I always have such high hopes for January.

The end of the year is so frantic that I spend half of December wishing it was just January already.

I look forward to the frigid weather and gray skies, if only because it means that there are huge obstacles to leaving the house, which forces me to stay inside and get things done.

January wants to be a month of quiet reflection, usually with a cup of hot cocoa while looking out of the window and thanking your lucky stars that you aren't out there. The kids have fewer places to which they require schlepping, which frees up wide swathes of my day. On paper, I ought to be a working machine, driven by the calm and cold.

Every single year, I fail to account for the literal ills of January.

Some wake to the rooster's crow. We wake to the sound of reshuffling phlegm.

As I type this, one of my children is on antibiotics. The other, I suspect, will be before I finish typing this column, given the hacking cough that has become her way of starting the day.

So far, my husband and I have been well. This will change.

If past experience can predict future behavior, it's really only a matter of time before one of the offspring sneezes in my face or licks my husband's coffee mug. Given that we're getting less sleep lately because we keep getting up in the wee hours to tend to a snotty _ again, literally _ child, it's only a matter of time before one of us succumbs.

Our morning routine has changed, too. My husband still gets up with the kids and reads the news while I take a shower. When I come downstairs, he goes up. In the winter, rather than give me an update on national events, I get the illness update and figure out who should be on the DL.

"She doesn't have a fever," he'll say, "but still sounds like a three-pack smoker."

"How's her mood?"

"Surly," he'll say, "but no more than she usually is in the morning."

"She can play. The boy?"

"No fever, no cough, but is a weird color. He keeps complaining that his tummy feels funny.' No action yet."

"We'll make the decision just before the game," I'll say. "I'll holler if there is movement."

January is the month that I start jumping when the phone rings, certain that it will be a call from either school letting me know that my kid now has a temp that rivals Texas in July or has barfed on a classmate.

Speaking of, I asked the Diva about her day not too long ago. The most exciting event was that one of her friends had thrown up in the middle of the class. And then, because she is my child, she wanted to know all of the other synonyms for "vomit" that I could come up with.

There are more of them than you might think. All of them make you queasy.

This is also the time of year when you learn just how flexible your schedule really is. It turns out that it is possible for two adults to care for two sick kids while keeping two jobs, washing four loads of laundry, spending three hours at the doctor's office, cleaning up countless ounces of bodily fluids and making a trip to the grocery store. It isn't pretty _ but it is possible.

January is the time when we buy boxes of tissues and bottles of Tylenol from B.J.'s. January is the month when we celebrate a day that doesn't involve one person swanning about on the couch watching trashy TV all day while they drift in and out of fever dreams.

I know I'm not the only parent who is dealing with this, if the crowd hanging out at our pediatrician's office is any indication. Given the crowd, you'd think the doctors were giving out free visits with the Jonas Brothers.

The last time I had to take a kid in, the crowd was standing-room only. And most of the crowd looked like they shouldn't be standing at all.

January is the month when I question the wisdom of doctors' offices. I know they are making the best of a difficult situation _ but it strikes me that a room stuffed elbow-to-eyeball with small people who are bad at keeping their germs to themselves is a bad idea.

It might be advisable to force all patients and their parents to don hazmat suits before crossing the threshold. Or, if I can get the city government to climb on board, perhaps all Oneonta residents should be issued their own protective gear and forced to wear it from January through the spring thaw.

Just think of all of the tourists we could draw to the region. It could be like leaf-peeping season, especially if the suits came in a variety of autumnal shades that went beyond quarantine yellow. I can see us all bouncing around the town during our daily routines, big blobs of color standing in line at the bank or walking the kids to school.

Or it could just be that I'm coming down with the flu.

Adrienne Martini is a freelance writer, instructor at the State University College at Oneonta and Hartwick College, mom to Maddy and Cory, wife to Scott, and author of "Hillbilly Gothic," published by the Free Press.

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