Last week my eldest son was Star of the Week week in his first grade class. He got to have two big pages of photos he chose to share posted on the classroom wall, and he got to bring show-and-tell every day. He loved it! The finale on Friday was bringing his dog, and introducing Ethiopian food to his friends. That means that Friday was a lot of work for Mommy!

I was happy to do it, don’t get me wrong, but I’m still learning how to juggle three children with any task (sigh…). It takes three days to make injera, so I AM learning little by little to plan ahead so as not to disappoint. I was making a double batch because my three kids plow through a single batch on their own, and I just wasn’t sure how much I’d need. And I had to give myself a few hours to do the final cooking of the injera and shiro before showtime at 1:30. My other two kids are home on Fridays, so that meant I had to plan my injera cooking around my toddler’s nap, and get my sweet husband to come home for lunch so I could make the delivery without waking her up. AND it meant I had a sidekick for the cooking work. Mind you, I had already added walking the dog to school for his 8am performance to my regular morning routine. Do I sound like I’m complaining? I’m really not, just trying to set the stage and give you some sense of my mental state by 12pm on that particular day.

Baby went down without incident, I was on schedule with my batter, heating and seasoning the pan, etc. Lots going on in the kitchen since injera are cooked one by one, and cooled on a rack before being piled up. I was pretty much using every surface and dancing from counter to counter. My five-year-old had been flitting about chattering at me. I had given him a few jobs to help with, but his attention span is short and he got bored. Soon I realized I was stepping over him. He was laying on his stomach in the middle of the kitchen.

“Mommy, something under there!” He said (with great drama and mystery in his voice), while peering under the range. And then under his breath, and to himself, “Can I just get the flashlight….” Off he scampered to find a flashlight. I kept dancing the injera dance, they were sticking to my pan more than last time.

Soon he was back, spread-eagled again on the kitchen floor with me stepping over him. I started to protest a number of times, but the injera, and shiro…it seemed easier to just adjust my movements to step over him than to spend a bunch of time convincing him now was not the best time for this activity.

“There!” he said with satisfaction. “Mommy can you look?”

It happened to be a good moment. I had just poured the batter on and set the lid in place for the steaming. I had at least 30 seconds to spare, so I got down on my kitchen floor next to my little boy and followed the beam of his flashlight under the range to where a large bouncy ball had strayed to the back corner. My heavens, the dust bunnies under there.

So this is where the title of my post comes in. I hadn’t PLANNED to clean under my range that day, or any other day in the near future for that matter. My cleaning standards have, shall we say, been adjusted since the kids arrived. The dust under the range wasn’t even within the scope of my radar of things to worry about. Not even close. (is that normal? Is this where I hear back from all of you that you do this every time you vacuum, or on a once-a-month schedule in some kind of twisted OCD housekeeping calendar like the one Martha Stewart prints at the front of her magazines as a gentle suggestion of what her readers might aspire to?)

But I did realize that I could finish the injera job and let Melkam keep problem solving about how to get this ball out from under the range and chances were I wouldn’t have to listen to this:

“Mommy, what I’m doing now?” Meaning, “I’m bored, what interesting activity have you arranged for me to do next?”

I began a discussion about tools: “You are going to need a tool to help you get that ball out, Melkam. What do you think might be a good thing to try?”

First he tried his construction straws. Good choice. He knew he could use joints to put multiple straws together to cover the distance. He tried that for a good three minutes (two more injera almost done!)…the straws were too soft and inflexible…the ball was heavy and hardly budged.

Next he asked if he could get the broom, or maybe I suggested it…I can’t remember. He got it out of the cleaning closet and laid it on the floor. He tried to wedge it between the banks of cabinets to get the right angle for the ball, no success. He convinced me to get back down on the floor to help. It was then that I realized while the ball wasn’t budging, he was pulling that lint out from under the range which meant I was going to HAVE to deal with it. Lots of hand washing for me, by the way. There was no under-range lint contaminating the above counter items. Should I not be writing about this…are you grossed out?

So in the end, we tried several methods of removing the ball and could hardly get it to move. Melkam kept returning to his post, flashlight in hand, studying the situation. He was very determined. I finally offered the winning solution: The ball’s diameter was larger than that of the vacuum hose, so I thought we might be able to turn down the power and gently SUCK the ball out from under the range without damaging the vacuum. Which led me down the next path in my activities that day…if you find yourself lying on the floor of your kitchen with a vacuum hose under your range, well, then I guess you’ve just decided to clean under the range! You can imagine how satisfying it was to suck all that icky lint out from under there. And to think, I had no idea when I woke up that morning that I was going to be accomplishing such a neglected task!

I can happily report that the ball was retrieved, thoroughly washed, and has been in the toy rotation actively ever since. My son felt a great sense of accomplishment and learned a thing or two about problem solving and perseverance. Also the injera turned out beautifully, leading me to think that having something going on in your kitchen that gives you something to do for 30-60 seconds every few minutes, maybe that’s the ideal conditions in which to cook injera!

Look how pretty it looks on this Ethiopian basket our nanny let us borrow!

The end.

One response to “Flexibility

  • Ginny Dickerson

    Truly, you need to publish. Your everyday life would make the NY Times best seller list. You go girl. Also, can’t wait to get back in the spring and “con” you into making the injera for us. Yum.

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