Cleaning Day

“I should be mad at you for not letting me take the car,” she says. Her brows arch in surprise. “But I’m not.” She smiles. A small, sweet smile. The one I would sew a thousand tiny doll dresses, go on a million trips to the park, and bake a hundred chocolate cupcakes for. A yesterday smile.

She is mine for a few weeks. She told me so before finals. She said, “I will be hanging around the house for five weeks.”

I know that won’t happen. She already has plans. There are friends, events to go to, and a dance workshop.  There is a boy. There is always a boy.

Her schedule fills up so fast I can barely squeeze in her dental appointments, an eye exam, and a doctor visit. And she really should be evaluated for that persistent weakness in her ankle. She twisted it at school months ago, stumbling on the theater stairs.

“You were right, Momma,” she told me then. “I should have tossed those boots.”

The worn down heels made her ankles pronate. After she fell that day, I snatched the boots away and trashed them, sending her to buy new shoes with her ankle wrapped tight.

It’s summer break. Today she stays home. We clean. The guys installed an exhaust fan in my bathroom, and the white powdery dust from new cut holes and whatever else they did invaded the master bedroom. It coats everything.

We wipe with damp cloths. I wonder aloud, more than once, why they didn’t consider covering my work space with plastic sheeting. She shrugs, grown wise in the ways of women, knowing I need to grumble and fuss at the mess, knowing it will not make the least impact on our men.

First years are hard, and Baby Girl isn’t so special she dodged the common freshman bumps along the road. Stress and grief dogged her, on too many days panting hard at her heels, snapping. More than once with blood-drawing teeth.

Yesterday she came upon me, armwrapping me from the side. “I feel content,” she said. Has she ever said that before? I wanted to breathe it in, cradle her contentment like an infant-holding  momma smelling her baby’s hair. She still has that peace about her, end of semester relief not yet morphing into boredom and the fidgety unsettledness. We rest in this moment, the place between.

We wipe with the damp cloths. It’s so dusty. The rags have to be rinsed, over and over, water turning milky.

I go through the neglected stacks of papers. It wouldn’t be such a chore if I had kept up with the endless flotsam of every day life, but I couldn’t. Clutter accumulated without notice until now. The curtains needed washing, as did clothes left too long in untidy, neglected mounds waiting in vain to be folded away. The washer has been going all afternoon into evening. There are a pile of rags and towels in it now, waiting for tomorrow. It’s too late to start a wash now. Rugs are clean, floors mopped, ceiling fan dusted. The room practically echoes with good, simple clean.

I found things that have been lost for months. It’s good to wipe away the dust, to rest in the inbetween, finding contentment in the stripped down rooms of home.

How to Talk With Teens About 13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons Why is the Netflix special everyone is talking about. The series is rated MA for mature audiences and explores suicide, bullying, sexual assault, and many other serious topics teens and young adults face. The series contains graphic depictions in some episodes. I have not read the book 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher yet, but it is my understanding that the book is significantly different. This post is about the Netflix series.

I searched for a discussion guide to go with the Netflix series but I am disturbed to find some had the tendency to minimize the issues. I found an excellent list of talking points to start meaningful discussion from the JED Foundation and provided that link below.

If you have any suggestions to add to my list, please put them in the comment section.

It seems a common thread among some of the people who discuss the series often include an element of denial. Instead of closing our eyes, perhaps a better way to address the issues brought up by 13 Reasons Why is to ask questions, listen, and guide our young people. If your teen or young adult has not watched, I still suggest parents look for ways to bring up the subject matter.

Thirteen Reasons Why is rated MA.

If your teen/young adult has already watched, I strongly suggest you watch each episode, stop, and discuss. Take time to process. This series deals with heavy topics and is emotionally draining.

Advice for Parents

Talking with kids can be hard. Decide what the most important topics are to bring up to your young person and ask questions, letting them do most of the talking. This is a time to offer guidance rather than lecture. Bring the topics up more than once.

I would be very honest with your young people. Perhaps not every person they go to for help will respond appropriately, but most adults are here to help. Sometimes asking once isn’t enough.

Relate a personal story to them if you have one and offer solutions.

Do not minimize your young person’s concerns and experiences.

Ask direct questions.

Talk to them. Not only once, but continually.

Know what they are watching.

I am not a mental health professional. The questions listed below are simply the type that can be used to start a dialog. Each of these suggested questions should lead to many more.

What did you take away from this story?

What do you think this series is about? Is it about more than one thing?(Some young people may miss that this story is driven by Hannah’s revenge against those she feels responsible for her suicide.)

Which of the characters seems the most balanced or healthy emotionally? Why do you think that is?

Are any of the depictions in this series believable? Which ones? Which actions are not?

What behaviors do each of the characters engage in that are questionable or plainly wrong? What should they have done? In this situation, what would you do?

What do you think you would do if you found yourself in some of the situations Hannah does?

How can you decide what secrets should be kept and which should be told? Who should you tell? Why or why not?

What are the signs of suicide? Other emotional issues?

How can you help someone who is suicidal?

How do our actions impact others? How do their actions impact us? How can we deal with that?

Who is the victim in this story? Is there more than one victim?

How does the school depicted compare to your school?

After each episode ask you young person for their takeaway, and what they thought. Examine the ideas put forth. Ask “what did you think” and “why or why not”.

If you seek help and are ignored or denied, what should you do then?

Does this story have a ‘call to action”? What is it?

Extension

What do you think of some of the reactions people have had to 13 Reasons? Can you give examples of appropriate/inappropriate reactions? Explain.

For further reading

Click here for a link to resources on 13 Reasons Why the Netflix Series from the National Association of School Psychologists

Click here for Talking Points from the JED Foundation.

 

Keep talking and discussing books, movies, and issues with your children and young adults.

 

Please add to the discussion by commenting below.

 

baby dress

Baby Dresses

The smell of hot cotton fabric permeates the air. I used to hate ironing. I never could get every crease out. A ready iron in my hands had a tendency to create more problems than I could erase, playing hide and seek with wrinkles until it drove me to despair.

The trick is to iron only cotton fabric, cut into squares . I like the small, well-behaved pieces, the calm way they lay still for me, not like hard to manage shoulder seams that always want to squirm away when you try to hold them flat enough to iron.  Simple, unsewn pieces have no curves and strange corners.

I push down on the fabric, slowly drawing the heat across a multitude of tiny blue flowers. The busier the pattern, the less the wrinkles show. Still, I pass the iron over the field of blooms again and again, until the scent of hot cotton lingers, memories of little girl dresses.

I had other plans for this fabric. I can still picture the dress in my mind, the one I imagined when I chose this fabric. But then life happened. Time got away. The white and blue dress was never sewn.

The iron creaks. I never had the money for a good iron, so I made do. There were irons I coveted after. Maybe if I had owned one of those my ironing would have been more successful. Nevermind.

I whisk my palm across the hot fabric, not resting there, always moving, moving. I am going to put this in the shadowbox as a background for the dress.

I barely finished the dress in time. Last babies. You understand. The final embroidered flower was stitched in place while I was in the hospital bed recovering from my fourth c-section, and she was brand new to this world. Silk roses on a baby dress. What nonsense.

Two of the flowers need repair. I hesitate. Was it really so long ago her hands were small enough to catch the tiny loops and undo all my meticulous work? It was a trial to keep her from unraveling them all. I thread the needle.

White thread and a twist. One, two, three stitches. The thread knots. I take my time and unravel it. When I was younger, I was always in a hurry, leaving snarls and wadded thread behind on the back sides of my stiches, not worried about what didn’t show.  I tease out the tangle and leave a clean, smooth stitch behind.

On her way out she breezes by, her fingers lighting on the dress for two, maybe three, seconds as she walks by. She says, “When I have my baby girl, she will have her picture made in this dress.”

I say nothing, because even though we have said this very same thing a thousand times, I can’t say it today.

Not today.

She opens the door, her hand jiggling the keys impatiently. They hit against each other and jangle.

She has one foot out the door when I say, “Text me when you get there.”

The response is automatic. “I will, Momma.” Her mind is elsewhere, on her to do list.

Before I assemble the dress and backing into the shadowbox, I pass the iron over the blue flowered fabric one more time, breathing in the smell of hot cotton meant for little girl dresses.

Homeschooling Is Worth It

hsisworthit

This year will be my twenty-third year. That’s a long time to be enveloped by the lifestyle of home education. It will be my twenty-third year, and my last.

In the beginning, I was angry. I wasn’t ready for this. I felt forced into it. I graduated with honors and the inability to do much math beyond the basics. I could not analyze literature to save my life. Home educating was not part of my plan. We had moved to the best school district within driving distance of my husband’s work, but then it didn’t work out and we were going to home educate.

I wasn’t prepared.

It was a large undertaking, and I had a lot of studying to do. We got quite a few head shakes. Most people tried to convince me to quit. They couldn’t understand that I had made a commitment. The promise had been made and there was no going back.

There have been things I have kept to myself. Struggles no one but God has seen. I have kids with learning differences. I have a few myself. Health challenges. Incredible financial burdens. Other messy stuff. There is not enough Samsonite in the world to hold all this baggage, and not enough room in Texas to unpack it all.

But I made a promise. Was it hard to keep? Yes and no. Teaching them was not the hardest part, unless you caught me on a bad day, before I figured out bad days happen. Bad days don’t mean much in the grand scheme.

Teaching them was not the hardest part, unless you caught me on a bad day, before I figured out bad days happen. (Tweet This)

When Baby Girl came along and we knew she would be the last, I added up the years this home educating commitment of mine would take. In a moment of self-preservation to maintain mental health, I immediately forgot. I refused to count the days for a long, long, time. Instead, I decided to make them count for us.

They did.

We have made each other rich. The focus has always been relationships. Putting relationships first has arranged all the elements of teaching into proper place. Our purpose in educating is to give a foundation to fulfill each child’s calling and prepare students to do life. Listen more than speak.

Putting relationships first has arranged all the elements of teaching into proper place. (Tweet This)

My daughter chooses her own path. It is our philosophy to let the student lead. It is my job to provide guidance balanced with respect. Confidence in a student’s abilities and encouragement to do their best has been the method that served all my children well.

Many years ago a mom once asked me, “Is homeschooling hard?” I laughed. It was good I did not answer her that particular day.

A mom once asked me, “Is homeschooling hard?” I laughed. It was good I did not answer her. (Tweet This)

Some days it is hard. Very hard. There were days when I considered the cost, hard pressed to weigh out the pros and cons, and days when I thought about taking a different path. There were even a few in-between days when I felt unsure, and reevaluated plans, mulling over options. But in the end, after discussion and prayers, we kept on. My steps were careful. Cautiously bold is how I traveled this way.

In the quiet morning hour, the house is empty. Everyone is living their lives. My senior is at her job, teaching. She says she doesn’t understand why people get frustrated at those who are trying their best. Was this something I taught my children, or something they taught me? The best, most lasting lessons are the ones like these.

I wasn’t prepared for this either, the brilliant gifts that litter the days like gold strewn along an otherwise mundane path.

When I look back I am overcome by the enormity of this job well done, and overwhelmed by gratefulness. I am grateful for the freedom living in this land allows, the wisdom so generously shared by others who went before, and for the grace covered love that carried us through.

If you see me crying in the toothpaste aisle at the grocery, it’s not because I’m sad, or overcome with the prospect of empty nesting, or having a moment of regret.

It is because it’s beautiful.

Here I stand on the other side. Twenty-three years isn’t such a long time after all.

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Home Invasion|The Visit Continues

We were driven out into the night to seek shelter at my son’s house a week or so ago as I wrote about in an earlier post.

When we got here, you could tell it was definitely a guy’s house.

pizzaboxes

 

But soon, his sister made her mark. I thought the man of the house finding this in the cabinet was hilarious. He was not as amused as I.

wighead

 

The master bedroom did not have a bed yet and was used for office space.

smalloffice

 

He used one of the smaller rooms that he had bought a mattress for, intending to rearrange things as he acquired more furnishings. The closets are spacious, but he kept his clothes here.

clothes

Perhaps this was more convenient. I resisted hanging up his clothes. I did find clean sheets and left them on his bed, simply as a suggestion.

Being a good sport, my son has adapted somewhat to being invaded by not only mom, but sister as well. Brothers have often been here and require little adjustment. Girls, on the other hand, are different. There have been purchases of things boys have no need of, like extra silverware, baking pans, first aid supplies, laundry booster, and fresh fruits and veggies.

I am happy to report the bathrooms and kitchen were fairly clean. Almost shockingly so! Warms a mother’s heart to realize the endless task of teaching does pay off.

I worried about crashing in on him, but he keeps assuring me he likes us being here . . . most of the time. He grumbles at times. It would be nice if his sibs loaded the dishwasher. You would be proud of me, Mommas. I say nothing to that, nor do I gloat. (By the way, the sibs do contribute to upkeep and mess management.)

We were talking about how nerve wracking it can be to have family around all the time and he told me he wasn’t bothered by my being here at all.

“Because,” he said, “You’re not judgmental.”

For some reason. every time I think of that it makes me tear up.

How has your summer been so far?

 

 

How I Became A Middle of the Night Houseguest

If you follow my blog you know my son recently bought a new house. I had only been to see it once since he bought it, and that was a very short visit. Unbeknownst to any of us, that lack was soon to be remedied.

It’s been raining quite a bit. The Texas flooding spared us, but the rains have been steady. When it rains a great deal without stopping, many things can cause problems. What went wrong at my house was not a tragedy. It was a septic failure, one of things that can go wrong and drive you out into the night.

I tried calling my son several times as we were stuffing clothes into bags and grabbing toothbrushes and pillows, but he did not answer.

I have an emergency key. This was an emergency.

We startled him awake. A particularly boring episode of something on Netflix had sent him to dreamland as he sat in his only real chair. The one I gave him.

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It was parked in front of the T.V. his brother gave him, which is on the T.V. stand his new neighbor gave him since she was throwing it out. Do you sense a pattern? He doesn’t have a lot of furniture. He doesn’t have a lot of anything, except room.

To give you an idea, here is rest of the living room furniture. (Wait a minute, we brought the red camp chair. Come to think of it, we brought the blue throw that is in the red chair,too.)

seating

We also brought sleeping bags, towels, and various other supplies. I knew he had a new mattress and one set of sheets he bought for the guest room, so that was good. No way can I sleep on the floor anymore, as I explain in my cipro story.

He let us in and welcomed us, even if he was a bit fuzzy headed. Can you imagine your mom showing up in the wee hours with a goodly portion of the family in tow?

My husband and eldest son are at home now, and await estimates. While they wait, there are a few things to take care of. Looks like I may be getting some remodeling.

In the meantime, we will enjoy the visit. We will probably make messes for him to cleanup instead of the other way around, and he can stop missing us for a little while.

And we wait for the rain to stop and the work backlog to subside. We are not the only ones with septic woes.

raincrpped

 

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The Lies and Omissions of Teen Girls

liesomissionsteen

I wanted to write this post because my heart is breaking. Right now, girls are keeping destructive secrets, cutting, starving themselves, engaging in risky behavior, feeling trapped in abusive relationships, bullied and bullying, all right under their parent’s noses. I don’t even know if parents want to know. This post is for the strong of heart who are willing to take stock of their relationship with their daughters.

Teens cover up. They all do it. It doesn’t matter how close a parent is to their teen, deep secrets can end up buried far away from parental eyes and ears. Teen girls always keep a bit of themselves to themselves, and rightly so, but when they are engaging in potentially harmful behavior or need guidance teens need to be able to talk with parents. It’s part of our job as a parent to be available and aware.

Why Teen and Preteen Girls Don’t Talk to Parents

Shame

Even if there is apparent evidence to the contrary, our teens want to please us. If they feel ashamed of the opinions or thoughts they are having and are afraid of being shamed for them, teens will resist letting the parent in. They really do care what parents think, even when the teen disagrees.

Embarrassment

It seems like a teen girl is embarrassed by everything. Discussing intimate feeling or touchy subjects is brutally embarrassing. Did I say teen girls? I still get embarrassed by certain subjects with my mom and a fair amount of time has passed since I was a teen!

Rejection

Fear of rejection keeps us all from sharing our feelings. Who wants to have a heart to heart with someone when there is less than a 100% chance of your feelings being recognized as valid?

How to Get Teens to Talk

Be Honest

No one wants to talk with a hypocrite, and teens tend to operate from a black and white perspective until they gain experience. Teen will call you out on your inconsistencies. Be as honest as possible about your failures. Admit that you don’t know it all, but you are giving them your best advice.

Be Understanding of Your Teen’s Point of View

Teens are full of drama, and it is easy to dismiss conversations that from an adult point of view seem frivolous. Try to remember what it was like to find a place to be in a  confusing world.

Realize that they may be coming from a vastly different place than teens in years past have ever experienced. The first step to seeing from another person’s point of view is to realize they have a different perspective and respecting that perspective. You don’t have to agree with someone to respect their right to have an opinion. Finding a place to relate to each other is key to communication.

Listen Don’t Lecture

As parents it is our job to correct, admonish, and train but jumping in too quickly with advice or even worse, “I told you so” will bring any conversation to a screeching halt. Most of us have already done a fair job of laying down the rules and letting our kids know what we think and believe. Fostering a two way communication is an entirely different scenario. Listening is hard work. Resolve to postpone your input. A big part of communicating is found in quietness.

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Schedule Time to Talk But Talk Outside the Schedule Too

Communication takes time. Building trust takes time. Setting a teen down to ‘have a talk’ is not the same as ongoing dialog that is relationship building. Be deliberate in your pursuit of communication with your children.

All of these suggestions apply to boys as well as girls. While girls tend to talk more, it seems they also keep certain things to themselves.  I do not know if it holds true for all girls, but of all the girls I’ve known, we talk more but hold back more as well. We learn to do this young.

I wrote another post about Raising Conversational Men, but I am not so naive as to think my children tell me everything. The best I can do is to make it crystal clear to them that if and when they want to tell all, tell bits, or tell anything, I am here.

Do you have any tips for getting your teen to talk to you? I’d love to hear from you! Add your comment to the conversation.

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Confessions of A Hoarding Homeschooler

Confessions of a Hoarding Homeschooler donnastone.me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It all started when I went to look for a literary analysis book. One trash bag full and three boxes into the job, I started finding things. Treasures, really.

We must keep the carousal horse and other drawings, and the book Drawing With Children. I would be happy with only the drawings, but my daughter insists. What if she needs that book for her kids?

herfavsubject

This binder says right on the cover Mind Twisting Stories which means it is a titled work, so it cannot be discarded.

storiesinnotebook

Little sister even decorated it.

little sistercontribution

Most of our materials and assignments come with decorations of some sort, be they toddler explorations with marker, coffee rings, important reminders (reschedule dentist, pay water bill, need 27 styrofoam cups and toothpicks for gumballs) or even teeth marks. My youngest literally teethed on Shakespeare for Young People: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

book

I like to think that makes her sound smart.

I tossed that chewed on copy, but when my middle son came by to visit he noticed the boxes. “But mom, I was in this play! TWICE.”  Since he has his own house now he was welcome to dig through the boxes to his heart’s content.

When I was in the midst of the juggling act, I never realized how precious all those spills and scribbles would be someday.

We must keep the Book of Jokes. This is slap full of things nine year old boys find hilarious. Or HE-larry-US.

joke

punchline

haha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously, these cannot be tossed out.

I adore reading his jokes and remembering that boy laugh. You know the one. The one that makes you laugh along even when nothing is funny. For a second I hear it again. I picture that grin and tousled up hair. It’s so present I can practically smell the little boy smell.

Also making the cut we have a songbook and cassette tape of Down By The Creekbank, a few original one of a kind, hand-designed space themed board games, and a smattering of materials we may actually need sometime next year.

I offered to keep the dissection kit (It’s in perfectly good shape) and order some extra specimens to do for fun.

The girl said, “No, thanks. I’m good.”

Party pooper. Truthfully, I am not so sad to say goodbye to that stage of my homeschooling mom career. Frog guts. Ugh.

Eventually, I loaded up boxes with a bunch of materials, some brand new. I think you may be able to discern why sometimes busy moms end up with duplicate unused workbooks.

My cabinet looks better now, but some old books are still firmly entrenched in the Stone Family Collection. Yes, those are ancient Abeka and National Geographic books. My kids loved them. Old books are friends.

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I did find the book I was hunting, but after I skimmed through it I discovered it was not exactly what I was looking for.

I found something better. Messy, hoarded memories and plenty of room for more.

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Shall I Compare Thee

Recently, I went to a writer’s conference. Since I am having some trouble with my eyes and have not gotten my eyeglass prescription quite right yet, my eldest son drove me. He is not a writer. He writes computer code, but that’s about it. His reading selections tend toward technical nonfiction, the Bible, and a little Sci-Fi.

We were chatting with a writer and I asked her what she wrote. The boy had no idea what Rom Com meant. It kind of rhymes with Comic Con, but he knew they were not otherwise related.

Later he asked me, “What did she say she writes?”

“Romantic Comedy.”

“”Oh,” he says. “Like A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Even though Shakespeare basically invented the genre, for some reason his answer tickled me to no end. Maybe I was fatigued, but for whatever reason it struck me funny.

“Well,” he said, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the only romantic comedy I can think of, except for The Taming of The Shrew.”

I promise, this guy has sat through some chick flicks, but apparently they didn’t cut the mustard.

Maybe all some guys need is Shakespeare. You know, a man could do worse than to borrow from The Bard. If your fella could sing Sonnet 18 to you at a key moment, it would impress.

Old fashioned is still romantic.

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Just Visiting

Every Friday bloggers and writers get together and write for five minutes on a one word prompt. Join us.

Today’s word

Visit

My boy finally got his paperwork on his first house in order yesterday. Soon he will pack the truck full and drive away to get settled in his new place. My house will not be his house anymore, but only mom’s. When he returns it will be for a visit and no longer the place he calls home.

Yesterday he told me, “I’m getting up in the morning and going to my house to shower.”

“No you are not,” I said. ”You will bathe before you leave. What if you get in a wreck?” He may be a homeowner now, but I am still mom.

He put new door locks on his house, and turned the water on. He needs a toolbox. I bought him tools years ago, but too many people in the house and not enough organization has rendered them community property.

He sent me pictures of the treasures the previous owner left behind. One picture of dogs and duck hunters, which he hung on the wall, several vinyl records, and some 33 cent stamps. He also sent me pics of his curtainless windows.

duck pics

I have a chair matching the one beside my bed. It’s out in the shed. I think I will gift it to him. For when I visit.

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