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:


“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.

A Reset – A Cleaning House Bootcamp of Sorts

Hello sweet moatblog friends :) Sorry for lots of silence.

May bleeding into April and a couple of graduations is probably ’nuff said. There’s that and the truth that most spare time of late has been spent on the vod/podcast front. Our little SaySomething Show

latest episode with Sandra Stanley on contentment is worth the 20 minute-view

has been a blast to put together and hopefully encouraging/informing to folks that tune in. Well those things AND I’m tossing around the notion (and wondering if I’ve got it in me) to write another book – more to come on that.

Back to blogging front: this spot on the blogosphere began because a line was drawn in the sand – and that same line is about to be drawn again (eek!). Our house needs a taming-entitlement refresher (and since tons of folks have asked), I’m going to take a deep breath and try a 6-week Cleaning House boot camp. Feel free to join in. It’s funny, because it’s not like the kids don’t have good grip on things – a couple could use some reminders. So why not?

Starting tomorrow (have I outed my issues with procrastination?!) clutter is on notice, the kitchen is getting a touch-up, handy-man is on speed-dial (especially after one of the kids came to me yesterday with “my shower is clogged”) and so much more. I’m up for sharing and am excited to test if/how our original “experiment” really did infuse the kids with independence.

Let me remind everyone, I’m still the same flaky, unorganized founding member of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Organizationally-Impaired. Seriously. The best thing that happened to the kids in my house was my putting responsibility on their plates. They handle stuff so much better than I do. In fact, it has become hard for me to remember that I need to actually step in and help since they’re so self-sufficient. But there are many times that I do need to be better about staying on top of things (which is absolutely not my naturally-laid-back – or is it lazy – way.)

So welcome to a Boot-Camp version of Cleaning House. As I was inspired in 2012, may we all be inspired again by the words of the great Theodore Roosevelt from a speech he gave to the Hamilton Club in Chicago in 1899 entitled “The Strenuous Life”.

In speaking to you, men of the greatest city of the West, men of the State which gave to the country Lincoln and Grant, men who preeminently and distinctly embody all that is most American in the American character, I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph…

In the last analysis a healthy state can exist only when the men and women who make it up lead clean, vigorous, healthy lives; when the children are so trained that they shall endeavor, not to shirk difficulties, but to overcome them; not to seek ease, but to know how to wrest triumph from toil and risk.

Honestly, the only reason I’m familiar with TR’s notable address is because an English teacher assigned our then 7th grade kid a five minute “declamation”. The task: pick a speech/writing/something-quotable that is of interest, commit 5 minutes of it to memory, then recite it in front of the class. Well, my kid, following in his mother’s footsteps, procrastinated to the point of the teacher choosing his passage for him.

That’s when he came home with Teddy Roosevelt’s address meant to inspire a nation. To remind the people about all they can do. Really to bring back into focus healthy perspective and action – not only for the good of the nation for which he cared, but also for the individuals that were being slowly duped into believing that being served is better than being productive (something that usually involves doing for others, even when such activities produce profit.)

So with that in mind, may the Boot-Camp begin.

Over the next six weeks, our house will be tackling the following 12 tasks. Twelve isn’t a magic number, it simply coincided with the number of months in a year and I needed a game of sorts to keep us on point. And the outlined tasks were simply things that I thought accompany independence. They can be whatever you want.

So, Step 1 – Admit there’s a problem. Well, for me it occurred a couple of weeks ago when a certain young person in my home stood by the toaster with a frozen waffle in hand and said, “I don’t know how to do this.” We both knew that statement to be false, but …, well, I mean… I don’t even have a response.

Step 2 – Quit – of course, never going it alone.

That’s why I have SO loved walking this road with you guys, AS WELL AS my kids. They’re amazing. Not only do I love them, I really like them. Every Drivers-Ed class just about kills me (not only because Central Expressway with someone that has no clue is horrifying & death-defying, but also because it signals the inevitable.) And it’s like dominoes. My sweet Speed Police (named for purposes of slight anonymity when themoatblog began) is headed to Baylor in a couple of months with college-bound (or culinary school – yes, she really learned how to cook and does circles around the rest of us!) Barton right behind. (boo-hoo-hoo, wahhhh!!)

So, thanks for letting me draw the line in the sand (again!) PLEASE comment/share/whatever along the way. I’m excited to share how our intentional move toward kid-independence changed our world. I’d really like to know what works in your house.

And as always – thanks for walking the road with me.

– Kay

p.s. I’m scared to hit “publish” on this since it will require action on our part (eek!)

p.p.s. Today is national Say Something Nice Day. Maybe that’s the best place to start. And since sometimes actions speak louder than words – maybe a little talking and doing can make the first day of June extra special.

THE tale as old as time

 For years my uncle, Eugene Brock (namesake for our 4th child) rounded up writers to share op-ed for our home-town newspaper (Wichita Falls Times & Record News) during Holy Week. Very sadly, my uncle Brock went home to the Lord earlier this year, so my cousin Alan Brock took over the helm. What an honor and privilege to have been included in both their line-ups. Here’s what was on my mind this year. I hope you have a very blessed Easter. Thank you for blessing my life as we walk the road together. :)

In a land far, far away in a time long, long ago, a Prince and Princess lived in peace and in the absolute completeness of love and joy. Every day brought with it wonder and happiness that surpassed the fullness of the day before. The good King lavished the young royals with all he had. But mostly he loved them, unconditionally.

Then one day, Dark Knight slipped in alongside the Prince and Princess as they walked through the Royal Gardens. He despised the good King. Filled with hate and jealousy, Dark Knight set out to crush the good King by destroying the unsuspecting pair whom the King adored.

Dressed in his most dazzling attire, Dark Knight lured the Prince and Princess to a most beautiful feast. “Have you never tasted the lovely Tieto?” he asked. “It is the most desired among all food in this vast kingdom for it has the power to open your mind and your eyes to know and to see all.”

The delicacy looked and smelled so delicious. They had heard about it, had been warned of its deadly nature, but were entranced by its beauty. The sound of Dark Knight’s voice woke within them hunger and feelings they had never experienced. For the first time in their lives flickers of craving and doubt and anger and resentment began to burn within them as Dark Knight flooded their thoughts with lies about the good King. “He withholds and controls. He wants to keep the best things set aside for himself. He does not love you.”

They listened.

They gave into desire and indulged.

Suddenly the ground opened and swallowed them whole. Air, once filled with oxygen’s essence, now suffocated. Momentary relief came only when the pair caught glimpses of the good King looking down with love now clouded by pain.

Dark Knight laughed and mocked the good King. “They’re mine now,” he cackled. “I will never give them rest. They will endlessly search for meaning. They will never have enough. They will forever battle insecurity. They will hide in shame and never experience satisfaction. They will always be ALONE, even when together.”

The Princess’s beauty and Prince’s handsome good looks were replaced by the crustiness of a soul sold out to worldly ways. Their outward appearance became that of hideous creatures, the worst of their inside-selves – Beasts.

Would they be doomed to the curse forever?

Ahhh – but THE tale as old as time can’t end there.

The light of a Savior flickers in the background. For Dark Knight knows that all can be restored and redeemed if Love enters the story. But the Prince and Princess, assuming love’s nature to be like their own, can’t imagine Love’s power being willing to see beyond their now gruesome exterior.

But the thing about Love, it sees beyond.


The good King, called upon the One who IS love. “Will you go?” the King asked his beloved Son. “Yes, Father, “they’re salvation is worth everything to us.”

So on his white horse, the Son, whose name is Faithful and True, set out to meet Dark Knight in battle. The war raged, the battle ensued, the sword extended, blood spilled.

The Son’s blood.

Wailing could be heard from furthest reaches of the kingdom and galaxies as if Creation itself felt the blow. Dark Knight had killed the One whose name is Love – at least as far as anyone knew. For the Dark Knight had assumed death was final.

He never understood the power of Love.

As the Prince and Princess held the Son’s lifeless body in their arms, eternally moved by the gift of the good King who sent their deliverer, tears rolled down their cheeks and into his wounds.

Suddenly out of the darkness, Light – like a bright Morning Star – broke through the Son’s pierced side where Dark Knight’s sword had struck its deadly blow. And in that moment Love overwhelmed. Love defeated death. Love engulfed the pair, from the inside out – in that moment, and forever more.

Love overcame. Peace restored. Happily ever after.

But unlike our beloved fairy tales, this story is true.

We call it Easter.

originally published in the Times & Record News, April 10th

Spring-Signals that Inform Life

Recently we sat in the car at a red light waiting for green. I was going on hour 2 of carpool – not because we were traveling outside of a 3-mile radius of our house, but because staggered school-end-times plus drama practice plus track practice result in lots of wait.

I looked out my window and saw this tree:

“Boy, that tree looks sad doesn’t,” I said to my shotgun rider.

“It looks dead,” she replied.

But right next it stood an almost exact replica – same height, same shape and same type of tree – but very different:

Spring has sprung on the second tree (not so much for the sad-tree.) Life hidden behind an outside that looked dead has made it’s way to the surface. That’s what happens with spring. New life. Whether seen with the human eye or hidden from sight, the life that springs forth from within is certain.

I love the way the Lord often reminds us through nature of so many of his eternal Truths. Shotgun-rider and I talked about

  • Faith – being sure of what you hope for, certain of what isn’t seen. Faith informing situations where what we can see isn’t the whole picture. There’s more to the story of those leafless trees – as there is in life. And neither of us would have to travel far to think about something in our own lives that feels like it’s toast (For me: a yearbook ad that was due last week for our graduating senior – which seems trite, especially when compared to another situation that involves deep, deep almost untouchable heartache with a couple of friends as well as someone super close to me, but is center stage as appearing slightly hopeless. For her: a friendship gone south and a class that feels always up hill,…)
  • We talked about timing – some things, people, situations might sprout and bloom before another, but that doesn’t define the tree’s worth, or ours;
  • We talked about suffering & grief that really can leave us feeling dead or damaged or worthless with nothing beautiful to show – but that like the tree, we can rest assured that there’s more than meets the eye when we remember the life that comes from within (whether seen or unseen), from the roots planted in rich soil (which is so important), especially when planted by “streams of living water.” (Psalm 1)
  • And then Easter – the greatest story of what looked dead actually conquering death to never die again. Enter Hope stage left. Well, Hope and Peace and Joy and … LIFE.

It’s hard to go much further in the car when lights turn green – well, that and it’s so easy to over-talk and turn a possibly thoughtful conversation into weird.

But those trees have lingered in my mind.

Then – slightly out of the blue, I got an email from Steven Curtis Chapman’s super nice PR folks. I had seen a copy of his new book Between Heaven and the Real World and really hoped he would be up for a chat on our little SaySomething Show (check it out sometime – some super nice, incredibly informative, folks have stopped by or joined carpool for a chat.) My expectations being low, I was surprised by Stacie’s kind response (even after I misspelled SCC’s name – not everyone is aware of my tight friendship with Typo :) “Hi Kay – I may be able to get some time of Steven’s either next Thursday or Friday, just prior to the Dallas show. is that doable or too late?”

Ummm – ANYTIME is good with us!!! my instant response.

And I was reminded of Steven Curtis Chapman’s song, “Spring is Coming” – written after the tragic death of their 5 year-old daughter Maria when we looked at those trees. I hope you will take the time to hear what he has to say. He talks about his tour, the book, about grief and hope.

We are all on a journey carrying grief, sadness and longing and ache in our heart for what isn’t as it should be, for what is unfixable on this side of heaven. And yet the hope that keeps us breathing and keeps us taking the next step is that the story is not over yet – what it looks like, they way it appears right now, is not the end of the story – the Gospel, the hope that we have right now.

AND he shares the Steven Curtis Chapman 5 tips on a purposeful, joy-filled life (my new favorite questions.) So here you go:

As always, thanks for walking the road with me.