We are back from our holiday sojourn visiting family around the Midwest, spreading lots of Christmas cheer - and germs - along the way.
Yes, it was one of those virus-filled vacations, everything from respiratory ailments to ... let's just say digestive issues.
It started a week and a half or so before Christmas, when my husband came down with a nasty bug - fever, chills, lots of drainage (trying to be delicate here), the works.
Then one night, after I had fallen asleep on the couch, I heard my daughter's soft voice saying, "Mommy?" I awoke to an eruption that rivaled Vesuvius. As she bolted for the bathroom, lava flowed in the family room, dining room, kitchen, hallway - basically everywhere except the bathroom.
OK, I thought as I watched the lava seep into the carpet, take a deep breath. She is your first priority. I got her cleaned up as best I could and back in bed - with the traditional bowl by the bedside as a precaution.
For the next hour and a half, I was on cleanup duty. By 2:30 a.m., it wasn't great but good enough, and I turned in.
A certain fragrance lingered the next morning, so I took a friend's advice and sprinkled the carpet with baking soda and a little water. I would highly recommend this to any parent, because like it or not all of you will be dealing with this issue eventually.
My daughter improved in a day or two, and in the meantime I contracted my husband's virus. I stumbled through the last few days of work before our vacation, and we all set off for St. Louis.
I was pretty scrupulous about hand-washing and other prevention measures, and to date none of my relatives has contracted that particular illness (tempting the fates here).
My son, however, suffered another middle-of-the-night stomach issue just before Christmas. Fortunately, it only lasted about 24 hours. Unfortunately, it spread to several other family members.
Then, on Dec. 27th, my daughter told me she didn't feel like eating dinner and wanted to go to bed early.
Uh-oh. Time for the bedside bowl.
Which would have worked, except that the initial trajectory sort of missed the bowl. Another wee-hours-of-the morning cleanup.
We were scheduled to leave for Omaha the next day but decided to postpone our trip until everybody was healthy, to at least spare that side of the family from our pandemic. Jokes about Typhoid Mary were rampant.
(On a more serious note, one of our nieces in Omaha was hospitalized with bacterial pneumonia, and a friend's mom in St. Louis was in intensive care following a stroke, so we were being extra careful. Thankfully, our niece is doing much better; we continue to pray for our friend's mom.)
All of this is meant to explain why you are not seeing an "Are We There Yet?" column in today's News-Gazette. I sort of had my hands full - of laundry and cleaning supplies.
All in all it was still great to get away, and seeing our families always rejuvenates us.
So here's to a happier, healthier 2012 for all. I think one of my resolutions will be to disinfect our house.
How about you?
Julie Wurth writes and blogs about family issues and covers the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. Leave a comment below, or contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter www.twitter.com/jawurth.
Photo: Let's hope Santa got his annual flu shot before visiting our house. Here, he gets a jab from one of theChampaign-Urbana Public Health District's "Germ Busters" in 2009. Vanda Bidwell/The News-Gazette