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For Your Marriage

Josh and Stacey Noem have been married for almost 20 years and have three children in middle school and high school. They blog about parenting and their adventures as a family.


I hate our dishwasher.

It seems to be made of pretty cheap plastic that manages to melt itself in the heated dry cycle; its racks are incredibly poorly laid out; it is loud enough that we have to raise our voices to speak; the whirly arm in the bottom comes off all the time; and, oh, IT DOESN’T CLEAN DISHES!

It is a cruel irony to me that of all the dishwashers in the places we have lived as a married couple – at least three others come running to mind from places we’ve rented – I like this one the least. And this is the one we OWN.

We have been in our house for four years now. Happily, the dishwasher is truly the only thing about our house that I don’t like. That’s a pretty good place to be, right? I don’t take it for granted. Disliking the dishwasher may even make me more aware of how much I like everything else.

Then…the dishwasher broke.

It started in the way these things often do: one day there was water all over the floor. Oops, let me say that another way:

One Sunday when we were hurrying to get out the door to church on time we walked through a puddle in the middle of the kitchen. I shouldn’t have been surprised. As there is nothing to like about the dishwasher, its breaking was bound to happen at one of the least opportune moments possible. And by least opportune, I mean, yes, it isn’t great to have to mop up gallons of water when you really need to be getting your son to church on time to be an altar server. But even more inopportune was that it happened two days before my parents came to visit, three days before Simon’s birthday party (at our house), and four days before we got to host some colleagues from our alma mater.

I hate our dishwasher. And I was more than a little bit fine with it breaking. Josh proceeded to take the entire thing apart to try to figure out if it was an easy fix (my man was flush after having recently fixed a malfunctioning coil on our stovetop and fairly eager to try his hand at another major appliance). It was not an easy fix. But it does make a great storage box in the middle of the kitchen for all the pieces he took apart.

So we can’t fix it ourselves, which begs the question: do we pay someone to fix it, or do we consider this an opportune moment to make our household appliance happiness complete?

While we ponder that one we have “returned to our roots” doing all the dishes by hand. Joshua grew up doing the dishes by hand and for three years before moving to Portland we did the same in our little white house in Indiana. The bonus now is that we have three extra sets of hands in Oscar, Simon and Lucy. Oscar really showed some savvy when on the first night of doing dinner dishes he eagerly volunteered to help set AND clear the table. Midway through the meal he asked if that meant he wouldn’t have to do the dishes. Smart boy. Simon and Lucy, being Montessori children, do dishwashing as a “work” at school and think it is great fun that they get to do it here at home.

These last several days have really given us some nice opportunities for family time at the sink. It opens up a space for teaching: the children already have a much better sense of being careful with dishes when they are slippery. It also opens up space for conversation: they have super interesting conversations when they are working together on something. It just opens up space for reflection: even if I am doing the dishes alone I get to just think. Also, there is no rushing around to throw the dishes in a machine so we can hurry on to the rest of our night. There is no noise for the rest of the night while the machine tries (in vain) to clean our dishes. There is just shared family time, quiet work, and conversation.

I really consider this whole situation a gift from God. It has been a great reminder of how simply we have lived in the past, and how much we enjoyed that simplicity. And most importantly, what that simplicity offered us: the opportunity for greater and deeper relationship.

So for us the question has changed from “Do we fix it or do we replace it?” to “Do we need it or do we even want it?”