Wednesday, August 5 2020

playtime, bears fans, and a woman in the kitchen

page banner

Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Welcome to a few people's favorite segment of the day - the time where Alex sleepily types words into his computer, and you read them later. Happy Wednesday, everyone. Hope you brought some coffee, tea, a diet coke, or maybe even a bloody mary. Here at alex-recker-dot-com, we don't cast judgments on how you choose to wind up for the day. Be you. I'm just glad that you made it.

It's a quiet morning here at the Recker home. The sun is out. The clownfish are still sleeping, huddled in the corner of our dark spacious fish tank. The sound of the dishwasher hissing in the kitchen just made me realize that I connected my bluetooth speaker about fifteen minutes ago, but forgot to actually put on music.

I'm feeling a little tired this morning. Marissa and I decided to go to bed early - sometime just after midnight for us. Feeling quite proud of ourselves, we let the dogs out, clicked off the lights, and just before heading upstairs to turn in for the night, Marissa trotted down to the basement to fetch the sheets out of the drier. "CRAP!" she shouted. The dryer door had popped open from the bulky blankets about forty five minutes before, the blankets and pillows still sopping wet. "I guess we're staying up a little bit after all," she chuckled. So still a late night, but this one wasn't really our fault.

Sip. We had a good day yesterday. Rodney has had so much pent up energy lately, so to help curb the stir craziness, I loaned him the entire morning. We'd do whatever he wanted to do, together, with 100% focus.

We spit balled ideas over stroopwaffels at the dining room table. "We can go for a walk, we can play hockey in the parking lot, play frisbee," I said, thinking aloud.

"Play 'NEX," said Rodney. "I want to build a MOTORCYCLE." His eyes widened and he leaned forward in his chair, kicking the table with his feet in excitement.

"Alright, dude, it's your call," I laughed. We wrapped up breakfast, and Rodney began to doll out instructions.

"OK dada," he said brushing the crumbs off his shirt. "Get your coffee mug, and come upstairs." He waved his hand at me, waiting at the bottom of the stairs.

"You want to play upstairs?" I asked. Rodney decisively nodded. Supplying our own super hero wooshing sounds, the two of us ran up the stairs with super human speed.

"Now come in, and shut the door," said Rodney. His eyes followed me as I made my way into his room. He looked excited, but half worried, as if someone playing with him in his room was too good to be true. The door snapped shut behind me.

"YES!" yelled Rodney, pumping his fist. "OK, now we build motorcycles."

The two of us sat in his room and played k'nex the rest of the morning. We used the scant pieces leftover from his tower to build three fangled motorcylces. We raced around his room, jumping through the tower each time we passed.

Trying to inject a little bit of drama into the story line, I taunted him with a villainous cartoon voice. "You'll NEVER beat me," I cackled. "EVEN IF I HAVE TO CHEAT." I mimicked a tragic collision just beyond the starting line. "NOOOOOOOOO."

But my Midwestern-nice son didn't take the bait. He turned his bike around, and with a squeaky mouse voice called back "I'll help you!"

Marissa found us in his bedroom, and Rodney had plenty to show her. He skipped out of his room, cradling all three motorcycles in his arms, leaving us standing in his room.

"Now we can ignore him the rest of the day, right?" laughed Marissa sarcastically.

"I really tried to mentally tire him out," I replied. "So there may be some truth to that."

My daily struggle as a parent to Rodney is being present when I'm with him. I have no trouble being half present. There are plenty of times throughout a typical day where I work on the computer or catch up on cleaning, and I'm in a good enough mood to shrug off silly distractions like toys skidding on the ground and nerf gun darts whizzing past my head. But to sit down, shut the door behind me, and devote 100% of my attention to playing with him was a new kind of challenge, and judging by his flabbergasted reaction, it's something that I don't do enough.

"He yelled YES and pumped his fist, like he had to lure me into his room," I laughed, retelling it to Marissa as we headed downstairs for lunch.

Later that afternoon, we all jumped in the car to pick up our groceries - our first grocery pickup at Woodman's. Trying out a new grocery store is exciting, and even though I jokingly likened it to a first date, I was excited. I practically had butterflies dancing around in my stomach on the drive over.

"So where is it?" said Marissa as we aimlessly taxied around the Woodman's parking lot. "Where is the pickup?"

We coasted by an unmarked door where a guy sporting a subtle blue vest was sitting, staring into the sky. "Why don't we ask that guy," I said, pointing over to him. Marissa rolled down my window.

"Where's your online pickup?" I asked. The guy, who may or may not have actually worked at Woodman's cheerily waved us around the back of the liquor store.

"This parking lot is just nuts," said Marissa. Single lanes. Blind corners. A seemingly endless supply of shoppers trickling in front of our lost car to enter the store.

We parked and dialed the number. A guy in a faded blue shirt turned the corner, pushing a cart of groceries towards our car. I noticed a big orange C emblazoned on his chest. We waved at him through our open trunk.

"YOU ALEX?" he shouted. Marissa and I nodded, and the moment he noticed our matching Chicago Bears masks he began to dance in place from excitement.


As silly as it sounds, this small, pleasant moment was enough to convince me that Woodman's was going to be a good experience. Bumping into another Bears fan in Madison is nothing short of an good omen. Back at home, I unpacked the groceries, pacing back and forth between the dining room to show off our bounty to Marissa at the table.

"Look at these lemons!" I squealed. "They're like grapefruits! Oh my god, I can smell the garlic through the bag! OOH and the peas actually snap!"

After the kitchen was put away, Marissa got to cooking. "You can hang out in here if you'd like," she said.

"Oh no, that's not a good idea," I chuckled. "I'm still on probation." And with that, like a deadbeat dad character in a campy sitcom, I assumed position on the couch watching football videos until dinner was ready.

For dinner, Marissa prepared a lovely pasta dish - tortellini, cherry tomatoes, and pesto, with a side of fried asparagus garnished with sun dried tomatoes. I had two helpings.

"Look," said Marissa. "I even kept the kitchen clean," she said, as I followed her into the kitchen to bring out the dessert.

"Thank you for cleaning, but you can be messy if you want," I said. "This is your time in the kithchen."

"I actually enjoyed it," said Marissa interrupting me. "I had everything set up before I started, and it was a lot easier. I think it's part of respecting the space, you know?"

Taylor Swift was playing in the background. Her computer set up in a cozy corner on the kitchen counter. She was even wearing an apron. For someone who has told me she gets no joy from cooking, I'm starting to suspect that she's a liar.

"Hey, I'm just a woman in the kitchen. What do I know?" laughed Marissa.