Clean Your Room!

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My tween daughter is a collector, just like her parents. She has tons of collections (bags, jewelry, art stuff, books, rocks, etc.), and sub-collections within those, like jewelry > loom band bracelets. Or books > comic books.

These things get scattered super-fast, and they pile up in all the wrong places, and then she gets stressed out because I get stressed out, and I forget that maybe she just hasn’t developed that particular skill quite yet.

She requires assistance. And by assistance, I mean oversight and direction. I do NOT do the work for her. I just stay in the room to keep her on track and help her solve problems as they arise. This helps her organize her mind, which has to happen before she can organize any physical space.

How to “Help” a Kid Clean Her Room

A foundational part of this is helping your child learn to recognize trash. My daughter loved to hang onto anything she ever touched with a pencil or crayon, and that’s just…no. We can’t do it. So before you begin, work through what “trash” is for your child. Let her create the definition, too. And make sure you have a designated storage spot for that ephemera she wants to keep. We have a “scrapbook drawer” that holds paper items she wants to commemorate in a scrapbook someday (soon!).

1 – Pile everything that’s not in its proper home into the middle of the room, or a bin if it fits. This goes on the floor. Not on a desk, not on the bed. On the floor. Anything at all that is out of place (on the nightstand, on under the bed, astray on the bookshelf) gets put into this pile.

2 – Nobody takes a break until everything in the bin/pile has a proper home. You can drink water on the journey, but there are no real breaks.

3 – Once everything that needs put away is in the pile, she picks up a single item and has to say its name out loud.

She is both verbal and auditory, so if she just sees an object, her mind can kind of go blank with what to do with it. I suspect she looks at an object and it reminds her of a friend, an experience, or she’s thinking about what she can be doing with it other than putting it away.

Note: Sometimes, she knows that a bunch of one kind of item are in the pile, so I allow her to do a quick search for like items so she can put them all away at once. But she can’t dig through everything. When she comes to another such thing, she’ll know where it goes because she’s done it before.

4 – Only after she says its name, she puts it away. 

I stick around to remind her, “you have a place for that kind of thing in this house,” and to help her designate new spaces for toys that previously did not have a home.

5 – After the pile is sorted, we take a brief snack break. This is away from TV, stories, games, the iPad, anything that can distract us. And the snack must be healthy and powerful, because after an hour or two of constant work, both of us are pretty exhausted emotionally, if not physically. Tonight, it was yogurt and some cashews for her, and yogurt and a banana for me, since I’m dealing with TMJ and not allowed to have nuts.

6 – Then we reassess the room. There’s usually trash that needs to be taken out, odds and ends on the floor that need to be picked up before we can vacuum, etc.

7 – Vacuum. 

8 – Dust.

9 – Relax! 

Notice, I don’t tackle clothes other than to put them where they go (hung up, laundry, drawers). Taming the clothing collection of a 9-year-old girl is something for another session! We’re starting to think along the KonMari lines — only keeping that which brings you joy — but we haven’t gotten there yet!


Tool: Free PDF to PowerPoint Conversion

I’m a Word person. I can make PDFs in my sleep. In fact, during my last job when I was working 18 hours a day on top of homeschooling, I think I DID create PDFs in my sleep.

But PowerPoint never fails to freak me out.

I received notice about a new web-based tool that converts PDF files to PowerPoint-ready files called PDFConverter.

Its main features include:

• Native and scanned documents conversion

• No file size limit

• Safe and easy to use

• Fast and accurate conversion results

• Hassle-free: no need to buy or install anything on your computer

You can learn more and test it here:

They plunged for Freedom and the Right

We officially wrapped the homeschool year yesterday with our year-end assessment! I’m relieved to have another year under our belts, but learning never, ever stops. Case in point: today.

As a Memorial Day activity, my husband had the good idea to go make rubbings of soldiers’ headstones. We taught her how to determine in which war they had served. Many had fought in the Spanish-American War, which is one she wanted to learn more about. Fortunately, I knew a thing or two about it. Because I’m a geek.

The cemetery groundskeeper was very supportive of it, but he did ask what kind of paper we were using. It was freezer paper (which worked great), and he said that was perfectly fine. Some people use carbon paper, and he says that messes up the stones, so it’s not allowed.

This weekend, our hearts are with the families of those who have served and paid for our freedoms with their lives. We are blessed, regardless of what the news outlets say. And we’re very grateful.

Image*title taken from Joyce Kilmer’s “Memorial Day“.

When Life Steals Your Words

This week has been full of good things, but also some inconveniences. We’ve had a lot of fun with our homeschool co-op (hiking, visiting Fellows Riverside Gardens, learning about recycling with the Green Team…), but I also battled a bad round of allergy yuck over the weekend and it followed me into the week. I do think our hike at the Lily Pond on Tuesday helped my body recover.

This weekend, I’m traveling to St. Louis for a cousin’s wedding. I’ve had so much to do to get ready for the trip, that I barely squeezed in writing a chapter of THE MYSTERY OF DOGWOOD CROSS.  It took the better part of a day to squeeze out 1800 words. Usually it takes about two hours to do it.

I got it done, though. I sent it to my friends who edit (one does macro/storyline edits, one does grammar checks, both hound me on fluidity and catch typos and I love them dearly for being brutal with my writing).  I got my edits back.  They both said the chapter was good, it was fine, but…it wasn’t my best.

Which I knew.

And I don’t want to publish something for the sake of publishing.

There will be no new chapter this weekend, even though I’d planned it. I’d WRITTEN it. But I don’t want to do my readers a disservice. And even talking about the failings of what I HAD written, I was able to come up with better ideas, ones that thrill me.

Hopefully, the joy will be passed on with whatever I come up with instead.


Quiet times in quiet nooks

It’s a quiet morning here, with a chapter that needs written and then a trip to the library planned this afternoon, where I’ll work on streamlining the school year for our portfolio. I’m excited for this next week because it’s a lot of time at home, punctuated with time with friends. With all the travel we’ve done (and it picks up again next weekend!), it’s so good to have quiet times in quiet nooks, like this one:

Like Mother, Like Daughter

I’ve written books with strained relationships between moms and their teenage girls before, but what I love about my current project is the easy relationship between my protagonist and her mom. They don’t look like one another, they don’t have to carve out “quality time”, and even though her mom is working while they’re on their summer adventure, she knows she has someone in her corner.

I have that in my mom. We’re hardly the same person, even though we share similar interests (books, writing, history, travel), but I know without a doubt that she loves me and would do anything for me (as she would for any of her kids). I try to repay that by being EASY. Easy to be around, easy to please, etc.  It’s wonderful, seeing my daughter who is stepping into tweendom, honoring me in similar ways. I love spending time with her, even though we’re very different people. Sure, we have our moments (we’re both definitely fallible humans), but she’s easily one of my favorite people.

I wanted to capture some of that good relationship, and my hopes for our future, in this book. And so far, I’m pleased with the results.