Sometimes I’m cleverer (and more insensitive) than I mean to be

You’ve probably heard the story about the pending attempt at a head transplant.  I’m not making it up.  A terminally ill man has volunteered to try, knowing full well he will most likely die.

 My 16 y.o. and I were discussing this today- he’s read about it in the news; I’ve tried not to read about it in the news. He asked what I thought, and I said it seemed to me like this guy was so terminal, that for him, it was a socially acceptable way to commit suicide, and maybe feel like he was doing something to contribute to the world, and I could sympathize with that feeling and understand it, but to my mind, it was a totally wrong-headed idea.
As you know, sometimes teenaged boys, especially mine, are less than overtly tender-hearted and sensitive, but still,  I was so shocked when he reacted by laughing.   I was a little sick about that, and trying to figure out how to tactfully say, “How you can be such a JERK?” when he gasped out ‘Pun intended?”
It totally wasn’t.  I hadn’t even realized what I’d said.  
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Pulling it together in the kitchen

2015-04-10 17.39.42Through nobody’s fault but my own, I had about 30 minutes to get supper ready, and I had forgotten to set anything out for supper.

In half an hour we were sitting at the table with:

Broiled fish; cheesey cauliflower with asparagus; a salad of baby greens and cherry tomatoes; pickled beets, sliced cucumbers; and a sort of tortellini alfredo.  As it turned out, one of the three young people I feed was sick, and she only ate a few bites of cucumber.  If I’d know that, I’d have not made the tortellini, but that’s okay.

Here’s how I did it:

I turned on the oven and started frying half a package of bacon that was in the fridge.  I filled a small saucepan half full of water and set it over high heat to boil.

I got one package of tilapia filets and two packages of cauliflower out of the fridge. I put the cauliflower in a bowl and microwaved it.  While it was heating, I put the fish in the sink and ran cold water over the filets,  and I flipped the bacon.

I pulled two cartons of cream cheese out of the fridge, along with leftover asparagas, a package of tortellini, parmesan cheese, half a cucumber, a bag with about a cup of grated cheese in it, and some milk.

The cauliflower done, or at least, mostly done (the center pieces were still a bit icey), I dumped it into a 9X11 (roughly) baking pan, put the two packages of cream cheese in the bowl that had held the caulflower and heated that in the microwave.  While the microwave was melting the cream cheese,  I flipped the bacon again, and got out paprika, garlic, dry mustard, salt, and pepper.

Before they were completely done, I put three pieces of bacon in the bottom of a pie pan.  I put the fish on top of that, cutting the pieces in half so they would fit well.  I sprinkled them with smoked salt, paprika, and pepper.

I turned off the heat under the bacon.

The microwave was done, so I pulled the bowl of cream cheese out and mixed it up with a bit of grated cheese, some dry mustard, sour cream and milk, onion powder, and garlic.

I cut up the rest of the bacon (with shears) into the cauliflower, and then I stirred about 2/3 of the cream cheese mixture into the cauliflower and put it in the oven at about 400.  I put the pan of fish in there, too- both on the top rack with the oven on broil.

The water now boiling in my saucepan, I poured in the tortellini and stirred it well.  I sliced the cucumber into sticks and got out the pre-made salad, cherry tomatoes and the salad dressings.

The tortellini I had only takes two minutes to cook, so I drained it and stirred it into the rest of the cream cheese mix (I had now used the same bowl to cook the cauliflower, melt the cream cheese, and now it was the bowl I would mix and then serve the tortellini in).

I cut the asparagus into inch long pieces and put them in the pan of bacon grease to reheat.

I flipped the fish and rotated the cauliflower.

I cut up some basil leaves (I have two pots of basil on my window sills) and stirred them into the pasta, along with some cream cheese.

I added some cut up asparagus to both the cauliflower and the pasta.  I turned off the oven.

My husband started filling water jars and got down plates and serving spoons.

I sat down at the table and played a word game on my phone while my husband and son set the table and I sort of kept the Cherub out of the food.

We sat down to eat at 5:30

2015-04-10 17.39.50

But there’s a back story to all that.  I wasn’t suddenly able to do that- My first experiences with cooking were over 45 years ago.  I was making one meal a week when I was 10 or so, I was catering my mother’s functions at 13, and it’s been 33 years since I first became a wife, solely responsible for her family’s meals.

I’ve been reading cookbooks for fun since I was about 10 or 11.  I’ve been forced to live on an extremely restricted budget, and blessed not to have to do that any more.

I have an adventurous spirit in the kitchen.  I like to experiment and make things up and try new recipes.  There’s really no adequate substitute for experience.

I had things on hand- the package of fish filets that defrosts in minutes under cold running water, the half a cucumber, the package of tortellini, the cream cheese, the ready made salad of baby greens, etc.

I knew what I had on hand.

My husband is not a picky eater.    My son is pretty limited about the vegetables that he’ll eat, but if there’s meat, he eats, and he does like pasta (I don’t).

I’ve collected thousands of recipes.  I’ve made a slightly different version of the cauliflower dish.  I’ve  cooked lots of fish under the broiler. I have made pasta sauces from scratch over and over.

Even so, it’s not perfection.  In retrospect, I wish I had made a different sauce for the pasta- sliced the cherry tomatoes, tossed them with a warmed Italian dressing and some basil and a sweet onion.  I only made the tortellini because if all of us ate, there really wasn’t enough fish to satisfy the boy, and he loathes cauliflower.  He’d spent several hours this afternoon working construction at the neighbor’s business, and I knew he’d be starving (he was trying to pick raw bacon out of the pan and ended up grabbing a cold biscuit to tide him over while he showered and I got supper).

As it turned out, one of the mouths I expected to feed ate almost nothing, so the Boy ate her share of the fish and he wasn’t feeling as deprived as I thought he would- he still had one good helping of the pasta, but there was more left over than I like, and the cheese sauce was good for the cauliflower but too heavy for the tortellini.  There’s another bit of experience. to include. If I had made the sauce separate, to be drizzled over the cooked pasta, it would be more appealing tomorrow as a pasta salad.

I could have done other things as well:

If I had no bacon, I could have gone vegetarian with the cauliflower or added lunch meat, sausage, or even canned tuna.

If I had not any leftover asparagus, I didn’t *need* to have another green vegetable at all- I just happened to have it and it needed to be used.  I could have tossed it in an oil dressing with the tomatoes and added it to the pasta.

Another way to use cooked asparagus is in a sandwich, the same way you would have a slice of avacado.  I tried this yesterday and was surprised at how much I liked it.

I could have sliced and microwaved or steamed two or three potatoes instead of cauliflower and mixed that with the cheese sauce.

And of course, we could have gone to town and picked up pizza.  Sometimes we end up doing that, too.


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Gathering Fragments- stewardship and leftovers

In the Christian gospel account of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes we can learn something of the value of frugality. Jesus, the incarnate God become man, Creator of the Universe in Christian theology, recognizes the hunger of a massive crowd of people who have followed him out of town to hear Him speak. Moved with compassion, he tells his disciples to feed the people. They can only come up with five loaves of barley bread (food of the poorest of the poor) and two small fish. In the gospel account we read that Jesus took them, prayed over them, and the apostles began to pass them out to the crowd, and here is the first of two miracle of the loaves and the fishes. The Creator become man created abundance where there  was none, where there had been only five small loaves of barley bread and two small fishes.

Here is an interesting thing. This is the creator. He could make five loaves of bread feed thousands. Presumably there was plenty more where that came from. And yet, when it was all over, he had his disciples gather the fragments and report to him how much was left.  We are not told what he did with those ‘fragments (there were bushels full), but I doubt he just threw them all away. Perhaps He gave them to the boy who donated the original five loaves and pair of fish. Some historians I have read suggest that linguistically, the implication is the boy was a poor boy who sold those loaves and fishes for a living.  Perhaps He donated them to the crowd.  We only know that He gathered the fragments, though they cost Him nothing.

Frugal householders also learn how to ‘gather the fragments,’ re-purpose, reuse, and redesign what they have.  They are not profligate with the small things because they know bad habits over small things lead to larger worries, because they wish to be good stewards of what they have, not wastrels, careless of their blessings.   With that in mind, here are ten items from the kitchen and several ways to reuse them, the gather the fragments and distribute them again in new settings:

  1. The last bit of jam or preserves in the jar: Add milk, put the lid back on the jar, and shake firmly, loosening up the jam.  Let one of the children drink this, or use it as the liquid for muffins or quickbread.  To get even more of the jam loose, either warm up the milk, or use hot water instead.  Drink it, use it as liquid in muffins or quickbread, use as liquid for oatmeal or cream of wheat, or for gelatin.
  2. Leftover Oatmeal: Make these oatmeal muffins, a vintage recipe from my great-grandmother’s collection.  Substitute water for the milk, or use some jam/water from the ab
  3. Leftover Rice: make this rice salad using leftover cooked rice, or make a main dish turkey (or any other poultry) and rice salad.
  4. Leftovers in general: Make a Wise Woman Pot Pie
  5. Leftover spaghetti or other long, thin noodles:Noodle fritters. We have made these with ramen noodles, with leftover cooked spaghetti, vermicelli, and even fettuccine noodles.  Adjust the seasonings to your family’s preferences.  Mmmm, delicious.
  6. The pickle juice left in the jar after you’ve eaten all the pickles: Slice carrots into sticks and put them in the jar, returning it to the fridge. Give them a day or two to absorb the flavor, and then you have a crisp, piquant, side vegetable for your lunches.  Leave the carrots in the jar until you’ve used them all.  You can also use the juice in place of the vinegar in home-made mayonnaise or turnip slaw.
  7. Stale bread? Half a dozen uses for it here.
  8. Mashed Potatoes: the topping on Shepherd’s Pie, or use in Refrigerator Bread
  9. Leftover Corned Beef- because after all, St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, and you will be having corned beef, cabbage and potatoes, yes?  I have several suggestions for using leftovers from the traditional St. Patrick’s Day dinner here.
  10. Tortillas: This ‘Mexican stir-fry’ is a fantastic and delicious way to use up the last couple of tortillas in the bag, even the ones with the dried or crumbling edges because somebody didn’t seal the bag before returning the tortillas to the refrigerator.  It’s also a good way to make two tortillas serve four or five people. It’s really yummy.


Heh. They love this, and they never realize I put the leftover oatmeal in these tasty loaves.

Other ways to use leftovers here.

What are some of the unique ways you ‘gather the fragments?’

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The Broken Windows Theory of Police Forces

If tolerating broken windows leads to more broken windows and escalating crime, what impact does tolerating police misconduct have?

Under the Broken Windows Theory, what impact could it have but to signal to all police that scorn for rights, unjustified violence, and discrimination are acceptable norms? Under Broken Windows Theory, what could be the result but more scorn, more violence, and more discrimination?

Apparently we’ve decided that we won’t tolerate broken windows any more. But we haven’t found the fortitude to do something about broken people. To put it plainly: just as neighborhood thugs could once break windows with impunity, police officers can generally kill with impunity. They can shoot unarmed men and lie about it. They canroll up and execute a child with a toy as casually as one might in Grand Theft Auto. They can bumble around opening doors with their gun hand and kill bystanders, like a character in a dark farce, with little fear of serious consequences.

Read the rest. 

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News for News Notebooks

News and Views iconInternet freedom in China is like snakes in Ireland- none:

Since Xi Jinping became Communist Party secretary in late 2013, China has unleashed a broad crackdown on dissent, and netizens haven’t been spared. One example is Ilham Tohti, a Beijing scholar who used his blog to criticize the treatment of Uighurs in his native region of Xinjiang. Last September, a Chinese court sentenced him to life imprisonment on charges of promoting “separatism.”

Despite such consequences, said Xiao, numerous Chinese tipsters continue to supply China Digital Times with fodder for one of its popular features – “Minitrue,” short for Ministry of Truth. These are directives sent to state media to remove or tone down postings on sensitive matters.

In a typical posting, China Digital Times reported Wednesday that censors have instructed media not to play up coverage of recent explosions at a factory that produces paraxylene, a highly toxic chemical.

“Do not place news of the Zhangzhou, Fujian PX explosion in lead story sections of news agency websites,” the directive read. Several websites quickly complied.

The Chinese Digital Times works to break through China’s block of information.  Read more here:

U.S. and Russian war-games in northern Europe rekindle Cold War tensions- but it’s more than that.  These are countries that were occupied by Russia during the Cold War, so it really wasn’t a ‘cold’ war for them.  It was occupation, domination, fear, life behind an iron curtain.

Obama tells children that bees don’t sting.   The left predictably gushes.  Lying to children is pretty much his foreign policy- except we aren’t children, and we know that bees do sting, sometimes even when you leave them alone.

Dutch soccer game marred by ugly anti-Jew chants:

“Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas,” sang a section of the home supporters towards the fans visiting from Amsterdam, a city historic in part for its Jewish community. “My father was in the commandos, my mother was in the SS, together they burned Jews, because Jews burn the best!”

The anti-Semitism was caught on video and quickly circulated among Dutch media. FC Utrecht issued an apology as Jewish organizations demanded action by soccer authorities.

The shocking chants weren’t an isolated incident, however. Instead, they were the latest in a string of anti-Semitic episodes that threaten to mar European soccer.

Obama is reportedly very proud of a deal he has brokered with Iran.  Disturbingly, what he tells the American people about the deal is not comptible with what Iran says about the contents of that deal, and Iran says he’s lying, deceitful, and devilish.

Khamenei accused the Obama administration of “lying” about the proposed terms, being “deceptive,” and having “devilish” intentions, according to multiple published accounts of his speech, as well as posts on his official Twitter feed.  

Khamenei also disputed the key terms Obama administration officials have said were agreed upon in principle. Economic sanctions will not be phased out once Iran’s compliance has been “verified,” according to the Ayatollah. Instead, Khamenei said that if the U.S. wants a deal, then all sanctions must be dropped as soon as the agreement is finalized. Khamenei also put strict limits on the reach of the inspectors who would be tasked with this verification process in the first place.

Major ISIS cyberattack in France

Another video of what certainly looks like an undue use of force and police brutality, this one ended after chasing a man on horseback through outlying parts of San Bernadino county (my husband’s hometown)

New records uncover more information about training exercises with the police and military working together in what certainly looks to me more like a Blue Thunder sort of exercise than training to ‘protect and serve’ the people.


New guidelines from the government nannies on what we should eat are predicted to emphasize a vegetarian diet.  Republicans from meat-producting states predictably object, and I have my doubts about their reasons, but I agree with the political agenda point:

In its report, the DGAC calls for emphasizing an American diet less dependent on meat — in part because of meat production’s impact on the environment.

Environmental groups have cheered the proposal, which has not been officially adopted by the USDA. But cattle producers and lawmakers from agribusiness states are pushing back, criticizing the guidelines as the latest attempt by the administration to use federal agencies to push the president’s political agenda.

Wisconsin State Supreme Court Justice hates democracy:

“After Wisconsinites vote to amend the state constitution to change how the state supreme court’s chief justice is selected, Shirley Abrahamson sues in federal court to keep her position under the old provision.”

NYT begins reporting of NRA convention with a giant whopper.  Wish they had fact checkers who could stop them from embarrassing themselves like this.

A survivor of a gang rape explains exactly why the Rolling Stone needs to do far more than merely retract their tissue of lies story.  You should know that the reporter, Erdely, was once disciplined by famed liar Stephen Glass for fabricating a story.  Schow at the Washington Examiner wants to know if Erdely’s ever corraborated a story.    Most of the media prefers to cover for its own and pretend Erdely is an otherwise reliable reporter- and in that cover, they further the lies.

Venezuela runs out of toilet paper- this is what socialism does for you.

Problems with lie detectors

Wikileaks shows US manipulated climate records

Isis in Yemen, Obama tells Americans trying to flee that they are on their own, maybe foreign governments can help.

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For the Weary

tired housewife sweeping floor vintageDear Mommies,

Please be nicer to yourselves.

Dear Homeschooling Mommies.

Please be nicer to yourselves.  We all need to have a goal, and I feel like since I’m gonna fail anyway, I might as well try to aim high if only in my head.  The thing to remember is – it’s a goal,  not an hourly pass/fail test. It’s something far off in the distance which we cheerfully (I hope) aim toward, and we’re hiking there over a very loooooong period of time. Sometimes we take side trails, sometimes we we sit on a rock and rest a long time, and sometimes we slip down a nasty little rock slide and fall a long way back and lay at the bottom of the rock pile and cry- but still, we have a goal for our homes and homeschools in mind.   But’s just a goal- not a Savior, not a summation of the meaning of life, not the definition of who we are and what merit we do or do not have as human beings. Just a goal.

I do not look like anybody’s picture of a perfect CM lady, and quite often as not any more I don’t even look like somebody’s version of an average mom two steps better than  homeless shelter. I’m frumpy, dumpy, and lumpy. I yell. I cry.  I bite my nails. I have never managed a daily shower, I have more often been in my pjs at noon than not, and my house is pretty much never what I consider truly clean.

There are have been many, many times when yesterday’s dishes were still in my sink, and they were not there drippin’ dry from being washed and rinsed, do you hear me?

Let me tell you something really hilarious.  I once was assigned to speak  on scheduling and organization at a small conference.  Yeah.  Everybody who knows me knows how funny that is.  But this is even funnier and oh, so very typical.  I accepted, and I planned my talk and I got up to give and I was merrily rolling along (I think, I was mainly present in mouth and body, not mind- and I realized when I turned over the first page of my notes that I had not numbered my pages, and that somehow, sometime, I had shuffled my notes in my nervousness that day, and that the second page in my hand which I had already gone over…. that was actually my conclusion. There is a whole metaphor there about that.    I couldn’t figure out how to sort them and organize them back in the right order properly quickly enough- so I just had to wing it.  Laugh with me about it, and _relax._

We may all be homeschooling, but we also are all different people doing different tasks. One of us has company every week trooping through her house, one of us is working outside the home part-time, one of us has a husband deployed overseas and is essentially a single parent, one of us IS a single parent, one of us has to do laundry at a laundromat, one of us has a maid (who requires a whole different set of attention and focus), one of us has to cook for ten, one of us has to cook meals for two aging parents, one of us has perfect health and a need for only four hours of sleep a night, another has a need for nine- I could go on a thousand different ways, and I wouldn’t cover all the lives and all the really important live details of people who might read this.

The thing is, with all these variables going on in our lives, we simply _cannot_ compare ourselves to one another and despair. The woman who has to do her laundry in a stream with a rock should not feel like she doesn’t measure up because she doesn’t get everything done just the same way as the woman who drops all her laundry off at the local dry-cleaner’s does. The woman who has to cook everything from scratch should not be impatient with herself because she doesn’t spend as much time sewing as the woman who buys frozen convenience foods. The woman just treading water in every area who is probably fighting thyroid problems or some other chronic illness should not feel like a brilliantly written blog post  from a champion swimmer and total stranger is somehow an indictment and a statement upon _her_ life. Only God knows the details of our lives and circumstances- nobody else. I don’t know them (I don’t even know all about _my_ life).


I do know this, however, every single one of us is a failure in some area of our lives, possible more.   I know this because none of us are perfect. None of us.  But we do this thing to ourselves where we constantly compare our worst to other people’s best.  You don’t know other people’s worst, because they don’t share it.  Neither do I.  You only know your worst, and because you know that in such deep, dark, burdensome detail, you assume your worst is the worst of anybody in your circle barring the criminal element.  But thank God, it is not a contest.  It’s just life, and we are all in it doing the best we can.  One person’s best means she gets out of bed more than once or twice a day.  Her neighbor’s best may be a marathon in between baking chocolate chip cookies and teaching calculus to five year olds, but actually, the woman struggling to get out of bed may be the one who is putting everything she has into it, and the marathon running, cookie baking, calculus teaching Mom has reserves for more.  It doesn’t matter.

Let’s rejoice with those who rejoice when we have good days and successful ideas, and weep with those who weep when we have bad days and we fail in some area. Let us not, as Paul said, grow weary in doing good- but let us not sink in the slough of despair, either, mistakenly thinking that everybody else here is doing better than we are. Probably, they are- in some area. And probably in some area we can’t even imagine, they wish they did something like we do- even if it is only being honest about feeling like we don’t measure up.

O Heart Bowed Down

by F. E. Belden

O heart bowed down with sorrow!
O eyes that long for sight!
There’s gladness in believing
In Jesus there is light

Divinest consolation
Doth Christ the Healer give
Art thou in condemnation?
Believe, repent and live

His peace is like a river
His love is like a song
His yoke’s a burden never
‘Tis easy all day long

“Come unto me, all ye that labor
And are heavy laden, and I will give you rest
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me
For I am meek and lowly in heart
and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

More versions to play here.

Posted in Mothering, parenting, philosophizing, religion | 2 Comments

Three Reads

Pallets on the floor hospitality- love everything she has to say here.


Commentary Magazine on Anna Karenina, by Tolstoy.  Good stuff.


If you read very much of anything about the Hugo awards and the Sad Puppies, you’ll hear mention of ‘If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love.‘ It was nominated for a Hugo last year.  My take is- it’s more prettily written than I expected, but it’s really derivative.  Derivative of what?  If You Give a Mouse a Cookie; Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile; and If I Ran the Zoo, all with a Big Important Message hogtied, thrown to the ground, dragged kicking and screaming into the story, twisted like a pretzel and spray painted neon pink so you don’t miss it.  The Message is less subtle than an actual T-Rex in your living room, although probably also less destructive to the china and furry pets.  It’s the most jarring of commercial interruptions, and it’s the most badly written paragraph in the whole thing.

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All Meat Burritoes

Trying to clean out some back drafts on the blog last night, I stumbled across this, saved three years ago. Presumably, I meant to add the recipe at some point, but I forgot, and now I don’t know where it is:


Sure looks good, though, doesn’t it?

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Peace Dropping Slow


Fragonard young girl reading

Skyping the grandbabies

Good Chinese food

old bookstores

comfortable pillows

the smells of lavendar, orange, buckthorn lotion, and cilantro (among others).

I don’t have an Innisfree, a cottage of clay and wattles made, or a beeloud glade, but sometimes the above things suffice for a substutue.

Posted in Who We Are | 1 Comment

Blast from the past, Isyerbit on our schools

It always baffles me when people imagine that stuff like this is somehow a departure from the norm:

Seriously now, how hard is to write questions for third-graders that don’t (a) address creepy topics like cannibalism, (b) ask how many slaves it would take to pick an orchard clean, or (c) intrude on their and their family’s privacy by asking them to write about a secret they had trouble keeping? The answer obviously is (d) very.

Choices a and b were the stuff of math homework assignments earlier this year in schools in D.C. and Georgia, respectively, while c appeared on a statewide standardized test in New Jersey just this week. The test, given to 4,000 students, was a dry run for the Garden State’s Assessment of Skills and Knowledge.

It’s not an accident.  The tests are designed to give the test-makers private information about their students, much like most of the free apps on your cell phone.  And Facebook.

” The brainwashing for acceptance of the “system’s” control would take place in the school—through indoctrination and the use of behavior modification, which comes under so many labels: the most recent labels being Outcome-Based Education, Skinnerian Mastery Learning or Direct Instruction.  In the 1970s this writer and many others waged the war against values clarification, which was later renamed “critical thinking,” which regardless of the label—and there are bound to be many more labels on the horizon—is nothing but pure, unadulterated destruction of absolute values of right and wrong upon which stable and free societies depend and upon which our nation was founded.

In 1973 I started the long journey into becoming a “resister,” placing the first incriminating piece of paper in my “education” files. That first piece of paper was a purple ditto sheet entitled “All About Me,” next to which was a smiley face. It was an open-ended questionnaire beginning with: “My name is _____.” My son brought it home from public school in fourth grade. The questions were highly personal; so much so that they encouraged my son to lie, since he didn’t want to “spill the beans” about his mother, father and brother. The purpose of such a questionnaire was to find out the student’s state of mind, how he felt, what he liked and disliked, and what his values were. With this knowledge it would be easier for the government school to modify his values and behavior at will—without, of course, the student’s knowledge or parents’ consent. That was just the beginning…”

More here.


Posted in education | 2 Comments