Monday, November 25 2019

museums, grapefruit, and the dog that dies in remember the titans

Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! We all slept in today - no apologies, and no regrets. We have a busy week ahead of us, so we may as well start stocking up on extra sleep. This morning, Marissa is snuggling upstairs with the dogs. Rodney and I just split a french omelette for breakfast, and now he's settled in with some comfy clothes watching a new Blippi episode I just downloaded for him. I was just in the middle of making a long list of things I wanted to do today, and the first of which is "write journal entry". So here we are! Let's get to it.

Yesterday was a wonderful day. We started things off by eating breakfast, then heading to church. We dropped Rodney off at Sunday school. Maybe it was the full belly, or the shnazzy red pants and button down shirt Marissa picked out for him, or just the fact that Papa Wilke was in town for the weekend, but Rodney was feeling extra social. Dropping him off at the door, he actually looked kind of annoyed with us when we tried to get one last wave and 'see ya later!' out of him. That morning, the train table was teeming with toddler socializing and we were cramping his style.

We attended the 11 o'clock church service, then swung by Sunday school to pick up Rodman. We spent some time leering through the high windows so we could see what he was up to. Papa Wilke peeked his head through the door, and Rodney lit up with excitement. It's not often we get both a smooth drop-off and a smooth pick-up from Sunday school, but maybe we'll chalk that up to the "Papa Wilke effect".

We had a fun half-day planned that started with a nice after church lunch at Graze. Yes, there are some exceptions to my "Madison restaurants suck at hospitality" manifesto, and Graze on the square is one of them. My mind was at ease, knowing Graze is - as repeatedly proven - one of the good ones. As we waited for out table, we snapped some pictures in front of the capital. We had a passerby take a picture of all of us, we got some shots of Rodney with Papa Wilke, then Marissa with Papa Wilke, then just for fun I took one more picture of Marissa posing with Papa Wilke, zooming out so I could get an aimless Rodney staring off into the distance in the corner of the frame. A candid and a portrait in the same photo - I'd like to see Ansel Adams do that.

We ate, then after a quick underwear check and potty break, we made our way a block over to the children's museum. We had about an hour to kill before we needed to get Papa Wilke to the airport. Rodney quickly took Papa Wilke's hand and led him down slides, up winding stairs, and across rope bridges. As Papa Wilke and Rodney explored every nook and cranny of the museum, Marissa and I sat on a bench and reflected about taking Rodney here when he was much younger. "He used to sit in that room over there for like a whole hour," Marissa recounted, gesturing at the water activity lab in the corner. "Remember Rodney was so small, when he put the smock on, you couldn't even see his legs, and he just looked like a little cartoon character scuttling over the floor." During the winter, the kids museum was a frequent spot for her and the barely walking Rodney. "I just remember it being one of the only places out of the house we could take him and finish an entire cup of coffee," I added.

I love the Kids museum. In terms of things that make you proud to live in Madison, I'm sure most might point out our prominent majestic capital building, our mighty football team, or maybe even the beautiful lakes that frame our real life Midwestern garden of eden. For me, it's the kid's museum. The entire building is so well thought out - the way each attraction has a place for parents to sit, and there is usually an inspiring quote painted high over the wall where you're staring. The way the broad glass windows make it feel like there are no walls, and you're just playing on top of a building in the middle of the city. As Rodney played with Papa Wilke, I thought about a quote painted on the wall above a "cow hoisting" pulley exhibit. What is a city but its people?, attributed to Shakespeare.

When our time ran out, we ushered a reluctant Rodney back out on to the street and made our way to the car. He held Papa Wilke's hand and ran ahead with him. When we got home, I put Rodney down for a nap, and we said goodbye to Papa Wilke, thanking him for making the effort to spend time with us during the busy holiday season.

After Marissa got back from the airport, she and Rodney napped. I took the car to Hy-Vee, as my attention shifted to cooking the practice turkey that had been brining in our fridge in a five gallon bucket. This year, I discovered a much more sensible way to build the smoker - tray in the middle, charcoal on either side arranged for the minion method. After burning for twenty minutes, the thermometer was perfectly frozen in place at the 350F mark. I rinsed the turkey, stuffed it with shallots, thyme, rosemary, and sage leaves, then brushed it with herb butter. As I got the bird on the grill, Rodney and Marissa slowly emerged from their naps. Rodney and I decided to play some football outside while the turkey smoked. But not even a simple game of catch was without a Rodney riddles. He has an interesting way of playing football. Before he threw the ball, he put his hands to his mouth and made a sound like he was howling. I walked over to him, puzzled, and crouched down. "What's that noise, dude?"

He looked at me and narrowed his eyes in thought, like he was trying to recall the word. "Wwwwwuuuus. Yeah, wussss."

"Wuss?" I repeated. "Wuss, he confirmed."

"Whistle?" I suggested. "YEAH, whistle," he said, putting his hands to his mouth and howling like a dog. We spend a lot of time these days trying to figure out what Rodney is trying to say, but it's so funny to me that he forgets the words in his own lexicon too. Even a three year old can have a brainfart.

As we played catch in the back yard, I tried to give Rodney some tips. He was enthusiastic, but most of the time the football would hit him square in the face and roll away. But as long as I acted like that was normal, his enthusiasm took his mind off the minor inconvenience. I tried to offer some tips. "Keep your hands up, dude." Rodney raised his hands over his head. "OK keep 'em there, I'm going to hit you right in the chest, be ready for it." As the ball left my hand, Rodney, hearing hit you right in the chest took it as a literal instructions. He put his hands at his side and held his chest out in front of him the way Superman would stop a bullet. The ball hit him right in the chest. Rodney gasped for air, then smiled. I think he has a future in football, if we can iron out all the communication problems we have on the field.

We heated up some leftovers. Just as we finished eating, the turkey finished. I shredded the meat up and we sampled it. There was a minor, fixable problem in the split grill technique, but all in all, the turkey turned out great.

After putting Rodney to bed, Marissa and I started to get hungry again. I cut us up a grapefruit. Hy-Vee ran out of grapefruit cups, and earlier that day I had bragged that my family was really good at cutting up the slices from scratch starting with a whole grapefruit. We nibbled at the slices, then unconsciously, I started to turn my half inside out, gnawing at the skin and flesh with my teeth. From the corner of my eye, I could see Marissa looking on in horror. "You're like some kind of grapefruit monster," she said. I started laughing as she continued to embellish the observation. "You know how vultures have hairless necks so they can fit their whole head inside a carcass? That's kind of how you look now, it's awful." At that point, I was laughing so hard that I could no longer eat.

We started a movie - after finally finishing the Matrix trilogy, I spent my pick on Remember the Titans. Marissa had never seen it, and to get back at her for roasting my wild grapefruit eating technique, I decided to mess with her. "It's good," I said "Ah… but I just remembered, a dog dies." Marissa recoiled in fear. "It's OK, just tell me right before it happens so I can leave the room."

We watched an hour and a half of the movie, and during the scene where Gary is laying in the hospital, Marissa yelled and broke the silence. "There's not even a dog in this!"

So that's what I got today. Today, I have a long list of things to do. I'm going to try to make the most of my week off and catch up on emails, catch up on chores, and maybe even pick up the torch for a some forgotten home IT projects that have fallen by the wayside.

Hope you have a wonderful day today.