It's the Dishes

I know exactly why there are so many dishes, and it's because there is a lot of cooking. I was thinking about this while Marko stood next to me on a stool at the counter. We were shelling roasted peanuts that were leftover from baseball season to add to something we call peanut butter spinach, but that rarely contains spinach. Marko is terrible at shelling peanuts because he pretty much just eats the nuts as he goes. However, it is a valuable early childhood fine motor activity. I was throwing in a variety of greens we got in our CSA last week, the tomatoes that were just a little bit soft, and a tiny bit of onion. The scrapings of a peanut butter jar, and then these peanuts. We ate it on a trip to Uganda many years ago and it turns out a little different each time. Cook until soft, blend in the food processor. Serve with rice. Cooking with a CSA takes some practice, especially if you are amenable to taking the farmer's "seconds" or produce not quite good enough to sell at the market. This is often free or very cheap, but also sometimes needs to be cooked, or prepared to be stored, immediately. Last week I got a fantastic deal on red bell peppers, so I blanched and flash froze them. One of the reasons I like being a homemaker right now is that I have time to do this and our freezer is always stocked with something interesting. But it makes a lot of dishes. And a lot of compost. We don't have a dishwasher, so everything has to be handwashed and dried. Every five or six days I make it to the bottom of the dish pile, putting everything away, wiping out the sink and storing the drying rack. But normally, there is a stack waiting in the dishpan, nagging at me.

The dishes are a metaphor for much of what happens in this job as stay-at-home-parent. It's busy all day long, but you have very little of interest to say about it to anyone else. Everything you do must be redone in a day or a week. What you make is consumed, used, dirtied. With the right mindset, this repetition can be meditative. Having little kids around punctuates the chores with lots of silliness and fun. The kids also remind me that even though the daily tasks make it feel like there is no end in sight, that this phase of life is finite. They will grow up, be out of the house more, take care of their own chores. They will stop dumping everything out of every container in the house when I'm not looking and won't pee on the toilet seat anymore. I won't run the bath water for them. We won't sing silly songs when we are cleaning up. There is a season for everything.

Marko is deeply engaged in imaginative play these days. He rescues animals, carefully scooping baby ducklings and chicks into his hands in such a convincing manner that the other children at the playground run to see what he has. He pantomimes putting on a stethoscope, his gaze drifting to the side as he pretends to listen to a heartbeat. He cooks them elaborate meals made out of scrabble tiles and poker chips and pots and pans he sneaks out of the kitchen. The other day he built a campfire out of sticks he found in the park, then reached deep into his pocket to pull out an imaginary lighter, flicking it with his thumb and holding it for a few seconds before releasing it. I could almost feel the heat. His play is his own take on us. He adds his own elements, performs the tasks with a unique touch. But there's so much of M and I that I see in our kids, especially in this sort of play. They are always watching.

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