Steel Advice: Cancel gathering if kids sick; weekend socializer needs new routine

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DEAR STEEL ADVICE: I am sick and tired of relatives coming to my house for the holidays with semi-sick kids who have coughs and colds. Our family then gets sick when they leave. These relatives think I am a germ freak and that I make too much of an issue. They say all kids get sick and this is a normal part of growing up. Help!


DEAR SICK: When the runny nose gang comes for a visit they may be bringing more than pumpkin pie and presents. Before the scheduled visit, pick up the phone and say, "We are healthy. If your kids are sick, I want to postpone our plan to get together." Be realistic: A cold is not the plague. Unexpected illnesses do occur, especially during the holidays. Plans cannot always be changed, so many parents arrive for a family visit with a sick child, a box of tissues and the bottled "pink stuff" that they put in your refrigerator. The parents downplay the sick child's symptoms and say, "It's just allergies" or "He is at the tail end and is not contagious." With some luck and vigilant hand washing, you won't catch the bug, and you may even have some fun.

DEAR STEEL ADVICE: My friends like to socialize on weekends at a club they belong to near a vacation resort. I get invited to come along quite often but find the routine and same talk less and less interesting. Do I need new friends, new activities or a new outlook?


DEAR TIRED: Shake it up, baby. Continue to be a friend but a fringe friend and not a regular. Core clubbers are often congenial cronies who like to watch the grass grow as they expound on almost any subject. They are bar stool experts with vast knowledge especially if they have a brew or two. An occasional dose of this camaraderie and gossip is fun. When the routine becomes stale, it is a signal to ease away. You may be more of a doer, hands-on type person than you realize. The boring alarm bell at the club was never installed. So don't wait for it to ring.

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