There were three in the bed and the little one said…

‘Mama, Mama,’ It’s 3am, and my eldest’s voice can be heard without the monitor. By the time I get down the stairs to her room, pillow in hand, because who am I kidding, I’m not getting back up those stairs tonight, she is crying.

‘My stomach hurts,’ she wails.

I aim the gizmo out her brow, no fever. I palpate her stomach, and she jumps a foot in the air when I get to her left side. Not appendicitis.

‘Want to sleep with me on the couch?’ I ask, my eyes open but not really awake.

‘She climbs in beside me, and I wrap my arm around her. She pushes my arm away. Close, but not too close, she’s always been like that. ‘Sit with me Mama,’ she would say and so I would snuggle up to her. ‘Don’t touch me, Mama,’ she would say, scowling at my neediness.

I close my eyes and slip back into sleep.

‘How come I can’t sleep with you?’ asks my youngest five minutes, ten minutes, an hour later, I’ve no idea, time is nonexistent now, I just know its night time and I’m not sleeping.

‘Hop in,’ I say lifting the blanket at the other end of the couch,’ knowing before she says anything what is coming.

‘I want to sleep next to you.’

‘There’s not enough room, darling. You can sleep next to grace and I’ll sleep at the other end. But Grace isn’t well, that’s why I’m next to her. Remember how I slept next to you when you were sick.’

‘Okay,’ I love that she doesn’t fight with me on this. She simply snuggles in under the other end of the blanket, the cool pads of her little feet pressed against mine.

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Dutch bugs think fresh Aussie bods are an easy target.

We are all sick within a week of arriving in Amsterdam. Mum gets it first, a gastro bug that leaves her pale and shaking. She spends the night on the toilet but feels okay the next day, well okay enough to potter around the house in her pastel rainbow-coloured t-shirt nightie, the white hoodie we’d managed to find at H&M, because she doesn’t own a jumper and Amsterdam is celebrating a scorching top of 8 degrees C, and the pair of ankle socks we’d bought at the market. Okay, we think, a little cocky, this is not so bad.

My youngest is next to fall victim. I brush the clammy curls from my youngest’s forehead, and read to her, while she begs me to put something on her dry toast. Dr Google suggests apple but then diarrhoea foams in her nappy. I strip her off, change her clothes, strip the bed she is lying on, and much to her horror, we revert back to dried toast. When her weak cries for prosciutto or peanut butter or whatever it is that her sister happens to be eating get too much, I press play on the iPad and distract her with Doc McStuffins. Within 48 hours though, she is better. My husband is struck down next, however, he lays prone in bed for almost a week. He looks ashen, the lines on his face a little deeper, a grey-flecked beard sprouting messily across his chin. Everything about him looked tired and grey, like his charcoal pyjamas, which Mum had accidentally shrunk in the dryer and then tried to stretch back out. He looked exactly like Robin Williams when he was trying to remember that he was Peter Pan.

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