The upside of being sick

On Saturday, two days after getting back from our week-long trip to the Bay Area, Steve got sick.

Steve gets sick more than I do, so I’m not usually very sympathetic when it happens. Typically, I roll my eyes and rib him about his inferior immune system. He’ll snuffle and pop DayQuil for a week and it’s all over. But this time, I got it too.

And it was a bad one. Really bad. So on Saturday, Steve went to bed at 7:20 p.m. and my plan was to sleep downstairs, so as not to infect myself. By 9 p.m., I knew it was over. No matter where I slept, I was getting slammed: Body aches, extreme fatigue and a fever. It was grim, but I’ve emerged from the flu foxhole to tell you that being sick has a few plusses. Namely:

  1. You can catch up on your reading.  I haven’t yet delved into Donna Tartt’s latest tome, or my stack of unread New Yorkers. Instead, I spent my bed-ridden hours blowing through easy fiction. Specifically, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch mysteries. In the past four days, I’ve read “The Drop,” (meh) “The Closers” (awesome) and now, “Echo Park.” And I could gorge on these cheeseburgers of literature thanks to my Kindle, friend to the bed-ridden shut-in.
  2. You can experiment with drugs.  We’re usually a NyQuil family, but Target had a tantalizing end cap of Kleenex and Mucinex FastMax, so I bought both. The daytime stuff works fine. Maybe a little too well. I had no aches, pains or congestion to speak of, but my brain didn’t function. You probably shouldn’t operate a motor vehicle on Mucinex FastMax. Another tip: Do not drink wine after taking cold medicine, because everything tastes terrible. It’s a waste of perfectly good wine.
  3. You can clear your social calendar. I’m a social person, but when you tell people you’ve got the flu, they steer clear. My entire week is totally free. I can lay around and read crappy bestsellers and eat cough drops and sleep and revel in my own filth.
  4. You can’t exercise. I really like to exercise. It makes me feel good. But I have a long history of doing stupid things like running with strep throat. Here’s the deal: If you’re sick, you shouldn’t exercise. It prolongs the illness in many cases and it depletes what little energy you have. Stay home, keep your filthy germs to yourself, and get better. A couple of days really isn’t going to make any difference. Really.
  5. No one expects anything from you. When you’ve got a cold, people feel bad for you for about 24 hours. After that, you’re expected to medicate and function. Not so with the flu. People die from the flu, dude. I was able to dispense with all sorts of requests with a simple, “I’m sorry, but I have the flu.” It was awesome.

What to do with your highly contagious child

Well, duh. What do you do with your kids when they're sick?
Well, duh. What do you do with your kids when they’re sick?

Last week, Thanksgiving week, Bini got sick. It started up on Tuesday, when he came home from school looking like he’s been up all night partying with Motley Crue. He fell into bed early and woke up sounding like he had consumption. We didn’t send him to school that day because we’re not completely evil, just somewhat (see No. 1).

We didn’t think it was anything more than a standard-issue cold, but it turned into the flu. Not a bad flu, because he’d had one-half of the flu mist vaccine. But bad enough that we couldn’t take him to the movies, or anywhere with lots of people.

Bini can now beat me about half of the time, proving that sick time can indeed be a time to develop skills.
Bini has mad skills.

So, from Tuesday to Sunday, we were mostly housebound with a sick kid. When you’re housebound with a sick kid, you’re basically killing time until you can put him to bed. Following is a list of the top six ways to occupy a highly contagious but still strangely energetic 5-year-old. You’re welcome.

  1. Go out to eat. Actually… don’t do that. We took Bini to a Nice Restaurant on Thanksgiving, because we didn’t want to eat PB&J at our house and we couldn’t bring him to anyone’s else’s house. Look, we didn’t know that he had the flu yet. But I’d still like to apologize to the waitstaff at the aforementioned restaurant.
  2. Air hockey. I taught Bini to play air hockey two years ago, and now he’s an ace. He beats me about half the time, and I am not one to let my kid win. I’m going to start practicing when he’s asleep.
  3. Obstacle course.  Bini never got listless-sick. He was just coughing like he had emphysema and running a fever that ping-ponged between 100.1 and 103.7. Anyway, on one of his more energetic days, he was climbing on the furniture and otherwise running amok so I just made an obstacle course. It kept him busy for exactly 34 minutes.
  4. This is about the extent of my craft-making.
    This is about the extent of my craft-making.

    iPad. I ditched my screen-time rules on Wednesday, and by Saturday we had completely given up. (See No. 6.)

  5. Crafts. If you’re craft-challenged, like me, this means going to the craft store (is there ANYPLACE scarier than a craft store at Christmastime?) and buying something preconfigured. Coloring a particle-board reindeer sign killed about 45 minutes. Then he went back to the iPad.
  6. “Return of the Jedi.”  And then — don’t judge us — “Phantom Menace.” We were desperate.