Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Friday, January 6, 2017

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Pete and Sam's Climbing Birthday Party!

What Happened When the Kids Went to the Zoo

I wish I could tell you. This will be a much less interesting story, because I had to work and didn't get to go.

It was the first day of winter break, and Elise took the kids -- along with Shreyas from Clementine's class and his mother Madhuri -- to the zoo. It was the first time Shreyas had been to the zoo in DC, so needless to say, he was very excited.

According to Elise, however, Sam was a nightmare, though karma caught up with him, and he got car sick on the way home in stop 'n' go traffic and threw up all over the back seat.

I was on opening shift. I left work at two and got home around three, after stopping at the store for beer, wine, and lasagna noodles. Elise and the kids weren't home yet. I ran downstairs and pulled my running shorts on and laced up my sneakers.

Then, I stopped.

Elise has been at the zoo with the three kids all. day. long. I wonder if she will want to make lasagna when she gets home?

I think we all know the answer to that one.

Still in my running clothes, I started boiling some water for the lasagna noodles. I'll make the lasagna real quick, I thought to myself, then jump on the treadmill while the lasagna is cooking. The kids will probably want to watch TV when they get home anyway after such a long day at the zoo.

I threw the lasagna noodles into the pot one by one. The last time I made lasagna, all the noodles stuck together. Very literally. The only difference between uncooked lasagna noodles that one knows as soon as you open a box of lasagna noodles and what I had made is that mine were hot and wet. Otherwise, they all looked like they had just come out of the box in one hot, wet, hardened mass, completely unsuitable for making anything with.

I know how to make lasagna conceptually. I know how to make each constituent element to good lasagna, but -- like everything -- the devil is in the details. How does one take these individual, delicious parts and put them together into a truly magnificent whole?

I had only one place to turn. The back of the lasagna noodle box. Well two, really. Because in making the spaghetti sauce, I had to follow the instructions on the back of the spaghetti sauce spice packet. Now, my family growing up just used store-bought jarred sauce. Elise prefers if-not-exactly homemade sauce, something that more resembles it than I am used to making and begins with a jar of tomato paste.

I had noodles, sauce, and meat all cooking at the same time, and I was feeling good. Next came the cheese mixture. Eggs, ricotta, shredded Parmesan. I was on fire!

After ten minutes, I took the noodles out of the water and -- still paranoid they were going to stick together -- I quickly googled "how to keep lasagna noodles from sticking together".

The answer: laying them out individually on a dish cloth to dry. Genius!

I laid out to dish clothes on the dining room table and laid out each lasagna noodle out on their blankets like they were sun-kissed octogenarians on Miami Beach.

That's when Elise called, "Get ready to meet us at the front door in five. Clem is breaking down, and Sam just puked all over himself."

I was at the door as promised. Pete came in and commented how good the house smelled. I thanked him, though I imagine anything smelled better after being trapped in a car with throw-up fumes. I would be scrubbing the carpet in the back seat of the car and extricating and disassembling a vomit-covered car seat instead of running. Elise derived mild amusement from my supine lasagna noodles. I was embarrassed by my paranoia they would stick together. Dinner came together. It never would have if I had gone running. Sam got in the shower, and Clementine calmed down after a time-out on her bed.

Every once in awhile, an unexpected window of opportunity opens for me to go running. Usually, I take it, leaping through it nary a glance rearward. But every once in awhile, the window opens and I get a strange feeling in the back of my mind. Something's not quite right. This window, though open now, could quickly close behind me, trapping me in an alternate dimension on the other side. Sometimes, it's best to think twice before stepping through. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas!

This may be the first year no one is crying! :)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Bus Stop Conversations

When I am on closing shift, I walk Peter and Sam to the bus stop in the morning. Sam's bus comes first, so about five to ten minutes, it's just Peter and I, waiting for his bus.

We cross to the other side of the street to catch his bus. Pete steps up onto the roots of a tree beside the sidewalk. The tree is tall, and the roots are gnarled and push up the sidewalk from beneath, cracking it in places. The footing is uneven, and he stumbles before climbing back up and asking me, "Dad...what's the biggest dragon?"

"The biggest?"


"That'd be the red dragon, wouldn't it?"

He thinks for a minute. It's cold out and he breathes his breath like fire.

I ask him, "What's the white dragon's breath weapon?"

"Ice," he answers. Then goes on to explain that it could also be bolts that freeze things and not, perhaps, a cone of continuous ice as you may be picturing.

"What's the green dragon's breath weapon?" I ask.

His brow furrows. "Green dragon?"

"Yeah...poisonous gas?"

"Oh YEAH....!" The kids have been watching new episodes of How to Train Your Dragon on Netflix. We don't have cable, so I got Roku internet, so the kids could watch cartoons. Elise talked me into subscribing to Netflix so we could watch The Chef's Table, a documentary series on different famous chefs. Perhaps not coincidentally, the kids are also now able to download and watch a basically an infinite stream of cartoons.

Elise was challenged recently to explain how we used to watch TV to the kids when they were upset they had to come to dinner before finishing the show they were watching. It was like trying to explain a rotary phone or typewriter. "You know...when I was your age...when we came home from school and turned on the TV, we just had to watch whatever was on. Even if we had to start in the middle of a show. We didn't get to start a new show every time we turned the TV on and we didn't always get to finish the show we were watching." This was TV when it was more passive, something that just ran in the background. Now, the kids can sit down and literally watch the entire season of a show in a marathon sitting if we let them.

"What's the blue dragon's breathe weapon?" I asked Petey.


"What's the black dragon's breath weapon?"


"Really?" I ask. "I thought it might be shadow or smoke. Okay...what's the red dragon's breath weapon?"

"That's easy."

"That is easy. Fire."

Pete started making flame noises just as we heard the school bus coming to a screeching stop at the street corner. I gave him a hug (none of the kids can hug front-facing, they all back into a hug or offer their side in a "side hug") and told him to be good for mom when he gets home from school. He usually least, after he gets some food in his system. He routinely gets off the bus in the afternoon red-lining, flying on fumes, bonking hard. And is a nightmare until his blood sugar stabilizes.

It's a good thing he doesn't have a breath weapon then.