The Big Sick: My Daughter’s Eye Infection Taught Me that Old-Fashioned Fun is the Best of All

When I picked up my younger daughter at school on Friday, her pre-school teacher handed me her little pink backpack and said, “You know, she seemed a little congested today, like maybe she’s getting sick.”

“Oh great,” I said, bending down to hug my little one.

“Happy weekend!”

The next morning, my daughter woke up and said, perplexed, at the top of the stairs, “Mama, my eye feels a little funny.”

Uh-oh. I bounded up the steps only to find her right eye completely encrusted. Pink eye. She was blinking repeatedly and purposefully as if the motion would somehow cause the thick layer of crust to magically disappear.

As luck would have it, my husband and I had foolishly decided earlier in the week that it would be fun to take the kids to Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos for the long MLK weekend, a place they’d been with their dad several times.

By Thursday, we were questioning our sanity. Why did we want to drive hours to subject ourselves to an indoor water park teeming with screaming kids just to avoid being in the house all weekend? I couldn’t even get in the water because my six-week swimming ban from my holiday hysterectomy hadn’t yet expired and my husband, though more than willing, was a bit wary knowing he would’ve just gotten off a red eye from a week of work in L.A.

Sometimes I feel such pressure to take advantage of the few long weekends off from school. A day off! A long weekend! What should we do?!! Forget that I don’t even really feel like doing anything. Or that we’d just returned from the holiday break. Traveling with four kids takes so much energy, not to mention expense. But… it’s MLK weekend! Apparently honoring this famous civil rights leader involves jumping on an airplane.

We’d been debating if we should cancel the road trip when the big kids told us, individually and unexpectedly, that they’d both rather spend the weekend “chill-axing.” The only one who had been beyond excited to go was my little daughter who’d been walking around the house in her life jacket saying, “Now is it time for Great Wolf Lodge?”

But as she descended the stairs, sick with fever and an eye infection, I had to break the news to her that now we couldn’t go. She was so disappointed (“nooooooo!!!!”) that my heart broke and I quickly promised we could still go another time, as soon as she was better. On the other hand, I was doing a little victory dance inside that I was getting out of the hastily planned, ill-advised trip unscathed. Luckily (?), Great Wolf Lodge is holding our deposit so we can go any other time we want.

Thus began our sick day.

While I applied wet compresses to my daughter’s eye and pumped her with Motrin, the other kids didn’t skip a beat. My little son kept up his favorite activity of “packing,” taking all the cans of Zevia I’d received as samples for an article I’d written and arranging them in the kids’ lunch-bags.

This was actually pretty cute until he started picking up the lunch-bags — with all the little strength in his tiny biceps and “single-pack” — and hurling them across the kitchen. It only took three tries before a can exploded and the sticky strawberry sparkling water started pouring out all over the wood floor. He laughed, delighted, and raced back to get more lunch-bags before I could shut down the shop. (Mopping proved to be equally entertaining for him, so no biggie.)


My daughter was intent on finishing her Hebrew school homework between rounds of making slime and my older son was practicing touchdown passes in his bedroom. This was all before the sun had fully risen.


By 8:30 am, my son was asking to redeem some of the Visa gift cards he’d gotten from my in-laws for the holidays, so I gathered the troops and brought the three healthy kids to a nearby store to stock on up board games and crafts for our sick weekend.

How did I not have Chutes & Ladders? And Operation? Hungry Hungry Hippo! We spent the rest of the day playing family-friendly, old-fashioned board games on the living room floor. My new favorite is Kids on Stage, a charades board game that’s perfect for pre-school age kids because the cards have pictures, not just words.

We painted. We drew. We watched “The Good Dinosaur,” all four kids on the bed with me, snuggling. (Note: don’t show this movie to any kids prone to separation anxiety. There were a lot of tears afterwards.)

After multiple rounds of “eye-droppies” and a day of play, my daughter got into bed and said, “What kind of get-well-soon-presents will I get if I’m still sick tomorrow? Because I’d really like a stuffed animal flying bird.” Hmm. Perhaps “these are board games for the whole family” didn’t quite register.

In the middle of last night, as I put my little guy back in his bed after his nightly 1:30 am pop-in, I realized my own right eye was itching and pretty blurry. I snuck into my daughter’s room and stole a few “eye droppies” for me, just in case.

Day two of sick weekend begins.15 degrees outside. Warm pumpkin bread that a friend baked for the kids’ breakfast. Lego Friends on TV. Me at my computer for a few minutes. All the kids engaged. I couldn’t be happier to be at home.

Thanks for the pumpkin bread!!