dreaded walking into the classroom after these breaks and hearing nasty coughs and seeing snotty faces - and it happened ALL the time. It just pissed me off that some asshole parent would not give two shits about the other kids in the class, let alone their own child and would send them off to school, snots 'n' all. Things got so bad my kiddo ended up in hospital. She was lucky, the 8-year-old in the next room over was not. She was admitted overnight with pneumonia (looked like she 'only' had a cough TBH, never thought it would be so serious), 24hrs later was in intensive care. We left the hospital 2 days later, she was still in ICU. So to all the parents to (for WHATEVER reason!) choose not to give a shit, think about the kid in your kid's classroom, school, playgroup who might have an underlying medical condition or a weak immune system, or a newborn baby brother/sister at home, and use your common sense for goddsake. Sorry for the rant, but I just don't think it's fair on the rest of us and it makes me sad (not to mention the fact that your kid's 'just-a-cough-and-the-snots' might be another kid's serious risk)...


Best. Post. Ever.


I hear you. My son (1 as of last October) had his first full week of day care last week... and came home with HAND, FOOT, and MOTHERFUCKING MOUTH. JESUS CHRIST. Now my adorable preshus snowflake has disgusting oozy blisters all around his mouth and on his wrists that are scabbing over and that means he's not contagious anymore but OH GOOD the two year old has a blister on his lip as of this morning and I HATE DAY CARE.


Two things: 1) I know home schoolers who are pretty much sick from November to April; 2) my daughter went to daycare and is in preschool, my husband is a public school teacher and we (2 kids and I) attend at least one activity a day with other children. I can count how many times all four of us has been sick in the 5yrs. All that to say, getting sick or not is a crap shoot. Nobody is doing it wrong or right.


I hear you loud and clear. My preshus snowflake is currently bundled up on the couch with a bucket because some one else sent their preshus snowflake to school with the stomach flu. The school nurse said it is annihilating their attendance this week. Pray I don't get it.....


I'm so making a bumper sticker - "My Toddler is An Honor Student in AP Community Toy Sucking"


I work at a daycare and my favorite from parents is the "they're teething" excuse. When clearly they are sick. One week later, their kid is out with ear infection and fever. Some parents don't understand how miserable it is for their kid to be at school sick for 8-10 hours.


Yep. My youngest is 10, and we are ALL so much healthier now. Your post could be called "The facts of life"


I personally have the flu right now and have been to work, a huge research library, a university department, two trains, and a warehouse where I volunteer, all while probably contagious. I feel a bit guilty that I may have infected others, but it was all basically unavoidable (aside from the volunteering and at that point I was halfway well and too bored to stay at home. The coordinator did make me sit in the corner far away from everyone else). At least as an adult I don't wipe my mucus on anyone or suck on the same legos.


Exactly!! I totally knew who "those moms" were in preschool. There was one kid who would frequently go home with a fever at lunch. C'mon, you know that kid was showing signs in the AM! Argh.


and then you grow up and become a teacher and are exposed to the germs of hundreds of kids everyday ;)

When I first started teaching I called my mom and asked if I would ever be healthy again. Her response, give it three years. Well three years was this year, I am pregnant so I should be even sicker BUT have not been sick once!!! WIN FOREVER!! (also knocking on soo much wood right now)


I'm another one who would be out of a job if I kept my kid home every time his nose started to run. Not to mention, he's 9 months old and constantly teething so unless there's a fever (In which case I would keep him home per the rules of his daycare) it's really hard to distinguish cold snot from teething snot.


Does it help to know that by the time your kids get to high school you will almost never get sick, because you've already had all of the viruses?


we alternately refer to school/daycare as the germ factory or the petri dish. seems fitting.


My youngest will be 1 month old tomorrow. He had to spent the first 10 days of his life in the nicu with a bunch of lung issues. Upon release they told me to keep him away from people because his lungs are weak. Large groups of people, anyone sick... Um, I have a kindergartener who I have to drop off and pick-up from school and a 2.5 year old. Keep the baby away from people and germs. Right... So here I am holed up at home, avoiding the world.


Was going to post something flippant but I see people have some pretty strong feelings about this topic so ... I will just say it's a hard row to hoe if, for example, your school's policy is "keep your child home until she's feeling better" if she has diarrhea (which to them means loose stool), and your child gets the runs just by looking at a tomato or an orange, but feels fine notwithstanding and would be bored out of her skull sitting around at home (not to mention the lost wages and/or babysitting expense).

I, too, was pissed off when (i) my son got a hellish, months-long case of impetigo b/c his friend's a-hole mom brought him to our kiddie-pool-centric birthday party and (ii) the viral conjunctivitis both kids brought home from school laid up my husband for a week and left me with a giant red oozing eye my first week at my new job. But the bottom line is, that's parenting.


Yes, yes, YES!

I was glad not to be drinking a beverage when I read "Let's say, for reasons that may never be fully understood, you have...three."

This is my winter life. Last year we lost January entirely to the worst virus I have ever personally experienced.

When I make plans with other families with 3 kids, I treat them as fantasy until we all actually congregate because one (or more) of the SIX children usually comes down with something, and we know better than to push the envelope on illness.

I notice our suburban family-oriented gym's child care to have notably higher rates of sick kids present (and with more serious illnesses) than any other child gathering points. There was always a sign up reading something like "If you were here last Tuesday, you child may have been exposed to whooping cough." Ugh.


Ok, yes. I didn't know this was a thing though. No one told me. The baby has only been in daycare for 3 months and i've had 3 colds and the stomach flu. I don't think her nose has stopped running since she started! Plus teething! I think she is trying to kill me. The angel.


Holy hell, yes. To all of this and all the comments. And @Suzy yes! someone please invent a bubble. I would, but I'm busy wiping snot and fretting about whether to send them to school!


You forgot the part about taking them to the doctor to play the ear infection or just a cold game. It's like roulette, here take my money and tell me it's nothing but four days later maybe you'll land on a different number. All the time praying the well child that you had to bring along doesn't pick up some new germs. In my world clear snot gets a green light, green snot needs to stay home.


May I please add to the list of people who just don't get it - grandparents? My own parents covered my toddler (who by the way has asthma and is on a nebulizer 2x daily) with kisses/hugs/etc. on my last visit to see them. Within hours my mother reveals that she has some kind of bug and is in bed sick the rest of the day. Then my father tries to take my son upstairs to her bedroom to go see her because 'it makes grandma feel better!'. WTF people? Are you trying to kill your grandchild?

Katie H.

I think I'm coming down with something just READING that!


Or if you're me and still nursing your toddler, I manage to catch everything, and he gets the antibodies and doesn't get sick. Good for keeping him in daycare, less good for my work productivity. On the plus side, I can recover at home by myself.

Sarah H

Ahh yes, I hear my children coughing from their beds as I read this. And only the oldest of my three goes to school at this point. I can't imagine how it will be when all three go to school.

We saw the pediatrician today for a well 2 year check up. He said that on average, between now and May, kids will get a new virus every 2 weeks. And that it takes 7-10 days for each virus to clear. So basically we can expect about 3 healthy days every two weeks until May. Yay!


So true! My son started preschool this fall and there literally has not been one day since that someone in the family doesn't has a cold.


Hand sanitizer. Keep one in the car and one in your purse. Use it after every trip to a store/school/social function. And before you eat at restaurants. And wash hands whenever you come in from outside. Maybe I sound like Howard Hughes, but I have two boys (7 & 10) and we haven't been seriously sick in over two years. (Of course now that I say this, we'll all get the flu tomorrow!). Also, I really believe in the power of yogurt for immune system function. The boys have pretty much unlimited access to "yogurt drink" (Danactive). I really think it works! Of course, it's probably better for your kids who are getting all their big sicknesses out of the way now instead of when it's finals time in high school!


People don't really comment on how your kids are sick too much. Say it isn't so. I would have picked up on that years ago. This is one of the funniest damn things I've read in a long time. And the visuals were very helpful!


The amount of times I have tried to explain this.... Your visual is great, I am stealing it. Perfect because: point made!


Oh, I totally get this post! Try being a teacher! Yes, we do build up an immunity but even that can only handle so much. Imagine sitting shoulder to shoulder with a student to teach that child something. You lean close and start talking quietly when WHAM! I have had three different kids sneeze right in to my open mouth as I was working with them so far this year! Sorta gross when it is your own child. Really, really gross when it isn't! And, why do children have the ability to sneeze like an elephant with absolutely no warning? Good thing I love my students! :-)


Kid #2 and I have been back to back sick since the 1st week of Dec. He's now on round 3 or 4 of this crap. I managed to remain healthy for almost a full week! Go me! Meanwhile the 10 year old ADD kid...nothing. Not a f'ing thing. I just don't get it. Daddy is coming from from deployment and his roommate shared the Deployment Crud with him the week before he started home so you know we're going to all get it. He came home with the Iraq crud the first time and the Kuwait crud the 2nd time. I just can't wait!! OH GOODY!


Kid #2 and I have been back to back sick since the 1st week of Dec. He's now on round 3 or 4 of this crap. I managed to remain healthy for almost a full week! Go me! Meanwhile the 10 year old ADD kid...nothing. Not a f'ing thing. I just don't get it. Daddy is coming from from deployment and his roommate shared the Deployment Crud with him the week before he started home so you know we're going to all get it. He came home with the Iraq crud the first time and the Kuwait crud the 2nd time. I just can't wait!! OH GOODY!


I'm one who also sends my kids in with snotty noses during this time of year. Unless it's neon green or bright yellow, it's a runny nose, and they go on to school.


Oh, yeah. Three different schools for the kids (in two different school systems, thanks to my daughter's recent transfer based on her IEP), one more school for the husband (in a different geographical area than the ones for our offspring) and my coworkers who come in while they are sick and spread their germs to the water coolers and vending machines...Oh, and the people who don't want to burn a day of leave to stay home with the feverish kids, so they bring them to the office! I've hit the respiratory and gastrointestinal distress motherlode!

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