Microwave Mysteries! Oooooh!

Here's a question for you:

How does the inside of a microwave get dusty?

Any ideas?
I encountered this phenomenon about five minutes ago and frankly, this fascinates me a bit. Sure, I am not the best housekeeper. The memory of the last time I cleaned it, and when, is utterly nonexistent. My brain is full of the information I need to have present and under my nose: playdates, school late starts, afterschool activities, grocery store lists, the garden and what needs to be planted, pending summer plans... memories of cleaning a microwave are pretty low in their level of importance.

And, maybe, too, it has been a while...because when I'm opening the microwave, I'm usually thinking about something or talking to someone or paying attention somewhere else-- that's why I haven't usually been up close and personal with this thing.  So today, reheating a tomato "spaghetti" mac salad (think mushrooms, Italian Field Meats veg sausage in a tomato sauce with feta, yeah, yum, right?) ... anyway, the pasta spattered some sauce which was noticable and I did what you do... started cleaning and then started wondering "how did this get so messy and gross?"

The food-- I could understand food spatter. But lint? Dust? How long had it been that this much could accumulate for me to notice it? It wasn't much, a fine dusting if you will, but still... weird.

I also had that moment of 'does this really fall on me?" followed by "why yes, girl, it totally does. It's your job." And then I felt really, really grateful for all the stuff Joe takes on because he has the same attitude I do. You would not be reading this blog if it weren't for him. I wouldn't even have a computer, likely, because it's just a PITA to deal with if you are a tech idiot like I am. We all have our skills. I excel at keeping us fed, clothed, and keeping our family going in the day to day practical sense. Joe is a lot better at big picture stuff; he has a head for numbers (which I do not) and likes doing the finances, planning the bigger projects like last year's renovations... these are his skills. He works hard and I ensure that he has everything he needs to do his job and have a life he more or less is happy with. He does the same for me; this is a very good partnership.

Yesterday while we took the bus to Kiddo's Judo class, he asked me what I wanted to build with Legos. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I tried to explain to him that I use a lot of my creativity and problem-solving in the work I do at home. That it can be a puzzle sometimes, to think of one's day, all of the things which must get done, and how to manage that time, those discrete tasks, in a way which facilitates the best result. ( Okay, I didn't use those exact words with him, but I do with you because you are not seven and I CAN say them, which is nice. They get lonely all bottled up in my brain with the other big words.)

Let's be clear, I'm not saying at all that the work of running a household is onerous --okay, occasionally laundry can feel that way, but still--it's more that it can be creatively engaging if you want it to be. For example, on days when I know the afternoon will be busy, I make dinner in advance. I know that I won't have the brainspace to engage in creative thinking around dinner when I'm rushed and being pulled in three different directions and we are all hungry. Making food, if we do it well, does require us to think about what we are doing to some degree. Of course, there are nights when a dressed-up frozen pizza will suffice, heck, salad shrimp and red bell peppers can do wonders on a whole variety of foods. But most nights, I want to eat something that nourishes more than just our bodies, but our palates as well. Good dinners are important to me.

In any case, I've gotten a little off track, but, back to that microwave. Even this task of cleaning it pushes me to wonder how many tricks are there for easy cleaning. Google Search, let's see: the WikiHow offers four methods: microwave vinegar and water; microwave sliced lemon halves; microwave dish soap and water; lastly, using window cleaner. Hmmm. For some reason, after the lemony fresh option, window cleaner sounds like the most toxic thing you could possibly put in that food-cookin'-box-thingy. Just because it has a window... well,you know what I'm saying.

By now you should know that four hours have since passed and the microwave still didn't get cleaned. I got happy in the garden planting zinnias and then needed a shower and then had to pick up Kiddo and a friend from school. And then we had to have a protracted, nearly-hour long snacktime with lots of fun conversations. But now, now, I'm really going to do it. I promise. As long as there's not a shiny object to distract me between here and the white vinegar, I'm going to go for it.

Well, two shiny objects and a half-hour later (because that's how life is with a kid) I got the microwave going with the vinegar water method. First, let me say this: the whole 'steaming it off' thing seems rather hypothetical. Sure, some of the stuff wiped off easily, but the steam dissipates quickly, so unless you are super-fast, the steam is only halfway helpful. Oh, and no one tells you how fun it is to get a face full of vinegar-scent as you clean. Enter old fashioned elbow grease, of which I have a bottomless can. If I'd had a lemon handy, that would have been my first choice. But now it's devolved to a washcloth and dish soap... and I would have been done five minutes sooner, maybe, if I hadn't been microwaving stuff. Hmmm....

There is still a layer of used-to-be-grease-now-it-just-feels-slightly-sticky going on, though. No matter how hard I scrub and wipe, it's not budging (so just how is it getting on my hands and washcloth if it's not going away!?). Remember that scene in The Cat in the Hat Comes Back when he wipes the tub ring out, onto Mother's New Dress and then shakes the dress stain out onto the snow? At least that stain was removed from the original item, but I'm not having much luck here.

Joe comes home and I tell him of my saga. The vinegar, the elbow grease, the regular grease. And then he tells me how well the microwave is still working considering he's had it "since 1988 or something like that". Really?! Maybe I should have named that thing Methuselah-- I mean, it's been nearly thirty years! Why am I getting early AARP membership mail and this microwave,nothing?

But it also explains the invisible, immovable layer of stickiness too. Suddenly, I feel rather better about the whole thing. I'm off the hook, sort of, right? I mean, I didn't come on the scene with this microwave until it was already 23 or so, and much like my husband was a fully-formed human being way before I met him at 38, I take zero responsibility for past treatment or damages in their lives. Heck, this microwave has probably been greasy from a long, long time ago... right? Just in a way that I didn't notice because before, I was working full time and then I had a little one full time and oh, yeah, it's been a long time since I cleaned this microwave. But I know one thing...

...next time, I'm doing it with industrial strength degreaser and a hazmat suit.
Screw the lemons.


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