Wednesday, December 3, 2014

An Island of Life

The kitchen is where I spend most of my time, with the kids, without the kids, with friends, with family, all alone. Whenever I am "lost" I find myself occupied in the kitchen. Whether to cook foods I know, experiment with new recipes, clean-up after my mess, the kids' mess, the family mess, or just to be the kitchen is where I call "home." When I run out of things to take care of, I rearrange the pantry, the fridge, the closet. I take out the plastic bags and pile them back into their bin. I move the candy from this shelf to the next, I hide the sweets and move the "healthy" snacks forward. I take out the trash, empty the recycle bin, refill the soap.

Then I tackle the play kitchen. Perishable play food goes into the play fridge, fruits and vegetables into the basket, bread on the shelf. Pots and pans go in the dishwasher, kettle on the stove, coffee pitcher in the coffee maker. I hang up the apron and chef's hat, restock the plastic eggs, and stack the cups and glasses. The play kitchen is ready for playing.

Our current kitchen is huge. With a dining area on one side and a seating area rendered play area on the other, it is almost the size of our entire apartment in Ifrane, and half the size of our two-bedroom condo in Arlington. It has so much counter space and so many cabinets that I once thought would be impossible to fill yet somehow managed to crowd.

Other than the pantry, which is something I have wanted for a long time, my second favorite part of the kitchen set-up is the island in the middle. With two hidden closets and drawers underneath a wide counter-top, it conceals the overflow of utensils, plastic bags, handy tools, extra diapers and craft supplies in its belly. But it's on its top where life happens.

As much as I shun away from clutter and try to maintain at least one area free of the gathering of seemingly unrelated objects, having two kids means things will undeniably pile up where they shouldn't. And seeing how we spend a lot of time in the kitchen/play area, with the top of the counter an empty space begging to be filled, that's where every random object ends up.

Hair buckles, toy cars, little people, miniature plastic cups, kids water bottles, lunchboxes, empty and not-so-empty containers, parent papers from the school, crafts, bills, crayons, pens and pencils, used paper towels, things I don't want Yousef to have and things I want to give JR, anything and everything seems to find a spot on that white space. Then, the space is not so white anymore. Then, it is a pool of what that day, or that week has been like. If it was a good week, then the space wouldn't be so covered; it means I had a chance to put things away. If it wasn't as good of a week, then the space has no space and I am on the fringe of losing my mind over it. That's when I start moving things from the counter to the floor, and the stairs, and the trash. I try to move as much as I can to the trash. If it doesn't exist, it doesn't need to be put away.

On a great week, I have real flowers in the center and displays of wonderous objects JR put together for me, like the paper flowers that are still blooming many weeks later. Decorated pumpkins or plates full of play food JR cooked for me, cups filled with pretend lemonade and notes she wrote at school. Treasure she found at the playground and things her friends gave her. Things that mean something to her and then mean something to me.

On those weeks, I don't mind the "clutter," cause I do not see it as clutter. On those weeks, I enjoy walking past the island and seeing what life has deposited there. A freshly baked chocolate cake, the lunch box Yousef was carrying pretending to go to school, paintings JR made for the neighbors as a thank you. On those weeks I do not rush to clear out the space but bask in its fullness. It's on those weeks that I am reminded that it is best to enjoy life messy!

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