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Carmen Rasmusen Herbert: What to do when there's nothing to do

Published: Tuesday, March 5 2013 8:10 p.m. MST

I’ve got major cabin fever.

I have never been one of those moms who likes to stay home all day. Ten and a half hours is just too long to stare at my beige walls as a single parent (kids are up at 7:30 a.m., husband’s home at 6 p.m.) so after I had my first boy, I went crazy buying passes to museums, the zoo, the aquarium, library … you name it. I wanted to be able to do fun things with my kids, make good memories and perhaps even talk with another adult at least once a day.

Well, now that we’ve welcomed a new little man into the family, going out has become nonexistent. As it should be, seeing that cold and flu season is still in full swing and the only thing I can think of that’s worse than being stuck at home is being stuck at home with sick kids.

It wasn’t so bad the first few days. My husband was home, the babymoon was in full swing, and we were having a nice, quiet time enjoying our new family of five.

Then Daddy went back to work. And the panic set in.

I am going to be hunkered down at home for six weeks?!

I’m not quite sure why six weeks is the benchmark for new moms to venture back into the real world. Maybe some doctor discovered that was the amount of time it took for a mom to go crazy, like that guy who ran the marathon and then died.

Anyway, a few days ago I got desperate. It’s been two weeks and counting, and I can feel my sanity slowly fading with each ticking second. We’ve colored in every coloring book, read every book, watched every movie, dried out every piece of play dough and played with every toy. We’ve even had grandma and aunts and uncles come down to help entertain my kids and snap me out of the new-mom-zombie-state, and I honestly believe those visits have helped bring me back from the dead.

But I’ve still got four weeks to go.

I posted on Facebook last week, “Sick of being stuck inside. Any ideas for keeping toddlers entertained all day?”

I received some pretty creative advice. Here are some of my favorite ideas for all you spring-trunky moms out there:

Bath party

One friend wrote, “Put on swimsuits in your largest tub. Fill it up and give your kids boats, pirates, mermaids, etc. It’s a hit around here.” I’d add bubbles as a suggestion, particularly Gymboree’s bubbles. The solution is made with latex so you can catch them in your hands, put them in your hair, and even freeze them for later. Super cool.

Reading fort

This was something I did a few weeks ago. My boys have a fold-up play tent and we threw in a bunch of pillows and blankets and brought in a huge stack of books. I try to make time to read to my boys every day, and this was something different. (Be sure to do voices for the characters! The sillier the better.)

Backwards day

My friend suggested this and I thought it sounded so fun! Everything is backwards for an entire day. Dinner for breakfast (I guess lunch would still be lunch) breakfast for dinner, backwards clothes and hair, walk backwards as much as possible (I just threw that in there), etc. My boys love being goofy.

Play hospital

We have our own take on this classic mom-or-dad-gets-to-relax game: it’s called “mechanic.” We play cars and every once in a while, one of us “shuts down” and has to be fixed. We get to lie on the ground and my boys will grease my elbows, pour oil on my tummy, tighten my screws on my toes, etc. You can also do this as a sick patient who needs to see the doctor. It’s a good excuse to take a quick power nap while your kids “hammer”/massage your back.

Magnet mania

Magnets are great time killers. Our favorite are Magformers. These are plastic magnets in the shapes of squares and triangles. You can make all sorts of awesome shapes with these. I even bring them to church and they keep my kids very occupied. So far these have been great while nursing. I name a shape, and see if the boys can build it.

Lastly, I think my favorite suggestion was from a mom of one of my childhood friends:

“Go to Bobbie’s, she has a basement full of toys. Lock the kids in the playroom and check on them every hour. The two of you can then just sit there and stare into space peacefully.”

Ahh. … I can almost hear the silence.

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.

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