Forget H1N1; the real epidemic this winter is cabin fever. Being cooped up with boy children on a cold day is a wild ride.
Somebody once said: "Boys are like dogs. They need to be run daily."
Our two little men, ages 8 and 3, will find a way to release energy indoors. Sometimes it's best to just to stand clear and remove your loose jewelry.
Our 3-year-old's favorite energy release is dancing -- specifically, gyrating to the G-rated version of "Boom Boom Pow" by the Black Eyed Peas. When he cranks "Boom Boom Pow" on the stereo, his feet fly about like a clogger hopped up on Mountain Dew.
He even knows the lyrics to "Boom Boom Pow." I'm terrified he will stand up in church and shout (as he does at home): "People in the place, if you want to get down, put your hands in the air ..."
My older son's favorite indoor exercise is jumping rope. This is annoying for two reasons: It vibrates the whole house, and he makes me count the hops.
If he has any energy left after rope jumping, he punches me repeatedly in the biceps. Its a rite of passage for an 8-year-old to try to make his daddy wince. It infuriates him when he uncoils his whole body with a final roundhouse punch and I pretend not to notice. (I'm actually biting my tongue as the pain waves gather in my brain.)
"Did you need something?" I say, lowering my newspaper, as he massages his aching knuckles.
Hoping to even the playing field, he challenges me to a game of Wii, which he knows he will win. His idea of a level field is to plug in a college football game. He picks the teams. Typically he will choose Florida for himself and force me to be, like, Western Idaho State.
Immediately, he zones into a hypnotic trance and becomes one with the game. I hop around as if being stung by bees. He's up 180-0 at the half. I quit.
The best thing about cabin fever is that it eventually dissolves into something more civil: bath and pajama time.
After bath, the 3-year-old will pull on his PJs, curl up in my lap like a warm puppy and watch a favorite Barney episode.
The 8-year-old -- not fully aware he is now 70 pounds of elbows, kneecaps and gristle -- comes along 30 minutes later and tries to climb up in the Catnapper with me, too. I do my best to cradle my older son, although it's like trying to hug a 10-speed bicycle. Bless his heart.
The best part of the day is tucking them both into bed and watching their faces transform gently into sleeping angels.
Instantly, my cabin fever breaks, and I say a silent prayer of gratitude for rambunctious boys, new memories and the sweet release of a quiet house.
Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...