Tuesday, July 28 2020

anger poops, espagnole sauce, and feeling overwhelmed

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. How's your Tuesday treating you? Today, Marissa is up a little earlier than usual with Miles, no doubt woken up by all the extra drama in our house. This morning, after Rodney had finished his food, I sent him on a simple errand upstairs.

"See this water bowl?" I said, holding up the porcelain dish. "Do you know where this goes?"

Rodney, still carrying a few crumbs from his cereal bar on his chin, nodded.

"Take this upstairs, fill it with water, and set it out for the puppies," I said, without breaking eye contact. Rodney nodded, and supplying his own wooshing sound, he was off.

I poured another cup of coffee and returned to my notes at the computer, but the alone time I normally cherish while Rodney is off on an adventure was cut short. From upstairs, I heard a splash, a slip, a thud, and vigorous crying. I sprang up from my chair and briskly climbed the stairs, finding Rodney on the bathroom floor.

"What happened, dude?" I said picking him up.

"Just fell a little bit," said Rodney, sputtering tears. As I consoled him, I noticed the water bowl, filled with water, sitting in the exactly correct spot on our bedroom floor.

"Dude, you nailed it," I said. "So what happened? Did you just slip on some water?"

"Yeah, I wanna get my blanket a lil' bit," sobbed Rodney.

Rodney settled in onto the couch, dabbing his tears with his blanket. I put on the dinosaur episode of Paw Patrol, and all at once everything was made right again in his little world. I sighed, and began to walk back to the computer.

"NO!" I yelled, standing in the living room with my hands on my hips, staring at two crusty pieces of dog poop lying squarely in the center of Miles' tummy time mat.

"Zig Zig pooped, dad," said Rodney without turning his head. "Clean it up. Get the Windex."

"Yeah I know what I'm doing," I muttered, waving off Rodney's instructions.

This wasn't a random act of defecation. This was one of Ziggy's anger poops - the second anger poop in a series of retaliation. Ziggy has developed a bad table surfing habit, and last night catching her standing on top the table helping herself to bread crumbs and drops of tomato sauce, I put my foot down, scolding her with my angry father voice and exiling her to the backyard. She stewed on the deck, eyeballing me through the glass door. When I was satisfied with her punishment, I invited her back into the house. We made amends and she climbed in my lap while we watched a movie.

But with this second anger poop, the father-daughter struggle has been re-ignited. The worst part about these anger poops is just the sheer cockiness of where she places them. They're not hidden in the corner or lying in the shadow of the dining room table. They're presented to you, either on something you care about or somewhere where you'll notice. This morning, dead center of Miles' silly turtle play mat, like she was hitting a bulls eye.

Sip. This morning sounds like it was hectic, but I assure you, I'm having a good chuckle making it sound worse than it was. I'm still right where I need to be, listening to Marvin Gaye in a sunny dining room with a hot cup of coffee.

Yesterday was the bad day. I selected a tricky recipe from my French cooking course - Hunter's chicken. Browned pieces of chicken braised in a French tomato sauce.

The recipe was built around the Espagnole sauce, which is just a French interpretation of the tomato based sauces that were popular in Spain at the time. The sauce called for vegetables sweated in butter and pork, turned to a roux with toasted flour, deglazed with whie wine, and finally baked with a reduced brown stock and some crushed tomatoes. And that's just the sauce. Once it's finished, strained and set aside, it's reduced even further to braise the chicken.

I was feeling up for the challenge. Marissa offered to cook Tuesday's dinner, and this recipe would be a good chance to go out on a bang before my day off. I filled out a grocery order on Hy-Vee, and later that afternoon, Rodney and I jumped in the car to pick everything up.

Returning home, while sifting through the groceries I discovered that half of my order was missing - the good half. There were no canned tomatoes, bags of whole wheat flour, or garlic.

"What's wrong," said Marissa coming up the stairs from the gallery.

"Hy-Vee missed half my order," I said. "I probably don't have time to go back, so I just circled everything on the receipt."

"Want me to call them?" said Marissa.

"That would be amazing," I sighed. Marissa has a gift for getting shopping restitution. I knew that even a customer support system as dysfunctional as the East side Hy-Vee was no match for her gentle, long-suffering spirit.

"They just put it back on our card," she said. "I'll see if I can find any of this stuff at Target."

With an entire hour of dinner prep lost, it became clear the Espagnole sauce in its full, textbook form was not happening. I devised a way to do a much quicker single pot version, beginning with browning the chicken thighs.

Marissa crossed the kitchen, placing Miles in his chair. "It is OK if I leave him here while you cook? I'm spray painting down stairs."

"Yeah, that's cool," I said. "I like when he sits in here."

Rodney, playing computer games in the dining room began to yell. "DADA! CHOCOLATE MILK!" Marissa wrinkled her nose in confusion.

"I brought him chocolate milk once while he was playing games, and now he thinks it's like a regular thing," I explained. "NO chocolate milk," I shouted back.

I resumed cooking. At first I used too much oil browning the chicken, so I dabbed up the excess with a paper towel. Then it was not enough oil. The thigh skin shriveled, sticking to the bottom of the pan like a little circular bandaid. I retrieved the skinless chicken from the pot, then fished out the skin, setting it on top the thighs like a sad little hat.

Next came the vegetables. I made the mistake of over estimating the amount I'd need, and consequently I had a hard time keeping the heat up - so much so that when it came time to deglaze the roux with wine, it didn't fizzle. Just a sad, cold sploosh - the signature move of my past dinner disasters. I started to feel frustrated, just as Miles started to cry.

I lowered the chicken into the liquid. Probably accounting for the excess of vegetables, I also had an excess of broth, and the liquid that was only supposed to reach half way up the chicken completely engulfed it, like a soup. In a huff, I slammed the lid shut and slid it into the oven.

Miles began to scream. Rodney was still beckoning for chocolate milk in the dining room. Wringing my hands, I sheepishly called down to the art studio for back up. "I'm a little overwhelmed," I said, handing Miles over to Marissa.

After taking some time to collect my thoughts and calm down on the deck, I removed the pot from the oven and reduced the sauce. Despite everything that had gone wrong, it wasn't the utter disaster I had feared.

"I know it didn't turn out the way you wanted, but this is really good," said Marissa.

"You should taste what I was trying to make sometime," I laughed. "Nah, but you're right. This turned out pretty good. And thanks for backing me up in there, I haven't had a moment like that in a while."

"I was proud of how you handled that," said Marissa.

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope you have a wonderful day.