Homeschool: Week 5 + #socialdistancing Activities

My son’s pre-K teacher and his speech therapist from USD 259 contacted us last week to offer additional guidance and support for homeschooling and ongoing speech therapy.

His pre-K teacher told me, “The packets they’re sending out are probably above him, so I’m going to put together some activities that are focused on helping his attention.”

His speech therapist said, “It might be more beneficial for you and me to talk about activities and strategies you can try at home. My goal is to help support you in whatever way is easiest for you.”

First, can we please recognize that these amazing professionals deserve to be paid much more for their personalized outreach and efforts to help families at this time?

Yes? Good.

Second, THANK GOODNESS. I need all the help I can get. We just walked around the house for 15 minutes trying to figure out what “chuck” was in toddler-ese… and it’s NOT chalk. Wow.

Adventures in homeschooling haven’t been our only activities during the Stay At Home order. While my husband loves #socialdistancing, we still have to encourage my extrovert to get over FOMO on the daily.

She’s coping.

Here’s how.

Adventures in #socialdistancing

Coloring

My son and I are doing a lot of “coh-were” (color)-ing. (We need to work on his L’s.)

In effort to support our favorite local businesses, we also ordered a mystery swag bag from The Workroom, which came with a Doodah Doodles coloring book. Yay!

Speaking of supporting local businesses, I also did a little online shopping at Moxie’s Sass & Class Boutique.

My husband refers to this as my Flintstone’s shirt… and he’s not wrong.

Cooking

Speaking of lookin’ like a house wife from the Stone Age, we’ve been doing a lot of cooking — and my husband is a damn good cook.




His cooking — and my pantry meals — have given us leftovers for daaaaaays. The only reason we really have to go to the store is to get our son more “chee” (Annie’s Bunnie Mac ‘n Cheese) because he’s THE PICKIEST eater. And milk and eggs and bread and that sort of ish.


Demolishing… and Plumbing

Last week, I decided to paint the hall bathroom, making it the next room to tackle on my Remodel the F Word House resolution.

I figured painting would be the easiest place to start, until I got to the fourth wall… which is where the too-big sink/vanity sits under a broken medicine cabinet and off-center light fixture.

It was already in the plan to replace the sink/vanity and medicine cabinet… so I ripped them out.

With the help of several YouTube videos, I accomplished this feat in little under an hour with minimal damage to the wall.

Go me!

Next up, removing the toilet… Because we’re also going to rip out the tile, level the floor and retile.

I picked like a really involved quarantine project, guys.


Organizing EVERYTHING

You notice your shoved-away messes and unnecessary junk more when you’re in your house 24/7.

For me, that shoved-away mess was in my son’s closet. So, I spent a day cleaning it out, sorting its contents and storing the stuff he’s never going to use again in the basement.

What’s left?

CRAFTS!

Plus, I moved all of his school activities in his closet, to make some room in our hall linen cabinet.

Because I also cleaned that out, sorted its contents and stored the extra Christmas decorations… in the basement.

The office closet — where we’ve been storing my husband’s hiking, hunting and other miscellaneous hobbies — also got a good clean-out, sort and re-store… in the basement.

Since so much stuff was going in the basement that I also cleaned and organized the basement.

Sort of.

It’s gross down there.

Setting Up a Home Gym?

I mean… we’re stuck in quarantine for the foreseeable future, so I might as well get some physical activity in. I guess.

Plus, I might teach the kiddo how to box. If he’s gonna hit us, he’s gonna do it right, damnit.

What are you doing in quarantine?

Homeschool: Week 4 + Black Bean Chorizo Dip

black bean chorizo dip

Skip to the Recipe: Black Bean Chorizo Dip

Today is Day #33 of #socialdistancing, the beginning of Homeschool Week #5, and it’s a Sunday.

Sometimes, I have to remind myself time is still moving at its usual pace.

My toddler, however, does not need reminding. He knows he’s missing out on the park, and the zoo, and playing with our friends’ kids. Last week was marred by a child who was tired of being cooped up, tired of being in a house and so tired of both of those things that he was too tired to play outside.

Even on the nicest day.

“No, I don’t want to chalk,” he thinks as he puts them all back in the bucket and drags mommy inside.
“No, I don’t wan to color school work sheets,” he thinks as he dumps his crayons on the floor and takes mommy’s color sheets away.
Simply saying “no” over and over and over again until mommy gives up.

We also had a substantial meltdown about a broken cookie.

It needed to be replaced by a whole cookie. Immediately.

So I gave up last week.

This week? I have a better plan because I have more resources. Fingers crossed, a little more patience comes with it.

USD 259 sent a hefty packet of homeschool activities we can work through — or that I can just read to him while he doesn’t pay attention. Maybe something will stick.

We lost that penguin for three days last week, too. And it. was. a. PROBLEM.

They’re also conducting virtual classes a few times a week. That’ll help.

His Pre-K teacher sent us beans to plant. He’ll like playing in the dirt — and it’ll be nice to have another plant on my desk since my orchid died. Because I forgot to give it sunlight and water. You know, food.

I dragged his slide out back and set up the water table on the deck, so we can get in non-chalk outside time.

My goal is to get in at least 30 minutes of some sort of education a day. We’ll see how we do.

Until I have a better update, here’s another recipe.

black bean chorizo dip

Recipe: Black Bean Chorizo Dip

Serves — just a whole lot of people or several different meals.

Ingredients

1 medium white onion, diced

1 small red pepper, diced

1 small green pepper, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 lb. ground chorizo

2 cans of black beans, drained

1 can of sweet corn, drained

1 can hot Rotel

2 Tbs. Alton Brown’s Taco Potion #19

Directions

Heat a large, nonstick skillet over high heat.

Once it’s hot, plop in your pound of ground chorizo. If you’re using a seasoned cast iron skillet or a nonstick pan at the correct temperature, you shouldn’t need to add oil to this part.

If you do, use canola.

Stir and scrape the chorizo to break it up and cook until it’s nearly cooked through. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place in a large casserole dish.

Leave all the excess fat — there shouldn’t be much — in the pan. Toss in your onions and peppers, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until their softened and glossy. They’re also going to be rust colored because of the chorizo spices.

Need more fat? Use canola oil.

While the produce is sautéing, add the black beans and corn to the casserole. Give all the ingredients a little mix.

Get your can of Rotel ready. Add your minced garlic to the skillet, stirring constantly with one hand while the other hand holds the open can of Rotel.

Once the garlic starts to brown, dump the Rotel in. No one likes burned garlic. This works.

Season with salt and pepper, and add one Tbs. of Alton Brown’s Taco Potion #19. Stir it up and reduce the heat to medium to simmer some of the liquid off.

Add the other Tbs. of seasoning to the casserole and give it another little mix. Then, add the onion-pepper-tomato mix to the casserole.

Cover with a casserole lid or aluminum foil and put it in a 350 degree F oven for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, add grated or shredded cheese to the casserole and put it back in the oven, uncovered, for five minutes — or until the cheese is all melty.

How to Serve

This recipe was inspired by the Black Bean Chorizo Quesadillas my husband’s aunt and uncle whipped up for us on vacation at Lake Michigan.

And, by inspired, I mean it’s nearly completely the same, but the first time I made it… I didn’t have any tortillas. So, we served it with chips 🙂

black bean chorizo dip

You could…

  • Actually make quesadillas.
  • Make tacos.
  • Serve it over rice.
  • Serve it over hash browns.
  • Pile it on top of eggs with sliced avocado… again, my favorite.
black bean chorizo dip

A Note About Seasoning

I’m a really, really lazy cook. I don’t like chopping, measuring or waiting. On this particular cooking of Black Bean Chorizo Dip, I didn’t actually use a seasoning recipe. I just added as much cayenne, chile powder, coriander, cumin, garlic and onion powder, oregano and paprika as I wanted.

Might also have added roasted garlic flakes… Not positive.

So… go ahead. Have fun and start dumping spices into your food. See what you get!

Please salt responsibly.

Home? School? Week 3 + Spicy Sausage Skillet Recipe

Skip to the Recipe: Spicy Sausage Skillet

A failure to plan is a plan to fail.

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I never wrote anything down, and so we did no homeschool activities last week.

Commitment to New Year’s Resolutions starts to wane after 21 days, according to some popular wisdom in this Forbes article. That’s when we get tired of early morning workouts, dieting and associated New Year’s nonsense. That timeframe is just 14 days for homeschooling during a global pandemic.

At least for me.

Plus, last week was rough.

I didn’t drink enough water, so I had a mild headache every day. When I realized this, I failed to fix the problem by drinking more water.

I think I wore the same pair of sweatpants every day. Took ’em off, showered (I promise), put ’em back on. It’s not like I went anywhere or did anything…

My son stole nearly every food I tried to eat for breakfast. Though, in fairness, I was eating toaster pastries and chocolate chip Eggos… which are his food.

Whatever.

Instead of learning, we did a lot of snuggling, which he now requests by saying: “Pih-yo (pillow). Yay down (lay down). Puppy. Ginkie (binkie).” When we’re all settled in to snuggle and watch Hilda on Netflix — which I can quote (and so can he) — he pulls a blanket over us and presses his puppy to his face.

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How F Word cute.

Apparently, we did this exactly enough times last week for him to think it’s now part of our daily routine.

I ain’t mad about it.

We’ll try to learn something next week. Our packet from USD 259 arrived Friday, and we still have a packet from the week of Spring Break we need to dig into.

Which I just found because…

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…I finally cleaned the mail and miscellaneous paperwork off the microwave.

Where we also found the tags to our vehicles and what is likely the final notice on filling out the Census.

Which we did. Don’t @ me.

Because I don’t have any awesome activities to share with you — I know you’re bummed — here’s a recipe for a household dinner (and then breakfast and then lunch) staple. It’s a halfway homemade miscellaneous pantry masterpiece.

sausage skillet recipe
Spiced with Alton Brown’s Taco Potion #19 and served over white rice.

Spicy Sausage Skillet Recipe

6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • Fully cooked Andouille sausage, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 1 green or red pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced fine
  • 1 Tbs. canola oil
  • 1 can Rotel, regular or spicy
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans, drained
  • 1/2-1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup frozen corn
  • Homemade Cajun seasoning or 1 Tbs. Alton Brown’s Taco Potion #19

Directions

Mix the Cajun seasoning: 2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper, 1 tsp. dry thyme, 1 tsp. dry oregano, 2 tsp. smoked hot paprika, 1 tsp. onion powder, 1 tsp. garlic powder and 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper.

Heat a large skillet over high heat. Once hot, sauté sausage rounds until they plump and brown on both sides. (If you use a nonstick or seasoned cast iron skillet, you shouldn’t need oil for this part. The sausage has its own fat. )

Remove the sausage from the skillet, leave excess fat and add 1 Tbs. canola oil to the pan. Toss in diced onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté until glossy and softened. Add half the seasoning mixture, 1/2 cup of vegetable broth, Rotel and dark red kidney beans and stir. Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced.

Then, add in the frozen corn, remaining seasoning and other 1/2 cup of vegetable broth — but just if your skillet is looking a little dry.

Once the corn is cooked, it’s done! It’s delicious! It’ll keep in the fridge for an unhealthy amount of time.

How to Serve

The reason this dish is a masterpiece is because you can serve it four hundred different ways. Here are just a few:

  • Straight out of the pan. Seriously.
  • Over white or brown rice or quinoa.
  • Over mashed potatoes. Don’t believe me? TRY IT. IT’S AMAZING.
  • Over hash browns, and then add an egg because #breakfast.
  • My favorite? Straight from the pan to the plate with a fried egg (or two) and sliced avocado. Holla, #brunch.
I ate this three days in a row.

If 6-8 servings is too much for your household, halve the whole thing and get about four half to 3/4 cups of awesome. (You will be missing out on the second day of eating it for lunch, though, and that’s a good day.)

Another reason this is the greatest dish of all time? Substitutions. Don’t have dark red kidney beans? Black beans work just as well. Too spicy? Get rid of the hot peppers. Not spicy enough? Use hot Rotel or add red chile flakes to the spice mix. Vegetarian? Try it with tofu and let me know how it is.

It’s the perfect dish for weeks when you wear the same sweat pants every day, forget to drink water and subsist off whatever your toddler will let you eat.

Because he won’t eat this.

Enjoy!

Homeschool: Week 2 + Essential Activities

Meetings, to-do’s, life… all change pretty quickly durning my day to day, which is why I use erasable ink pens in my planner.

(Yes, I realize I could use a pencil. But the sharpening and the shavings and the more excuses I have about not using pencils — and don’t get me started on mechanical pencils. Ugh.)

We put the eraser to work during Homeschool: Week 2.

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Monday

My toddler was cranky on Monday, but it was my fault. I doomed us from the first cup of coffee.

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One Mother’s Day, my son (re: my husband) gifted me this “Happy Monday” coffee cup. On the other side?

perfect mother's day gift

Cranky toddler face.

A predictive coffee cup on Monday, for sure.

We built our scheduled ABC Fort at 1 p.m. — and by “we,” I mean “me.” I built the fort. My son played in it, and then demolished it.

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Like, ok, it’s not the best fort.

We also made an attempt at our New Words game, which turned out to be just flashcards with rules. Seriously? Not a game. The toddler hated it.

The first activity to be erased: Stupid flashcards with rules.

Tuesday

So, I forgot to prepare the 123 Puzzle. By prepare, I just mean I forgot to write numbers on the opposite size of the ABC foam pieces while my son was asleep. And I’m cautious about pulling out a Sharpie near the kid.

He’s already colored on the wall with a crayon.

And a marker.

And food.

This is permanent ink.

Luckily, a friend of mine prepared a letter lesson for us with /o/ — short “o” sounds as in “fox” — complete with step-by-step instructions, a sound-matching game and a friendly octopus flashcard.

The toddler colored on it.

She delivered it to my door over the weekend, and we spent our Tuesday homeschool time reading all about The Frog on a Log and The Fox on a Box.

The second activity to succumb to the eraser: 123 Puzzle.

Wednesday

Did Wednesday happen?

Pretty sure there wasn’t a Wednesday last week.

The third activity to be erased: Yeah, all of Wednesday.

Thursday

Since Wednesday didn’t happen, we did color-matching on Thursday. Again, he aced the matching bit. He even said a few of the objects on the cards: “tur-el” (turtle), “fower” (flower) and “fy” (butterfly, obviously).

My son’s pre-school teacher called… on Wednesday! Now, I remember what happened!

Real quick, on Wednesday: USD 259 teachers are teaching virtually, but my son’s in pre-school — and it’s hard enough to get him to sit still when you’re holding him down — so they’re sending out packets to help parents put a structure of some sort to teaching at home. Bam!

She also sent a letter with water beads enclosed, which is what reminded me of the phone call — because on Thursday (now we’re back on track), we grew water beads.

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I had never heard of water beads and omg. where have they been all my life. they’re so much fun. i love them.

The toddler can’t play with them, though. He’s going through another puts-everything-in-his-mouth phase, and the packaging clearly states multiple times that you’re not supposed to eat these.

He’s def gonna try to eat them.

Oh, well. More fun for me.

Meeting the eraser on Thursday: Thursday?

Friday

Friday turned out to be colder than I hoped. It was a good day to snuggle — and snuggle we did. Very little learning happened, but a lot of talking did.

I don’t know if it’s because I have him during his best time of day — morning — or because he’s not exhausted from behaving at school, daycare or grandma’s house… but he’s talking.

He’s parroting, replying, asking (re: demanding), having pretend conversations with his toys and more.

He asked to play Speech Blubs by name. Well, ok, he said “beepups,” but I knew what he wanted.

Words are still sometimes wrong. “Fah-tis,” instead of breakfast. “Wan-wih,” instead of sandwich. “Asselsash,” instead of apple sauce. (Say it out loud. Totally worth it.) Plus, his vocabulary revolves around food.

But he’s talking.

Speech might be catching up to us. (Just don’t quote me on that.)

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If I don’t write anything down for this  week, I won’t have to erase it, right?

Skip Saturday, Straight to Sunday

On Sunday, Mother Hubbard’s cupboard (re: fridge) was looking a little bare.

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Except for the beer…

The toddler helped me empty the fridge, so I could clean the shelves. Such a helper. So cute.

With maybe one cup of milk left in a gallon, two eggs in the carton, three rolls of toilet paper and four diapers, I needed to go to the store. We were also running low on toddler pouches — the only way he’ll eat vegetables — and “fis” (a.k.a. rainbow goldfish crackers). Plus, I’m out of coffee… and that’s just not gonna fly.

I didn’t want to go to the grocery store. Not gonna lie, I’m pretty scared of catching the virus and have been a good extrovert about social distancing since March 18.

In fairness, I’m only a mild extrovert. Staying home isn’t that hard.

But groceries are an essential activity — and I have to trick my kid into eating vegetables.

So, I cut up a T-shirt, folded a coffee filter inside and fashioned myself a makeshift mask using hair ties I hadn’t yet gotten rid of (because #shorthairdontcare about hair ties).

By the way, masks are seriously sore on the ears. Thank your healthcare worker. Their head hurts.

I pulled a stocking cap over my head to hold my glasses in place and cover my hair, pre-disinfected my shopping bags with spray and headed to Dillon’s. And, yes, my glasses were crooked the entire time.

Produce, bread, meat, eggs and milk abounded. I found a 40-pack of my son’s size diapers for the first time in three weeks. Joy! I didn’t take the last one of anything. Toilet paper was scarce, but I scored a six-pack — and two six packs of a delicious slightly sour ale.

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Unfortunately, cleaning supplies were limited. Paper towels were not to be found, and neither were Lysol or Clorox wipes. I was lucky to get a Windex-brand multi-surface cleaner that kills 99.9% of germs.

Hallelujah.

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I also might have stocked UP on coffee…

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Now, is Starbucks my go-to coffee choice? No. I buy a pound (or two) a week from The Spice Merchant — a delightful Papua New Guinea blend that I love.

They’re closed right now, so I’m dealing with some medium roast from the grocery store. Don’t @ me.

My husband’s exact words were: “Someone has a problem.” Just as he pulled all four out of my shopping bag.

Psh.

Our fridge, freezer and cupboards are full with the staples we need to feed ourselves and the toddler for two weeks. Except milk, which will run out faster than that… I’ll go back next weekend to hunt for the cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and paper towels I usually have on hand.

Until then, we’re making do with what we have — and being thankful for it.

Homeschool: Week 1

In graduate school at Wichita State University, I taught — all by myself — students from 16 to 60 the most hated subject of all time.

Public speaking.

My Comm 111 university teaching days did not prepare me for homeschooling my speech-delayed toddler.

You know… because he doesn’t speak. At least, not in English.

While I do not have to relearn 8th grade math (what did we even learn in 8th grade?), I do have to teach my son something — anything — during our quarantine together.

Here’s how Week 1 went:

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Monday

I bought a boatload of foam puzzle tiles about a year ago to use as a barrier between tiny fingers, knees and toes and our deck… which, if you remember, was a bit of a hot mess.

powerwashing before and after

never used them. I put them in storage, forgot they existed and never. friggin. used them.

Until last Monday.

I pulled those suckers out of storage and wrote the alphabet on them, so the toddler and I had an ABC sidewalk in the living room…

alphabet sidewalk

…for about five minutes of singing that stupid song before…

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…the totally should-have-been-expected destruction.

Guess what his favorite thing to do is?

Destroy.

We also tried to learn the letters in our name, but alas, he wasn’t interested at all.

Our scheduled dance party? Basically just me walking around the house to the music while he ignored me and tried to play with the dog.

Tuesday

My son loves counting. He doesn’t do it in the correct order, but he loves to count — 1, 2, 9, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13! (He always screams 13…, and that’s where he stops. I think I need to blame Sesame Street for that.)

Honestly, for his delays in other areas, he’s doing fine with remembering this sequence of numbers. Unfortunately, it’s incorrect, and he’s not identifying numbers as quantities of things. He doesn’t understand “one more time,” or that he’s 3, or how many crackers he’s allowed to have before dinner.

We tried to work on that on Tuesday.

homeschool speech blubs

I found an app called Speech Blubs, but I’m not yet endorsing it with my #WAHM stamp of approval. While my toddler seems to enjoy it, they double-charged me for a year, and I’m annoyed.

So we’ll see…

The concept of the app is for your child to see and hear other children saying words, making animal noises and counting in order to encourage them to try the same.

After two days of using the app, my son figured out how to skip information and animations meant for learning to get to the game at the end.

Basically, he can’t count in the appropriate order, but he’s discovered how many times he has to skip screens in order to pop balloons.

My son, ladies and gentlemen.

“Jumping” went really well, because he loves jumping, climbing, running and any activity that generally disregards his safety or wellbeing. However, he slept through “puddles” and the rain dried up quickly on our block, so he didn’t get to splash.

(Total shame. It’s super fun and adorable to watch him splash.)

Wednesday

When my son turned 2, I signed up for Kiwi&Co. Crates, which are arts, crafts, educational, pretend play and physical activities delivered monthly.

His first box? Well, he really enjoyed the tissue paper…

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That last four months or so, I’ve been saving up boxes in preparation for summer when he wouldn’t have speech therapy.

Well, they’ve all be yanked out of storage, too, to provide SOME kind of structure to my attempt to homeschool him.

One box, Color Mixing, had a lot of promise because a) it offered the use of cups filled with water and a stirring stick — and my kid loves a good stirring stick — and b) we could paint!

My son loved the water and the stirring stick, didn’t give a s*** about the colors and refused to help me paint.

So, ladies and gentlemen, here’s MY artwork completed while coaxing my toddler to help.

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I’m going to frame it and give it to him as a gift when he’s old enough to understand how annoying he was as a toddler. #notbitter

The third activity in the crate was a color-matching game with cards and felt circles. While he didn’t say a single color by name, he matched them perfectly without any instruction from me. Something’s gotta be clicking, right?

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He did say “puh-kin,” which was super adorable, but that’s all I got out of him on Wednesday.

Thursday

Hot failure. A straight up mess of failure.

School activities, outside play and paying any amount of attention to me were thrown out the window and replaced with epic, epic fuss.

You guys just so much fuss omg.

I crashed on the couch at 7:30 p.m., and then I woke up nearly 11 hours later. It wore me out, that fuss. My husband had put the toddler to bed, turned off the TV and left me to sleep.

#WAHMlife for the zzz’s.

Friday

Both my husband and I worked from home on Friday, so the toddler was pretty jazzed about life with the adults “playing” on their computers and their phones. So, again, we accomplished zero homeschooling.

Ah, well.

We’ve been without public school since March 12, social-distancing since March 18 and at 12:01 a.m. Monday, March 30, we’ll be under a statewide stay-at-home order.

My toddler is NOT going back to school this semester (and potentially the foreseeable future).

Here’s to Homeschool: Week 2. Pray for me.

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(Uh, yeah, I always have a workout scheduled… and have not done one yet!)