Screen Time

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We have a confession:  we let our kids have too much screen time.  I’m not much of a morning person so cartoons it was first thing in the morning.  They would watch for 2-3 hours off and on all morning long while I got ready, did some chores, and just had quiet time for myself before we started our crazy day.  Then during nap/rest time the girls would play on the tablets for two hours because I needed that time to get done what I felt needed to get done.  I’m really ashamed of this, really.  I mean, 4-5 hours a day in front of a screen.  That is just sad.  That isn’t even counting the time in the evening watching t.v. as a family (really we don’t watch much t.v. in the evening if any.  So, that’s a plus, I guess).

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What have we done about it?  We have greatly reduced the amount of screen time they get.  They now get a total of two hours of screen time a day (we would like to eventually get that down even lower), but that privilege can be taken away, as Adeline found out, through bad behavior.

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How do we track the time they have spent?  Each of the girls (Ethan really doesn’t have much screen time to begin with so he doesn’t have one) has a tiny cup with four clear glass pebbles (the kind you find at a craft store).  Those ‘gems’ are each worth 30 minutes.  When they want to play on their tablets or watch cartoons they ask us, then they take a ‘gem’ out and either Brian or I will set a timer for 30 minutes.

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I would say the first day of really cutting back on screen time was by far the hardest day.  After that first day they have done great.  Other than the constant boredom they now seem to face we have noticed a difference in our Adeline.  She sleeps at night!  She was always coming into our room, climbing into our bed every night.  If you have ever slept with a toddler, preschooler, or any kid for that matter than you know that we have lacked sleep for a long time.  There was no putting her back in her own bed because she would come right back over and over again every night.  There was no way to keep her in her own bed.  She now sleeps all night long in her own bed!  I have actually gotten sleep!  It has been such a wonderful feeling.

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With Adeline getting a full nights sleep it mean less melt downs and tantrums.  In the end we all win.  I tell you these things because I want you all to know that we are not perfect parents.  There is no such thing.  I know in pictures and in words we can make it appear that everything is wonderful and we got it all together.  We don’t!  No one does.  My reminder is that we are two imperfect people raising three imperfect people.  This parenting thing is tough and I think we need to stop pretending it isn’t.  We need to build each other up, not tear down. We need to stop comparing and start encouraging.  I also say these things not to pass judgement on others, but to let known what we have found to benefit our youngest daughter.

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2016-2017 School Year Planner Choice

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I love to plan.  I’m a planner.  I like to have everything all planned out and organized.  I was one of those kids that got really excited on the first day of school when the school would hand out the planners for the school year.  I would of course keep track of my homework in it, but I also was in band and played sports so it was a great way for me to learn to keep track of everything at an early age.  I am also a doodler.  It was something that I was able to just do my little doodles in.  With that being said I really like planners and I really find it hard just to choose one.  I really need to just have one though.  I really do get overwhelmed easily and having more than one planner just adds to clutter that I just don’t need or want. This year I chose to use the Happy Planner along with dabbling with a Bullet Journal.  Previously I had used Plum Paper Family Planner.  I decided to give the Happy Planner a try.  Well, I have decided to go back to Plum Paper and I would like to share why.  The opinion is my own and I have not been compensated for anything stated.

(left Happy Planner, right Plum Paper)

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Last school year I had two planners.  I had my Happy Planner for personal and then I had my Simple Plan Homeschool Planner for homeschool planning.  I was going to go back to Simple Plan for this coming school year, but I decided: 1) it’s a bit bulky.  I liked that it had tons of space for planning, but I really didn’t want something so big since we don’t always do school at home. 2) I felt there was a lot in there that I just didn’t use.  You can’t beat the price of it though.  It is super affordable and maybe I should have added it to this list to compare, but it really should be compared with other teacher planners.  If you are looking just for a homeschool planner Simple Plan is definitely one to consider.

I started looking into what planner I wanted to use this school year and decided to go back to Plum Paper.  I was really considering their small teacher planner.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to fit both girls schooling in the little squares though.  I also thought it would be great if I could use the planner for schooling and personal.  I decided to look at their other layouts and decided on their horizontal layout 1.  I almost wrote it off and didn’t even look at the horizontal layouts and I am so glad I did.  When I saw this specific horizontal view ideas started popping in my head so I knew it was the one for me.  I almost went with the vertical hourly layout just because I like to have my day planned out like that (it keeps me on task), but again it came down to space.

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I chose the horizontal layout for a few reasons.  I liked the list page on the left side.  It has a notes section up on top and that will be where I write down the weeks memory verse.  I will be seeing it several times a day, plus during Bible time in the morning with the kids.  I thought it would really help me to memorize it too along with the kids.

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For the list section I will be using that for all the planning.  The girls are color coded so all I have to do is use blue for Sofia, red for Adeline, and purple for both.  I really don’t need to have a check list or anything like that for the day.  I just need a glance to see what we are doing for the day.  I’m at the early stages of planning.  I’m still waiting on science curriculum to get in and then I usually plan a month at a time.  There is also a notes page at the beginning of each month that I will be writing down my supply list for school each day.

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So, how does it compare to the Happy Planner?  I really think it’s the disc system I don’t like.  I thought it would be easy for me to customize and add to my planner, but I never really added to it.  The only thing I added were pockets (Plum Paper already comes with pockets).  The spiral bound Plum Paper pages turn easier and it is easier for me to flip to the month I need or week that I am currently on.  I also thought I might like the vertical layout of morning, afternoon, and evening, but I just couldn’t get into it.  I know some people love it, but it just isn’t for me.  I also need room to write so I think that’s why I like this horizontal layout better.  I may not have something going on each day, but there is plenty of room on each day that I can write a quote one of the kids said or a quote that I liked from reading or a Bible verse from my study that I really want to focus on for the day or week.  I do enjoy decorating my Happy Planner, but I haven’t been very consistent.  Sofia now wants a planner to decorate and I think it is an excellent idea for her to start the habit of planning.  I will be getting her the Happy Planner student planner for this coming school year to teach her how to plan and do independent work, along with her getting to be creative.

For size they are about the same size.  Plum paper is a little smaller, but not much.  The Plum Paper fits in my purse so if I do need to take it along somewhere I can easily place it in my purse and go.

(Plum Paper on top, Happy Planner on bottom)

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So, how do they compare on the inside.  At the beginning of each month they both have a similar page.  The Happy Planner is fun and cute.  I like that it already tells me what holidays are in that month.  Plum Paper is a little bit more streamlined, clean.  I like both so I don’t really have a preference.  The fun side of me likes the Happy Planner, but the serious, less clutter me likes the Plum Paper.

I chose a horizontal view, but Plum Paper does offer a vertical view like the Happy Planner.  I chose Plum Paper because there are so many options of layouts, plus the covers, plus the add on’s.  It really is a tough decision.

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A new thing that I am excited about in the Plum Paper is the ideas, plans, and goals page.  I’m going to be using that to write down what I plan to sew for each month.  There are also pages with the whole year at a glance.  I will be using those pages to keep track of our school days.  I like that there are notes pages at the beginning and end of each month, along with notes page at the front of the planner and in the back of the planner.  I always thought about getting extra notes pages for my Happy Planner, but I never did.  I like having notes pages because I do use them for planning vacation/trips, doodling, keeping track of what I have been reading, and so on and so on.

We will see as the school year goes on how my new planner works.  I may do a follow up blog post to show if it is going well or not with using this planner as a homeschool planner and as a personal planner.  I do want to say that I do know there are homeschool planners that are also personal planners, but I felt they had a lot of extras that I wouldn’t use.  I like simple.  I really did look into other planners before I went with Plum Paper.  I think that is the great thing about all these different planner companies.  There are so many choices and you can choose what works best for you.

 

 

 

 

 

Notebooking

I first heard about notebooking when I was looking into the Charlotte Mason Method.  We have been trying it the last two months.  I really wasn’t sure how well it was going to work for us.  I really thought Sofia would protest, but surprisingly she hasn’t minded it at all.  We have started out slow, not notebooking everyday.  We have ended up doing it about every other day just to get the feel and see if it was going to work out for us.

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We started out notebooking in history through the book Who Was Marco Polo?  Sofia especially liked drawing and working on maps.  She had drawn several in her notebook documenting Marco Polo’s travels.  She has liked the maps so much that she has requested to do more things like that.  So, we are adding geography to our curriculum next year.

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I also had her include a timeline of Marco Polo’s life at the end of our unit.  One thing that I have to keep telling her to do is to slow down, write her best, and make something she can be proud of.  She likes to rush through her work and it causes her to mess up especially in math.

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When we were completely done with the book I had her do a report on Marco Polo.  I got the idea for her project from the blog found here.  She wasn’t too fond of the idea of having to do a project, but since this one included some art she didn’t complain too much.

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I think notebooking is going to add so much to our homeschooling next year.  I think it helps that Sofia has really enjoyed it thus far.  She hasn’t always enjoyed writing.  When we get into next year she will be doing a lot more in her notebooks and with pretty much every subject.  For now though this works for her.  She is getting a feel for it and understands what is expected of her.

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I liked seeing what she wrote and drew about each chapter after we read each of them.  It was interesting to see what she drew out from each chapter about Marco Polo.  I can say I’m really looking forward to next school year already.  I think the changes we are making are good changes and will improve our schooling.

Homemade Bubble Solution

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Summer is here!  Anyone else excited?  I just love summer.  Summer just makes me feel nostalgic and it just feels freeing after being cooped up all winter.  We have spent lots of time outdoors so far and I’m always trying to think of ways to add something new.  I feel the kids get tired of playing with the same outdoor toys or get a little bored of playing in their playhouse.  One thing that I have been meaning to buy has been bubbles.  I feel like I have completely failed them so far.  We went through so many bottles of bubbles last summer.  I mean gallon bottles, ha.

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Since I hadn’t bought any bubble solution yet I decided to look into making our own.  Really, why had I not made any before?  So easy and if it spills it really is no big deal, because the homemade stuff really doesn’t cost hardly anything.

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All you need is 1 cup water, 4 tablespoon of dish soap (we used Dawn), and 1 tablespoon of corn syrup.  We put it all in a shallow dish and I just lightly mixed it all together and we had bubble solution.  I used a shallow dish because I thought it would be easier for four kids to use all at once and I thought it would be less likely to spill.  Of course, it did spill so we had to make it a second time.

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No bubble wand?  No problem.  All you need is a stick and some wire.  We didn’t have four bubble wands.  We had more like, one.  That was not going to cut it.  I decided to just go ahead and make four.  They worked out pretty well and the kids thought it was pretty neat that they got to help make their wands.

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In all I think it turned out great and I think we will just be making it this summer instead of purchasing.

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Rhythm of Homeschooling

As you can obviously tell I took a hiatus from blogging.  I was feeling uninspired and just kind of tired of keeping up with it.  I felt like it was just another thing I had to add to my already long list.  Lately, I have been feeling a tug to bring it back to life.  After much thought I decided our blog just needs to take on a new focus.  The decision has come to make this blog our homeschool journey.  This year has been our first year of homeschooling elementary school and it has not been easy.

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We have spent the school year figuring out our schooling rhythm.  I’m still not sure we have found it.  We have spent the year figuring out what curriculum works best for us and right now I feel like we are in a slump.  We are all just kind of bored and completely uninspired with what we are doing.  I have found that text books just don’t work for Sofia.

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I’ve been looking up different ideas for curriculum and methods for next year and I am really excited about what I am finding.  We are going to take a whole new approach to our schooling next school year.  Literature based learning has been in the back of my mind lately.  Our kids love books.  We have practically a library in our house.  Why did this not cross my mind before.  Lo and behold I come across living books.  Perfect!  So then starts my study of the Charlotte Mason method (I still have lots to learn) and more and more I’m feeling drawn to it and I feel that would be a better fit for our family.

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We will be implementing some of the Charlotte Mason method to finish out our school year.  I hope to get Sofia excited about it as much as I am.  I think it will take her time to get used to it, but we will get there.  We will find that rhythm.  I’m not sure how often I will blog about our journey, but I’m truly feeling revived and ready to finish our school year out strong.

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*These pictures of the girls were all taken in a creek by my grandmother-in-laws house.  It seems to be the spot for all the kids to play in the neighborhood.

 

 

Dance Recital and Other Fun Summer Stuff

Recital was back in June.  I know.  I haven’t been very diligent about posting this summer.  To sum it up, Sofia did great and Adeline was really nervous about getting on stage.

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Aren’t they cute in their costumes?  Their theme was Driving Through the Wild (the dance studio is called Drive).  All the dances had an animal theme to them.  Adeline’s combo class did a ballet dance to of course a bumble bee song.  They were all so cute in their little bumble bee costumes.  They even had little stingers!

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Here are two pictures of the girls backstage soon before Adeline went on stage.  You can’t really tell she is nervous, but she was just about in tears when it was about showtime.  She went on stage though and killed it.  Her dance teacher made her the line leader so she had a very important role to play.  Then, there is Sofia who loves being on stage.

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We spent a Sunday afternoon after church at the Snake Alley Art Fair.

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We also went to the Snake Alley Criterium to watch the bicyclists.  There are just so many neat places downtown to photograph that I just can’t help myself.  These pictures aren’t even the beginning of what I took of the kids.

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These black and white pictures turned out so dreamy.  The lighting was absolutely perfect back in this little nook.  I just wish the kids would have let me take more.

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I’ll let these pictures be the first installment of our summer.  We have just a few more weeks left of it.  Hard to believe we will be starting school already.  Didn’t summer just start?

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Homeschool Area

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Last year Sofia went to public school for kindergarten.  It was a pretty tough decision to make, but we figured we would give public school a shot.  We both really weren’t thrilled about it.  Luckily she had a wonderful teacher.  She really couldn’t have gotten a better one.  Sofia excelled as we knew she would, but she quickly grew bored.  Her papers all came home with drawing on the back because she would finish and have nothing else to do or at center time she would end up doing the same worksheet a couple times.  She was in the highest reading and math groups.  She really enjoyed being with her classmates, but she too was feeling like she needed more.  She needed to be pushed academically and she wasn’t getting it.  It wasn’t her teachers fault at all.  It was the fact that Sofia was already ahead of her peers going into kindergarten.  We were doing kindergarten work in preschool.  She basically did kindergarten twice.  She is one that picks up on everything academically really fast.  She must get that from her daddy, because she doesn’t get it from me.  Anyway, we are homeschooling this year.  She is so excited and wants to get started now!  I’m not quite ready yet, but I have been tempted to start already myself.  I think Sofia would really like to do it year round, but we are still trying to decide if that is for our family or not.

One thing to get ready for school this year is getting our space ready.  Most everything will be done in the dining room.  Most of our schooling will be at the dining room table, but since Adeline will also be doing preschool and some tot school for the little boy I watch I thought we really needed two spaces.  Our other space is a child size table that we got when Sofia was real little along with two box shelves that we turned into benches.  I like the idea of using the shelves as benches because we have storage. We have coloring books in one cubbie, and puzzles, busy bags, math manipulatives in the other three.

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  I have a Raskog cart from Ikea with all our binders and books, crayons, colored pencils, pencils, pens, paint brushes and the list can go on.  I cannot rave enough about this little cart.  It is so handy to have.  Plus it is super cute.

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Another thing I wanted was some sort of bulletin board, but I didn’t want it to look like a bulletin board.  This is all in our dining room so I wanted it all to match the decor of the room.  My solution was to take an old picture frame that my mom had given me.  I put chicken wire and burlap on the back.  I actually use magnets to hold everything onto the board.  I wanted the board to showcase what we are working on.  I have it right now set up for the first week of school.  Adeline is doing the letter A and the number 1, Sofia is going to be learning about ancient Egypt so I put up a picture of pyramids and the sphinx.  I also have our memory verses up for the week on there too.  I have a couple more things to put up yet, but I like how it is turning out.

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Next to the little table on the wall we put up a chalk board and dry erase board.  We had an easel that wasn’t getting much use because it takes up so much space.  We didn’t have the space for it so we decided to take the chalk board and dry erase board off and put them on the wall.  Doing this has been a huge hit with the kids.

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I feel as though these pictures 1) make our space look huge and 2) this space isn’t usually this nice and neat.  Here is a little bit of reality.

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While the space is a somewhat roomy it fills up when you have five kids running around the dining room (3 ours, 2 I watch).

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This is pretty much how our dining table looks 80% of the time.  It is always covered in some crafty project the girls are working on or my fabric.

I just really like how this space has been transformed and we can’t wait to start school.  I hope this may give some inspiration and to show you don’t have to have a room dedicated to schooling.

Play Dough

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Adeline loves playing with play dough.  She can spend all day off and on playing with the stuff.  We had lots of name brand play dough, but it was just too hard for her to roll out and manipulate.  We needed a soft dough for her.  I had tried cook play dough before and I just wasn’t a fan.  It just took too long to make and then we had to wait till it cooled off.  I needed something that came together real quick and something that she could help me make since she loves helping in the kitchen.  I then came across a no cook play dough and decided to give it a try.

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Play dough cupcakes and cookies were made!  This dough is so easy to manipulate and she can easily roll out the dough.  I don’t have to stand there rolling it out constantly for her now.  She likes to roll it into little balls and then smoosh them with the palm of her hand.  As she smashes it down she yells, “flat ball.”

Playdough

Something else we have discovered is play dough mats.  Addie has so much fun with them.  I just print them off and then put them in a page protector so we can reuse them and the play dough doesn’t stick to it.  When we are done with it I just wipe them off.  You can laminate them also.

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The play dough mat that she is using came from the web site 123 homeschool 4 me.  We are doing the letter D this week.  If you check out my Pinterest play dough board you can find other play dough mats.

Here is the recipe:

2 cups flour

1 cup salt

1 Tbsp.  oil

1/2 to 1 cup water

Food coloring

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.  You want to add in the water slowly and mix while you are doing it.  I made the mistake of adding too much water the first time.  The dough was way too sticky!  This recipe also makes a lot.  You can half the recipe to make more than one color or what I did was mix all the dry ingredients and the oil together in a bowl.  I then divided the mixture into two bowls.  I then added food coloring to each mix and then put in about 1/2 cup into each bowl.  Mix and knead the dough.  I liked separating to make two colors and it seemed to be just the right amount for play.

The play dough will last a couple weeks so you don’t have to worry about making more right away and it is safe to eat.  Ethan quickly found out it really doesn’t taste good.

Craft :: Spring Tree

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I love flowering trees.  They are always one of the first signs of spring and they bring color back to what was once brown and dull.  They are just so pretty and make me happy.  I saw something similar to this craft elsewhere, but I thought I would share what we did.

For this craft you will need a print out of a bare tree.  We used this one.  You will also need green and pink and white yarn.

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After they colored the tree we spread glue all over the top of the tree.  They then layed the yarn down on the glue.

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When we were done with the green we added more glue and placed the pink and white yarn on the tree.

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When you feel your tree has enough green, pink and white yarn on it you are done.

It is a great simple craft for preschoolers and I even had the toddler I watch do it too.

Owl Paintings

I took a painting class this past weekend with some great friends.  It was a great night of us trying something new and having fun at the same time.  Our owl’s all turned out a little different from each others.  And they all all cute and I think we all did a good job on them.

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The next day all our girls talked about was how they wanted to paint an owl too.  I decided it would be fun to let them make their own piece of art.  I started searching on line for an easy painting the girls could do and I came across a wonderful tutorial on making an owl mixed media painting from the blog Thoughts From Alice where you can find the full tutorial.  I thought it would be a semi easy project for the girls to do.

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I first had the girls paint their canvas.  Sofia chose yellow and then she added pink swirls.  Addie chose a light green even though it appears yellow in the picture.  She then started added black dots, but then she decided to paint the whole thing black.  It actually turned out pretty neat I think.

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The girls then painted pages from a catalog and then I cut out all the shapes that made up the owl.  The girls then glued them onto the canvas.

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I didn’t get a very good picture of the girls with their painting.  They really didn’t want their picture taken and they would not hold still.

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