Friday, May 10, 2019

Homeschool Dawn Out

A little more than 20 years ago, I found out I was expecting a baby.

This guy!

When he was five months old, I found out I was expecting again.

Another baby boy!

Regular readers, you know the story, but let me bring those just tuning in up to speed.

I married my husband Michael in my early 20s. We had been best friends for a year, dated for a year and half, and were engaged for a year. During that long courtship, we talked about a lot of things. Both of us are extremely logical, over-thinkers, planners. We wanted to make sure we had the same ideas concerning just about everything--including how we would raise our future kids. On the day we said, "I do!" we knew we wanted to have several kids and we promised each other we would homeschool them--from birth to high school graduation.

I was floored when life didn't immediately pan out according to our amazing plan. We didn't have a whole bunch of kids right away. In fact, we faced infertility and then the Lord gave and the Lord took away. At least four babies--I don't really know exactly how many miscarriages I had--went to be with him. I felt like I was living a nightmare during that season of life, but it was for my sanctification. I grew in grace and my understanding of what the Scriptures teach concerning God's sovereignty, and I reached a place of being able to proclaim like Job, "Blessed be the name of the Lord."

Healthy Baby 1, Ben, jolted into this world like a thunderbolt. He tried to hold his head up at 10 minutes old. I am not exaggerating. He screamed liked a banshee when I kept him from trying again lest he hurt himself. He didn't stop screaming for nearly a year.

I completely freaked out when I saw the test results that clearly indicated Healthy Baby 2, Brian, was on the way. Don't get me wrong. I wanted babies--lots of them. I just wasn't sure if I could handle two little screamers at the same time. Thankfully, Brian was not a screamer. He was a content, peaceful, easy-to-manage little bundle of sweetness.

1-year-old Ben would frequently go to Brian
 in his baby swing,
put his head near Brian's,
and say, "Ahhh."
Ben was a bundle of sweetness too, btw. He was just a very LOUD bundle of sweetness. Lol!

Five years flew by and it was TIME TO START SCHOOL!

I was thrilled! I had wanted to homeschool my own kids for 12 years at that point. I had centers and interactive bulletin boards. I painted the walls of the classroom in scenery to match the subject matter for that area. It was bright and colorful and everything was labeled. I took print-rich environment to a whole new level!

We studied history, art, music, math, geography, foreign language, birds! Lots and lots and lots of birds! We read good books. We wrote stories. We sang, danced, and painted. There were science fairs and birding competitions, international festivals and speech tournaments, soccer and tennis and karate.

There was an autism diagnosis, OT, VT, speech therapy, social-thinking therapy. There was a lupus diagnosis and chemotherapy. Legs had to be reconstructed. An EKG had to be run 6 times. There were many, many visits to neurologists, rheumatologists, ophthalmologists, orthopedists, internists, endocrinologists, cardiologists, nephrologists, and more "ologists" than I can recount.

We started a homeschool co-op and I taught 4 students, then 12 students, then 19 students...I will be teaching 40-60 this fall. B & B took science, math, journalism, computer science, government, economics, archery, and more. It opened their world to so much more than I could have done alone, yet the whirlwind of responsibility kept me so busy that suddenly I looked up...

...and another 12 years had passed.

Last May Ben graduated from Hays Home Academy with high honors. He earned a 5.1 weighted GPA and 29 hours college credit. He earned his black belt in Tang Soo Do karate and received the President's Volunteer Service Award--an award given by the White House to students who rank in the top 10% nationally for the number of volunteer service hours they complete. He accepted over $100,000 in academic scholarships, including the VPAA Scholarship offered by his college and the Zell Miller Scholarship offered by the State of Georgia. He was the first homeschooled student at his college to be awarded the Zell Miller Scholarship.

Currently, he has one year of college under his belt, has declared History as his major with minors in Spanish and Political Science. He has made his school's VPAA list (highest honors) for his dual enrollment year and his freshman year and should be inducted within the year to four honor societies. He was a freshman senator and is now serving on the Student Activities Council. He is a writer for the college paper and faithfully attends Reformation and other religious organizations. He is debating whether he will go to law school or complete a master's and a Ph.D. in history with the goal of being a professor. And he wants to be a Fulbright Scholar and study in Korea or Japan. In other words, he's driven and quite the academic achiever.

Brian graduated from Hays Home Academy last week with honors. He earned a 3.75 GPA with 22 hours college credit. He also earned a black belt in Tang Soo Do karate and completed hundreds of volunteer service hours at his dojo. He is a valued employee at a great place to work and has been nominated for employee of the month multiple times. (He's going to win it one of these days; I just know it.) :) He was accepted to every college he applied, and for a while, it looked like that was the direction he would take. He had narrowed it to a particular school that is a 45-minute drive from our house. Not wanting to live in the dorms per their freshman requirement, he planned to take general ed courses at the local community college until he met the hour requirement to commute. However, a week before graduation, he had a change of heart.

We sat together on my bed, and he poured out his heart. Even though he has worked hard to keep his GPA up and he has the academic ability and work ethic to complete a college degree, he really does not want one at this time. For the past year we had looked at everything that fits his personality and talents. Engineering...nope. Computer programming...not interested. Graphic Design...nah. Information really. In that moment of truth, he admitted that the past year of dual enrollment had been miserable for him. He wants to be outside. He wants to move and problem solve and use his hands. He is tired of books and subjects that don't interest him. Instead, he wants to be an electrician.

And you know what? Michael and I proudly support him in that decision. Because there is a shortage of electricians in Georgia, the state is going to completely fund his schooling. He should be placed in a paid apprenticeship within two years and have a nest egg instead of college debt. If he works hard, he can reach master electrician before he turns 30 and be set in a profitable career that suits him.

Ben and Brian are two very different people, both wonderfully and fearfully made and gifted to serve God in unique ways. I praise God that his grace is evident in both of their lives. Over the years the truth that homeschooling is not the guarantee of our salvation has been clearly proven to us. It is not a guarantee that kids will turn out happy, well-adjusted, or loving what is right in God's sight either. However, the Lord has enabled us to disciple our children through our lifestyle of learning, and we praise him that they are bearing fruit consistent with repentance. That is a work of grace, not of homeschooling.

I have enjoyed writing about them all these years. Perhaps, when they fly the nest completely, I will have more time to reflect and write about what I learned over the years. For now I will say that I am thankful to God that he directed a young man and a young woman to talk about homeschooling and enabled them to follow through, even through significant challenges.

There was a time I doubted it would happen. Then there was a time I doubted I would survive it all. Now, I'm at a place where I am wondering how it all went by so fast. The girl who couldn't wait to homeschool is done. She has given almost all her time and talents (and definitely all her spoons) to the home education of her children and the support of other homeschoolers.

She is confident it was time well spent.

Here is a look at Ben through the years! This slideshow played at his high school graduation.

Here is a look at Brian through the years! This slideshow played at his high school graduation.

Thank you for reading and following our adventures in homeschooling. May the Lord bless you and keep you!

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Prayers for Ben

I know one of the deadly sins of blogging is to begin a post with the words, "I'm sorry I haven't blogged in forever." However, this is one of those times that I must throw the Blogging Commandments out the window. It has been over a year since I have written anything here, and in that time, I have received a few kind emails of introduction from new readers and questions from others. I have been just plain rude and not responded to anyone. It's not because I am typically rude. It is because life outside the blogosphere has been full and challenging. I have found no time in my day, week or year apparently to manage this blog. Thank you so much for reading and enjoying my content. I really do appreciate it and I hope one day to return this blog to its original purpose.

For now, I  am going to revive the blog a bit for a different purpose: keeping family, friends and interested readers in the loop concerning a new development with my son Ben. (If you clicked over from facebook or twitter because you want to know why I am asking for prayers for Ben, this is the part for you!)

Ben was recently diagnosed with (yet another) rare, genetic disorder. This one has caused severe deformity in his legs. Both of his femurs are over-rotated inwardly at a 40-45 degree angle. His lower leg bones (both legs) are rotated outwardly at about a 30 degree angle.

He will undergo 2 surgeries, both double osteotomies, next year-- his senior year of high school. If he does not have this corrected now, he will face permanent disability in the future-- possibly in a wheelchair by his 30s.

In late May or early June of 2017, he will have the 1st surgery. One leg will be corrected. I'm not sure which one yet as the surgeon will go through the specific details with us closer to the date of the operation. The femur and the tibia will be cut into, both bones rotated to the proper position, and then pinned into place. Rods may be inserted as well.

He will be in the hospital for 2-3 days following the surgery and will begin intensive physical therapy while there. Once home, he will continue PT locally and will have to learn to use that leg properly as it heals. This is going to be a long, hard process, taking 4-6 months, because he will have to develop muscles that have atrophied because he cannot move them because of how his bones are positioned. He will also have to relearn how to walk and do it the "right way."

Then, he will return for surgery on the other leg-- same procedure followed by the same recovery, same therapy.

In total, he will be in intensive physical therapy and recovering from surgery for 8-12 months, essentially his entire senior year of high school.

We will not know the date of his surgery until Nov/Dec. We are delaying the surgery until May because if we scheduled sooner, it would keep him from completing dual enrollment this year and there could be complications with our insurance switch over in January. We want to keep things in one calendar year and allow him to finish this year of school without the disruption of 2 surgeries and PT.

When we know a surgery date and the surgeon has given us more details, I will update you. I will also update you here during the surgeries and recoveries throughout the next year. For now let me give a few pre-surgery prayer requests:

  1. This is a long time for all of us to anticipate the what-ifs and scary bits of surgery. I'll be honest and say that I cried a lot when we received the diagnosis and was told that surgery is absolutely necessary. We are all adjusting to the idea and feeling thankful that he can have this corrected. However, it is hard to have something like this hanging over your head. 
  2. I've already jumped several insurance and medical hoops. I am sure there will be more. Please pray that I will have the energy to do it all and that all surgeries, therapies and related costs will be covered by our insurance. I'm already budgeting/saving for tons of co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses. Pray for God to provide abundantly.
  3. Because we want to delay, we cannot schedule the surgery until they open their books for the next year (Nov/Dec). We should be 1st in line and be able to pick whatever date we want. Please pray for this timing though. Everything really needs to line up perfectly because we also still have a Marfan's Syndrome appointment that will take place in the middle of all this. He has to be able to stand on his own (no crutches) for that appointment. We need the final results about Marfan's (a 2-year ordeal) in the fall of his senior year so we will be able to make decisions concerning college. Marfan's is a VERY serious condition and if he has it, it will dictate where he is allowed to go to school. That all has to take place while he has healed from the 1st surgery and before the 2nd surgery takes place. Do you feel a migraine coming on from reading that? Yeah, me too! :) 
  4. This is a bit premature and will probably come up again, but we need a school plan for 2017-18 both for Ben and Brian. Wisdom. Pray for wisdom in this area please.
  5. Pray for Ben's college application process. We are trying to get as much done as is possible this school year (his junior year) because many things will be impossible or extremely complicated to do once the surgeries begin. 
  6. I fear some of you will think I'm being whiny or melodramatic or something not very positive because of this statement, but truly, pray for Ben to come through this with greater maturity and great testimony of God's goodness and faithfulness. He has been through so much for a 16 year old. We have had to delay his graduation (a planned early graduation, granted) because of autism and Marfan's. He has faced a lot of disappointment in the past 4 years. And, you know, most high school seniors are considering what they will do after graduation and who they're going to homecoming and prom with... he has to have both of his legs rearranged, recover, find out if he has a potentially fatal illness, and then go through the leg thing again. I know he is not the only young person to suffer and worse things have happened to others (and I love you all but I don't want to hear any stories about other people and their problems right now), but let me just be honest and transparent and say that this hurts. It hurts bad. I can put one foot in front of the other right now because I know God's promises and trust Him. Ben does too. Pray that we will grow in grace together.
One final note: I know some of you who know me irl are probably wondering if will we continue to homeschool and to run Olive Plants Co-op/teach homeschool classes. The short answer is yes. We are not sure how Ben is going to complete school the 1st semester while recovering (see #4) and Brian needs the Olive Plants tutors even more with all of this going on with his brother. We also need our tutoring income to pay for all the medical expenses. We have some plans in place to allow me the time off I need for Ben but to also keep the co-op in full operation in my absence. An official statement will be released to the OP Co-op members before registration for 2017-18 begins. Rest assured, we need and love Olive Plants.

Thank you for letting me share all of that with you. Thank you for lifting our arms. Thank you for caring about our son and his needs. We love you all in the Lord!

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Last school year was so hard.
I began the year knowing I had MCTD/Lupus and taking meds that were making me feel somewhat better... just well enough that I thought I was ok. Truthfully, I was in denial about how NOT OK I really was. Feeling empowered by a new-found modicum of strength and energy, I rushed headlong into the year, ready to take on a full, taxing schedule.
Then I got some bad news... or rather MORE bad news.
In November, my lab work came back questionable. It looked like I was developing kidney disease, and my rheumatologist prescribed a weekly shot of a chemotherapy drug to slow my immune system so that it would not destroy my vital organs. Even though I was feeling better, my inflammation levels were off the charts and stronger measures were needed.
Long story short, chemo + homeschool + mothering + part-time work made for an interesting year. We had to stop, reevaluate, and make many changes to the plans we had just begun to set in motion. (You can read more about my condition at my Lupus blog, I'm a Little Lupie.) And blogging, other than the occasional post at Lupie to keep those praying for me informed, was the first of my many activities to be cut.
As a result, this blog is nearly dead. My stats show some regular traffic and pins that get bounced around Pinterest and certain posts that pull in a decent number of readers per week. However, only a handful of you are still truly hanging around here, reading my new stuff (what little there is).
I'm fine with that, however, because despite the poor health of the blog, I am alive and well... doing so much better than I was one year ago. Although I doubt reviving this blog will be part of this year's agenda, I would like at least to share a little glimpse of the good parts of last year while sharing our plans for this year.
Let's look back at what I just didn't have time or energy to write last year while looking forward to what I hope this year will include...
But, as always (and perhaps with greater understanding), these plans assume "Lord willing."

10th Grade

Bible/Christian Living

  1. Each year our family reads through the Bible using the 52-week reading plan. We like that each day of the week is dedicated to a different genre (e.g. Sundays = Gospels, Wed = poetry). It helps break up the more difficult or (don't hate me) less interesting portions, and we stay on track most successfully with this approach.
  2. Each boy has a yearly reading list. Here is Ben's:
    • Knowing God, Packer
    • Desiring God, Piper
    • Do Hard Things, Harris
    • Start Here, Harris
    • The Holiness of God, Sproul
    • Total Truth, Pearcy
    • Gospel, JD Greer
    • The Christian View of Man, Machen
    • Discovering God's Will, Ferguson
    • The Pursuit of God, Tozer
    • The Crucial Questions Series, Sproul
    • Developing a Healthy Prayer Life, Beeke
    • Holiness, Ryle
    • Idolatry, Ryle
    • Don't Waste Your Life, Piper
    • Radical, Platt
    • Taking God at His Word, DeYoung
    • 7 Men, Metaxas
    • The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer
You can find links to most of those titles in my bookshelf located in the right sidebar.
Here is our olive plant in front of my painting,
Olive Plants. Oh yeah, he just got braces!

English/Language Arts

  1. He will complete a portion of this credit at co-op in a class I will teach. During the first semester, he will review essay writing using The Elegant Essay (IEW). I will also fold in some of their materials on creative writing. During the 2nd semester, I will teach Writing Research Papers (IEW). He will also review grammar with Analytical Grammar and editing assignments that I create.
  2. At home, he will complete World Literature (Dr. Stobaugh, For Such a Time as This).
  3. For Vocabulary, I will teach Latin and Gk roots and English derivatives at co-op. He will study SAT prep words at home (although we still don't know exactly what we're going to do in this area because the SAT changes will affect him).

Ben and Brian are not in this picture; however,
it shows how much fun we have at co-op!


We are officially a Teaching Textbooks family. Last year I really struggled to keep up with math after I started chemo. I had to ditch the old math program because I did not have the spoons or available brain cells to tutor Algebra 2. TT required absolutely nothing from me. He completely self-managed his math studies for the 1st time ever and maintained a 99 average. I'm sold! This year he will complete TT Geometry.

We've started visiting colleges!

He will take Chemistry at co-op with his papaw as the teacher. Papaw likes to teach from BJU... works for me!

Ben won the science fair last year (high school division)
for his project "Tweet Side Story."
He observed and kept records of bird populations
 in our county.

Social Studies
  1. He will complete the 2nd half of a world history credit by completing the 2nd half of Dr. Stobaugh's World History course. This curriculum is intended for 1 year; however, I divided it into 2 years because last year I had him try out the Ron Paul Curriculum and Dr. Grant's online course. (Antiquity OVERLOAD!) Neither of those options worked as well for us as Dr. Stobaugh's course.
  2. He will also complete a half credit of World Geography using Mapping the World by Heart.

They enjoyed the coastal region of Georgia
during the YBC in April.

Foreign Language
  1. He starts Spanish IV this year! Dad is the teacher, and he will use Dos Mundos (his college text) and DGP Spanish.
  2. Ben wants to branch out and start Korean, too. We have a large Korean community in our town due to one of the industries located here. He will take lessons from a native speaker and practice with all our Korean friends. (We hope. I'm still looking for a teacher. If anyone local can help connect us with a teacher, please contact me!)

We enjoyed birding with Dad last year,
as well as speaking Spanish.

  1. Health- We debated whether or not to include this and then wrestled with what curriculum to use. We decided it was a necessary, easy credit and chose the curriculum from Glencoe. It is not Christian but it is not contradictory to what we are already teaching him through relational, day-to-day, Biblical teaching and parenting.
  2. P.E.- Karate! He loves his karate lessons and sensei. We are so blessed to have a great studio in town led by a Christian, homeschooling family.
  3. Keyboarding- Mavis Beacon. He's been working on it all summer, and his speed and accuracy are improving.
  4. Ballroom dancing- We have wonderful dance instructors in our area who include our teens in classes they teach for adult couples. They offer the most reasonably priced lessons I've ever encountered, and the instructors are Christians who have created a fabulous learning and social environment, including a monthly formal dance. Ben has found he is passionate about ballroom (or at least getting to go to a monthly party, lol). Michael and I love that he is learning this graceful, refined art and that it provides numerous appropriate and safe social opportunities. Win-win!
Ben is dancing with a friend, Laura, at our
homeschool support group's formal dance held in April.
Here, he is dancing with one of my flute students (and favorite gals)!
After his blue belt testing
He is at 6th green now!

8th Grade

Bible/Christian Living
Brian will follow the same 52-week Bible reading plan as Ben. Here is his additional reading list:
  1. Confessing Christ, Great Commission Publications
  2. Answers Books 1-4, Ham
  3. The Critical Questions Series, Sproul
  4. Do Hard Things, Harris
  5. Desiring God, Piper
  6. The Holiness of God, Sproul
  7. Thoughts for Young Men, Ryle
  8. Don't Check Your Brains at the Door, McDowell
  9. Calvin for Teens: Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, edited and paraphrased by Caroline Weerstra
  10. Reformation Heroes, Klyen/Beeke
Enjoying the Creation while on Spring Break

English/Languge Arts
  1. Brian will also complete his ELA credits through co-op with me as his instructor. He will complete Following Narnia (IEW) and Analytical Grammar, Season 2.
  2. At home, he will read the following books and write a book report after completing each:
    1. Loamhedge, Jacques
    2. Rakkety Tamm, Jacques
    3. High Rhulain, Jacques
    4. Eulalia!, Jacques
    5. Doomwyte, Jacques
    6. The Sable Queen, Jacques
    7. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Twain
    8. Sherlock Holmes (exact title, TBD), Doyle
    9. Call of the Wild, London
    10. Treasure Island, Stevenson
    11. The Two Towers, Tolkien
    12. Return of the King, Tokien
    13. Rip Van Winkle and Sleepy Hollow, Irving
    14. Around the World in 80 Days, Verne
    15. The Scarlet Pimpernel, Orczy
    16. The Jungle Book, Kipling
We ended the co-op year in May with a reading of
Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Brian read the part of Tom Snout
who plays the wall in the play within the play.

Due to Ben's success with Teaching Textbooks, Brian will complete their Algebra I course.

Counting Birds with Dad and Ben

Brian will complete Physical Science at co-op with Papaw as his teacher. Yay, Papaw!

Brian also won the science fair (middle school division)!
He's rocking his new navy blue (on the front)
and bright yellow (on the side and back) glasses.

Social Studies
  1. I am starting him on the 2nd year of Dr. Stobaugh's history for Jr. High. He has not completed the 1st year, but the 2nd year starts at the approximate time period that the curriculum we used last year left off. I want to get him started on this great curriculum now so that he will be ready for the high school level next year.
  2. He will also complete Mapping the World by Heart. We looked into starting CC two years ago but there were too many aspects of the program that would not have met our needs. One part that I really liked was that the Challenge A has the students learn to draw the current world map. This curriculum teaches geography through a similar method.

Working (and then destroying) the Global Puzzle
over Summer Break

Foreign Language
He will complete Spanish I, taught by his dad from Avancemos 1. This class and Algebra I will give him two high school credits by the close of the school year!

Taking a break from Spanish at co-op
to have fun at a Christmas party.

  1. Karate: He LOVES karate and takes lessons at the same studio as Ben.
  2. Art: This will not be an official co-op class; however, there is a teacher who has been teaching art courses at the church where our co-op will meet this year. She has lined up her teaching schedule to complement our co-op schedule, so he will take art right before his co-op classes begin. I LOVE when things like that happen! It saves soooooo many spoons!!
  3. Keyboarding: He will also keep working on those skills using Mavis Beacon.
  4. Programming: He started the programming courses available at Khan Academy over the summer and is enthralled. We're going to keep that going.
With his birding team, getting ready for YBC 2014
Acting Silly!

Breaking Boards at Karate

So, there you have it!

As I am about to press "publish," I wonder what surprises are in store for this year. Plenty, I'm sure.

However, God will direct my steps and provide the grace to do (or not to do), and for Him, there are never surprises.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?”
 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever!
Roman 11: 33-36

May God bless you as you start your new school year!

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

It's a Give-away!

Update: I am extending the deadline on this giveaway to Sept. 1, 2014 to allow time for more entries. You can also share on Pinterest to enter, so please, help spread the word. Thanks!

Hey Olive Planters!

Are you ready for school to start?

I am! I am!

I have really enjoyed summer break. I have spent a lot of time at the pool, even more time lesson planning, and even fought off some bats! Soon, however, the Olive Plants Home Academy will be in full swing. I will share our 2014-15 curriculum plans in days to come but wanted to take a minute to share a great resource with you today! (AND A GIVE-AWAY!)

It is my honor to spotlight a very talented curriculum and e-book author, Kathy Hutto. She is a personal friend of mine-- a sweet, God-honoring lady with two of the nicest kids you could ever meet (one of them is a student at the co-op I lead). She also just happens to have amazing teaching ideas oozing from her pores.

Here is just a sampling of the many wonderful items available at her CurrClick store.

An Excellent Homeschool Planner

Unit Studies

Virtual Field Trips!

Supplemental Materials

Resources for Special Needs Students

...and even a book
on writing and publishing ebooks!

Kathy also offers memory aids, posters, lapbooks, spelling sheets, and (my personal fave) silly sentences. She is such a gifted and experienced teacher who has taken great care to publish affordable materials for use at home or in a formal school setting. Most of her items cost between 50 cents and $5!

She has also graciously offered to give away
one of her fabulous products (up to $25)
to an Olive Plants reader!

To enter, visit Kathy's CurrClick store and tell me in comments to this post what item you would choose if you were the give-away winner.

You can earn 1 bonus entry each by sharing about this giveaway on facebook or twitter. Notify me here in comments or include #kathyhutto in your post/tweet so I can give you credit.

Earn three bonus entries by liking Olive Plants on facebook and/or following me on twitter, @Homeschooldawn.

Earn FIVE bonus entries by subscribing to Olive Plants.

You have until August 13th to enter. I will pick a winner using (I'm old school because I don't want to buy a rafflecopter subscription right now. ;-)

Happy last few days of summer!

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