Watching Charlie recover from illness is never easy, but after a particularly nasty bout, Mommy decided to shake things up a bit.

Last week, the kids, the puppy and I spent a solid hour in our quasi-new backyard.

The white fence bordering our fun space still shone with newness. Kelly green grass sprouted in more places than not (quite the opposite of the formula we had going for our first three years in the house). The Husband's new shed had taken its rightful place in the corner, as stately as a shed can be and still emitting the unmistakable scent of freshly cut plywood.

The kids had their shoes on, sweatshirts zipped and hands ready to get dirty.

Molly, our Beagle/Basset hound mix, displayed textbook puppiness. She shook and wiggled and peed everywhere with such sheer enthusiasm. Her people were outside with her! Running around! Eager to play!

Perfection... yet not

It was the perfect scene, except we just recently had evicted the norovirus from our home. The Husband, Emma and I were almost 100 percent again. Charlie? He was somewhere around 70 percent. After almost two weeks of being a breathing rag doll, his muscles hadn't gotten the memo that the vacation was over.

Emma and Molly scampered across the yard and back, mimicking the best of any Family Circus cartoons by carving a circuitous route from Point A to Point B. They even ventured behind the shed.

Charlie refused to budge. He strategically planted himself in the middle of the yard on perhaps the tallest mound of red Carolina clay. I cringed momentarily as I imagined the permanency of the clay's mark on his pants, then remembered my place. Mother of two. Laundry is my new pastime.

With much coaxing and cajoling, I managed to get Charlie to teeter to one side of the yard, but just as quickly as Molly greeted him exuberantly, he re-planted himself on the ground, giving her the Heisman while turning away tiredly.

Enough.

I repositioned him atop the Little Tykes slide and he beamed across the yard, like a watchman assuming his post. He was happy to toss balls for both puppy and sister to fetch, and I was happy to see him happy.

New day, new adventure

That was last week. Today, after I folded Emma under her favorite blanket for a nap, I found Charlie sitting in the middle of the living room floor, once again pushing an overbearing puppy out of his face.

"C'mon, buddy," I said. "We need to have some fun."

I tucked him under an arm and headed into The Husband's and my bedroom, where the vast expanse of a king-sized bed sits waiting to fulfill every toddler's roughhousing dreams. Tossing him among the pillows, I flopped down, too, to watch the transformation.

He was so very beautifully and authentically happy, that I put off his own naptime much longer than judgment nagged.

No longer dependent on balance to transition, he pitched his body from one mound of pillows to another, giggling and cackling and tossing his head back with glee. We wrestled and cuddled, tickled and laughed, then barked and made funny noises for almost an hour.

He was so very beautifully and authentically happy, that I put off his own naptime much longer than judgment nagged.

Finally, after a thorough workout for us both amid the comforter, the pillows, and the game of catch me before I dive headfirst onto the carpet, I carried him to his own bedroom and tucked him in for a nap.

Contented peace

Uncharacteristically, he never fussed or protested. He even grinned up at me, with a stuffed Elmo at one elbow and a monkey at the other.

I almost couldn't walk out of the room. It was intoxicating to see him so content.

My little boy was getting his strength back. What more could I ever want?

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