Monday, February 1, 2010

Discovering Our Souls in a Messy Kitchen

I uncovered this piece in the dusty files as I was cleaning off my hard drive, and realized I'd never posted it here. So, in one sense, this is a walk down memory lane for me, but in another it could have very easily been written yesterday. Enjoy!

Flour Experiments

“I’m gonna n eed my chef’s hat for this, Mama!” my son excitedly claims as he sees me pile our ingredients on the counter. Our mission: to make twenty individual sized pizza crusts and an equal amount of balls of playdough, enough for all our party guests

We indeed did start out preparing for the pizza party we were going to have the next evening. Yet, standing on his stool, now waist high to the counter, my son became entranced by the yeast popping and dancing. I could see the wheels turning and he got ‘that look’ in his eyes when he asked, “Can you please get down a big bowl for me? I have some work to do.” So down came another large mixing bowl and the mission took a turn.

He stood on that stool for another four straight hours. From that very spot he mixed, and poured, and measured, and stirred, and truly explored. He went through an entire extra bag of flour and a fair amount of water as I allowed myself to take a deep breath, step back and just … watch! Smiling at that took an extra bit of courage from me, who normally takes very seriously the need not to waste our resources and has succumbed to the pressures of needing to keep a clean house.

With the way our lives go, it isn’t always that we have an extra four hours for this kind of exploration to happen.

Inquiry comes natural to babies; at that time in their lives, they are true scientists. Not so typical of older children. As children get older they begin to stop mimicking what scientists do. Their testing out of ideas begins to fade as they discover that many adults believe there is a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’, and As Dr. Mark Hertle, senior Program Officer for the Science Education Program at Howard Hughes Medical Institute says, “Inquiry can keep curiosity alive!”

Watered down flour spilled on the floor, dripped down the sides of the bowl and sputtered along the counter. Still, I held back the need to guide the mess or sponge it up and instead we broke out our air trombones and sang loud vibratos of “Sammy the Dog has learned to play trombone!” This was very serious work, you know.

As I scrubbed the counter, the nooks and crannies, the grout lines, the cupboard doors and the smirking drawer faces, my thoughts wandered. I thought of the day my neighbor stopped in unexpectedly and I apologized for the less than spotless house. She let me off the hook with, “Honey, if you have a clean house, you’re not spending enough time with your kids.” I reveled in the memory of her kind voice, but couldn’t really get the voice of my father out of my head.

Surely months from now I will come across bits of dried flour-water-love mixture, perhaps even with an extra bit of mold growing on them.

I’ve finally finished the counters and take a look at the floors. Grabbing the mop and then setting it aside, I decide to save that for tomorrow, because that is another party in and of itself and I know he will want to be invited! Besides our floor needs a good mopping. It is, after all that time of year.

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