We have been pretty lucky this year so far (touch wood) as far as illnesses go.
When the girls were younger, it felt like the first half of the year was spent in a constant state of snottiness, vomiting and high fevers. I guess now their immunity has built up a bit – and phew for that.
A couple of weeks ago, though, Ava woke up hot. Very hot. She had a sore throat and a headache, and some pains in her tummy. She had just cause for a day off school.
Liquid paracetamol duly administered, the morning routine pushed on as normal.
"Upstairs, Ruby!" I ordered. "It's time to get you dressed and ready for nursery."
"Ava go first!" Ruby squealed, running in the opposite direction to the stairs.
"No, Ava's not going to school today. She's poorly."
"Really?" Ruby replied. Ava being ill has always piqued Ruby's interest. She went back into the living room, where Ava was lying on the sofa, looking flushed and feeling sorry for herself.
Ru roughly stroked Ava's hair, and then touched her tummy. She stood there staring at her sister for perhaps a full minute, presumably hoping she was going to do something interesting, like be sick.
"Leave Ava alone," I said, steering Ruby back towards the stairs.
Twenty minutes later, I and a dressed, clean-faced, shiny-toothed, neat-haired Ru came back downstairs to find her shoes and coat.
"Where's Ava's shoes?" Ru asked me, pushing past and getting in the way as I tried to close the shoe cupboard door.
"Ava's not going to school, Ru," I reminded her. "She's not very well, so she's going to stay at home."
"Aw..." This was not the sort of 'aw' sound one makes out of pity. It was the 'aw' sound of someone who also wanted to stay at home.
Ruby went into the living room again and eyed Ava suspiciously. "You not well, Ava?" she asked.
Ava just sort of groaned.
Ruby begrudgingly exited the house with Dan, and looked like she was thinking of ways to ensure the journey to nursery would be as long as possible.
By morning the next day, Ava was feeling much better. I guess it was one of those 24 hour things, solved by a bit of medicine, and a great deal of sleep.
She and Ruby had been running around, playing their cat game for an hour or so and, by 7am, we were all sitting down to boiled eggs and toast. Tucking in, Ruby asked me what she asks me every morning: "Mummy? Is it nursery day?"
"Yes, it is!" I said brightly. "You'll see all your friends and have a lovely time. And so will Ava because she's better, and she's going to school today."
Ruby's expression suddenly changed – her brow furrowed, and she looked deeply sad.
"Mummmmy," she whined. "I think I'm very poorly."
Ruby slowly rubbed her tummy while I removed her plate, which had been emptied of every scrap of breakfast.
"Really?" I said. "What kind of poorly are you?"
"I have a tummy ache," Ru told me. "And it's really, really hurting me."
Obviously, I wasn't buying it. "Is that so?" I asked. "I'm not sure that can be true, darling, because you ate all your breakfast and you don't seem very ill."
Ru quickly changed tack.
"But my legs are very poorly..." she continued.
"Yes, my legs and my arms are poorly and they're really, really hurting."
I was looking forward to seeing where this would go.
"Goodness me!" I said. "That sounds dreadful. Is there anything else that's poorly?"
"Yes!" Ruby replied a little too eagerly for someone who was supposed to be feeling very ill indeed. "I have a headache."
"You have a headache?" I asked, feigning as much fake sympathy as I could muster. "Where is your headache?"
"In my foot," Ru said, pointing at her foot in case I needed to know which foot had the headache.
She hadn't thought any of this through, of course, because pointing at her head – ANYWHERE on her head – would have been considerably more convincing.
"So, let's see, you have a tummy ache, and your arms and legs are hurting, and you have a headache in your foot. Is that all?"
"What else, Ru?"
"My blood is hurting."
I couldn't help it, at this point I laughed.
Ruby was doing her best not to crack a smile and keep up the countenance of a very ill person.
"Ru," I said. "Do you know what the cure is for a fake tummy ache, arm and leg ache, foot headache and blood ache?"
She looked at me from under her long lashes and shook her head.
"Well, I think I know what the cure is," I said. "I think the cure is... TICKLING!"
And as it turned out, I was right.
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