Mommy No Selfie (Why I Don’t Like Photos of Myself)

Awkward Me

Earlier today, I asked my teen daughter to take a photo of me wearing my NinjaBeats shirt. I’m helping my 10-year-old son with his new business – selling t-shirts with his original NinjaBeats design. I had the idea of posting a photo of myself wearing the shirt to a) show people how the shirt looks when worn, and b) show people how a ladies small size fits.

This was the photo. I looked at it and cringed. It’s weird. I looked weird. But no surprise here. I don’t take selfies and I don’t like having solo photos taken. They make me feel awkward and ugly.

With the hope that this will help my son’s business, I posted this photo on my Facebook page. Then, (no surprise to people who know me well) I read up online about why people like me hate seeing photos of ourselves. I wanted an explanation, a validation for my sentiment. I found an article on, written by Robbie Gonzalez entitled “Why do we hate seeing photos of ourselves?”  So there is a scientific explanation for it, and it’s called the mere-exposure effect.

In its simplest terms, the mere-exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon whereby a person develops a preference for a stimulus based solely on his or her repeated exposure to it.

Since I see myself most often in mirrors, my mirror image is how I perceive myself. My photo image is different from my mirror image. Because of that, my photo image looks somehow wrong to me.

In this same article, Gonzalez mentions a TED Talk video by photographer Duncan Davidson also entitled “Why do we hate seeing photos of ourselves?”

Davidson has a simple answer for this question:

What is the map that we use to view ourselves? Well, it’s like what no other camera sees; it’s a mirror, in your bathroom, at arm’s length. That’s a very personal view; you’re the only person that has this view in the world. Whenever somebody takes a photo of you, it does not match….My theory…is that when we see a photograph of ourselves, it looks almost right but not quite, and therefore we feel a big sense of rejection.

Ah, my intellect was satisfied. But as the day went on, I kept thinking about why I don’t like seeing photos of myself and why I don’t like having photos of only myself taken (I don’t mind family or group photos). While I went about my routines, my errands, these thoughts persisted in the background:

  • I don’t look good in photos. This only becomes more obvious when there is no one else in the photo.
  • I don’t like being photographed by myself. I am self-conscious when I am the focus of attention.
  • The most recent photographs that I looked good in were my wedding photographs – which were taken more than  decade ago.
  • I look average, and that’s fine. I know I have other talents, other assets. But am I really fine? Or do I lack self-confidence? Do I love myself enough?

I know I will continue to ponder these. I know I still won’t take selfies and I am still an awkward solo photo subject. But thankfully, I heard some reassuring words from Duncan Davidson at the end of his short talk. To paraphrase, he says that if you see a photograph of yourself and you don’t like it but everyone else says it’s great, believe everyone else. They know how you look better than you do.



Why I Love

Dictionary-comIn honor of‘s 20th anniversary, I am writing about why I love the website and use its mobile app daily.

1) I check’s Word of the Day everyday, learn its meaning and origin, and write a haiku incorporating that word (I publish my daily haiku on Twitter).

2) Since I was a child, I’ve loved dictionaries and I’ve used them to learn about new words. Until now, I always want to know what new words mean. The app makes it so much easier for me to find the meanings, pronunciation guides and origins of words.

3)’s blog posts and slideshows include fun trivia for logophiles like myself. Perfect for word nerds!

4) also makes available an online thesaurus, A thesaurus is another book I’ve loved and kept handy since I fell in love with writing when I was about 9 or 10 years old.

5) (and is free (if you don’t mind ads)! A premium, ad-free version is available, of course.

6) Last but not least,’s Twitter account is responsive. I’ve been tweeting my haiku with their Word of the Day for years, and I have been noticed, acknowledged and followed.  To whomever is managing the Twitter account, thank you so much! Favorites, retweets, and especially messages from you make my day!

To, congratulations on your 20th anniversary!  Here’s to 20 times 20 more years of sharing the knowledge, the power and the love of words with fellow word nerds!


High School Writing and Psychology with 7 Sisters Homeschool

7sistershomeschool ebooks

A few months ago at the start of this school year, I found myself looking for materials for my daughter who is now a 10th grader and part-time homeschooler. (She takes some classes in a learning center a few days a week, and other lessons are learned at home.)  Since we don’t follow a boxed curriculum or set program, I am always on the lookout for good materials, new or old, that might work for our homeschooling needs. Besides, I enjoy researching about new education and homeschooling trends.

I stumbled upon 7 Sisters Homeschool. What caught my attention were the words “No busywork” and “E-book.” I don’t believe that busywork equals real learning, so yay to no busywork! And I like that with ebooks, we don’t need to pay and wait for shipping, especially that we live all the way in the Philippines and these ebooks are made in the USA.

I found some positive reviews online. I checked out the 7 Sisters Homeschool website for prices and samples of materials for psychology (my daughter spoke of her interest in it as an elective) and writing. Prices were reasonable, $7.99 for the Introductory Guide to High School Essay Writing (recommended to be accomplished in 5 weeks) and $29.99 for Introduction to Psychology from a Christian Perspective. With this psychology course, they have recommendations on how to use it for a high school half credit or full credit, for normal or honors course.  Yay for flexibility and affordability!

My daughter and I looked at the sample pages and decided that they were worth a try. The language is simple and straightforward. The lessons are not too long and can be done independently or one-on-one (and in groups if preferred). For psychology, the topics are basic yet interesting and the homework varies from asking the student to reflect and ponder to making clay models to writing movie reviews. For essay writing, the lessons on how to write are clearly and simply broken down step by step. Suggested rubrics for assessing the essays are included. I placed my orders, and within a minute I had the links to download my copies!  Easy.

It’s been more than a month and we are getting acquainted with the writing and psychology curricula of 7 Sisters Homeschool. We are trying it out and seeing how we can adjust it to fit my daughter’s learning style and objectives. We started out printing only the pages with questions to answer. After the first few lessons, my daughter told me that she would rather read the lessons on printed pages. I wasn’t surprised since I know that she is a tactile-kinesthetic type of learner. She prefers printed books over ebooks. She likes to draw, paint and do hand lettering. She likes the feel of paper. If she can understand and retain the lessons better with printed paper (and a nice binder, as she requested), so be it. Good thing the ebooks of 7 Sisters Homeschool aren’t thousands of pages long!

Here’s keeping our fingers crossed that the curricula of 7 Sisters Homeschool works for us!


A Tale of Two Street People


The beggarAt about 9:00 this morning, I was on my usual drive to bring my daughter to her learning center. We were at the usual intersection, waiting for the traffic light to turn green. We saw the usual female beggar weaving through waiting cars. Clutching an old McDonald’s paper cup, she knocked on my daughter’s car window. I gestured for her to come to my window. I gave her a pack of biscuits (husband and I always keep biscuits in the car to give away).  She took it and stoically walked away.

I happened to look at my side view mirror and I saw her throw the pack of biscuits into the bushes in the road divider. Then she continued begging.

About ten minutes later, on my drive back, I saw her again. Sitting on the curb, smoking a cigarette.

She was a woman on the street, a beggar who didn’t want free biscuits and wanted to smoke.  She refused what little help I gave and threw it away like trash. I was dismayed.


Mobile Street Vendor | 500px Global Photowalk KL 2014At about 5:00 this afternoon, I was on my usual drive home after fetching my daughter. We were passing the usual nearby mall when I saw a familiar street vendor, a man carrying a styrofoam cooler while walking with a crutch. I first saw him walking along the road some months ago, and I immediately noticed that the front part of his right thigh was very swollen. I was in moving traffic then and couldn’t stop, but I had hoped to see this vendor again.

Today, I saw him struggling on the sidewalk. He stopped walking, put down his load for a few seconds, then carried it and started walking and ringing his bell again. Thankfully, this time there was no traffic so I was able to stop my car and talk to him. I offered to buy two pieces of ice buko. Before my daughter could hand him our payment, he asked if we had any water as he was so thirsty from walking all the way from Filinvest (about a 2 kilometer walk). He also said that no one was buying his ice buko.

I apologized because we didn’t have any drinking water in the car at that time. He asked if we could do him a favor and buy two bottles of water for him at a nearby convenience store and bring them to him. He started getting his money out to pay for the water. We didn’t take his money and I said that we would get him some water and come back.

We drove to the nearest convenience store to buy some bottles of water. After a few minutes, we drove back to the same spot and found this man sitting on the curb with his cooler and his crutch. I asked my daughter to hand him the water bottles. He smiled at us and thanked us, not only for the much needed water but also for the extra money that came with our payment for the ice buko.

As I drove away, I looked at my rear view mirror and I saw him again. Sitting on the curb, drinking water.

He was a man on the street, a handicapped street vendor who only wanted water to drink and to sell popsicles. He was thankful to be given water, to earn some money, and perhaps to simply be acknowledged. I am thankful that he gave me the opportunity to give joyfully. Thanks to this man, I am heartened.

(Note: Photos are not of the people mentioned. These are stock photos from the Internet.)





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How Filipinos Can Show Support for Suicide Prevention


All over the world today, September 10, there are events happening in support of World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD). The International Association for Suicide Prevention is having its annual campaigns for anyone from anywhere in the world to join: Cycle Around the Globe and Light a Candle.

I’ve tried searching online for any organized events in the Philippines for WSPD but found none. However, this doesn’t mean we Filipinos can’t do anything to show our support for suicide prevention. Apart from cycling and lighting a candle to show support, here are some suggestions:

1. Sign the petition for the Philippines’ first Mental Health Act

Perhaps we don’t hear much about suicide in the Philippines, with exception of some cases that made recent headlines. The 2014 global report on preventing suicide by the World Health Organization says  that the Philippines has the lowest rate of suicide among ASEAN countries.

A low statistic, however, doesn’t mean it’s negligible. In that same report, WHO estimates that the number of suicides in the Philippines in 2012 was 2,558. That’s 2,558 lives we weren’t able to save.

Whether or not we know anyone who may need psychiatric help, we can support the initiative by the Philippine Psychiatric Association to lobby for the Philippine government to provide programs for mental health.

“An initiative by the Philippine Psychiatric Association, the Mental Health Act aims to protect the rights of people with mental disorders and/or disabilities by putting in place an official body that will oversee the policies and programs that need to be developed to prevent and treat mental illnesses, and to promote the mental health of Filipinos.”

2. Educate yourself about mental illnesses, the signs of suicidal thoughts and how you can help prevent suicide.

There are many free online resources to help people understand mental illnesses such as depression. I found this video about depression by the World Health Organization to be very simple, straightforward and enlightening.

The website tells us how to 1) know the signs, 2) find the words, and 3) reach out.

In the Philippines, the Natasha Gouldbourn Foundation aims to promote understanding of depression as an illness and how it can lead to suicide. They have various programs and resources to educate and empower communities about depression and suicide prevention.

3. Show your support online through words and images of kindness and encouragement.

Filipinos are very fond of social media. We can use this in a positive way by making it a channel for expressing our support and reaching out. We can post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and where else we frequent. Our positive words and images may get someone, friend or stranger, to speak out and seek help.

WordKind logoSome self-promotion here. I started a webpage called WordKind. It’s a Facebook Page that aims to collect words of kindness and encouragement for those who are dealing with depression, bullying, isolation and hopelessness. It aims to show our care and concern for them, to remind them that they are valued and that they can be helped.

Please visit WordKind (WordKindNotes) and post your notes, handwritten and photographed or written directly on the page, to show your support for suicide prevention.


World Suicide Prevention Day may only be one day, and Suicide Prevention Month is only one month, but we can show our support year-round by being there to listen when someone we know may be suffering, by watching out for signs of mental illness or suicidal thoughts, and by being open-minded about talks of mental health, mental illness and suicide prevention.





WordKind: Your Words to Support Suicide Prevention

WordKind logoDo you want to show your support for those around the world who are battling depression, bullying, feelings of isolation or hopelessness? Do you want to help a friend, a relative or a stranger thinking about suicide or self-harm but you don’t quite know how? How about reaching out with words of kindness and encouragement to let them know that they are not alone, that they have people like us who care about them, who value their lives, who are willing to listen without judgment?

Please join me in collecting notes of kindness and encouragement from around the world in WordKind.

Today is the first day of September. September holds a special significance for me. It used to only be about the excitement at the start of the “ber” months, which to me and to many Filipinos signals the start of the Christmas season. Two years ago, September took on a much more somber meaning. On 10 September 2013, a dear friend died by suicide. I learned soon after that September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Last Wednesday, I saw this post on the Facebook page of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) asking if anyone needed suggestions for activities for World Suicide Prevention Day. Like last year, I plan to join IASP’s Cycle Around the Globe and to follow their suggestion to light a candle on September 10. But I wondered if there are any organized activities in the Philippines, especially in Manila. I searched online and found none. I saw that IASP was gathering information about activities from all over the world, including web-based activities. I figured that if I couldn’t join any group activity, I could start a web-based activity that I can share with others.

I believe in the power of words. Words can shape our reality, inspire our spirits and heal our wounds. If there are many others out there like me who are looking for ways to show support for suicide prevention, we can do it through words of kindness published on the Internet. We can put our kind words out there for anyone to read, especially those who need to hear these words, these heartfelt notes of hope and love.

If you believe in the cause of suicide prevention, please consider sharing your words of kindness and encouragement on a new Facebook Page called WordKind, and please share the words with anyone who might need them.  Thank you.





No More Shame in Breastfeeding My Way

Breastfeeding in public #FreeTheNippleBetween my two children, I’ve a total of about four and a half years of breastfeeding. Those years were challenging, educational and fulfilling. I was fortunate to be one of those mothers whose milk came in easily and in good supply. With my first child, my milk did gradually lessen when I went back to work. I took malunggay capsules and expressed milk while at work to keep a good supply. Eventually, I had to start mix feeding with formula milk.  Despite these challenges, I was able to breastfeed my eldest child for 18 months.

The greater challenge came when I breastfed my second child. It wasn’t a challenge in milk supply, biting (of course, my baby did bite but I was able to handle it) or any other physical difficulties that can happen to a breastfeeding mother. It was the emotional part of breastfeeding that got to me. Unlike with my first child whom I breastfed mostly at home, my second child was basically attached to me and breastfeeding whenever and wherever. By then, I wasn’t working in an office anymore, so I was almost always available to him. Because of that, I didn’t see the need to express milk and to teach him to take milk from a bottle. (He learned to drink water from a sippy cup.)

We moved to Singapore when my second child was months old. The challenge was when my baby would cry in public. It was easy when we were in one of those malls with peaceful and well-appointed nursing rooms. While hubby and daughter went around the mall, baby and I would have a proper nursing session. However, when we were in the train or bus or in a park and he would start crying loudly, I had no choice. Despite getting disapproving looks or curious stares from strangers around me, I pulled out my nursing bib and let my baby latch on right then and there.

During the first few times I did this, I felt ashamed. I thought that I was being inconsiderate by making other people uncomfortable. I thought that even though my breasts were covered, I was still being improper. I didn’t stop breastfeeding in public, but I secretly felt ashamed.

I read about breastfeeding, and I remember someone saying that I shouldn’t be ashamed to breastfeed in public, that I shouldn’t worry about the people around me and instead put my child first and think about comforting him.

I chose to breastfeed my second child until his toddler years. When he was a year old, he only wanted to nurse to help him fall asleep or to comfort him when distressed, so nursing happened mostly in the privacy of our home. I didn’t get any stares, but what I received were bits and pieces of unsolicited advice from some people who knew that my son was still breastfeeding. “Maybe you should stop breastfeeding him because he isn’t a baby anymore….Aren’t you making him too dependent on you?” Sometimes, my resolve wavered and I felt that shame again. And I did try several times to prematurely wean him. It didn’t work, and I believe it was because the timing wasn’t right. He wasn’t mature enough emotionally, and he needed me to continue to be there for him through breastfeeding.

I remembered that I needed to put my child first and to stop worrying about what other people around me were saying and thinking. I wanted to breastfeed him until he was ready to wean. I stopped listening to the naysaying voices outside and focused on the inner voice that helped me push away the shame and embrace the joy of breastfeeding. One day, my toddler son just didn’t want to latch on anymore. After a bedtime read, he hugged me good night, lay down beside me and fell asleep. No more struggles, no more tears, and no more shame.

And the chapter of breastfeeding in my life ended for good, with joy and gratitude and without shame.


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Gamer’s Mom Lesson No. 4: There are Good Guys on YouTube

I know that YouTube gets a lot of criticism from parents because it gives children easy access to age-inappropriate material such as videos that contain violence, sex, horror or foul language. I know that filtering and parental controls aren’t that reliable, especially when children are so tech savvy and know how to get around these barriers. I agree that there are many YouTube channels and personalities that parents would consider the bad guys – the ones that talk with too much cursing, the ones that show too much skin, the ones that display violence, bullying, substance abuse and rebellion as totally cool behavior.

My 10-year-old son, who is an avid gamer, loves watching gaming videos on YouTube. I, on the other hand, know almost nothing about gaming and hardly know anything about the latest trends and personalities on YouTube. However, when I watch alongside my son and talk with him about his favorite YouTube personalities and videos, I am slowly learning about some of the good guys on YouTube.

One whom I learned about recently is Bereghost. He is an adult gamer who posts his own video game commentaries and Let’s Play videos on his YouTube Channel called BereghostGames. What my son and I find unique and interesting about his channel is his series called The FGN (Family Game Night) Crew Plays where he shows Let’s Play videos of himself, his wife and two kids playing video games together. And I recently discovered their weekly Family Q&A videos where they answer questions posted on the channel by their many fans.

My son likes watching their FGN Crew Plays videos simply because they’re fun, and he likes watching the Family Q&A videos because they allow him to know more about these popular gamers, like their favorite games, food, etc. I like their videos because they show how people can play video games without profanities and how parents and children can enjoy video games together. I’m thankful to Bereghost and his family for making it cool for kids to play games and hang out with their parents. (Unfortunately for my son, I don’t enjoy video games, so my next best offer is to talk about video games with him and help him in making is own YouTube gaming channel.)

Today, I’m especially thankful to Bereghost and his family for making my son’s day. My son was so happy and excited to tell me that during the most recent Family Q&A video, his question was picked as their last question for that day. Hearing them call out his gamer name (boomninja1) and hearing each of the FGN Crew members answer his questions made him so happy. Of course, I was also very happy and excited for him.

When there is so much negative and damaging online content that assault the precious minds and hearts of our children, I am heartened to discover the positive and uplifting side of the Internet. While there are many bad guys, I’m thankful to see the good guys on YouTube.



Lessons from My First Day as an Expat

Into the Airport LightToday marks the 10-year-anniversary of a life-changing day.  On 23 August 2005, my husband, our two children and I flew to Singapore from Manila to start a new chapter in our lives. It was our first day as foreigners making a life in another country. When we decided to make the move months before, my husband and I thought that it would be a short-but-sweet two-year adventure. We would enjoy living as expats (some would say immigrants), save money, and after about two years, repatriate to Manila. Our supposed two-year stint ended up being a seven-year life in Singapore.

I remember that day ten years ago vividly. As I look back now, I realize a few things I learned that day.

1. When I have my family with me, I can brave a whole new world, or almost anything, really.

That day ten years ago, I was to set foot in Singapore for the first time and with a one-way ticket. Unlike my husband who has had several business trips before then, our children and I were going to see Singapore for the first time. And we weren’t going as tourists; we were going there to move.

Though we were moving to Singapore which had the same climate and time zone as Manila, it was still a foreign land to me. I had my worries about living abroad for the first time. The fact that I had two very young children in tow, our five-year-old daughter and five-month-old son, compounded my worries. Still, because I had my husband and children with me, I found the guts to go with it, believe that it will all work out and enjoy the adventure.

2. Babies cry. It’s natural. I shouldn’t feel guilty about it. People will understand and move on (unless they think they were never babies).

It was to be our first flight out of the Philippines as a family. It was my first time to fly via Singapore Airlines, and I was excited to experience its world-class service and amenities. However, it was to be my five-month-old son’s first time flying, and it was going to be for three and a half hours. Hence my anxiety.

Unfortunately, my fear came true. My son cried for what seemed like the first and last half-hours of the flight, around take-off and landing, leaving about two and a half hours of peace for myself, my family and the other passengers within hearing range. I was mortified. Despite my repeated attempts to nurse him or cuddle him to sleep, he just kept crying. I felt bad for my son who was obviously in much discomfort, and I felt guilty about disturbing the other passengers.

Some of the passengers were probably annoyed, but I’m pretty sure that our flight experience didn’t leave them traumatized. All of them would get back on a plane again. Travel goes on; life goes on. I have gotten over my misplaced remorse and realized that these things come with the territory of traveling on a plane that isn’t your own private jet.

3. While I am excitedly heading to a new adventure, I am leaving behind supportive but sad friends and family.

It’s a common Filipino tradition for relatives and friends to accompany loved ones to the airport, especially when they will be away for a prolonged period. In our case, my parents and my husband’s sister brought us to the airport to see us off. One can imagine how that went, especially with my parents saying goodbye to their grandchildren. What I didn’t expect was how I would end up in tears as I hugged my mother goodbye. And I learned afterwards that my husband’s sister, who didn’t have immediate family with her anymore in Manila when we moved away, suddenly felt so alone after we left.

While my husband and I were planning for our move, our relatives and friends were right there with us, helping us when they could and being excited with us. While we were busy getting to know our new home, they were missing us in our old home. I realized the importance of showing appreciation for the loved ones we leave behind by staying connected with them.


Remembering that fateful day ten years ago brings back vivid memories and varied emotions. I look back fondly and introspectively on a day that marked the beginning of new adventures, new lessons, new friendships and new dreams. And I am forever grateful for that day.

(Three years ago, my family and I left Singapore and have since been living as repatriates.)






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When Homeschooling My Teenager Gets Tough

00-13I don’t know many parents who are homeschooling teenagers; most of my homeschooling friends and online acquaintances are homeschooling younger children. So when I am faced with the challenges of homeschooling my 15-year-old daughter, many times I am stumped.

Until very recently, I was struggling with putting together her homeschooling plan for 10th Grade (we had started the school year last June). I am always looking out for what is better, what is new and improved, what will bring the best out of my daughter. While it adds dynamism and flexibility, this approach to homeschooling seems to be giving my daughter a feeling of instability and insecurity.

I wanted a more open, less structured approach because I  believed it would be a better way to enhance her obvious artistic talent and inclination. She wanted to follow curriculum that is simple and clear-cut. I wanted her to spend more time in the living room or in the den with me, her father and her brother. She preferred to stay in her bedroom. I wanted her to enjoy homeschooling with me and her brother. She had more fun learning in a center with her friends. I wanted her to like me, to not mind being with me. But I believed that, like most teenagers, she preferred friends to parents, and that is just how it is.

I started to realize that this wasn’t just about finding the right approach and curriculum or materials for my teenage daughter’s homeschooling. Homeschooling is part of my parenting. And it felt like I was in the middle of a small parenting crisis.

Thanks to some homeschool support groups on Facebook, I came across two wonderful blog posts about parenting teenagers. “Why Teenagers are Amazing” by Rachel talked about slowing down, listening to them, valuing them. Rather than fight against them, we should fight for them, fight for their hearts. And her most important reminder – “Start seeing the good first.”

I was blown away by this blog post “When Did I Last Wash Your Hair?” by Hannah Keeley. First, what happened to her daughter happened to mine in (how uncanny is that?). My daughter was also playing goalkeeper during football training when she blocked a ball and fractured her wrist while doing so. She also needed a cast for about 6 weeks. And during those weeks, I had to help her bathe and get dressed. It was also a strange yet familiar feeling of being needed by my daughter again. Aside from that, what really struck me in her post was her parenting motto: “Make sure they remember joy yesterday, experience joy today, and anticipate joy tomorrow.”

These mothers and their words helped me realize that if I focus on being a loving mother to my daughter, if I look after her heart and help her find her joy, if I see the good in her first rather than the bad or the difficult, our relationship will be alright. And our homeschooling will follow suit.

Even though she is already a teenager who seems to need me less and less, I reminded myself that she is still my daughter whom I love unconditionally. I started with small gestures – kissing her goodbye as I dropped her off at the learning center, giving her a good night hug before bedtime and telling her that I love her. I listened to her stories about her friends and about football. I tried to nag her less and to let her be.

Nowadays, it feels like my relationship with my daughter is in a good place. We’re not best friends, but I don’t expect us to be. It’s not perfect, but what relationship is? But now, there is less silence and more laughter. In homeschooling, there is less tension and ambition, more cooperation and compromise. And I know that before homeschooler or teacher, I am first my daughter’s mother.


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