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Dispatches from Life Skills Bootcamp – Week One

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We survived our first week of Life Skills Bootcamp. The expectations this week were simple: make your bed and pick everything up off the floor by 9am or you lose a dollar. Here’s the highlights, and a few low lights too. (Not sure what this is? Start here.)

How I’m Doing

I keep telling myself that making my bed is easy. Doesn’t take more than 10 seconds, max. And my room looks better when the bed is made. But the sad truth is that I keep needing this pep talk. I may as well admit it: I don’t want to make my bed. Maybe it’s a persistent rebellion against four years of room checks and mandatory bed-making in college, but I relish the freedom to leave the bed unmade. So this whole me being the room-inspector bit is ironic and amusing.

I’ve uncovered an inner hard-ass I didn’t know I had. Well, I did know it, but I’ve been too distracted and lazy to come down hard the way I’ve needed to. I’m really hoping that all the hard work up front will pay off soon so that our summer goes fairly smoothly.

Unit 1 - Making Beds


The kids are doing an incredible job making their beds and keeping their rooms picked up. Even the youngest, who sleeps on the top bunk, has worked at it. The first day, he stripped the sheets off his bed because he thought “make the bed” meant “change the sheets,” bless his heart. He has a tougher time pulling his blankets up because he’s small and on the top bunk. He also tends to forget, well, everything, but the incentive of losing a dollar sends him tearing down the hall to his room every morning to make sure everything passes inspection. (His big brother’s reminders don’t hurt either.)

The kids saw for themselves what a difference small efforts every day make when Saturday morning dawned (well, technically a few hours after dawn, but whatever). Every Saturday, we do a big clean-up of the house, and I have them vacuum their bedrooms. Usually they have to spend at least an hour cleaning up and getting everything off the floor so they can get a vacuum cleaner into their rooms. But this week, their normal morning routine was all it took to prep for vacuuming! They all commented on how great it was to be done with their Saturday chores so quickly.

I’ve asked them to pitch in on other things this past week too. I have two reasons – one, making beds and picking up rooms is fast and easy and not asking much of them; two, I need help; and actually I have three reasons, I’m working on their attitudes. No surprise – two of the three kids are the opposite of thrilled about “all this work.”


We’ve had some big confrontations over little things. Most notable were folding a basket of laundry and setting the table. The kids are still getting used to the new me who no longer tolerates the arguing and negotiating they normally engage in. And with the new expectations have come a veritable storm of complaints. One of my kids went to bed without dinner this past week when I told him to set the table, repeated the request three times (argh!), and explained that the consequence for not setting the table would be missing dinner. When he responded, “Ask me nicely,” I bit back a swear and sent him to his room without dinner. (Side note: nothing makes me want to swear more than my kids complaining to me, arguing with me, and sassing me. Wow. It’s like a sailor in my inner monologue!)

Another child insisted that they couldn’t fold any laundry bigger than their own, and copped an attitude when I explained that they were about to learn. I had planned to fold the basket of clothes with this kid, demonstrating how to deal with their dad’s t-shirts and other large items. But when the complaining persisted, I stepped back and said, “All right, you can fold the entire basket by yourself.” Instead of shutting up, the complaining worsened, so I took away all that kid’s screen time for 24 hours.

That was especially stellar timing, since that night was movie night. The other kids enjoyed pizza and a movie, while this one spent the evening alone in his/her bedroom. But get this: when we checked in later, he/she had used the time to clean up the entire bedroom, sorting through an entire bookcase to remove books that were in bad shape or that the kids had outgrown. The books to keep were shelved neatly. Amazing.

All of the kids have been sent out to the back yard with grocery bags to fill with weeds or yard waste after sassing or complaining or arguing. In fact, I’m running out of yard waste. Fortunately, we have a dog who keeps the yard stocked with poo. So guess what they’ll be picking up this week?!?!

MidCourse Corrections

I keep forgetting to get singles for their containers (they started the 3-week unit with $21 each, and they lose a dollar each day their room fails inspection). Part of that is I was waiting to be paid. Part of it is that I’m just forgetful.  I’m getting the dollars today.

When I showed the Bootcamp plan to Scott, he loved it. But he immediately added a mini-lesson on how to handle toothpaste. The kids’ bathroom always looks as if a toothpaste murder took place, and their toothpaste tubes? We have no idea how they get toothpaste past the giant hardened ball of paste hanging off the end and onto their toothbrushes.

Planning Ahead

I bought The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook this week. It is full of easy meals (all prepared in 45 minutes or less). I like it because it has photos, both of the step-by-step preparation and of the final product. The older two kids have both flipped through it, looking for meals they want to prepare on their days to cook. The oldest boy has select three shrimp recipes, and the girl has selected some delicious-sounding salads and wraps. The boy won’t let on, but I can tell that behind his Eeyore face, he’s excited about choosing recipes (he has always enjoyed cooking shows and convincing me to try the latest Rachel Ray recipe).


“I don’t need to know how to do laundry. My WIFE will do it for me.”  [WRONG answer, kid.]

“I’m TIRED of doing ALL the work.” [Let’s talk about how much work I do vs what I’m asking you to do.]

“You’re going too hard on people” [Just wait til you get a real boss.]

“This is going too far.” [Ha. HAH. HAHAHAHAH!]

“I’m bored.” [Time for chores!]

How’s your summer going? Got any tips for dealing with complaints?

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