Wednesday was a big day for E. It was the "Fifty Nifty United States" Fifth Grade Program. (It was called a program, but it was really a pageant. No lie. The kids actually had to walk across the stage and pose in three different places. They were referred to as "Mister" or "Miss" [name of the state they represented].) E has worked hard for several weeks on her state. Arkansas. She and I made a costume to for her to wear in the pageant--I mean program. It had to represent Arkansas. Our choices were limited: Huckleberry Finn, Hillary Clinton, Razorback Hog, and Diamond (did you know Arkansas is "the Diamond State"?) We went with Diamond.
This is the diamond costume L and I created. Hard to tell from the picture, but there were lots of rhinestones and pixie dust involved to make it very sparkly. Like a diamond. L plans to reuse the tutu for her Halloween costume. More about that later.
I promised E that even though her siblings were sick, we would all be there for her program. Like a fool I said the same thing when I left a message on the school's attendance line. Less than an hour before the program, I got a call from the principal. Yes, the principal. Informing me that I was not allowed to bring my children to the school if they were sick.
"They will wear masks," I told her. "They have no place else to go!" The principal assured me that it was better for them to stay at home. She was sure that E would understand, considering the circumstances. "I have to be there," I told her, sounding a bit melodramatic. "E has been experiencing a lot of anxiety. She is expecting me. I have to be there." I started to cry. On the phone. With the principal! I was both mortified and angry.
I hung up. I scraped myself together. It took only two phone calls to find a friend who was willing to let J and S sniffle and watch television at her house. I wore my sort of skinny jeans with a white tee and black blazer and I even curled my hair, in an attempt not to look like the kind of crazy woman who would cry on the phone to the principal. I dropped off J and S and made it to the school auditorium on time. E looked adorable. She waved at me. She was thrilled to see me there. We took lots of pictures. E was pleased with her performance.
I said good bye to E and drove back to pick up J and S. On the way, I cried some more. I didn't want to have to spell it out for the principal. How do you explain to someone who doesn't know your history why it is so important for you to be there? The principal has no idea how many school functions I missed because I was at the hospital with L or S. Or on my way o the hospital. Or couldn't leave L with anyone else so I could go to the school. The principal doesn't have a clue about all the things E has had to do for herself and her siblings in the last two years: carry a spare key just in case the school bus beats Mom home from the hospital, pack lunches, fix breakfast, complete school projects by herself because Mom and Dad were too preoccupied....the list goes on. E is the oldest fifth grader I know. And she's amazing. But, like the rest of us, she has her share of baggage. E experiences anxiety. Not enough to interfere with academics or daily life, but enough for it to be a concern for me.
Anyway, so I cried. And even though I cried, I totally understood where the principal was coming from. Then again, as my sister, Nurse L, pointed out, "It is frustrating to think that there are children much sicker than your own who are attending school. And no one calls their parents."
After an afternoon of playing in the warm sunshine, it looked to me that S and J would both be well enough to return to school on Thursday. I was only 50% right. J was well enough, but S was worse. Much worse. We hurried in to see the lovely Dr. B, our pediatrician, on Thursday afternoon. Surprise! Swine flu is running rampant in our area (vaccine doesn't arrive until next week), so S was tested for that, strep, and had her lungs xrayed. Flu and strep tests were negative, but xray showed fluid in the lungs. ARRRGH! I've now lost count of how many times S has had pneumonia in the last year.
By that night, my head was pounding, my nose was dripping, and my throat was hurting. S and I holed up in our extra bedroom with the humidifier, nebulizer, juice, and extra blankets. We spent Friday together blowing our noses, coughing, and playing in Pixie Hollow. Friday night, as I tucked S into our sick bed again, she told me, "Today was my most perfect day. I got to stay home and do everything with you I've wanted to do with you for as long as I wanted."
Somehow, that made my own head cold more bearable.