Good morning, everybody. The house is quiet. The sun is shining. There's a pot of fresh coffee on the bar. That tells me it's time to sit down and crank out a journal entry. It's good to be here.
Sip. Happy Tuesday - "fat Tuesday" if you're into that sort of thing. While I'm not participating in any official pre-lent indulgences, we had all kinds of fun over the weekend taking a family trip to Chicago. I have memories of good food, drink, family time, and hockey. Of course, it will take some time and reflection to truly appreciate those memories. In this moment, the freshest memories I have are those from making the long drive home. My brain can still hear Miles bleating in the back seat over my right shoulder. I can still feel my swampy cotton seat on my backside as I sit waist high in litter from Chipotle, McDonald's, and Starbucks. I can feel the lingering existential dread from staring into the same vanishing point in front of me on the never-ending highway.
Here's how you know we hit our breaking point on that car ride - Rodney was hungry. Even though he had just polished off a bowl of cereal and a banana cream Pączki at Grandma and Grandpa's house an hour before, Rodney begged us to pick up some food. He timed his request perfectly with a pit-stop at Starbucks for a coffee refill.
"Can I have one of those cheeseburgers?" he asked. He really meant the egg and sausage breakfast sandwich, but the picture hanging in the window looked a lot like a cheeseburger.
Marissa carefully handed him his breakfast sandwich. She winced, feeling the screaming hot temperature through the paper bag. "It's gonna take an hour before he touches that," I laughed, poking fun at Rodney's stubbornness when it comes to letting his food cool down to perfect lukewarm temperature.
But compelled by his groaning stomach, Rodney adapted. Wearing his loaned pair of fuzzy mittens from Grandma Jane, he delved right into his breakfast sandwich, using them like heat-resistant safety gloves. Moments later, the sandwich disappeared between our eyes.
But before the bad car-ride, there was a much more pleasant one. After a lazy Sunday morning, we left Miles with Grandma and Grandpa and jumped into the car, proudly wearing our clean pressed Blackhawks jerseys. As our car rambled down a peaceful Eisenhower expressway, Rodney thumbed through a book about dinosaurs and Marissa sketched in her notepad with a charcoal pencil. Both she and Rodney put down their books to take in the skyline as it came into view.
We parked our car and shuffled to the United Center. Even two hours before puck drop, a crowd of kids and parents teemed in the lobby. Rodney, eager to join in the fun, got in line for a red balloon sword.
We joined a long line in front of a caricature artist. Marissa held our place while I stood alongside to unleash Rodney into the ball pit.
I'd later press Rodney about his favorite part of the weekend. He insisted it was "everything", but eventually called out this chaotic ten minute romp in the ball pit to be his top highlight.
The line in front of the caricature didn't move an inch. "He's still drawing the same three kids," I joked in Marissa's ear.
"I don't blame him," said Marissa. "Look at this place. If I were him, I'd just take my time and get out of there."
Giving up on the caricatures, we left the long line of kids to take in the majestic Michael Jordan statue instead. Rodney shared with me that he secretly hoped he would get to see the real Michael Jordan at the memorial. "It makes sense to me," I told him. "If you have your own statue, you're probably going to visit it once in a while, right?"
Michael Jordan didn't show up, but we were in perfect position to hang out with Tommy Hawk after he made his grand entrance.
Tommy gave Rodney a big hug in the lobby, and he'd find him again in our section laster. At this point, Rodney has met Tommy Hawk so many times that they practically have a rapport.
Fed up with the crowds, Marissa and Rodney escaped further into the arena while I grabbed us a quick lunch. I found them in a quiet corner on the floor, making signs for the game. Rodney was coloring a green dinosaur; above it read the word "KANER-SAURUS". Marissa was finishing another sign that read "KANE, WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DINOSAUR?"
Our tickets were up high in the third section, but before we made the long climb, Marissa peeked into the floor level seats. We could see the Blackhawk players warming up on the ice, skating circles around the net.
"Let's just see if they'll let us watch," said Marissa, disappearing with Rodney into the crowd.
"Rodney and I used the crowd," laughs Marissa. "We just put our heads down and pushed forward." Their moxie got them front row seats to a pre-game warm-up.
They held their signs against the glass. We could see the players smile and laugh as they glided by, seeing the big silly KANER-SAURUS sign in Rodney's hands.
Kevin Lankinen took the ice in front of Marissa. Sporting a Lankinen jersey herself, she was star struck.
I too was star struck. I felt like a big, dumb pillar standing in the middle of the aisle holding two Lagunitas beers filled to the brim. The usher approached me. Here it is, I thought. We've been caught.
"You can stand here," said the usher, pointing at his feet. He waved me closer. I took him up on his generous invitation. Standing inches from his face holding two beers, I took in the rest of the warm-up session guilt-free.
We thanked the usher, and made the trip upstairs. A camera guy stopped us in the hall, kneeling to get a shot of Rodney and Marissa in front of their signs. We'd later find the footage of the Blackhawks instagram account.
The Hawks got killed, unfortunately. The Blues stomped them with a final score of 4-to-zero, but it was still a good time, and we were in good spirits leaving the stadium. Rodney sat on my shoulders, and together we marched into the city to the lively beat of bucket drums.
It was a good weekend. Thanks for stopping by today, and have a great Tuesday.