Wednesday, May 27 2020

bench presses, french nachos, and the fish tank incident

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! How are you feeling on this fine Wednesday? Congratulations on making it halfway through this week. Take heart - with memorial day barely out of our rear view mirror, we already have another relaxing summer weekend hot on our heels.

To set the scene here, Marissa is beside me munching on some dry frosted flakes. It was the last little bit in the king sized bag we bought, and it was mostly cereal dust. Miles rests in his bassinet behind us, struggling to swallow powerful hiccups, gurgling his way back to sleep.

"Do you think we jinxed ourselves," asked Marissa. "We were bragging pretty early about how easy of a baby he was."

"Possibly," I sighed. "That's a superstitious way of thinking, but yeah, I feel like we got off easy with how easy of a baby Rodney was, and it was perhaps a little foolhardy to declare Miles an easy baby so soon."

But I barely remember even Miles' hardest nights. Marissa remains my personal champion of late night fussy baby wrangling. I usually wake up just enough in the night to roll over and smile at my phone, seeing my alarm is still several hours away, but that's about the worst of it.

Our trade is that she gets to sleep in with Miles through the morning while I hang with Rodney. Between you and me, I think I have the easier end of the deal. Rodney gets into trouble, but at least I have a backyard, and a living room fool of toys to keep him out of trouble, and coffee - sweet, hot, fresh, invigorating coffee.

Sip. Yesterday was a good day. After getting Rodney up, the two of us ate some of Auntie Sarah's blueberry bread for breakfast, then wandered outside to warm up in the sun. Rodney tried to lure me into his strange universe of pretend play, but I was only interested in spacing out with a cup of coffee and my twitter feed.

"Sorry, dude," I said. "Daddy needs a few minutes alone."

One lesson to immediately precipitate from our first few weeks of having two children is that you need to ask your alone time, and that you shouldn't apologize for it. Rodney is not going to say, Actually, Dad, why don't you take the morning off? You've been entertaining me a lot lately. Get some coffee in ya and get back to me. It's up to me to show him that it's normal to want to be left alone sometimes.

Rodney nodded and sulked away, wandering into the yard. He found a large branch that fell off our tree during last night's storm, and slowly, painfully, dragged it across the yard and onto the deck.

"Careful dude," I said, holding my coffee mug up and ducking as Rodney's branch missed my head by inches.

From the corner of my eye, I could see Rodney furiously pruning and shaping the branch. I could tell by his focus that he was picturing something in his head. At last he held the bare branch out in front of him, then flopped backwards onto the swinging love seat and laid the branch over his chest. Rodney started to do bench presses.


"You getting your exercise in? That's pretty clever dude."

"Yeah," said Rodney rising from his makeshift workout bench. "Doing pull-ups. Getting strong." He flashed his muscles and gave me a flex.

Marissa joined us for some leftover fajitas on the patio, then I was free to take a long afternoon nap. After waking up and watching some French cooking videos, I headed into the kitchen with Rodney to start on dinner.

"I have the perfect job for you, Rod," I said as he scooted the ladder over to me. Rodney held up his hand, interrupting me, before he sat on the ground to fashion his new flip flops and back pack before joining me at the counter.

"You're going to make a boquet garnis," I said.

"A boquet garnis?" repeated Rodney, letting the new French words awkwardly fall out of his mouth.

Together, Rodney and I wrapped some sprigs of thyme, parsley stalks, and a bay leaf in a piece of leek. We tied them together in a little tube.

"Here dude," I said. "Stick your nose in it." I meant it figuratively, but the figure of speech was lost on Rodney, who inserted his nose into one end of the tube.

"Tasty!" he yelled.

"Thanks for helping, dude," I said. "I'm going to use this in tonight's dinner."

And dinner was supposed to be a beautiful baked puff pastry stuffed with turkey and sauce creme served with a side of pilaf. But after all the laborious prep of rolling out the pastry, laying out the turkey, and melting swiss cheese in a textbook perfect bechamel sauce on the stove, I couldn't get our oven to start.

"Oven problems?" asked Marissa passing through the kitchen.

"I think it's officially dead," I said. "My workaround is no longer working. Don't worry - I have a backup plan."

I poured the cheesy bechamel sauce over a bowl of chips, sprinkled it with ripped up pieces of turkey, and finished the ensemble with a handful of chopped parsley.

"French Nachos, ooh la la," I said with charisma setting the bowl on the table. "And don't worry - we have pilaf too. I just made it on the stove."

Our broken oven be damned. The French nachos were delicious.

french nachos

While finishing up dinner, Rodney made his way into the living room, scooting his little blue chair up to our new - at the moment, vacant - salt water fish tank. Moments later, I heard a splash, a clatter, and Rodney's small voice call out HELP! I NEED HELP! from the living room.

I flew into the living room to find Rodney covered in water, barely hanging onto the heavy glass lid. I grabbed it before it slipped out of his fingers.

"You don't touch the fish tank, Rod!" I scolded. He climbed down from his chair, his shirt and pants splashed with salt water. I handed him a towel.

"Are you OK? What happened?" I asked.

"The lid fell," Rodney said with tears welling up in his eyes.

Later that evening, while fixing drinks, Marissa and I discussed the incident.

"I feel bad for yelling," I said. "Rodney was trying to help."

"And it probably doesn't make any sense to him," Marissa added. "Between setting up the filter and heater, we've both had our hands in the tank all week."

"I wish I was a little more empathetic about it. He was probably pretty scared when the lid fell off," I said shaking my head. "Maybe he thought he broke it or something. Did he clean it all up?"

"Yeah," said Marissa. "He got most of it with the towel you gave him, and he even changed into a new pair of clothes. He forgot his underwear though," she laughed.

"If we wants to help," I said, "we should give him a job or something."

Marissa smiled. "Maybe he can do the magnetic scrubber thing once a day. He thinks that's pretty cool."

I thought about the fish tank incident that night as I fell asleep. As a parent, it's humbling how often your instincts are just flat out wrong. I regret that it's so easy to forget to be empathetic and slow to anger.

That's my time - Rodney is awake, and the two of us have a fish tank to clean. Thanks for stopping by today.