Friday, 30 September 2011

Things are brightening up!

Following on from my last post, I thought I'd share some pics of how we are adding little touches to make the place feel sunnier and more colourful to last beyond the lovely weather we are now enjoying!

I cut out and laminated some of the Mandalas from the Kid's First Mandalas book I wrote about on my Colouring Mad post, and stuck them on hubby's newly cleaned office window right next to where he sits. I think they look awesome!

I also bought him some fabulous Gladioli, since he's working such long hours at the moment - to say thank you and make him smile.

I hung up a crystal that was sat in a silly place for a crystal to sit, and today it cast it's pretty rainbows all over the dining room.....

as you can see!

Check out this beautiful Cyclamen plant which was given to us yesterday by my mother in law - she is obviously well tuned in and hadn't even seen my last blog post - and came over with this winter-flowering beauty! Thank you Bernadette.

I thought you might this link for houseplants to brighten your home this winter :-)

I also moved this paperweight (who uses paperweights nowadays?) from a spot with no light, to the same sunny window you see in the photo above. It is now giving off it's pinky beauty when the sunbliught hits that window in the afternoons.

And look how pretty this window is now looking with a fab new orchid, and plasticine rainbow. Who needs Ikea?

and these multicoloured butterflies make my heart sing!

What to do with these pretty offcuts?

Little things, I know.

But lots of little things.... make this mama happy :-)

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Keep on the sunny side


Well it's been gloriously sunny here, and I have had a wonderful day soaking up the sun's energy exploring the Gardens at Peckover House in Wisbech with my boys and my aunt who stayed over last night. 2 acres of riotuous, fantastical, magical planting - each flower, shrub or tree a marvel, a wonder!

 Any of you local mamas who haven't visited - do it immediately! It is so so beautiful. And there's a tea room :-) I'm going to spend the Autumn/Winter making sure we regularly go to places like this with - places with such spectacular flower arrangements it feels like summer all year round - the perfect antidote to the bleakness of the fen landscape we have here in the Winter months. I am going to look at planting more things in my own garden to try and replicate some of that kaleidoscope of colour I saw today. Check out these beautiful plant pots I have lined up in mind.

Whilst it may be sunny in good old Blighty right now, it won't be too much longer till Autumn starts acting like...well...Autumn, and the days as the days get steadily a little shorter, darker and so on.

So I wanted to share with you some thoughts I've been having recently about how to harness the maximum amount of sunlight on those shorter, darker days. How to live more colourfully, more vibrantly.

First up, and most obvious, since all energy transactions on earth are powered by the sun, it seems pretty obvious why people get sad in winter, and also why so many religions hold the sun as sacred. It's natural to miss that light and energy so we have to work a bit harder for it. It occurs to me that there are so many simple things we can do to achieve year-round SUN-power!

Obviously, being outdoors when the weather is nice is a must whenever you can. But what about home days when we're indoors and its too windy, rainy, wet to be outside, when we're not visiting friends whose laughter keeps us smiling - those days when the weather is not sunny at all.... how to make the house feel sunnier, brighter?

I've been considering re-arranging the house/rooms a little with this thought in mind, and Carol Venolia, sums up my own intuition in her book "Healing environments". She rightly says that

"We're at our best when we awaken in the east light, carry out our main activities in the south light, then rest at the end of the day in the west or north light"

Arranging our rooms and daily activities so, as much as possible, we follow the path of the sun makes perfect sense. Not a path taken seriously enough by many work settings, and I feel very sorry for people who work in environments where no regard has been given to this vital consideration for people's health and well-being.

So what can we do to harness the sun and maximise it's influence in the house?

Well, I compiled a....

Sunshine to-do list!

- polish up all our windows so they sparkle

- think about brightening the colour-scheme in some rooms

- invest in a couple more lamps around the house in those rooms which face north/have small windows

- replace two sets of fairy lights that broke months ago

- put more crystals in the windows  - rainbows on the walls are so fab at the moment in our living room, LOVE them!

- put up some carefully placed mirrors to reflect sunlight - maybe go charity/junk shop/car boot sale shopping and put an arrangement or cluster of little ones together as a feature to bounce more light around

- hang up some christmas tree bauble glitter balls we have and back up on a thread from the window - they looked so awesome whenever we've done this before - when Finn was a very young baby he would just adore it when our sunny little lounge filled with rainbows cast by a crystal hanging in the window, and I would spin a hanging mini glitter ball sending little white dots of light all over the room (who needs fisher price to give your kids a super pretty glitter-ball-light-show, huh?)

- push furniture near windows

- buy some winter indoor flowering plants to put in the windows - begonias for bright colour are my fave!

- hang up/make/put on christmas list more stained glass pendants to shine colour into our rooms like these beauties

- use more window stickers, illuminations etc

-trim back plants/bushes that obscure light from the windows

- swim at the local pool more often and bask in the sunlight pouring in though those big windows. It always feels so healing being in shimmering, sunlit water.
- visit as many sun-rooms/conservatories as possible

- could do salutations to the sun yoga every morning?

- hang out most of all with positive people who have a bright outlook, who laugh lots and give out love and good vibrations

Go bright, bright, bright!

 - go through all our clothes and customise darker items of clothing with bright buttons, a bit of stitching, something groovy and colourful
- get a bit more glitz, texture, and colour into my own wardrobe - be more adventurous with different types of fabrics in my everyday outfits - silky, shiny, sparkly, fluffy, glittery.

- paint my nails bright more often than the once a year I paint them currently!

- go to the hairdresser (first time in about 3 years!)

- get in some new fabrics to spice up the home decor - new cushion covers maybe? Maybe make them from recycled second-hand fabrics

- start stitching the bright rainbowy/colourful crafy thing I am making with the boys

- eat brightly coloured healthful food and have more raw/ superfoods in our diet to stave off the winter colds

But it's not all about the sun in the darker months. As the darkness draws in each night there is a certain pleasure in embracing the snuggly, cosy, and ritualistic little wintery treats. So I've put together another checklist to help get the most out of the cold evenings:

Cosy up the night-time vibe!

- buy/make more candles/candle holders

- work on creating the optimum mood lighting for each room - soft, pretty, maybe a bit sparky too

- actually get round to tiling and getting our wood-burner installed so we can relax as a family and as a couple by the hearth

- buy/make the mother-of-all snuggle blankies

- go for more moonlit walksas a family, all wrapped up snug in warm clothes

- learn how to make some less fattening home puddings than we scoffed all winter last year - hehe!


Well there we have it. A rather comprehensive list.

What are your favourite Autumn/Winter sunny tips, dear reader?

How do you keep things sunny in your life?

Love hearing your tips and ideas!


Monday, 26 September 2011

Motherfunker's Guide to... Home Ed must-haves for under £10 - Part 2


I have had so many blog posts in my head for the last week and hardly the time or energy to do it. Been planting our garden, and since our tumble dryer broke down we are hanging everything on the line and come evening time my back has been more achey than usual. So instead of blogging I've been happily flaked out, watching the Great British Bake Off, episodes of Ideal, and eating chocolate instead.

Did ya miss me?

Well since we talked about the home ed must-haves last time, I've been thinking about the other resources in our house, that are less than £10, and are really brilliant.

First I want to talk about Dr. Seuss. I missed out on his stories in my own childhood and have only discovered him as an adult. I love the inventiveness of his language, the silliness, the absurdity. What could be more delightful to read than Fox in Socks? This tongue-twister of a book deserves a place on every child's bookshelf - if it was the only Seuss book you ever bought, this should be it! Who needs speech therapy or elocution lessons when you could have this book for under £10! My copy was £4.99.

"When beetles battle beetles
in a puddle paddle battle
and the beetle battle puddle
is a puddle in a bottle......
....... they call this
a tweetle beetle
bottle puddle
paddle battle muddle.
AND... "

Many Seuss stories are non-sensical and seem to have a particularly strong moral or educational purpose, but others cross into the realm of teaching something a little more profound or useful so beautifully, and I would like to talk about these a little.

'Oh the places you'll go'
 is a wonderful exploration into the adult world and the landscape of emotions and experiences that happen there -  the highs and lows - this book captures it so beautifully.

" OH! The places you'll go!
You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
Who soar to high heights....

.... Except when you don't
Because sometimes you won't.
I'm sorry to say
But, sadly, it's true
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You'll be left in a lurch.

You'll come down from the lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you'll be in a slump.

And when you're in a slump, you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done...."

There are just too many good quotes and passages in this book, I want to copy the whole thing out for you. Just buy it instead. It's good, trust me. It even has a happy ending, because the tone of the book is that good stuff, amazing stuff will happen in your life and sometimes there'll also be times when there's bad stuff, scary stuff, weird stuff that may happen to you at different times on your life journey but you'll overcome it because you're strong - right? The tone is really positive and realistic. I'm grateful to Dr Suess for acknowledging feelings that are uncomfortable but SO part of real life, and demystifying them a little, bringing them out in the open.

Now Dr Seuss may no longer be with us, but his legacy lives on with a new series written by Tish Rabe and others, under the title

'The Cat In The Hat Knows A Lot About That!'

 We own




(Get the above revised edition 
or else, like us, you'll have to draw on the book to de-classify Pluto
as a planet, since it's not officially a planet any more)

 and on my wish list are......


amongst others....

And you know what? I think they are actually fantastic. With loads of information in each book, this is non-fiction made readable, memorable and lots of fun. And they're only £3.99. They are crammed full of facts delivered in the usual rhyming style you expect from Dr. Seuss.  Apparently there's an accompanying TV series but we will avoid that and stick with the books - I prefer to imagine the voice of the Cat and read it ourselves rather than have some cheesy cartoon voice spoil it for us....

If you want a really fab Dr Seuss listening experience, go for the audiobooks read by Adrian Edmonson (If you don't know this name 'cos you're from overseas, he's the bald one from cult TV series The Young One's / Bottom ) .... we got ours for 10p from a charity shop- had come free with The Daily Telegraph or something like that....

or if you prefer Rik Mayall (the other one from the Young ones/Bottom )


 and if you like the wonderfully mischievous voice of Miranda Richardson (Queenie from Blackadder) but aren't a fan of Horrid Henry ( she reads these) then there's

 which we borrowed from the library once, and really enjoyed.

All of these are £10 or under!

 I hope you liked them. I really recommend the educational series to all home educators - perhaps Santa could bring them this Christmas...

Which are your favourites?

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Soap-making day at our place

We spent a few happy hours mucking about with friends yesterday....

Making soap...

.... yummy rose geranium, mandarin and jasmine - topped off with some calendula!

Hanging out...

DJ Finn rocked the mike....

and delighted these young sweethearts with his beat-boxing!

We made some jewellery

Some of us just wanted to feel the beads with our hands and enjoy their colours and sound...

..... before having a monster bead-throwing session. Agghhh! Hehe.

The sun shone and all the while our garden was shaping up with some serious landscaping by gardening genius, Graham. A nice clean slate after a few years of scrubby, weedy, ground-elder crazed, velcro-ball plant (technical name) infested chaos in that patch. Now being replaced with a lawn, which was rolled out yesterday - a wasps nest found, and (her-herm dealt with) So I am a happy happy mama. 
Will post some pics of the transformation very soon!

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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Wasn't born to follow : Check me out in this month's Juno magazine

Hey, welcome friends, new and old - nice to see some new followers!

Well I am absolutely thrilled to be featured this month in Issue 25 of the fantastic natural parenting magazine, Juno where I have written an article and also a review of  The Land of Me. Click on the Land of Me link and enter the competition to win a fab package!

Having been a devoted reader and fan of Juno magazine for many years, I have found so much wisdom and inspiration on those pages!

To be given such a platform to share some of my ponderings on motherhood is a really great honour and priviledge. I feel humbled and also proud to speak alongside such great voices. The encouragement, love and friendship I have received across the ether from Ireland from Juno's sub-editor Lucy Pearce, has been a real blessing in my life this year. For that I am really grateful!

Truth be told, I have actually been feeling less than perfect about my parenting style very recently...full of self-doubt and questioning my ability/sanity/judgement... in spite of the article which was written in more confident times! So it's a really good reminder for me when I re-read it to have courage, to believe in my ability, to accept the imperfections, setbacks and hardships that come with making lifestyle choices which go against the grain. Saffia's editorial message really spoke to me about being brave enough to live slightly at odds with how the neigbour live, so to speak. Of course, I have all my lovely fellow home-educating friends too!

As a home-educating parent with many friends whose children go to school, it can feel a little hard justifying our weekend-every-day lifestyle when they perhaps work several jobs, wake early every day to do school runs, and have piles of homework on top of the six hours in school. Our particular home-schooling philosophy just isn't part of mainstream thinking at all. It can be hard for people to get their heads round what from the outside looks nothing like school whatsoever.

I have been feeling a little guilty, that I have no right to feel stretched, challenged, and even just exhausted, when we don't have any rat-race to have to keep up with. Yet piles of laundry must be done by someone, wholesome meals need to be cooked daily, a million and one jobs exist around my children's home-education, and when you throw in any extra problems, heartaches, hormones and all the other stuff life throws up, some days feel more challenging than I can cope with. And yet I do. And here I am! Coping. Occasionally even thriving! My four beautiful boys each have totally unique needs, desires, personalities and attributes. I feel extremely lucky and priviledged to be able to live this lifestyle with them, for all our learning to be organic and free-flow. I say 'our' because as any homeschooling mother will tell you, parents become re-educated alongside their child since we spend so many hundreds of hours learning with them!

I know in my heart that in spite of how hard it feels some days - I'm really do feel truly happiest when we're winging it, borrowing ideas, drawing inspiration from others, but essentially carving a meaningful path of our own creation. Banging our own drum. Weaving a life for ourselves using many different threads and strands. My husband also chooses to work from home- this hub, the heartbeat of the family, is our soul base and the epi-centre of all we do. It's the springboard and starting point. We wander far and wide, adventuring to far-flung places, sometimes alone, sometimes together but it's all about the home for me and mine. My family walk a different path from most - but we're certainly not alone - and you dear reader - thanks for crossing paths with me and winding up on my bloggy patch! I hope you find some reflection of yourself here - please do leave a comment or get in touch. My email is:

Monday, 12 September 2011

Motherfunker's Guide to... Home Ed must-haves for under £10 - Part 1

You may or may not know this, but if you home educate your kiddlets in the uk, you have to foot the cost entirely out of your own pocket, as well as paying tax towards the school system - so you get to pay for  their education twice. And since in most home educating households there's generally only one parent bringing home the bacon, things can get a little tight.

So I thought I'd share some gems with you - really great resources for £10 and under, things so simple, timeless, and so fan-bloody-tastic, I want to do a little dance when I think of how good they are. Things that are homeschool gold.

To begin, I want to tell you about our family's love affair with Michael Morpugo's stories. We have owned a growing collection of his works that have been sitting on the boys' bookshelves over the years and since we have hundreds of books here in the Cleary household they kind of sat there amongst them waiting to be discovered. Mingled in with Dahl, Dick King-Smith, Terry Jones and all kinds of other bargain treasures. I'd pick up a carrier bag of fantastic children's novels for a £5 at a car boot, or in a library sale, and they must have seemed like good stories, waiting on a shelf for when the boys were old enough. Slowly our collection has grown, and we have now discovered the best Morpugo bargain of the century!

These audiobook collections are way underpriced in my opinion, given how bloody good they are. Who wouldn't want to hear Sir Ian McKellan reading you a thumping good story? Or Tim Piggot-Smith? Or Jenny Agutter? Or Morpugo himself? They read with such expression, intonation, and understanding that make the stories a real delight for my seriously dyslexic oldest boy Finn, who may have missed the full meaning if he phonetically struggled through them on his own. He (and all of us) listens to these tales enraptured, not wanting to miss a single sentence, right till the end of the discs. ( Some stories are over three discs so we have to quickly change disc to continue the story) There is an emotional and timeless quality to each story that makes you feel genuinely drawn in, and I have to say that Pete and I have gotten a little teary-eyed at the end of some stories.

This collection is only £8.32 on Amazon, and deservedly gets 5*'s

This is £8.58 on amazon - 5*'s as well

£8.51 on amazon.... 5*'s again!!!

Morpugo explains that stories can help children to understand historical events, saying 

"Sometimes what fiction can do, what stories can do, is that they can make you feel historical things, real things, much more than a plain history book can, because you get to know, and you get to love the characters at the centre of it and you care what happens to them in the circumstances in which they find themselves".

I couldn't agree more. I also think that if you like the storyteller, if you trust them somehow, this helps too. In these audiobooks, both the author, and the narrator make you feel so at ease, as if your good friend were telling it to you. And that's why this is magic.

If you are lucky enough to see his work at the theatre, you'll be spellbound for sure. We saw Private Peaceful and it was simple, harrowing, yet humanly and warmly told. I am dying to see War Horse, but this may have to wait till our purse can cope with the damage!!!

Check out Michael Morpugo's website, for all sorts of news and info about his work.

Well there you have it. Three great little multi-disk treasures. All for under a £10. 

Which Morpugo stories do you love? I'd love to hear your favourites.

Bye for now amigos!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Are you a yo-yo parent?

Do you find it hard sometimes to decide what kind of a parent to be?

I make a rule, which seems utterly reasonable and sane and has everyones best interests at heart. And in no time, the kids adopt a chinese water torture technique -


grinding me down till I start to question myself. The kids try this way and that, looking for a weak spot, waiting for me to crack. Through sheer exhaustion perhaps, I decide the rule was just me being control freaky anyway and I give in so we can leave peacefully. But the peace doesn't last and so I go back to thinking rules weren't such a bad idea after all, and so we go round and round.

I am probably the worst kind of parent in that I cannot make up my mind entirely whether to be a liberal parent or a lean towards sometimes being a bit more disciplinarian. I swing a little and cannot decide which is the kinder way to be. I feel tugged this way and that. I ask myself what it really means to be a kind parent. Which way is the most loving, sane and wise.

Some days it feels absolutely right and sensible and sane to be permissive and liberal. To not co-erce, or force anything, to let the children go with the flow. But if that flow is persistently acting out aggressive, fighting energy? Or playing computer games all day long for the third day running because that is what the children want to do? Or not brushing hair for a week? Or eating third and fourth helpings every day whilst getting a quite tubby? At which point do I step in and say "enough is enough?"

Total liberalism tips over sometimes in our household dynamic from being happy free activity to somewhat chaotic, even destructive energy. I am absolutely torn between the wisdom of letting go of being such a control freak with your kids, of letting them be, of not trying to boss them around and make them do pointless stuff for the sake of being in control, and on the other hand this really is very hard to swallow when say, I feel like they're talking rudely, lacking respect, or playing computer games before they've even had breakfast, gotten dressed or brushed their teeth. I don't want to be a dragon, breathing down their neck every five minutes over petty things. I want to be friends with my kids, because it feels nicer to build trust this way, to be natural with them. When I read some home ed literature about the pointlessness of having boundaries I so want to believe it. But I just cant bring myself to think that this is healthy and good, really.

I was involved in a heated discussion recently on a home-educating forum for parents who are engaged in trying to absolutely bend over backwards so their children get to do what they want all day and try not to co-erce at all. Or say 'no' more than 20 times a year to a child. That kind of thing. And this may be easy to follow with one or two children. But four? How in the heck do you manage a gig like that?

I certainly do not want to be a shouty stressy kind of mama. I want to be a hippy skippy happy Mary Poppins type all day every day, full of energy, good humour and endless patience. I want my children to be happy and full of purposeful - not destructive - activity every day. But some days it feels like we lose our way a bit. Having a stroppy toddler in the home ed mix is much harder than anything I've ever done. And I'm sure it would help if I could just stick to being either liberal or strict. But neither feels entirely right. Some days it feels right to be uber liberal and others it feels absolutely right to be a little more exact about boundaries, limits and rules.

Is this yoyo-parenting a phenomena common to our generation because we have so many more choices now about how to raise our children? Are you a mama or papa who finds it hard to stick to one style of parenting and be consistent with this every single day?

Perhaps I am simply embracing the yin and yang of life in my parenting style...

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

What kind of a parent are you?

Monday, 5 September 2011

(Not) Back To School

Well how did it suddenly get to being September? Seems like 2 minutes ago it was full-blown summer! Today we had a whooshy day out in the wind, happily kicking piles of golden leaves and enjoying the honey coloured sunshine on our trip into town. Tonight the dark and rain feel so unmistakenly autumnal. Summer is really going to bed now and the new season is waking up.

On a friend's blog I recently wrote about the quiet dread of the coming winter months from a home ed perspective. Cheery, I know. You may think that's a little gloomy, but the reality of having four boys at home all winter is very, very hard work. There are so few places to be able to take all the children at once. Some really close friends can hack the energy levels of my lot, others, as much as they may love us, just can't handle that much activity, bickering, and high jinx. My gang are a lively, bouncy, tiggery sort who are always up for life in a really physical and intense way. Kind of like having Thing one, two, three and four, you could say!!!

How will we channel this energy all autumn/ winter so it doesn't drive us all up the wall? What tricks has Mummy got up her sleeve?

- Walking the dog in the daytimes rather than one of us adults taking her in the evening

- Swimming once a week

- Meeting with friends at different play-parks

- Nature walks in woodlands, visits to nature reserves, etc...

- Bike-rides

- several home-ed group gymnastics sessions with 30 kids, a big gymnasium and no agenda except to have heaps of fun and move absolutely freely

- Visits to Farmer Fred's Playbarn (a really nice new gastro soft-play centre )

- Re-arranging the furniture a little to allow for greater movement indoors, indoor ten-pin bowling is a favourite with the kids. Building dens indoors and out.

-  Having a regular dance session every morning for half an hour to get everyone's blood flowing nicely, brains charged up and ready to take on the day.

What will we learn this new term? Well technically we don't really follow term-times here in the Cleary household, although we are told from July onwards that soon it will be back to school time. For this reason September always seems like a new start through no action of our gets much quieter out and about and we go back to being quizzed about our lifestyle/educational provision by complete strangers when we're out during school hours, some of whom are nice, some are more full of their own sense of what education ought to look like, and can even be quite rude and ignorant. So that can be a little tiresome.

So what are we interested in right now? Quite organically the children are showing a great interest in dinosaurs and Alf and Indie in particular are currently really interested in Tutankamun and Egyptology! So we have been reading books, watching video clips online, drawing pictures and talking about pyramids, mummies, different gods, etc etc.... I will try and build as many activities around these two themes, perhaps seeing how many things we can make into pyramids. Will update you on that later in autumn.

Things coming up for us this Autumn so far are....

* running several soap-making workshops

* a visit to Peckover House in Wisbech to see a play about prison reformer Elizabeth Fry - the lady on the £5 note.

* two family birthdays and an invite to a birthday party of a friend

* the wedding of two lovely friends, who we have known for ages

* a possible visit this Saturday to Woolsthorpe manor - the educational centre birthplace of Sir Issac Newton

* a daytrip to London to the Tate modern gallery

* visits to a new home ed group called Eureka! which will take place in a local village hall

We're also planning to move Finn on from his uke skills by having Guitar lessons, Herbie on piano, and Alfie will come and hang out with me at the village nursery next door to our house, and we'll see if he likes it enough to want to stay there on his own one or two mornings a week. We'll see how that pans out. I'm not sure just yet whether Indie will do any clubs this autumn, if the right thing comes up we'll sign him up!

As for me, I am signing up for a dressmaking evening class, which my friend Nicole is also thinking about doing. She is currently doing her own Doula training and so we are exchanging ideas/thoughts/materials/etc... which is pretty exciting! Our plan is to set up as a Doula team when the time is right....I feel very lucky and priviledged that I could have such a brilliant partner in crime!

So inbetween all these action-packed Autumn events there'll be a whole lot of boring, loads of bickering, giggling, reading, playing, writing, cooking, sewing, listening, bouncing, dreaming, making and doing going on round here.

Pete and I just strung up a door that came off its hinges and turned it into a giant loom, on which we will weave a rag-rug to give as a gift for Christmas. Here's where I got the idea:

Using a door as a weaving loom

Isn't this genius?  I haven't followed this exactly as we strung the door on one side only, as you would a one-sided cardboard loom.

Well after writing all these ideas down I don't feel quite so anxious about the coming months and how dark they'll be, or how hard it will feel. It feels good to actually get all these ideas down. Maybe some of them won't happen. it doesn't matter. We're the boss of ourselves, and not going back to school, on reflection, actually feels pretty darn good! I am really looking forward to sharing these coming months with those I love most of all!

Hurray for home ed :-)