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Christmas is a busy time of year for many families.

There is all the shopping, the baking (well, for some homes, not necessarily mine,) the wrapping, getting pictures done with Santa (which is down to just my youngest child, Brenna) getting the Christmas tree, decorating the Christmas tree, special holiday school activities, visiting family, Christmas cantatas and, well, you get the idea.

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And it seems like this is the time of year when I try to do everything, especially because I always feel like Brenna, who is 8, doesn't get to do as much as the older kids did because life is just so much more hectic.

I think the stress of all of that contributes to my secret Christmas fear: being sick over the holidays.

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It feels like all I am hearing about lately is how much illness is going around in school, at work, everywhere I am. I feel like no matter how many times I wash my hands, I am still doomed. I can only hope that we are at least healthy on Christmas day.

My husband Sean still shares the story of a Christmas in his childhood when the whole family ended up with some type of stomach bug. He comes from a family of six, and each of them was sick beginning on Christmas Eve and continuing through Christmas day. Even my in-laws succumbed. I can't even imagine the stress of trying to tie up those last-minute loose ends while caring for four very sick children, all younger than 8, and then getting sick myself. That's the worst.

I recall one Christmas break when I was in middle school that is not one of my fondest memories.

When I was in school, the last day before our holiday vacation began was pure fun. We would have school parties with all kinds of good things to eat, watch movies all day, move from classroom to classroom visiting with friends and exchange gifts as a class. Needless to say, not a day I wanted to miss.

When I went to bed the night before that day arrived, I can remember lying there scratching my stomach and wondering why on earth it was itching. I felt around and noticed this odd bump. I called out to my mom and she diagnosed me with chickenpox. I was devastated. Not only was I going to have be covered in small, icky, itchy bumps but I was going to miss one of the best school days of the year.

And that was a long, miserable Christmas. I had one of the worst cases of chickenpox ever.

Two years in a row, when my oldest niece was about 10 years old, she got sick on Christmas. My sister still talks about how sad Brianna was to miss getting together with our family and celebrating.

It just stinks to be sick on this fun, family day.

As I write this column, we are about a week away from Christmas and all three of my boys — my husband Sean and sons Quinn and Owen — have a little bit of something. Sean seems to be working on his third sinus infection since October, Quinn has some type of respiratory infection and poor Owen has what might be the flu: sore throat, fever, headache, the works. So far the girls are good but I'm not sure we can avoid the germs.

In the meantime, two of my good friends who I have spent a lot of time with recently have sickness spreading through their families and I think that lice is going back around school. I guess I better hurry up and finish those last-minute loose ends – if I'm going to be sick for Christmas, I at least want to be able to relax.

Jill Murphy writes from Manchester.

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