Beth Vrabel lives in West Manchester Township with her daughter, Emma, 6, and son, Benny, 3.

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Coping With Cabin Fever

Emma just walked by me. My 6-year-old girl is decked out in my wedding veil and a summer sundress despite the 17-degree weather.

Benny, age 3, is trailing behind her. Though it’s only 4 p.m., he is in his Spider-Man pajamas. Why? Because the Incredibles pajamas are in the wash.

Jasper, the puppy, isn’t far behind. He’s clutching a foam sword in his mouth.

Cabin fever has officially infected my house.

The children and I have been housebound for nearly a week, stuck indoors because of chilly weather. Making it even worse, Emma’s spent the week home from school, recovering from an illness. She’s not well enough for school but has plenty of energy for fighting/playing with her brother.

“You belong on stage with me! Not playing trains all day!” croons Emma, twirling in the living room, as Benny pushes Thomas the Tank Engine across the floor.

The kids are allowed to watch one movie a day. In the past four days, she has watched “High School Musical III,” “Mamma Mia” and “The Sound of Music.” She now believes she lives in a musical.

“I have a necklace, tremendous, reckless necklace!”

Today, they watched the “The Incredibles.”

“I’m ‘credible,” Benny announced as the credits rolled. Soon, he was in his super-hero PJs and wielding his foam sword.

Jasper, anxious for all of us to get back to our regular routine and leave him to sleeping on top of our beds or dirty laundry, swipes the sword when Benny puts it down. Feeling generous, Benny switches to his light saber.

Benny’s fights with imaginary machines punctuate Emma’s operatic performances with grunts, growls and the occasional howl. “You’re not mmmmeeee! You’re very small! HI-YAH! For a while, we had it aaaallll! POW!”

And how am I coping with this epidemic? Massive amounts of coffee and a shameful amount of Facebooking. It’s the closest thing I’ve got to adult interaction, and I’m using it. Does anyone really need to know that Benny just declared his superhero name to be Stinkerbutt?

No, of course not. But I post it anyway.

Of course, I’ve tried to pack our days with fun stuff. We baked cupcakes and delivered them to our neighbors. We had a birthday party for Jasper (yeah, I know he’s a dog). We made puppets and painted pictures, built play-dough menageries and pretended we were Cinderella (a sneaky method to get the kids to help clean).

But eventually, it’s 4 o’clock, and the coffee has dulled. The kids have to entertain themselves for that hour before dinner prep.

Uh-oh. There is screaming in the hallway. Emma is sitting clutching her eye. Benny is on his stomach holding his knee. “What did you do?” I ask.

Now, I recognize that it isn’t entirely reasonable for my first reaction upon seeing my children clutching body parts to be an accusation. But I can tell from the type of howls that they’re not hurt. They’re just irritated with each other. That’s something I can sympathize with.

The excuses tumble quickly from their tiny lips. “Emma pushed!” “Benny kicked!” I sigh. “Both of you, to your rooms.”

Ah. A brief moment of peace amid the epidemic. A very brief moment.

From Emma’s room I hear: “It’s a glamorous life!”

You said it, Emma.

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