Tuesday, December 27, 2016

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. 

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