Tuesday, February 4 2020
quesadillas, backpacks, chicken soup, and picking up toys

Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Just a warning, it’s supposed to be much colder today. It’s funny - yesterday as I was taking out the garbage in a short sleeve t shirt, I think I convinced myself that spring was right around the corner. It might only be 37 degrees outside, but I swear the air smells different. Today is a high of 27. Spring will get here eventually, but in the meantime, back to thick, bulky winter clothes.

Yesterday was a quiet Monday. Poor Marissa, dealing with a terrible sore throat, had a doctor’s appointment in the morning. Due to a routine test she was preparing for, she couldn’t eat or drink anything after midnight - including morning coffee. She slipped out of the house in the early morning while I was writing at my desk.

By 8, Rodney was up, peeking his head out into the hallway from his cracked door. Yesterday morning, I acknowledged him before he felt the need to resort to his silly morning “bird calls”. Hellooooo? HELLOOOOOO? I changed him, started his wash, and set him up by the TV with a bowl of Cheerios and a glass of milk. To his disappointment, we were fresh out of “peanut butter cereal”, but I made sure to add it to the grocery list to appease him.

I had to make sure Rodney was comfortable. I would attend meetings from my desk throughout the entire morning, and Rodney almost made it. Around 10:30, out of boredom he started to wander around our bedroom and carry a conversation with me, and I had to sternly send him back downstairs.

I feel bad for the kid. It must be hard staying cooped up in the living room pretty much all day, especially when you’re growing and finding all kinds of new strength and energy. I think I still remember what it feels like to be restless enough to make you want to leap off the top of the couch, or zip your toys across the room at the wall.

Marissa returned just as my meetings were wrapping up for the day, climbing into bed at 11 and quickly falling asleep. Rodney and I moved to the kitchen to make some lunch. I diverted him from his usual PB&J and got him excited about making some quesadillas on the stove. “Dude, we got taco salad - it’s like a theme. It’d be perfect,” I said, dropping the big bag of shredded Mexican cheese and stack of tortillas on the cutting bored. It’d be perfect, repeated Rodney.

Since we were only dealing with a small nonstick skillet with butter on low heat, I thought it was fine to let Rodney take point. He scooted the step ladder over to the stove and gripped the plastic spatula in anticipation, watching me gently flop the tortillas into the pan. Some cheese rolled out and hissed. “It’s no big deal dude,” I said. “We just wipe it out with a paper towel. Quesadillas are awesome dude.” Rodney used the spatula to gently flip the tortillas. Seeing the glistening and crusty side compelled him to say “Oh tasty.”

Rodney and I ate lunch together at the table, sharing a pair of quesadillas, some taco dip, and a pack of paw patrol fruit snacks. As usual, he cautioned me about my liberal use of hot sauce. Careful dada spicy. Rodney started out the window for a minute, then started a new conversation. “Dada, Rodney go to school… wear backpack?” he asked, gesturing around his waist.

“Oh yeah dude, I suppose you should start thinking about school. Momma and I actually wanted to start figuring that out this week, it’s on the project board,” I replied. Rodney smiled and continued staring out the window. Truthfully, Rodney gets excited about anything that requires him to bring a backpack, because that usually means some kind of adventure. Bring Your Kid to Work Day, staging with Grandma and Grandpa, or going on a road trip.

We wrapped up lunch, and with Marissa still sleeping upstairs, I worked in the living room with Rodney while we watched a movie. Rodney had dumped all his toys on the ground, but still listlessly waded through them on the floor, like a shallow pond. I put him down for a nap, then quietly worked on the couch through the afternoon, taking breaks to pet Ziggy, who lounged on the head of the couch like a lazy lioness at the zoo.

Just as I was wrapping up work at 4, Marissa crept down the stairs and joined me on the couch. “It’s amazing how much I can sleep,” she remarked, sleepily trying to blink herself awake. “Yeah, you slept pretty much the whole day. Are you feeling better? What day does it feel like right now?”

I got Rodney up to go to Hy-Vee, but seeing that Mom was awake, he wanted to stay home and play. “C’mon dude, momma’s still not feeling good, let’s get out of the house and let her wake up.” Rodney reluctantly joined me outside in the car, but out of protest he refused to take his hands out of his pockets - even in the parking lot where I normally pick him up and swing him around by his waist so he can enter Hy-Vee with style. I still picked him up and acted it out, but rather than spider man, it looked more like a floating stubborn garden gnome or a tiny stoic mannequin.

We picked up groceries, as well as a new box of peanut butter cereal. “Now I think I know where the peanut butter cereal is, but you’ll have to help me find the exact box,” I explained aloud in the aisle. Overhearing us, a lady held up a box of Reeses’ Puffs. “Oh thank you,” I replied. “It’s more a matter of figuring out what he means by ‘peanut butter cereal’.”

We picked up chicken thighs, chicken stock, noodles, bread, and a beautiful little bunch of garden fresh carrots and parsley. But flustered at the self-checkout aisle, I forgot to take home the carrots and parsley. “I’m going to have to roll with these old wed baby carrots in our fridge,” I said to Marissa back at home chopping vegetables.

Yesterday’s highlight was our homemade chicken soup. Everything about chicken noodle soup is comforting - the sound of onions sweating in hot butter. The smell of chicken fat gathering on the rumbling surface of simmering stock. The feeling of slicing a warm french loaf.

We ate dinner, then Marissa guided Rodney in a new evening ritual of cleaning up toys. “Momma might not be able to bend over and pick up your toys for much longer,” she explained. She looked at me and smirked. “He actually helps a lot - look at him. He likes to clean.” Before long, our living room, once flooded with a tide of scattered cars, planes, and dinosaurs, was spotless. “There’s nothing better than waking up to clean toys!” remarked Marissa as I marched Rodney up the stairs for a bath and bed.

I hope you all have a wonderful Tuesday. Today’s recommendations are: pick up your toys before bed, eat chicken soup, and sleep as long as you can when you’re sick. Have a great day everyone, and thanks for reading.