Home Sick: The Difference Between Kids and Adults

When I’m home sick: Sleep in as long as possible. Wear PJs all day. Sprawl on couch, catching up with bad TV and junky magazines. Feel guilty about not being at work and/or being home and not getting anything done all day. Doze off a bit on couch. Shuffle to kitchen to make chicken and stars soup and eat with Saltines and think it tastes amazing. Think about running to store for some medicine and more soup but fear running into someone who will then think I wasn’t really sick. Get a little stir crazy and attempt to brush hair for possible walk around the block. Find another good show on TV and watch that instead with some tea on couch. Greet husband with excitement when he comes home because I am not used to a full day with no one talking to me.

When my 5-year-old is home sick: Opens eyes earlier than expected and pops out of bed with more energy than on any normal weekday. Drags me into room to start building Legos. It is barely 8 a.m. Builds Legos, finds forgotten toys, races cars and protests loudly when I sneak away to make coffee. Exhausts all toy options by 8:30 and insists on breakfast and a TV show. Sits like a king during show while everyone waits on him. Perks up (more) from food and starts jumping on furniture. Climbs up my back and tries to wrestle. Protests more when I escape to shower (because we clearly are going to have to leave the house to burn off some energy). Welcomes me back with more ideas for games, all of which involve much activity and some sweating, rejecting all of my calm, “sick day” activities like cards and drawing. By 11 a.m. there are zero signs of being sick (this may occur earlier if you go to the pediatrician. They’re like cars at the mechanic). Accompanies me to the store, asking for everything on the shelves. I cave because the poor guy is sick (!). Falls asleep for a blissful nap on the way home and sleeps while I move him to the house. I then skulk away to log on and answer e-mail and get some writing done. Nap ends, energy is back, playtime resumes. Greet husband with enthusiasm because it is his turn now.

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So About the Easter Bunny

We just finished Christmas with all its Santa stories and songs and movies, all of which paint a pretty nice overview of the fat man, his back story and motivations. Not that I have all the answers to a curious 4-year-old’s questions, but “Santa is magic” goes a long way.

Now we are looking forward to other holidays, and the one that has piqued his interest is the one that holds the prospect of more gifts … Easter. We’re talking about holidays in the car and he asks all of a sudden, “Where does the Easter Bunny live?”

Crap. Where does the Easter Bunny live?

I wrack my brain for any stories I can think of about the Easter Bunny, and I am coming up empty handed. I feel pressure to uncover some Easter Bunny details that will do the rabbit justice. I cannot think of a thing.

I confess: “I have no idea where the Easter Bunny lives.”

I wonder how this will go over, but then he laughs. “Mommy! He lives in the grass!”

Der.

Just goes to show you that sometimes, the simpler explanation is the better one. Grass. Right!

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Car Seats and Emerging Independence

First, the car seat was a baffling contraption that soon became our most-relied-on baby necessity. Besides the obvious reasons, the infant seat won us over for how easily it snapped in and out of the base. You just buckled the baby in and could go in and out of the car — and stroller — with ease. Napping was a breeze. He conked out in the car, and we carried his seat wherever we needed to go (or not go) and he slept peacefully. Uninterrupted dinners. Bliss!

Then he wised up — hey, I can move! — and the car seat turned into stress city. Back arching, thrashing, howling, any way he could resist getting into that seat, he tried. Flop sweat ran down my face as I fought him. So what if I was running late to work. We weren’t going anywhere until he cooperated, and I struggled to get him buckled.

Which resulted in the bribery phase. Also the phase of never going anywhere without goldfish or animal crackers. I doled it out for his cooperation, praying the need would pass and I wouldn’t have to bribe for the rest of his childhood.

It passed. I moved on to bribing him for other reasons. That’s the kind of parent I am, I guess.

He got more cooperative with the car seat, procrastinating but not fighting, which was easier to deal with. He learned to talk and entertained me on our drives with questions and stories and songs.

And then recently, we have entered another phase. The “I can do it myself” phase where he successfully buckles and (mostly) unbuckles himself, and woe to the parent who steps on his independence. It takes a long time, I am still running late for everything, but when he is done, he looks up and pauses for approval. With pride on his face.

So I wait, nod enthusiastically and praise him, regretting how time has flown. But at least I don’t have to pack goldfish and animal crackers any more.

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The Truth About Snips and Snails

I thought snips and snails and puppy dog tails was meant to be just a description of little boys’ personalities. I was unaware that it was actually describing the contents of their pockets.

Nate can’t pass up anything shiny, colorful, different, interesting, etc., on the dirty, dirty ground. Some of the stuff (leaves, acorns, hard berries, teeny flowers, yarn, twisty ties, broken pieces of colorful plastic) he presents to me as a special gift. Some goodies get shoved in his pocket for me to find later when I do the laundry. Unfortunately, I am a lazy laundry-doer, so I find it in the bottom of the washer or the dryer lint trap. One of these days, it is going to be a crayon, and I am going to be furious with myself for not checking his pockets before throwing his shorts in the wash. I know this. But let’s face it, just getting the laundry done is an accomplishment. Please no extra steps.

So today I dutifully clean out the lint trap and there is a small peacock feather caught in it. His school has peacocks roaming the campus, and he loves them. Clearly, this is a treasure.

I picked off the dryer lint and saved the feather.

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Red-hot Birthday Party in Tampa

I wanted to postpone the birthday party madness as long as I could, knowing full well I would spend too much time and money and make myself crazy when something more low-key would mean just as much to the little dude. That theory worked OK for birthdays 1, 2 and 3, when we spent the party money instead on an overnight at the beach, a trip to Adventure Island and an aquarium day with the grandparents.

But then we started getting invited to parties. Really fun parties. And Nate wanted to know when his party was going to be.

I started Googling. It’s really hard to find something different but not crazy expensive. I wanted indoors (August in Florida, enough said) and I did not want to have to clean my house. I remembered a friend’s party a few years ago for her little boy — at the Tampa Firefighter’s Museum. I gave them a call, the price was right and it was available. I booked it.

Nate loves firefighters, so the theme was a good fit, and I liked knowing the fee would benefit the nonprofit. I went a little nuts on the planning, but less nuts than I could have, because the venue really did most of the work for me.

Which is to say, if you have a small child in Tampa with even a passing interest in firetrucks, you need to check this place out. You can tour it on your own, but for birthday parties, it is really magical.

The museum is housed downtown in the former Station 1, built in 1911. It’s a wide open space with exposed brick (automatically making your decorations look better), two antique fire engines, hoses and a play firetruck for the kids, outfitted with hats and jackets. The museum sets up tables for adults and children, as well as an area for you to set up food and gifts/favors. It’s an odd time of day (10-noon) but if you have a small child, it’s not that bad. You’re probably up by then anyway, and you’re done in time for naps. If you’re lucky — we couldn’t convince our birthday boy to nap after all the excitement.

The kids were content to run wild and go on and off the firetruck, and the parents got to relax or check out the displays on their own. But what made it truly special was a trip across the street to a working fire station. The guys were so great with our pack of 4-year-olds, explaining all the cool things the trucks did, putting on their gear for us and even sliding down the pole. We weren’t rushed, and when an alarm did go off (they had to check out a false fire alarm), they had us step aside while the truck pulled out, and then another firefighter finished the tour.

We returned to the museum for “lunch” and cupcakes, and the kids all left with my favors and a huge goodie bag from the museum — complete with a hat, pencil, activity book, stickers and temporary tattoos.

The Tampa Firefighter’s Museum really is a hidden gem in this area and amazing option for parties. And you are free to keep your house as messy as you want.

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A Letter to Grandma

I don’t know where my son learned about writing letters (day care? TV?), but I’d say for his first attempt, he nailed it.

We just returned from a weekend with the grandparents where he was spoiled beyond belief. To try to balance out the expectations of get-get-getting, I suggested we write thank you notes. He started dictating. This is what he said to write to grandma:

Dear Grandma,
I hope I will see you soon.
I miss you a lot.
I like all the presents you hide around the house.

(Nate: age almost-4)

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Working Out With an Audience

I don’t mind working out, but finding time for it is a constant challenge.

Pre-kiddo, I had a pretty good routine. Run in the early evening after work, occasionally work in a yoga class with friends. Take leisurely walks with husband after dinner on weekends. Rotate yoga, pilates or dance aerobics DVDs during downtime or bad weather.

Now those early evenings I had reserved for exercise are spent in the car on a long, congested drive from work to day care to home, followed by a subsequent collapse on the couch once we arrive. I wear yoga pants and do no yoga. Putting on my yoga pants somedays is seriously the highlight of the day. So. Comfy.

I stressed when I was pregnant about how having a child would affect my running routine, and while it has been tough, I’ve been lucky enough to land a job that comes with a gym membership AND a gym within walking distance of my office, so I spend my lunch breaks there on the treadmill whenever I can.

But I miss yoga. I can feel the tension between my shoulder blades from commuting and sitting in front of a computer all day. I want to stretch out. I want to clear my head. I want that feeling of deep relaxation when I get up from my mat. (And I want to stop feeling guilty that my expensive yoga pants don’t get a workout.) Despite several yoga DVDs, squeezing in a practice is not easy. Not necessarily because of the time management involved. It’s the audience.

My son seems like he could really dig yoga. He is a master at downward dog and does effortless planks. But once the novelty has worn off, yoga practice either becomes poses he makes up (firetruck pose!) — or I become the gym. A plank with a 40-pound preschooler on your back should be part of CrossFit routines. I wind up collapsed on my face.

Last weekend, I had a slice of time in the morning before he woke up and turned on a yoga session on TV. The first 15 minutes were successful. Then he work up. He was too groggy to join in at first, but he quizzed me about all of the other poses. Then he wanted to do them with me. One involved a chair, and he grabbed the ricketiest chair in the house to try it on. Husband intervened. I powered through best I could.

Finally, it was time for savasana. The best part. The reward.

I laid back on my mat. Tiny cold toes crawled up my shoulder.

“My toes want to be on mommy,” he said.

I closed my eyes.

Namaste.

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