Writers on Wednesdays: How five women intersect in this gorgeously told debut, Ella Joy Olsen talks about being inspired by her hundred-year old bungalow in ROOT, PETAL, THORN, the permanence of place, family lore, & how reading is definitely a perk to being an author

By Leslie Lindsay 

What an amazing read! Five fascinating women. The same historic home. One hundred years. Interconnected stories of love, courage, and heartbreak. root, petal, thorn COMP

When I first read this description of ROOT, PETAL, THORN (Kensington Publishing, August 30, 2016), I fell in love.  The first home my husband and I owned was a two-story stucco built in 1920. The front was flanked with a charming three-season porch, a maple tree, oodles of peonies, hydrangeas, and more charm inside: wood floors throughout, fireplace, claw foot tub, and small built-ins. I often wondered what families had inhabited the house before us. Obviously, we knew who we purchased from: a childless artist couple, their impressive art lining the plaster walls. Once, we met a little girl dressed up as a fairy princess on Halloween, who rang our doorbell and boldly told us, “I was born at this house.” And we knew who built the house: a minister and his family. Apparently, it was on the grounds of the church, the church long gone, ironically.

And then ROOT, PETAL, THORN came along. Immediately, I knew I had to read it. Ella Joy Olsen writes beautifully, tracing the lives of Emmeline, Cora, Bitsy, Lainey, Eris, and Ivy through tumultuous times, from two World Wars (the first inhabitant of the house is Emmeline, 1913), the Great Depression, Korean war, Vietnam war, and ‘present-day.’ Set in Salt Lake City, Utah, ROOT, PETAL, THORN is different than the history of my Northfield, Minnesota home, but ultimately it’s about the permanence of place and the impermanence of people.

So grab your coffee, or bubbly late-summer beverage and join me with Ella Joy Olsen as she chats about her inspiration and the story behind ROOT, PETAL, THORN. 

Leslie Lindsay:  Stephen King tells us its bad form to ask a writer what inspired them to write a particular story; that it’s akin to asking what you ate for dinner last night or where your children were conceived. But I’m going to do it, anyway. What were your inspirations behind ROOT, PETAL, THORN? And feel free to tell us what you had for dinner, too.

Ella Joy Olsen: I actually love this question because you could say ROOT, PETAL, THORN is the book of my heart. I think most authors would agree the first book written lingers in the author’s mind the longest. That doesn’t mean it will be their best book (or even the first published) but it’s the one dreamed about well before the nitty-gritty process of putting words on paper. And so it was with me.

My inspiration came from two places. First, my home: I live in a hundred-year-old bungalow very similar to the one in the story. My husband and I have spent years remodeling, fixing things, making it ours, but as we worked we found crazy things: a trapdoor at the bottom of a closet leading to a tiny dirt-floor enclosure (where we discovered a single button-down shoe). We think it was the laundry chute that was boarded up when the basement was remodeled, but who knows?  There were other odd discoveries, all of which I won’t list here, but many found their way into the book. I don’t know who left these items (or improvements) behind, or why, but I love to imagine.

The second inspiration: My across-the-street neighbor, George. He lived on my street for fifty years helping the neighborhood evolve, watching his children grow. He went from young man, to old man, to gone – all in the same house. When he died, I was newish to the neighborhood and had my own young children. I couldn’t imagine the passage of so much time under one roof. Now I’ve lived nearly twenty years in my home. I figured it was time to tell the story.george

Regarding dinner, thanks for asking (giggle). Last night I grilled pizza and my husband and I shared a bottle of wine. Two of the three kids were home, which made it delightful!

L.L.: ROOT, PETAL, THORN is told from the perspective of five different women, their stories bound by a common ground: the house. But there’s more, too. It’s about being a woman in uncertain times, about history, and the bittersweet passage of time (we’ll get to that later), but I’m curious to know if there was a particular character who ‘revealed’ herself to you first? One you felt a particular kinship with, and if there was one that provided more of a challenge for you?

Ella Joy Olsen: For anyone who has already read the book this answer will be a surprise. Most readers think the modern day character, Ivy, is based on me. She’s the one researching and imaging the other women, after all. But she was actually a late addition. I’d written all of the other stories (in rough form) and handed them to a couple of beta readers who said they weren’t sure what the book was supposed to be – A short story compilation? A disjointed novel? I knew I needed a character to entwine the stories into a cohesive narrative. So I created Ivy (and now you know the meaning behind her twisty name). Once I wrote her, I realized how closely her story mirrored many of my own experiences, but not until she was fully written.

Emmeline came to me first. Probably because I’m such a fan of historical fiction and I love the history of my hometown. My great-grandma wrote several essays detailing events in her life. They are a treasure trove of family lore. I incorporated many details from her experiences into Emmeline’s story.  Lainey was the hardest (more on that later).

L.L.: The house on Downington Avenue stands sentry to a world spanning 1913 through ‘present-day,’ roughly one-hundred years. It covers a lot of ground (the house and the story). But what I’m really getting at is the permanence of place and the impermanence of people; that structure stays, but people go. Can you talk to that, please? ry

Ella Joy Olsen: I love that you asked about this! Permanence of place and impermanence of people is at the heart of ROOT, PETAL, THORN. It is the very nature of home for all of us. Think about the time spent in one comfortable spot, the only place you can truly let it all hang out. Think about the money and careful detail incorporated into remodeling, painting, decorating – an expression of self. In the novel, the house on Downington Avenue is an anchor and an oasis for each of the women. But like the characters in the novel, no matter how much we adore our homes – at some point, for one reason or another – eventually we all must move on.

I want to add a few more thoughts (slightly off topic) in response to this question. Like many, I’m crazy about the typical historical sites like the Acropolis or the Empire State Building, places with a traceable past. But more often, I find myself considering the garret where we stayed in Paris rather than the Notre Dame cathedral. I like to ponder the less noteworthy places. Maybe it’s because I get to imagine the history of those locations rather than reading the facts. I seek out places or things that give me only a tiny glimpse of the past – forgotten barns surrounded by weeds, amusement parks which had their heyday decades -261cc9cc7fac1ae3earlier, historic houses with mismatched additions and rusted clothes lines, a crumbling grand hotel on the corner of a busy intersection. Who created these places? How did they evolve into their current state? What were the stories of the people who frequented them?

L.L.: And so, the passage of time. I tend to look back on memories, well…fondly. I still think of that old house in Minnesota and wonder who is living there now, and our very early beginnings as husband and wife. But there were hard times there, too. We were miles away from family, from the life we knew in Missouri, and I felt like my work at the time wasn’t my true calling. Are you the type of person who looks back on your life, or do you look forward to things with giddy anticipation, and does it really matter?

Ella Joy Olsen: Again a very telling question. Leslie, you’re super intuitive because this is currently a hot button at my house. My impulses are in opposition to each other on this point. I anticipate grieving over my college-bound son’s empty room (looking back) so much that on several occasions I’ve shopped for office furniture to fill the void (desperately looking forward). My husband insists I’m hiding my heartbreak with an unnecessary purchase, which is true. So I won’t turn my son’s room into my office because I ache for him to come home, but still, his echoing room…how can I bear it?

On that same point, I’ve already informed my husband we’re moving from my beloved bungalow (inspiration for Root, Petal, Thorn) just as soon as all the kids are in college. It would seem I lack sentimentality based on these hasty retreats, when I’m actually overwhelmed by it. So to answer your question, I must look forward with giddy anticipation to avoid being swallowed by the bittersweet passage of time.

L.L.: But part of my life wasn’t always so rosy. My mother, like your character, Lainey suffered from a myriad of mental health issues, among them, bipolar disorder. I have to applaud your accurate portrayal and sensitivity to this stigma. I can only imagine what it must have been like in the 1960s, when the character of Lainey inhabited the house. Can you share your research and why you chose this particular issue to highlight?

Ella Joy Olsen: Lainey was the last of the historic characters I explored. I could see her but I didn’t know her story. I’d already written characters intensely affected by world events and I wanted to write a character whose life was more affected by personal circumstance. Originally, Lainey was in an abusive relationship but I found I was spending too much time on her husband. I needed something different. Personally, I’ve had several bouts of depression and found an invisible illness so much more difficult to deal with than one where you can point to a wound and say, “See? This is why I feel yucky.” Through Lainey, I wanted to express the double edged sword of mental illness.

Regarding research, I read several non-fiction accounts, but most importantly, my sister-in-law suffers from bipolar and I’ve seen the effects on her life. She has a very supportive relationship with her daughter and she was nice enough to talk with me about some of the emotions, medications, and trials she’s experienced throughout her life. Thanks Linda!

L.L.: Still, ROOT, PETAL, THORN is about grief and the bittersweet connection to people, place, and time. Ivy is dealing with the recent accidental death of her husband, Eris is fraught with sending her son off to war, and Emmeline can’t decide who to marry, or why to marry…was this your intention all along, to create a sort of vignette of grief?

Ella Joy Olsen: I would say it wasn’t my original intention to write a vignette of grief, but I firmly believe in the sentiment expressed in the novel – the one Ivy uses to help her move beyond the death of her husband – that “everyone has a little sad in their story.” People seek out different reassurances when life throws lemons. Many turn to a higher power to 635898753504476015-1619945331_grief-angelexplain the unfair things. I started writing this novel a couple of years after my sister died (she was overcome by carbon monoxide in a freak boating accident). Writing the stories of these five women was, in retrospect, part of my grieving process. Originally, I simply wanted to challenge myself to write a book – but ROOT, PETAL, THORN is what emerged.

My sister’s death is still a turning point in my life (and in the lives of my family), but over the years I’ve come to realize there are an awful lot of people out there, going about their business, harboring a secret grief. So, yes, there is a little sad in every story. Learning this certain truth made me a more empathetic person. Understanding it confirmed that despite heartache, joy returns and life is worth living.

L.L.: Switching gears a bit, what’s keeping you awake lately? What has your attention?

Ella Joy Olsen: Launching ROOT, PETAL, THORN has taken most of my attention and has at times kept me awake – which is good, because as I mentioned, my oldest moved away for college in the middle of August. For the first time in eighteen years he’s not shuffling up the stairs for breakfast before school. His absence would kill me (or keep me continually awake) if I thought on it for too long, so I’m forcing attention on book launch details! And there are a bunch of details.

L.L.: What are your must-read fall books?

Ella Joy Olsen: One of the best parts of being an author is mingling in a community of other authors. They understand the journey and are so generous with their help and encouragement! I have many new favorite authors (and friends)! I try to read several of their books each month so I can support my “co-workers” and so I can recommend their books widely. Truly, this is a huge perk of my job! There are tons of debuts I’m excited about but I don’t want to leave anyone out, so I’ll mention a couple of books that have been sitting on my nightstand that I fully intend to finish before Christmas: DEAD WAKE by Erik Larson and FURIOUSLY HAPPY by Jenny Lawson.

L.L.: What questions should I have asked, but may have forgotten?

Ella Joy Olsen: People always ask me if I’m writing another book. I’m in the thick of it, so I’ll reveal. The title is Where the Sweet Bird Sings and it will publish about this time next year. It’s a companion (not a sequel) to ROOT, PETAL, THORN and is told by Emmeline’s great-granddaughter. download (11)

Here’s the teaser: Though she has a loving husband, Emma Hazelton is adrift, struggling to rebuild her life after a tragedy. But one day, a simple question and an old black-and-white photograph prompt her to untangle the branches of her family tree, where she discovers a legacy of secrets. What connects us to one another? Is it shared history? Is it ancestry?  Or is it love?

L.L.: Ella, it’s been a joy connecting with you and sharing ROOT, PETAL, THORN. I just loved it!

Ella Joy Olsen: Leslie, thank you so much for talking to me about my book. I love your interviews and feel honored to be among the fantastic authors you’ve featured!

For more information, or to connect with Ella on social media, please see:

biophoto1.3.jpgAbout the Author: Ella Joy Olsen was born, raised, and currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah – a charming town tucked against the massive Rocky Mountains. Most at home in the world of the written word, Ella spent nearly a decade on the Board of Directors for the Salt Lake City Public Library System (and four decades browsing the stacks). She is the mom of three kids ranging from pre-teen to edge-of-the-nest teen, the mama of two dogs, and the wife of one patient husband.

Though she’s crazy about words, Ella is also practical, so she graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Finance. After years spent typing boring stuff, Ella eagerly gave up her corner cubicle and started writing fiction. She has also lived in Seattle, Washington & Savannah, Georgia.

She is a member of Tall Poppy Writers and Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association.

ROOT, PETAL, THORN (September 2016, Kensington) is her debut novel. And coming in September 2017-WHERE THE SWEET BIRD SINGS.  [Special thanks to Kensington Press. Author and cover image provided by the author and used with permission, as well as the image of neighbor George and rose bush(es). Grieving angel retrieved from, mossy tree from, Alabama’s Shelby Hotel from, all on 7.20.16]. 

Write On, Wednesday: Author of REAL EMOTIONAL GIRL Tanya Chernov Talks About Home (Series 4/5)

By Leslie Lindsay

Having recently read Tanya Chernov’s memoir A REAL EMOTIONAL GIRL, I reached out to extend my kudos on her moving account. It’s relatable to many–loss, grief, and ulimately a place of home.  Her family camp for girls “up north” will always represent comfort, safety, and love for her.

What Gathers Beneath the Surface

“Though I was born in Milwaukee, I spent much of my childhood at the summer camp my family owns and operates in northwestern Wisconsin. “Up North,” where the mosquitoes are said to grow as big as hummingbirds, and the nearest town has perplexingly sustained a population of 521 souls, the region harbors a blissfully stagnant kind of atmosphere. A quiet exists there you can’t find elsewhere in the world, a quiet you haven’t heard since 1985. Maybe even ’82.Tanya Chernov

There’s a spit of swampland between the butt of our lake and curve of County Road I, where—even that far from our boundaries—you can hear the laughter and cheering of the campers issuing a steady susurrus from down the road. I like to paddle my solo canoe out there sometimes, all the way to the marshy end where I run risk of getting caught up in the muck. If I get close enough, though, I can see it.

When the first to live here came around, our Lake Pokegama wasn’t much more than a weed-filled pond. The townsfolk lowered a steel snow-plow blade down into the murky water to serve as a dam, stopping up the flowage as best they could. The plow blade is still down there, holding the water and lord knows what else at bay. It went in at a time when permits weren’t involved in such things, and since no government outfit seems of the mind to take it out, there it remains to this day, collecting layers of rust and algae and legend.

I’ve lived in Seattle for almost 15 years now, which seems an awfully long time for a 32 year old, and I’ve made it my home. But Up North is home home. Always will be. Life there still slows down enough for lore to settle and collect.”

For more information,

 Author of A Real Emotional Girl
@TanyaChernov  (image source retrieved from Amazon.com 9.11.13)

Write On, Wednesay: Special New Series (1/5)–Defining HOME featuring Caroline Leavitt

By Leslie Lindsay  (image source: www.alphabetart.com 9.4.13)

I have a giant grin on my face today.  Other than the fact that I have the house to myself, a laptop, brain (let’s hope), and basset hound at my feet, I have a new series to share on Wednesdays!  It’s all about the concept of HOME. 

Ever notice how nearly every book you read has some element of home buried deep within the words on the page?  Your reading material may have something to do with big green monsters eating every chocolate chip cookie and then running off to school, but I would wager that those monsters began at say…home?!  The book I just finished reading (Tanya Chernov’s A REAL EMOTIONAL GIRL) had almost everything to do with home (but was largely masked by her grief over her late father).  The next book I picked up, BRAIN ON FIRE (Susannah Cahalan)  might really be about her lost month of insanity, but delve into the pages, and you see an underlying theme of home…her junky New York studio, her childhood home, it all makes an appearance. 

So, I’ve gathered up a handful of great wordsmiths to tell me, in their own words, what defines “home.” 

Each week, I will share a new passage on home.  So, gather ’round, make yourself comfortable and get ready for Caroline Leavitt, Amy Sue Nathan, Karen Brown, Tanya Chernov, and Matt Wertz to tell us their ideas of home…

Today’s featured author…Caroline Leavitt!!  Caroline is a New York Times bestselling author of ten red shirt gardennovels, her most recent IS THIS TOMORROW?  (Which revolves mostly around the concept of ‘home,’ in 1950’s suburbia).  She hosts a robust blog in which she features many authors and their books.  And now…take it away, Caroline!

“For many years, the word home to me meant my parent’s house. Stuck in Suburbia. The rooms coldly silent or torn apart by arguments. I couldn’t wait to leave, to live a life as different as I could imagine. I rented a tiny shoebox apartment in Manhattan, with a slanted floor and barely a kitchen, and when friends gamely said, ‘You could do something with this to make it homey,’ I laughed, because I had no desire to be domestic. As long as my dwelling looked nothing like my family’s, I knew I was safe.

Ah, but then I fell in love. Jeff was the kind of person who took one look at my fridge, with its one carton of yogurt and one loaf of bread, and made a date of shopping, assuring me that it could be fun. Falling in love was a surprise, but suddenly, my tiny apartment wasn’t big enough for us, the rents in Manhattan were too high for the three bedroom we wanted, and we began to look elsewhere. I wanted to look for apartments in Brooklyn or Hoboken, but In the early 90s, you could buy a whole brownstone in Hoboken for 200,000. You could buy a three story 1865 brick row house for $125,000, one with fireplaces in every room, with rosettes on the ceiling.

Houses. I knew what that meant. My parents’ life had unraveled in a house.ITTUSE

I was terrified to move in. I thought that we’d start to argue, that I’d be tied down and domesticated.

Instead, something else happened. Jeff filled the kitchen with food, the rooms with furniture, and my life with love. I began to like having people for dinner, having a kitchen big enough for two to laugh and cook in it. And slowly, I began to realize something. That I didn’t have to turn out to be my mother. That family is not always genetic. And that love can make the house you were most afraid of into the home you love.”

For more information on Caroline and her writing, please see her website:  http://www.carolineleavitt.com/home.htm

[Special thanks to Caroline Leavitt for providing this piece, photos, and her literary enthusiam.  This is an original work by the author and not to be taken as your own.]

The Teacher is Talking: Special Back-to-School Series–Organizational & Memory Strategies

By Leslie Lindsay

As a kid–and even as an adult–I love to be organized!  Give me a three-ring binder and some tab dividers and you might as well put me in nerd-heaven. 

Wait?!  What’s that you say?  Your child is anything BUT organized?  They have a junky room?  Backpack is over-flowing with notes, papers, Kleenex?  Ah…I see.  I have one of those, too.  I call her my oldest daughter. 

How is it that the Queen of Organization gave life to the Princess of Junk?  It baffles me, too.  But there is a little hope in the Kingdom of Clean. 

Princess Junk is entering 3rd grade.  And from what I can tell about 3rd grade, it’s the year of learning to be organized, resourceful, and independent.  That said, this post will cover all grades–early education through elementary school.


  • Teach what goes in and what stays out of the backpack each day.  Take actual photos or make your own visual reminders by either drawing or priniting out Clip Art from your Word program.
  • Have your child help load and unload the backpack

ORGANIZE IT!  ELEMENTARY SCHOOL:  Organizational skills have a fancy name–executive functioning.  That is, how one plans and carries out the things they need to do in order to function.  In the school setting, this all involves being organized and tending to the things in the classroom.  That said, there are things you can do to help your child grasp these skills:

  • Plan a visit to the school.  Point out places in your child’s classroom where things will likely be located.  The teacher will probably do this, as well.  For example, my daughter came home yesterday from her first day and told us that all of her “extra” school supplies where bagged up and placed in a special cabinet for when she runs out of them in her desk. 
  • Map out the pack.  Draw a little diagram of your child’s backpack, place labels on the interior pouches, or color-code them.  Practice slipping in notes for the teacher, placing pens/pencis.  Have a place for everything, including water bottles, lunch box, house key, identification, etc. 
  • Give a Reminder in the morning.  This can be a simple checklist or sign you make and place in a common area of the home for your child to double-check.  Lunch?  Check.  Folder?  Check. 
  • Make a list of steps for getting ready in the morning.  Use short, simple text and add photos.  You can even take photos of your child doing each step successfully.  (Also good for pre-literate kids)
  • Design a Home Work Center.  This can be a special room, or the dining room table.  This will where your child will complete homework each day.  Stock it with pens, pencils, erasers, and anything else your child may need.  Plan a homework period each day and stick to the routine.  You can be a good example and do something studious then, too like read a book or make your grocery list (or, if you’re me…work on your novel!)
  • Check your child’s planner daily.  It really should be your child’s responsibility, but you need to know, too. 
  • Have your child pack his or her own bag at night.  Avoid the morning mayhem.  Get it done early.  Make a deal with your  child: no playtime/videogames/TV till the backpack is packed for the next day.
  • Have a single binder.  A tip from a 3rd grade teacher, “Get a binder and put all of her folders in it.  It makes it so much easier to have everthing together.” 
  • Have a routine place for a) notes/permission slips parents need to read and b) papers being returned to home.  It’s a parent to-do pile for things that require signatures &/or money.  We have a nightly “table talk and toss” for all of the daily papers that come in the door.  The girls share what the worksheet is about, we listen/ask questions…and then toss into the recycling bin (or save, if necessary).

With a little prep work, you and your child can have a successful–and organized school year.  Class dismissed!!

Fiction Friday:

By Leslie Lindsay

Another excerpt from my novel-in-progress.  Plowing ahead!  Remember, this is original work–women’s ficiton.  Enjoy!  Write on, Wednesday:  Imagine a Better Writer

Thinking about Annie—about her life now—who she is, who’s she’s become.  A wife, a mother. 

Pregnant? Could that be just another illusion?  I mean, I knew she had kids—two of them to be exact—and Beth, well all she ever wanted was what Annie had.  It was like a bad joke; a twist of fate I wasn’t expecting.  Annie had everything she ever wanted—children, a home, an education.  Joe.  I wince.  An impediment to my goal. 


And all Beth wants is a baby.  With me.  I rake my hands through my hair.  Pregnant.   How can that be? 

I always assumed Annie and I would have children someday.  It was one of the reasons I fell so hard for her.  I pictured us having kids together—nurturing, maternal Annie.  If anyone was cut out for the job, it was her.  What more could I want—a wife who was a nurse.  Maybe a school nurse, who would place Band-aids on skinned knees and ice packs on sore heads; the summers off to be with our own kids.  It seemed like the ideal situation.

The first time I imagined our future family was a year or so after we had been dating.  Dad’s sister lived just outside of Athens.  Late winter—the dreary season in Georgia.  “Come with me to Aunt Christy’s,” he said.  “We can order pizza and catch up.” 

I had shrugged and told him I was busy with a chem lab, “Not today, dad.”  I shifted the receiver to the other ear and looked over to Annie sitting on my bed in the dorm, chewing on the tip of her pen. I probably rolled my eyes, humoring dad.  What I really wanted was to get back to our study date.  Annie needed help with pharmacology.  I understood it, the mechanism of action, uptake and reuptake loops, the way the chemical properties transformed into useful substances in the body.  But then something struck me.  I don’t know—the tilt of her head, a brief smile, her soft features. 

“Hey, wanna go to see my Aunt Christy?”  There was a part of me who wanted to show off my girl.  She lifted her shoulders and looked at the pharmacology text splayed open on the navy bedspread.  “Free pizza—“ I enticed her with a broad smile.


The Teacher is Talking: De-junking Your Kid’s Space

By Leslie Lindsay

Last Tuesday, we tackled the junky room of the century (my daughter’s) and now we’re moving on to the basement playroom.  While I love the idea of this space, I have a hard time keeping it clean–or rather, teaching my daughters to keep it clean. 

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Together, we worked out some of the kinks.  That’s not to say it will continue to be clutter-free, but when I indicated the basement playroom is still part of the house (not just a dumping ground), and that we put things away after playing just like we would in a classroom, they began to “get it.” 

Here are some ideas that may work for you:

  • Locate several buckets/tubs and mark them: “Donate,”  “Resale,” “Repurpose”
  • Grab a trash bag.  Mark it “Trash.”  Then find a big paper shopping bag.  Mark is “recycle.”  That’s for all of the construction paper scraps and projects that are no longer.
  • Turn on some music that you and your kids like. 
  • You may even consider setting a timer, if your kiddos respond to that kind of challenge (for some, it just increases their anxiety).
  • Then go!  Start sorting toys, projects, stuff.  If it hasn’t been played with in a year–it’s gone.  If you can’t find all of the parts–gone.  If your child has more frustrating play time with it–toss.  (that would be my daughter’s Polly Pockets who have lost all of their ‘slick.’ and have begun to rip).  When you find yourself stepping on and cursing to the high heavens for every spare Lego part or tiny Littlest Pet Shop toy…give it away, give it away, give it away now…
  • You may have some tears.  Your’s, theirs, and ours.  If it gets to be too much, send your kiddos away for some movie time and snack while you do the rest. 

But I guarentee you, it will feel so much better when it’s all done.  To keep it working like a well-oiled machine, the space is going to need regular maintanence.  In Ruth the Sleuth and the Messy Room (Character Publishing, 2011), author Carol Gordon Ekster recommends having your child(ren) determine when the best scheduled cleaning should be.  Try this:

“When do you think we should do this [clean the basement, your room/playroom] again”

Your child may say “in a month.” In  your heart of hearts you know this is a bad idea.  Try not to let that influence your kiddo.  Instead say, “That’s a great idea.  I’ll mark the calendar for one month from today.” 

Chances are, a month will come and your child will be overwhelmed by the mess.  (Funny how one learns by experience).  You can also try scheduling a sooner cleaning time “just to check.”  (This is akin to checking your pizza after 10 minutes in the oven, instead of the recommended 14.) 

You can also work with your child to determine a clean-up routine.  Say, you spend 5 (or 10, or split the difference–7)minutes a day straightening the room.  Now, you may not get everything put away in those 5 minutes, but at least you did something.  Likewise, sometimes once you get started (5 minutes) you soon find that you have the strength and energy to continue till the job is done. 

Consider rewarding your child for a job well-done. You can do so by offering incentives (other than a tidy space–which really doesn’t seem to do much for kids, sorry to say).  We used a sticker chart at our house.  I’ve also promised playdates and project time with mom.  But the key here is the incentive needs to be something your child is excited about. 

For more tips and ideas, I highly recommend reading Ruth the Sleuth and the Messy Room by Carol Gordon Ekster.  We have the book and love it, especially helpful are the last couple of pages in which the author gives a “parent’s guide to growing organized kids.”  She even includes a recipe for chocolate chip cookies (another incentive?!)  Yum!  Product Details(image source: Amazon.com 1/22/13)


Additional parent/teacher supplements are available at www.characterpublishing.com



In My Brain Today: There’s an App (mag) for That!

By Leslie Lindsay

My daughter is in Brownies.  She wears that brown vest plastered with patches and sings songs about smiles in pockets and friends being the color of precious metals.  She takes hikes and pets snakes at nature preserves.  She loves it. 

She also participates in the fall fundraiser (don’t get me started on fundraisers…that’s a whole other blog post).  Don’t get your hopes up too much: the fall fundraiser is not the infamously tasty cookies.  It’s nuts and magazines.  That’s cool.  Good timing for holiday gift-giving.

So, last weekend my hubby and I sat sipping coffee after a leisurely breakfast (our darling daughters were creating a toy bomb in the basement playroom)–magazine catalog spread on the table.

“Who can we give a magazine gift subscriptions to?” we mused.

Well, let me tell you–a printed publication (I think we used to call those magazines), exists for just about every interest, hobby, age-group, whatever your little heart desires, it’s there.  From Family Handyman to Civil War Chronicals to Bird &  Garden.  Heck, there was even something about guns and gardens…as if those go together.

“We could get this one for your dad!”  I pointed to one on golf.  My hubby nodded his head.  Yeah, so he can keep up with all of the other retirees on the links. 
He nudged my elbow, “Hey–what do you think about The Economist for your dad?”  I nodded

And it went on like this  for awhile till  my mean-spirted side took over. (Yep, I’ve got one of those…believe it or not).  My eyes grazed over the magazine entitled, All You.  “Where’s Annoying You?”  I wondered. 


You know, the magzine for mother-in-laws.”  I deadpanned.

Slowly, carefully a grin spread across Jim’s face, “Yeah.  Everyone and their hampster would read it.” 

My eyes grew round, “Yeah…and I could be the editor-in-chief.  Heck, I could write all of the articles…what to do when your mother-in-law drives you bonkers at the next family gathering.”

He sniffed, “How about a quiz: what kind of mother-in-law do you have?  An annoying one?  Yeah…cause they’re all annoying!  How about meddlesome.? Yep.  They would qualilfy for that, too.” 

“How about 10 quips to use the next time your mother-in-law compares you to her own daughter?” 

“Or, what to give your mother-in-law for the holidays…a broom to ride next time she visits…or maybe a gavel…order, order in the court!  Judge Mother-in-Law presiding….” Jim was clearly pleased with himself.  I couldn’t help laughing either (okay, I rolled on the floor tears pouring from my eyes). mother-in-law-from hell

(image source: http://www.babyproofingyourmarriage.com/tag/mother-in-law-interfering/)

“How about  Annoying You magazine,” I countered, once I caught my breath., a little bit of tinkle in my pants.   

And so it done.  A new magazine is born.  And just what would the Brownies say about that?!

And that is what is in my brain today, Thursday November 1st 2012.