Manure Made My Lunch, Dishwashers, and the Secret Life of Children

By May 13, 2014 June 20th, 2019 7 Comments

Here’s what a dishwasher taught me: living without is a great child-rearing technique. Even if it makes mom want to pull her hair out.

I’ve tested this theory out before. The Chinese Stir-fry taught me to Beware of Being too Nice. Because for every nice thing you do for your children, they will punish you for it. How jaded! I’m sorry, but it’s true. It’s really best not to try and be Super Woman all the time. It’s really not good for the children.

Next time you lie in bed eating chips ahoy cookies, tell yourself it’s all for the sake of the kids.

Since we live in the land of PLENTY, raising grateful darlings sometimes takes broken appliances. Let’s cue “The Dishwasher Lesson.” Back to that in a second.

My brother-in-law, Brendaen turned 40 awhile back. And since he loves New Hampshire like no other, his amazing wife, Jill, pulled off an epic kidnapping straight from the big city of Boston.

They pulled into the driveway, dropped off four children with our four children (7 girls, 1 boy, 1 dog, 8 chickens, 2 fish!) and we skedaddled faster than you can say, “Happy Birthday, Brendaen!”


But first we read happy birthday notes and memories compiled in a book. Best present EVER.


And then we were out of here!


We left the angel children together as they smiled sweetly, hugged, and played the game of Life.


We adults headed North, toward Vermont. We visited Dartmouth, Gregor’s alma mater. We found his thesis in the archives. We oohed and ahhhed.


We went to King Arthur Flour in White River Junction, Vermont. I had to resist buying out every imaginable type of flour and donut-making cookbook. Oh, it was hard.


And even though it was his birthday, Brendaen insisted on stopping to look at dishwashers. Because really, is there anything more fun than installing your brother’s dishwasher? You see, we’d been living without for almost six months!

I know. It was painful and eye-opening and made me realize how spoiled we are. The longer we went without, the more my children pined over the good ol’ days when they loaded dishes into an appliance that magically washed their dishes for them! They forgot they had once whined and fought over who’s turn it was, and how much work it was to put a fork in a plastic tub.

They relived the days of ease, when they didn’t have to hand wash dishes like orphan Annies supervised by Miss. Hannigan (That would be me.) Cope began asking for a dishwasher for her birthday.  And please, please, please, could you just make it an early delivery?

Oh believe me, it was a pain for me too. It took time. Every morning I washed, rinsed and dried by myself. Sometimes I caught myself enjoying the slow process to think, look out the window and observe a turkey flock. It was so quiet, me and my Joy bubbles. And when the kids did dishes with me, I began to enjoy the process of handing soapy dishes to a child’s hand and watching them rinse and stack. The slowness made us talk!

Was living without actually…a good thing?

A dishwasher began to look luxurious.

And I needed me one of those things.


We mulled dishwasher choices (there are SO MANY!), and then headed up to Lake Champlain. What a gorgeous lake. If you’re ever up in these pahts, you can put your vehicle on a ferry to cross over into New York and make your way through the adirondacks. This is definitely going on the to-live list!


Good morning, Vermont! We stayed in a hotel where I didn’t have to do any dishes, cook any meals, do any laundry, or nag someone to take out the trash. Glorious. And it occurred to me that life was good b/c of the rarity of this situation. Living without these luxuries made me ever so grateful for them.

And I still loved the kiddies.

Through phone conversations, the kids appeared to be getting along splendidly, with visits and supervision from Grandma and Grandpa. We thought about leaving them on their own for a few weeks, but alas, all good things must come to an end. But not before gorging on the best meal of the year at Hen of the Wood, a farm to table restaurant. It was out of this world amazing!

Beware:  you may pass the kitchen out back and find some hanging pigs. It’s real food, man!


A leisurely drive back home brought us to Shelburne Farm School. Beautiful.


I’m going to hang this sign in my house: “Manure Made My Lunch Today!” It’s real food, man!


Another stop for food at the Red Hen Baking Company. At this point, we should have just started running home. Who needs a minivan when you’ve ingested that many carbs?

And then…we bought the dishwasher, marked down, with Brendaen’s superior negotiation and deal-finding skills.


The best part of the trip may have been the children’s expressions – A DISHWASHER!!!! THANK YOU THANK YOU! You’re the best parents in the WORLD!!! It’s all I WANTED FOR MY BIRTHDAY! ALL MY DREAMS HAVE COME TRUE! Let’s give Cope a minute to cry, here.


It was B’s birthday and he still insisted on staying to install it. I mean, he’s a keeper, you know?


Brothers. As young as ever! 40 is 40 and it’s lookin’ pretty darn good.


Good-bye dear city cousins! Please come back and play again! We’ll play Life and tell stories and play in the woods and collect chicken eggs and go to church and be perfectly kind, obedient, cheerful, and reverent the next time our parents decide to leave us in the woods.



Driving into the sunset. Sniff. Back to real life. And dishwasher loading.



This picture surfaced days later…what really went on when the parents were away we’re not sure. There are tight lips, shifty eyes, secret giggles. Something about “the roof.” They aren’t saying much. But it somehow involved running in snow without clothes…

We’ll just leave it at that.

Because we have a dishwasher (giddy!)




  • Dana says:

    I think I’d prefer to live without a stove than a dishwasher. The washing isn’t so bad, but the drying? Congrats on your new one. And your getaway sounds carbalicious – that’s my kind of trip!

  • Love that picture of what the kids were up to while you were away. Or that is, how it doesn’t really tell the secret story of what they did, but only hints at it!

    As for the dishwasher saga, yes, there’s nothing like doing without technology to give you a whole ‘nother perspective on life! When our kitchen was being remodeled, we had to live without a working sink in the kitchen for about 2 weeks. Every day, I carried the dirty dishes — a bucketful at a time — down to the utility sink in the basement, washed them, laid them out to dry, then carried them back upstairs later. My husband helped.

    The children … mysteriously vanished whenever this chore had to be done.

  • Nina says:

    I need a getaway so badly! If I had to chose between getting away and getting a new dishwasher, I’d take the dishwasher. Glad you got both!

  • Julia Tomiak says:

    Hilarious – especially the last bit about the shifty eyes and giggles. What happens with the cousins stays with the cousins.
    Yes, sometimes a little inconvenience makes us all a little less lazy and a little more grateful. Almost every time I start a load of laundry I think, “So glad I’m not lugging all this down to the river in a wooden tub!”

  • Elizabeth says:

    It is always nice to get away for a while…even if your kids run around half naked in the snow:)

  • Katie says:

    I couldn’t wait to read the next sentence! I loved this. The last picture is hilarious.

  • Lindsey says:

    Loved this post! I grew up without a dishwasher and I had NO idea how bad it was until we finally got one when we moved to Proctor and now I can’t even imagine living without!!! Loved hearing more about your VT getaway! So fun!

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