Thursday, January 20 2022

winter, broiled cod, and exercise around kids

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everybody. Happy Thursday.

The sky outside my window is a cheery blue. Looking at the happy scenery here in Madison, you would have never guessed that it's negative one outside, especially the way the morning sun is gleaming off of everything.

Here in the midwest, we have two winters. The winter that extends through Thanksgiving and Christmas is really more like an advanced fall. The real winter follows in January, February, and March. That's the meaner of the two winters. Our habitat descends into merciless, unrelenting cold. The air is so dry, it almost hurts to breathe. A short walk outside to the garbage can is enough exposure to leave the tips of my ears burning. Our old windows are completely frosted over, but at least those are pretty to look at. We have our own gallery of stained glass originals, courtesy of mother nature the artist.


God, it's cold. I think I need a coffee refill.

Sip. At least I don't have to head into an office building anymore. I remember how miserable I use to feel waiting at the bus stop across the street. These days, I just head right to our upstairs bedroom, which seems to hoard all the heat in the house. At any given moment, it's at least six degrees hotter in that room than it is in the rest of the house. It serves as a warm, comforting jungle micro climate for me and the rest of the cold blooded animals.


Local lizard poses for the camera over a little strand of roach guts.


A tiny spider bides his time by watching his giant hairless ape roommate work on the computer.

We had a good day yesterday. I worked on code all morning. Ziggy and I went for a very chilly walk after lunch. After work, Rodney and I drove to the ice rink for his weekly ice skating class. Before heading in, we reviewed some new rules.

"So remember, try not to turn around and wave at me so much," I said. "The teacher doesn't like that."

"Got it," said Rodney.

"I mean, you can wave at me just once," I said, having seconds thoughts. I have to admit that I enjoy waving at him while he's on the ice, even though it distracts him from what the teacher is saying.

I sat in the bleachers while Rodney took to the ice, wearing his spider-man helmet, his neon green raptor hoodie, and his yellow skates. Rodney turned and looked at me throughout the lesson, but remembering our new rule he just casually averted his gaze like he accidentally made eye contact with a stranger. Meanwhile, the teacher ran through her drills, ending class a few minutes early with all the kids lined up on the wall in front of her. She gestured at the ice in front of her, and the kids trickled out onto the ice to skate in circles.

"We got to free skate," recapped Rodney. "She said we could go wherever we want." I'm sure that must have felt nice to explore the ice on his own for a change.

Marissa had dinner ready for us when we returned. "I picked an weird recipe today," she admitted, serving up a plate of broiled cod with miso. "Apparently it's Robert De Niro's favorite meal."

We thoughtfully chewed the soft, flavored fish, searching for our own opinions. Marissa's execution was perfect - my plate looked exactly like the plate in the Chef John YouTube video still paused on the dining room computer screen. But texture of broiled fish and the pairing of cod with miso deserved some deliberation.

"I don't love it," said Marissa, breaking the silence. "I probably won't make it again."

"I don't love it either," I said. "I feel like... it's needs something crunchy? It's just too soft and moist, I think."

We concluded that if broiled cod and miso was really Robert De Niro's favorite meal, then he must have interesting taste.

With dinner out of the way, the only obligation that remained in the evening was exercise, and we had a decision to make. Marissa and I could have waited to exercise until Miles and Rodney are in bed - which means a more enjoyable workout but a little less free time - or we could have decided to bite the bullet, and gut through it while the kids played in the living room.

We gave family exercise a try. Rodney excitedly ripped off his close and flailed alongside us. Miles screeched in joy, throwing his body belly down onto the floor - a poor imitation of the walkouts we were doing. They jumped on the couch, threw plastic toys across the room, and wriggled between us throughout the workout. The boys had fun, but having them around was like a fatigue multiplier. Finding the grit and motivation to gut through sit-ups, squat jumps, and mountain climbers while Blue's Clues blared through the living room was a real test of mental endurance. But for those parents that are strong enough to exercise while their kids are still awake, a special reward awaits. I gingerly closed their bedroom doors, and Marissa and I stared at each other in disbelief. We had a whole hour to ourselves - no strings attached, zero obligation, unfettered free time.

"I'm going to go paint," said Marissa, hurriedly bouncing down the stairs.

"I think I'm just going to shower the whole time."

Free time is in short supply these days. Since when did we need to work this hard to get it?

Thanks for stopping by today. Go have a Thursday.