Monday, May 4, 2015

Scenes from Mr. Mom: Day Two (You're Worth More than Chicken)

You may notice this post is a day late... things got busy.

Sunday morning I came downstairs to the smell of french toast. Gloria, one of our friends who rents space with us had stepped in for kitchen duty. Aleksandra stood at the counter wearing her mother's heels, plating up the warm breakfast and Sterling struck a pose when she realized I was about to snap a picture. I thought to myself, "if the entire day goes as smoothly as this moment looks... then what a wonderful day this will be."

We went to church, where we offer the sacrament of Holy Communion every first Sunday of the month. I was missing Kellie when I walked over to the table to present the elements to the congregation. Usually she stands next to me holding the bread. Suddenly Aleksandra stands and comes up front. She smiles at me and picks up the cup. 

All eyes are of course on us as I grin and trade her the basket of bread for the cup. There are soft snickers and giggles from those who know her. We don't want to see the representation of the blood of Christ shattered on the floor. I think to myself... well, maybe there is an illustration there? 

After church we head to Taco Bell. Caleb casually mentions that he would really enjoy a crunchy taco roll. I tell him that if he's willing to place the order, he can get the extra item. He agrees and navigates the transaction flawlessly. We have more food than usual, with less family members at the table. We eat it all.

It is indeed a quiet Sunday afternoon. The weather is beautiful and the breeze blows softly through the door, of course carrying with it countless giant beetles that buzz through the air like miniature angry helicopters. I've stopped fighting them. They're harmless. We've found that we can race them and also get them to fight each other. Cheap entertainment! 

I retire to my office to complete my Ethics Final Exam. The mid-term was multiple choice and short answer, so I know what I'm expecting. I've studied the past exam and I've reviewed all my notes. I've a concept based mind, so I had to work extra hard to wield the facts and details. I open the exam to find that it consists of four essay sections. I had to step away to clear my mind... this would normally be good, but it wasn't what I expected. 

With the exam completed, I go downstairs to the smell of burnt cheese. I had no idea what I was walking into. The picture perfect and smooth day had been confronted with reality. 

Aleksandra has on her apron. The stove is on. She sees my face and says, "Chelsey lit the burner for me." From the top of the overflowing garbage are flour tortillas burnt to a black crisp. I ignore it. I walk over to the counter and see three plates of beautifully browned quesadillas. 

Aleksandra reaches her hand into our precious 3 lb. bag of cheddar cheese shreds and I say, "you should have your hand inside of the bag, it could contaminate it." She immediately releases the cheese from her hand, dropping it all back into the bag. Ugh. I say, "Now you've made it worse. If your hand was dirty, now you've introduced the contaminant to the entire bag." Her shoulders slump as she looks down (in the past I managed food safety for Kroger).

I notice the stainless steel bowl of chicken I prepared yesterday is on the counter. I had prepared enough to cover three dinners. I touched it to see if it was warm, and found that it was still chilled from the refrigerator. 

I was aggravated as I explained to Aleksandra that the quesadillas were plated up with cold chicken inside them. And, she had the wrong pan and had used no cooking spray, causing cheese and tortillas to burn and crust on the pan. I took out the large, non-stick frying pan from the cabinet and turned to her, fussing with it in my hand, "you have wasted them. They are ruined!" Suddenly I heard from behind me, "you need to put that frying pan down."

It was Gloria. She may have saved a life?

As I began to calm, I heard Aleksandra activate the microwave. I continued to work at the stove when a question entered my brain. I turned, "Aleksandra, what container is in the microwave?" She says, "the same one." I rush to the microwave and hit cancel. The steel bowl was being microwaved!

I began fussing about how she might have set the microwave on fire, blown us up, or irradiated my eyeballs (none of which is likely, I understand), when I heard something hit the garbage. I turn in a slow-motion-horror-movie shout of... "nnnnooooo!" as I see the three plates of cold-chicken quesadillas have hit the trash. 

Now I progress to full-blown monkey rage. My hands are flapping and I'm hopping around the kitchen... a full day's worth of prepared meals have hit the nasty garbage. I reflect on an old Seinfeld episode where George Constanza pulls a doughnut from the top of the garbage can.... and I resist. I am frustrated. I turn to my daughter.

"You have thrown away perfectly good chicken!" She says, "but you said it was no good." I say, "what were you thinking? The chicken was fine! It only needed to be removed and reheated. You are fired! Get out of the kitchen." I pictured myself as Gordon Ramsey! Chelsey has entered the scene and stands silently. I say, "I fired her." Chelsey says, "I see that." The moment causes me to reflect. I notice that before leaving, Aleksandra had turned off the gas. That was some smart thinking under fire. 

I wash my hands and leave the kitchen, finding Aleksandra's door closed. This is never a good sign. I knock softly and she replies that I can come in. She is face down crying into her pillow. I realize I've failed. I've blown it. I've lost perspective. I want to fall into my own bed and cover up. I realize that her and I are now in the same space. We need to come back... and we can do so together. 

I sat on her bed. "I'm sorry. I was too harsh." She says, "I'll never be a chef if I can't even cook a quesadilla!" Her mascara from dressing up at church ran down her cheeks. I look at her and I really see her now. She is becoming a little woman. She's beginning to shrug off the softness of childhood.

I took a deep breath and blew out the last bit of my tension. "No, I was wrong. It's just chicken. You didn't know. You're still learning. You were trying to help. I should appreciate that and not complain. It's just chicken. I love chicken, but you're worth more than chicken."

She laughed and smeared her mascara all over her pillow. I decided not to comment. She saw me observing the stained pillow and looked up to meet my eyes. We both laughed. We returned downstairs and together cooked up some really good quesadillas. 

We washed dishes together, me, Aleksandra, and Caleb. The conversation turned deep as Aleksandra asked me questions of sin, God, creation, and marriage. She was trying to reconcile our belief with behavior that she's observed. Near the end of our conversation, she said, "I liked being a child better. The world was perfect." 

I took her face in my hands and I said, "yes, you're right... it is oftentimes messed up. But you must also never forget that it is perfect." Keep both perspectives. 

Day two began beautiful, and it ended sweet. No children were harmed in the making of this entry.

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