Washing Dishes -My Messy Beautiful

Posted by on Apr 17, 2014 in domestic diva, peaceful living | 0 comments

A few people have asked me how our kitchen renovation is going. We’ve hit a bit of a snag and we won’t have it done in two weeks like we had hoped. But that’s okay. I’m quite certain that when home renovations come in on time and under budget, terrible things happen – like rifts in the time/space continuum or snow in April. As an example.

Washing Dishes - My Messy, Beautiful

It turns out that the beautiful butcherblock countertops that we ordered weren’t the right size for our kitchen and we had to send them back. Now we’re just waiting for our new ones to arrive. Which won’t happen until I order them. Which won’t happen until I finally pick a colour. Soooooo… let’s focus on what’s actually finished!

As of right now, we have:

  • a new floor installed,
  • cupboards and cabinets in place,
  • walls painted a lovely shade of blue,
  • makeshift plywood counters,
  • a kitchen sink that is is up and running,
  • and best of all (cue choirs of heavenly angels here), a functioning dishwasher.

You have NO idea how excited this makes me. It’s like this amazing magical machine, right in my kitchen. I put dirty dishes in at night. When I wake up, the dishes are clean. Every day miracles.

We haven’t had a functioning dishwasher since last Thanksgiving weekend – that’s the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend in October. And honestly, when our old dishwasher first broke down, I thought we’d survive. We’d rise to the challenge. We’d embrace the simplicity. I mean, look at all the people who live happily without dishwashers – like Old Order Mennonites. And … people who live in RVs?

There are probably more examples, I just can’t think of any yet…

For nearly six months, we have rinsed and soaked and scrubbed. And we survived, but a cupboard full of clean dishes came at the expense of the rest of our house.

I used to stumble into the kitchen each morning and make myself a cup of tea. While I waited for the water to boil and then the tea to steep, I would empty the dishwasher, sweep the floors, wipe down the counters and start a load of laundry. It was quick and easy and I did it every morning before I was even fully awake. When the dishwasher broke, my morning routine was downgraded to doing dishes. By the time I finished them (or ran out of drying space) my tea was often cold.

My afternoons used to be spent tidying the living room and folding laundry. Now, more dishes. I secretly started to resent the whole concept of three meals a day.

Early evening used to involve a glass of red wine, a couple good podcasts and some quiet time alone in the kitchen to cook dinner for my family. But the podcasts are difficult to hear over the sound of running water and I eventually gave up on the wine because the glasses were a hassle to clean. Drinking merlot from a disposable Dixie cup just doesn’t have the same indulgent feel.


I have not figured this out. I have not figured out how to keep the piles of dishes from growing in the kitchen while the laundry amasses in the living room. I’m not even sure where the vacuum is, let alone how long it’s been since I’ve used it.

Isn’t it amazing how the loss of one simple thing can completely unhinge you? How you know deep inside that you are perfectly capable of surviving without it, but for some reason you just can’t get your act together when it’s gone?

Now that I have a dishwasher back again, I’ve started to wonder what other things I’ve given up that at one time brought me peace and stability. For example, I used to sit down and plan out my day while I drank my morning cup of tea. This simple act brought intention to my schedule and made my days flow so much more smoothly. I wish I could say I gave it up because I was too busy doing dishes, but, truthfully, I stopped long before the dishwasher broke.

What else? Simple routines, hikes with the kids, afternoon yoga, evening prayers? Little acts spread throughout the days and weeks that I just don’t bother with anymore because “I’m too busy” doing dishes – and all the other things that really don’t matter as much as I think they do. But unlike a broken dishwasher that occupies a physical space in my kitchen, the loss of these daily moments isn’t as noticeable. Life gets a bit crazier, but you adapt and eventually it just seems normal.

But those are the things we need to cling to, right? The things that give us the strength to tackle each new day, to see the beauty in the midst of the chaos. Goodness knows, life is far messier than my living room.

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!


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Kitchen Renovations

Posted by on Apr 3, 2014 in being a mom, domestic diva | 0 comments

After a long and busy weekend, I lay in bed on Monday morning and mentally worked out the day ahead of me. I knew that if I planned the day well, I’d be able to accomplish a lot. And we had a lot to do – The Princess had drama and science clubs, I had to pop into the store to finish up a bit of work, I was hoping to squeeze in a visit to the chiropractor, and I wanted to visit a couple more stores so I could make a final decision on the kitchen floor. I wasn’t exactly sure when my cousin Brent was coming to start our kitchen renovation, but I knew it was coming up soon.

My thoughts were interrupted by a text on my cell phone. It was Brent. “Be there in 20 minutes. Can we have the driveway?”

Well, now I did know exactly when he was coming: in 20 minutes.

I sprang into action. Like every good mother dealing with an urgent time crunch, I immediately stuck The Pixie in front of the computer, found Blue’s Clues on Netflix and handed her a good-sized chunk of cheddar cheese.

With The Pixie preoccupied and The Princess still fast asleep, I ran to the kitchen and started to clean. Thankfully James did most of the dishes the night before, so I tried my best to finish up the rest. Quickly I realized the futility of even trying and moved on to picking up the random assortment of clothes and toys and plastic bags off the floor. Then, inexplicably, I swept the floor and gave it a quick wash. Because naturally you can’t possibly have people come to demolish your kitchen when the floors are dirty.

As I finished mopping the floor, I glanced outside and saw Brent with his gigantic truck and trailer – and my car still in the driveway. Immediately regretting the time I spent cleaning rather than getting dressed, I ran outside to move the car in my slippers and pajamas. Oh well. It won’t be the last time my neighbours see me running around in sweatpants.

Once Brent was inside, I admitted that I maybe kind of forgot he was coming. And that I had a long and busy weekend. And that I was sorry that we hadn’t moved a single thing from the kitchen to the living room. He laughed at me and said that people who do remember he’s coming don’t even bother to empty their kitchens. Brent is really easy going. Thank goodness.

So Brent and his assistant Dave and I got to work emptying my cupboards. My living room was already on the squishy side with all our furniture shoved against the east side of the room and all of our flat-packed Ikea boxes taking up the west side. Within 3o minutes, every last bit of flat surface was covered in pots, pans, spoons, forks, towels, boxes, cans, bags, mixers, and blenders.

Once the kitchen was empty, Brent and Dave started pulling the room apart. Everything went out the door – the cabinets, the counters, even the proverbial kitchen sink. By the time they left nearly four hours later, Brent and Dave had even pulled up the old floor, removed the horrid back splash, and cut out a massive hole in the drywall for our new pass through window between the living room and the kitchen.

Pass Through Window

No more cabinets! And a big giant hole!

I, on the other hand, was not nearly so productive that morning. The Princess and I spent most of our time mesmerized by the work going on. Fortunately a large sheet of plastic hanging from the ceiling kept all the dust from settling in our open mouths as we watched piece after piece of our kitchen thrown out the door. The Pixie was oblivious to the chaos and kept watching Blue’s Clues. I was content that she was out of harm’s way and congratulated myself on my excellent parenting skills.

When we were finally able to tear ourselves away, we headed out for lunch, and then we finished all the tasks that I had planned out first thing in the morning while still in bed. The Princess went to her homeschool groups, I went to the store and the chiropractor, and then we visited four different stores looking for a nice floor. Which now meant anything that could be installed the next day.

It’s only been three full days now since this whole thing started, yet I can feel the stress getting to the family. Part of it is my fault – I just wasn’t prepared in the least. I had meant to have slow cooker suppers ready to go – or to have a list of people lined up that we would feed us a meal. I had meant to have the kitchen emptied in an organized way so that I could find things when I needed them. I had meant to keep the knives and the brownies out of The Pixies’s reach. Turns out, she knows how to cut pieces of dessert and serve herself. How handy.

I think we’re going back to Ikea for the afternoon. We need to pick up one or two things, but mostly I think we all need a good dose of organization and cleanliness. Maybe it will give us the mental boost we need to make it through a weekend. Either way, it won’t be that much longer and in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that bad. The hardest part is really just waiting to see our fantastic new kitchen.

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My Crumbling Kitchen Cabinet

Posted by on Mar 23, 2014 in domestic diva | 0 comments

About a month ago, we discovered that our kitchen counter needs to be replaced. Well, technically it needed to be replaced when we moved into the house, but we’ve managed to blissfully ignore that fact for a few years now and focus on the things we love about our kitchen instead.

But a month ago, we discovered that the countertop was rotting away and the leaking faucet couldn’t be fixed until we replaced the whole thing. We dutifully went to Home Depot and picked out the least ugly countertops they had in stock and brought them home. We even splurged and bought a shiny new faucet, just for fun. Why not spoil ourselves?

Remember this pictures from an ugly kitchen contest I entered a couple years ago?

That’s right – we were finally going to have a countertop that was measured twice and cut once, just like normal people. And we picked out a darker colour to hide the coffee spilled everywhere. I’m not sure if that’s practicality or just laziness. Either way.

My cousin, owner of Carpentry Kings, brought the new countertops down to the house and he started to pull out everything from the cabinet under the sink so that he could install the new countertop. Brent is the greatest. ❤

He pulled out the plastic grocery bags. He pulled out a box of dishwasher detergent. He pulled out a second box of dishwasher detergent from behind that first one. Huh. Given that our dishwasher has been broken since Thanksgiving weekend, we have a lot of useless detergent. He pulled out the steel wool scrubby thingys that we love. He pulled out a chunk of my cabinet floor.


“Tami?” Very few people are allowed to call me Tami. Only people who knew me before 1999. And not even all of those people – only the people I still like. And I can revoke that privilege anytime I want.

“Yes Brent?”

“Your cabinet is completely rotted through.”

And handful by handful, piece by piece, he threw my entire kitchen cabinet in a big, black garbage bag.

Thanks, Brent. By the way, you can call me Tamara.

So instead of having a lovely new countertop with amazing coffee camouflaging superpowers, I was left with my dingy old stained countertop and a sink with no cabinet underneath.

Now, I know we could make do. As I mentioned above, my husband and I have been gifted with the ability to completely ignore things that need repair. But it just seemed to us that we really should just fix it. Put a new cabinet in, get a new countertop. Butcher block, maybe. And if we are going to replace the cabinets under the sink, we should do the ones above too. And if we do the ones on the west side of the kitchen, we should do the ones on the east side to match. And while we’re doing the cabinets, maybe we should move the oven over to the outside wall and extend then the cabinets and counter all the way across the kitchen and around to the fridge. And hey – if we move those cabinets over, maybe we should just go ahead and punch a big hole in the wall between the kitchen and the living room so we have a cute little breakfast bar. I mean, it only makes sense, right?

And so, quite unexpectedly, we find ourselves waiting for Ikea to deliver our new kitchen. Brent is going to make it look beautiful, because that’s what he does. That’s why he is still on the list of people who can call me Tami.

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