Never losing sight of dinner’s deeper nutritional value

Cleaning House Boot Camp: Week 1

“Get ready for some good food, Mom,” dinner-kid shouted to me from the kitchen. “I’m such a good cook, I already have my own bakery. It’s called Jack’s bakery.”

“You’re making dinner,” his sister reminded him, shaking her head at the newly minted, possibly excessive confidence. “Bakeries make desserts.

“Well, my food is so good – it tastes like dessert.” Bam!

The fun & laughter wasn’t so much fun & laughs at our family meeting the night before. We kicked off our six-week Cleaning House boot camp of sorts to the sound of moans and groans:

“What?!”

“Why would we do boot-camp’?! We already know this stuff.”

“You’re just trying to get us to do all the work around here.”

And then someone had to throw in, “did you run out of things to write about?”

I’ve heard it all before – but, that comment was a low blow.

Because they, like I, know that none of our little Cleaning House experiment began in an effort to write a book. That would have implied my being a writer – which I wasn’t. I started themoatblog to provide a place for experts to speak into adolescent & teen issues. The entitlement stuff found life on fateful day during a conversation with a budding teenager contemplating out loud what kind of car he would drive at 16. Which like most teenagers (and many mid-lifers) centered on something of the sporty/foreign/luxury variety. I would later learn that the desire wasn’t as much about the make and model of the car, but the fact that such a thing can serve as a symbol that one has “arrived” – the kid just wanted to be okay, to be known, to belong. We pretty much all do.

Still, when I started to realize that the societal trend toward and obsession with entitlement (grooming and partaking) was majorly at play, I got mad. And everyone knows that when Mom is mad, things change. Which they did.

That’s when I looked around the house, made note of the things I was doing that the able bodies walking alongside could do and put loads (some in the form of laundry!) of responsibility on the kids’ plates – because I LOVE them and actually think they can do pretty much anything they put their mind to – on their own, in their own giftedness and purpose and creativity. We both needed to be reminded.

And honestly, it has been great. Not perfect, by any means – not obsessively or legalistically sticking with a prescribed method of doing things. And bucking the entitlement trend – which really involves hands off as often as possibly – has opened our eyes to other societal pressures that are for the birds. But more on that later.

And since we’re very regular and slightly unorganized and very go-with-the-flow, there are a few refreshers that are in order. That’s why a re-boot/boot-camp seems in order. So …

Week 1 – Clutter & Kitchen

Clutter & Kitchen are pretty self-explanatory. I think it will take us a week to go through closets, de-clutter, and get back on beds being made each day.

And we’ve certainly let slide the kids cooking. Mostly because Barton is amazing in the kitchen (something I would NEVER have known if she hadn’t been “forced” to try her hand at cooking.) So, everyone grabbed a night, and we’re off.

Jack (10) stepped up to be 1st on deck. He was three when we started. He’s one of the reasons I wanted to boot-camp. I haven’t been very good about legitimately putting full responsibility on his plate. So – as is usually the case – better now than never.

Who knew how exciting a trip to the grocery story and cooking dinner could be. I know that’s a bold word to use – exciting. I mean really, how can a run to the grocery store be exciting. Especially when, as if on cue (it was like a deja vue – mirror image of a few years ago) the kid in tow is complaining about all the work and whining why me?!

And like a record (baby, right round round round) I said what I’ve come to say countless times, “Listen, you’re going to be glad you know how to _____ (fill in the blank).” Tonight it was cook dinner. I knew what was in store, but had forgotten the feeling. I knew he was about to get a blast of independence. I knew he would love it. And he did. So much. It made me a little sad that I’ve been a tiny bit lazy and let things slide. But no worries.

So here you have it. His meal? A lady at the deli where the kid had ordered meat for his sister, asked.

“You’re cooking dinner? Yourself?”

“Yes ma’am,” at least he’s polite – or maybe being productive actually ignites polite – polite and pride. I think that personal productivity infuses a proper sense of pride, especially when doing something for others, especially when doing something outside of your comfort zone. “I’m cooking dinner for my family,” he told her.

“What are you making,” she winked at me. His tone so was cute.

“I’m making brownies with ice cream.” (yes, he started with dessert!) “But also pizza. Yes – pizza, brownies and some fruit and a salad. I like grapes. And watermelon.”

“Well that sounds like a good dinner to me. I had pizza for dinner yesterday.”

We went on to discuss dough recipes. He told her about where she could get frozen dough that “tastes really good.” Then he caught my eye and gave me a we’re-out-of-here nod while almost simultaneously aiming the same nod her way, but in a good-luck-&-God-speed sort of way. The kid cracks me up.

On this trip to the grocery store, the one who walked in a tiny bit whiny, walked out tall with a skip in his step. Literally. That part of attitude re-set has never ceased to amaze me. Honestly, I’m sure for myself – a little productivity changes my attitude too.

He had learned (not endured, but actually asked questions and took it all in) how to pick a delicious watermelon, how to weigh tomatoes, how to ask for a loaf of bread to be sliced, why items cost different amounts, how to appreciate grapes ($$), and so much more. And he did what I always found the kids doing (even though I still barely believe it) – he went above and beyond. He pushed the basked. He unloaded the basket. Put the basket away – shooing me from doing it in the process. He unloaded the car at home and happily informed everyone that he would be making pizza for dinner.

AND – here’s where the surprise got even better – we walked in the kitchen to find that his sister had cleaned the entire kitchen while we were gone –even taking out the trash (and putting a new bag in) so the kid would be set for success. Since part of our dinner deal is cleaning before and after – she had stepped in without a hint of an ask – because she loves him.

THEN!!! I left the room, because SHE taught him how to roll out the dough, how poke holes so it doesn’t burn, how use the flour to keep it from sticking, …

“I didn’t do it for the chore chart,” she eye-rolled at me later, when I was gushing over her sweetness.

“Of course you didn’t,” I nod. “You did it because it feels good and it’s nice. It’s the wonderful thing about all this stuff – the Greatest Commandment come to life. I think because it actually might be the only thing that genuinely gives life.”

Trite-sounding, but true. That loving others bit has some legs on it.

I’m sure we will get the chance (amidst some whining) to see it play out more. But tonight it was up-front and center-stage making itself known at dinner.

Other sightings notable this week:

  • With teendom comes emotional roller-coasters and stress – sometimes warranted, other times not. A couple of our kids have lots of changes coming next year, not the least of which is a school change. I think one of them is stressed and doubting himself, but he doesn’t say a word. He’s got grit and is going to make it work. But, he still stressed. So when his dinner came around there were a lot of I can’t, why‘s, what does it matter. His meal – some of the best tilapia I have ever tasted (his sister told him a few of her tricks!) – was served to not only the family, but a guest that happened to be at our house. And it did what I could never do on my own – put meat on the bones of all those you-can-do-this words of encouragement. Our guest sought the kid out when he was leaving to say again – “Honestly, that was one of the best meals I’ve eaten in a long time. Did you really make that?!” So cool.
  • Lots of push-back. I’m not sure why this happens. But again, I’m sure I do the same thing. Maybe not as vocal, but in my heart. Great lessons to keep pushing forward and ignore negative background noise.
  • Lots of laughs. Especially when the kid cleaning my office showed my a stack over a 12″ high of thank-you notes I’ve written and haven’t sent (eek!!)

“Do you think the people from this dinner party in 2015 will even remember what they served?!”

Watch your mailboxes people, a note could be headed your way.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

– Kay

just a few pics:

a kind of cute chore-chart :)

Better than a beach view – a happy kid doing something he didn’t want to or think he could do

Made just the way his dad likes it – pesto, chicken, feta, mozzarella & parmesan.

“a perfect circle”

Made just the way the cook likes it.

5 Comments

  1. Kay,
    I loved your book, Cleaning House! I read it about a year ago, and it was great to hear your story. I, too, have done many of these things because, as a mom of all boys, I really don’t want my future daughter-in-laws to marry husbands who are useless around the house. Not to mention, they are quite capable of doing all of these things anyway! Our rule is that if you live here, you work here. I am so excited to know that you have a blog.
    My girlfriend and I are starting a blog this summer after much prep work (who knew?) about parenting teens and adulting in todays world.

    • Hi Melanie – thanks so much for the super kind words. How fun that you’re jumping into the blog world. I hope it blesses you as much as I’m sure you’ll bless those who join the ride.

  2. Michelle Ball says:

    I LOVE this!! Thank you for sharing this Cleaning House Boot-Camp with us. It is inspiring even when I just have toddlers. Who says I can’t do this just for myself?

    P.S. Did he cook the whole dinner wearing just one sock? ;)

    • Thanks Michelle :) Great reminder to me to include info on age-related tasks – although to be honest, at almost every age they can do more than they, or we, think.
      And on the socks – yes. One on, one off. Hilarious. I wonder if he went to the grocery store like that too – hmmm…..

  3. Kelly Love says:

    Kay – this is fantastic! I was wanting to dust-off “Cleaning House” for my kids this summer, and you are once again providing great tips to implement. I am going to print your Week #1 lists, and do hope that weeks 2, 3, etc. will follow :-) So encouraged by your stories – thank you!

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