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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Tell a little about your family.

We are a family of six, living in a rural house outside a village of 600 in a fairly remote area in the southeastern interior mountains of BC Canada. Dh is a small-town family doc who covers the local ER 24/7 one week in two, as well as working 5 hours a day in the clinic and caring for 30 nursing home patients. I trained as a physician as well, but work only a half day a week, doing mostly well-woman care and adolescent sexual health care. I also trained as a violinist and teach Suzuki violin and viola a half day a week, run the local community orchestra and a number of local arts organizations including a large and increasingly well-known summer music school.

Erin (15) recently began attending school part-time, after being unschooled her whole life. The local K-12 public school welcomed her with open arms, on her terms, and she is doing an independent study program of accelerated learning that leaves her plenty of time for her outside interests (travel and music especially) while affording her a space away from home to work and a bit of willingly-adopted course-style structure. She plays violin and piano at advanced levels, sings in two choirs and is a passionate and capable writer of fiction.

Noah (12) is a computer geek who loves computer gaming, scripting / programming. He plays the viola and loves chamber music, having created a string quartet for himself about 2 years ago which he loves. He is also an increasingly committed choral singer, and sings in one adult choir as a boy soprano. Adults just love him -- he's shyly friendly, serious and has a sweet vulnerability that's more apparent than real.

Sophie (10) is our jack of all trades. She is a violinist, a self-taught pianist, and can sew, bake, knit, crochet, train animals, clean, tidy, build things, invent origami creations and is interested in just about anything. She studies aikido, a non-competitive "peaceful" martial art and really loves that, and has a good friend 30 minutes walk away who lives on a farm, and often spends the day there tending the animals and working in their garden.

Fiona (6) is cheerful, resilient, studious and the most outgoing of my kids. She plays violin and recently began studying piano and is the most advanced for her age of all my kids in music. She is also an aikido student and loves math of all kinds. She enjoys as many outside activities as we can pack into her week ... provided they are multi-age and multi-level and give her a challenge she can rise to.

What curriculums do you use?

Curriculum here is only at the request of the child. No curriculum is always fine. Typically the kids have some sort of math curriculum on the go that they're using somewhat regularly in a casual way, plus a few other things at their disposal that might get used, depending on their interests.

Fiona: Singapore Primary Math, Rosetta Stone Japanese, Hands-On Equations, Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting, Theory Time music theory workbooks.

Sophie: Art of Problem Solving Introduction to Algebra textbook, Rosetta Stone French, Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting, Theory Time music theory workbooks, L'Art de Lire French workbooks.

Noah: Mathpower 9 math textbook, Editor-in-Chief workbooks from Critical Thinking Press.

Erin: she gets enough curriculum at school -- all she has at home right now is a Music Harmony program by Glenn Sarnecki.

What kind of religious works do you use? Do you mind me asking if you are Jewish/Catholic/etc.?

I'm a Buddhist-leaning agnostic, dh is Christian-leaning agnostic. Kids are agnostic or atheists. We have a variety of religious studies resources available but don't teach religious beliefs per se.

What is your typical daily routine? weekly routine?

Other than getting Erin off to school when she wants and getting out to our scheduled outside activities, our daily routine just looks like life. Kids wake up when they're rested sometime between 8 and 10. During the mornings they play, help with the animals (chickens, cat, dog), fix themselves food, read, mess about on the computer. In the afternoons or evenings they'll practice their instruments, sometimes do some math, watch a video (we watch a lot of documentaries and other films).

Weekly our lives look like this:
  • Mondays - unstructured except Noah and Erin have choir in the evening
  • Tuesdays - friends over in the morning, then at noon I take Erin and Fiona to the city (90 minutes away) for piano lessons, choir and grocery shopping, back in time for a late supper at 7
  • Wednesdays - violin lessons for Fiona and Sophie in the morning, afternoon is unstructured, evening is either violin group class, chamber ensemble or community orchestra for all
  • Thursdays - unstructured mornings, afternoons are aikido for Fiona and Sophie
  • Fridays - unstructured days, evening is Noah's quartet rehearsal
  • Saturdays - unstructured
  • Sundays - aikido at mid-day
My work fits in on Monday evenings, Tuesday mornings and Thursday mornings. I try to run three times a week, and we try to get to the gym as a family at least once a week.

Once a month our Thursday-Friday-Saturday is devoted to driving to the big city (9 hours away) for Noah and Erin to have their violin and viola lessons. We drive east on Thursday, they have about 3.5 hours total of lessons on Friday, and we swim and shop and socialize with friends, and then on Saturday we drive home.

Inevitably there are extra events and rehearsals that accumulate on top of that basic schedule ... weekend aikido seminars, choir tours, orchestra dress rehearsals and concerts, piano recitals, violin concerts, composition workshops, and so on. Especially in the spring there can be a lot of juggling.

How do you evaluate progress?


I don't. My kids don't enjoy feeling confused or incompetent. So if they're enjoying their learning and engaged in it, I assume they are mastering and retaining it. That assumption of mine has always been borne out. Rarely and voluntarily my kids have been subjected to standardized testing and they've always scored extremely well, confirming my instincts.

Do you have any special methods/tips for planning? household organization? storage? record keeping?

I am very disorganized. Like my kids I am inspiration-driven rather than being a planner. We strive to have a rhythm to our days rather than a routine or schedule, but even that doesn't really gel a lot of the time. However, it all seems to come out in the wash. Two things really help.

First, we have regular family meetings where we discuss the balance we're achieving, whether we're meeting everyone's needs, whether we're acting on our priorities in a way that is working. This seems to prevent us from sliding down slippery slopes or persisting in habits and tendencies that are getting in the way of what we want to be doing with our lives.

Second, we're part of an umbrella-school type program which demands a certian amount of reporting, and that helps me appreciate and validate the natural learning the kids engage in, while also providing a responsive child-centred model for organizing a learning approach. The program we're part of is run by an independent school which gets public funding.

Hope that helps get this spotlight started!

Miranda
 

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I loved your last spotlight, thank you for sharing again! That is so neat that you and your dh are both physicians. I wanted to be a doctor for a long time before I got burned out in healthcare. It's great that you get to make your own hours and stay in part time, too.

Have you tried other martial arts other than aikido? My father does aikido and there is one about an hour from here that I want to do with ds. He is in karate here right now but it is mostly punching and kicking and he has gotten very aggressive since starting, so I am thinking of switching him.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
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Originally Posted by kittywitty View Post
Have you tried other martial arts other than aikido? My father does aikido and there is one about an hour from here that I want to do with ds. He is in karate here right now but it is mostly punching and kicking and he has gotten very aggressive since starting, so I am thinking of switching him.
There are only two martial arts offered in our area, aikido and karate. The karate is taught by a guy who is very aggressive in his style of presentation / teaching. We watched a class at the local public school gym and my aggression-sensitive kids were totally intimidated. They also didn't like how competitive the whole thing felt with sparring and pressure to test up and such.

By contrast our aikido dojo is a total wonder, a Japanese-inspired purpose-built off-grid strawbale building with real rice-straw tatami mats, a huge beautiful space, and is run by an eclectic/unschooling-leaning family. The fit is absolutely perfect for my kids. It is multi-age, non-competitive, gentle, nurturing and respectful. Being a beginning aikido student isn't going to help you win any street fights
, but that's not the point. At all. We really love our aikido community.

Miranda
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Monday I intended to post a little bit about our day, but it ended with my eldest (the part-time school-goer) having a big crisis in "writing to task when given inane essay questions, where no one really cares what you say anyway" and spent the evening hogging the computer trying to write but not really wanting to succeed. Ah, school
.... but that's OT in this thread.

So Tuesday.

I got up at 6:45, made coffee, drank some water, lit a fire in the woodstove, hung up the laundry. I went for my run, 5k this morning with the dog. Got home at 8 a.m., woke up the aforementioned school-kid. Jumped in the shower. Drove her to school. Picked up some milk at the grocery store. Everyone in this family is currently addicted to London Fogs (Earl Grey Tea made with steamed milk and vanilla syrup) so we're going through more milk than we get from the neighbour cow.

Came home and taught two hours of violin lessons in the basement. Dh got up and headed out to work. When I finished teaching violin at 11 only Fiona was awake. The middle two kids had been up until almost 3 a.m. having a party of sorts. They snacked and listened to music and talked and played AudioSurf together -- and they love that late-night time together. So Sophie and Noah were still asleep at 11 a.m.! They both got up and read for a while, got themselves brunch.

I made lunches for Fiona, Erin and me and packed them up for the road. Did some desktop publishing work, packaged up some music for the mail. Packed up the "piano bag" and the cloth grocery bags and headed off with Fiona.

On Tuesdays I take Fiona (6) and Erin (15) and two other 14yo girls to Nelson which is 90 minutes away, a wee city of 10,000. By consensus they read and study (or nap) quietly on the way down, and then we socialize on the way home. Erin and Fiona have piano lessons while the miscellaneous 14yo's hang out downtown, get lunch, shop. Today Erin was working on a new Beethoven Sonata and a Schubert Impromptu. Fiona is new to piano; her repertoire is still primer-book type stuff. After piano the three teens go to the rehearsal for their amazing youth choir, while Fiona and I grocery shop and do various "in-town errands." Today we took recycling to the depot, bought dog food and garden seeds, and some new dinnerware. (We're down to five complete place-settings, and we're a family of 6, so this was important!)

Then we picked up another 14yo girl, a friend of the family, Erin's best friend, whom we saw waiting for the bus home and offered a ride to. She lives on our way home, so that worked out beautifully. We listened to the end of choir rehearsal (they are so amazing, I almost always find myself tearing up when I listen), got Erin and her choir buddies and headed home.

At home Sophie (10) and Noah (12) had played a huge two-person game of tag that had ranged all over the property, involving treehouses, logs, bicycles, diversionary tactics and various sneaky stuff. Later Sophie accidentally locked herself in the henhouse when collecting eggs (the hook-and-eye lock on the outside of the door had flung itself into place when she'd swung the door shut!) and had to escape through the chicken door, on hands and knees through the chicken manure, while the rooster was attacking her! She was laughing really hard about it by the time we got home, but she definitely didn't think it was funny at the time! She had rooster-attack wounds on her hands and legs.

Noah and Sophie had baked macaroons, walked the dog and cooked pasta for dinner by the time we got home from Nelson. Dh rolled in about the same time we did. We had a family dinner. Sophie shared her henhouse misadventure story.

After supper I practiced violin with Fiona, and the other three kids practiced their violins/viola independently.

Now they're playing Zoo Tycoon together. We'll turn the eggs in the incubator soon (we're trying to hatch some heritage-breed chickens for the first time this year) and then it will be time for me to read aloud to the kids. We finished Tamora Pierce's "Protector of the Small" quartet last night, and I think we're going to start Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere" tonight. But they may decide on something different. Erin will be studying for her Science Provincial Exam at school (next week). Hopefully everyone will be in bed before 3 a.m. tonight!

Miranda
 

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Sounds really busy!

That's so cool that you guys have so much "neat" stuff by you: choirs, piano and violin lessons, etc. We have nothing like that at all anywhere around here. Will you adopt me so I can move up there?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
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Originally Posted by kittywitty View Post
That's so cool that you guys have so much "neat" stuff by you: choirs, piano and violin lessons, etc. We have nothing like that at all anywhere around here.
Whether it's "by us" up here or not is a matter of opinion. Three hours round trip to piano and choir, 18 hours round trip to violin/viola lessons. Wintry mountain roads and all that. Most people think we're nuts.

Miranda
 

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Your day sounded lovely!

Do you have any tips for moms with several young children? I'm curious to know what life was like for you back when your own were much younger.
 

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Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post
Whether it's "by us" up here or not is a matter of opinion. Three hours round trip to piano and choir, 18 hours round trip to violin/viola lessons. Wintry mountain roads and all that. Most people think we're nuts.

Miranda
I think its amazing that you're willing to do all that for your kids. I think creative thinking and willingness to really find ways to meet your kids needs is so necessary to this lifestyle. Kudos!

You sound so busy, do you feel lacking 'me' time? Do you and your husband get out on your own?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
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Originally Posted by Mizelenius View Post
Do you have any tips for moms with several young children? I'm curious to know what life was like for you back when your own were much younger.
How quickly I forget. That part of my life feels now like it was a blur of multi-tasking just-barely-coping. There were three or four years when I felt progressively overwhelmed and drained. What kept me going was mostly that I had responsibilities out in the community -- involvement in arts organizations, performance groups, teaching violin and so on. It was really hard juggling the kids. They mostly had to come along with me, but it did prevent us from going completely crazy at home together. We had breaks out in the community. We were still together, but I was able to see my kids through others' eyes, and appreciate them for the lovely people they were.

What was the turning point for my family was when we put our main focus on our relationships. Instead of worrying about behaviour, discipline, productivity or any of those sorts of things I encouraged us all to put relationships first. Eventually we began having weekly family meetings to do this in a semi-formal way. At that point my kids were newborn, 4, 6 and 9 years old. The meetings have evolved a lot over the years, but we still do them and they really have helped make sure everyone's needs and desires are expressed, validated and taken into consideration in positive ways. Including mine.

Those meetings are a place where I can express my worries and concerns and be heard by the kids. That works so much better than trying to sublimate my needs, hold it all together, but having occasional meltdowns where I react towards the kids and express those same underlying feelings with negativity and judgementalism. In other words, if I say at a family meeting "sometimes the level of mess and clutter around here really frustrates me" that's very different from ranting at some unfortunate kid who is "always leaving your stuff everywhere and never lifting a finger to help!" The former is preserving the good relationship I have with my kids, allows my needs to be heard and encourages collaborative problem-solving by people who like and genuinely want to help each other. The latter just leaves everyone feeling resentful.

Our meetings are a place for us to put the focus on how each of us is feeling about family life and our relationships with each other, and all the other more mundane stuff that flows from that. I worked on the premise that a truly happy family will ultimately be a productive, efficient, empathetic and well-behaved family. We focused on happy. It made all the difference.

Relationships first. All else will follow. I credit that mantra with helping me survive those years!

Miranda
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
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Originally Posted by Serendipity View Post
You sound so busy, do you feel lacking 'me' time? Do you and your husband get out on your own?
I've survived without "me time" for many years, though I've recently reclaimed some through my morning runs. Instead we did "us time," where we changed the scenery and just put some special effort into doing something nice for us (typically meaning me and the kids since dh works so much) altogether. If things were getting really dismal at home and I was feeling the need to recharge, I'd just tell everyone to get in the van and we'd go buy some nice snacks and go somewhere nice to hang out -- to the lakeshore, up to a lake at the summit. Or maybe we'd go to a café. Or the [empty] community gym for some stretching and talking. Just put everything else on hold and enjoy some time away for an hour or two.

I hate to admit how rarely dh and I get out together without kids. It's been more than a couple of years -- and probably many years before that last date. But our kids are all introverted and good at self-initiated activity. It's not really oppressive living with them. We feel like we can be relaxed and enjoy each other's company even with the kids around.

Miranda
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post
Relationships first. All else will follow. I credit that mantra with helping me survive those years!

Thank you for this, Miranda. I have read this before regarding gentle discipline, but I can see how it really applies to everything. It IS more important than anything, after all!

I really appreciate your wisdom and have gained so much from your insights.
 

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Miranda, this doesn't have anything to do with homeschooling, but I just wanted to tell you that as I happened upon this thread, I'm drinking my very first London Fog. And it is making me very, very happy.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post

What was the turning point for my family was when we put our main focus on our relationships. Instead of worrying about behaviour, discipline, productivity or any of those sorts of things I encouraged us all to put relationships first. Eventually we began having weekly family meetings to do this in a semi-formal way. At that point my kids were newborn, 4, 6 and 9 years old. The meetings have evolved a lot over the years, but we still do them and they really have helped make sure everyone's needs and desires are expressed, validated and taken into consideration in positive ways. Including mine.

Those meetings are a place where I can express my worries and concerns and be heard by the kids. That works so much better than trying to sublimate my needs, hold it all together, but having occasional meltdowns where I react towards the kids and express those same underlying feelings with negativity and judgementalism. In other words, if I say at a family meeting "sometimes the level of mess and clutter around here really frustrates me" that's very different from ranting at some unfortunate kid who is "always leaving your stuff everywhere and never lifting a finger to help!" The former is preserving the good relationship I have with my kids, allows my needs to be heard and encourages collaborative problem-solving by people who like and genuinely want to help each other. The latter just leaves everyone feeling resentful.

Our meetings are a place for us to put the focus on how each of us is feeling about family life and our relationships with each other, and all the other more mundane stuff that flows from that. I worked on the premise that a truly happy family will ultimately be a productive, efficient, empathetic and well-behaved family. We focused on happy. It made all the difference.

Relationships first. All else will follow. I credit that mantra with helping me survive those years!

Miranda
see ive always liked the idea of weekly meetings and i have mentioned them to dp and he wasnt keen on the idea. i dont know why, it was quite a while ago when i was still newly pregnant i think but what can i do or say to him that might change his mind? i know what i want but just dont know how to express that...
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
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Originally Posted by pinky View Post
Miranda, this doesn't have anything to do with homeschooling, but I just wanted to tell you that as I happened upon this thread, I'm drinking my very first London Fog. And it is making me very, very happy.
Woot! Another convert!

Miranda
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
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Originally Posted by petra_william View Post
see ive always liked the idea of weekly meetings and i have mentioned them to dp and he wasnt keen on the idea. i dont know why, it was quite a while ago when i was still newly pregnant i think but what can i do or say to him that might change his mind? i know what i want but just dont know how to express that...
My suggestion would be to start meetings without him if he's skeptical. Just explain to your child that you're going to have a special "date" to talk about stuff about how your family and daily life are working. Do it at home with special snacks or go to a nice café (preferably one that serves London Fogs,
!). Invite your dp along if it seems natural to do so, but don't worry if it doesn't. You won't be able to solve everything without his input, but you'll find you come up with "an idea we can talk to daddy about at dinner-time" a few times. At dinner you say "We went out for a hot chocolate today and talked about what might help with bedtime issues, and we came up with a couple of ideas. William would really like it if you would ___, and I think that might help him feel more ready for bed by 8. We wondered if you'd be willing to try that with him for a week. The other thing we decided was ____, and we're going to try that too."

I'd bet that gradually your dp will be won over to the thoughtful collaborative problem-solving he sees you're working through at your meetings. He'll probably be more open to the idea once he sees that you're not doing weirdly formal meetings with Roberts' Rules of Order and all that -- that they're just family chats. He's especially likely to be won over if you include cinnamon buns and coffee as part of the meeting.


Miranda
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I worked at the medical clinic from 8:45 to 1:00 pm today. Left the younger three kids sort of home alone (Chuck, dh, was in and out a couple of times during the morning). When I got home at 1:15, this is where I found Sophie and Fiona:

It must be spring

Yes, that's our (one-storey, low-sloping) roof.

It is a beautiful day. Soon we'll drive Sophie to aikido, half an hour south. Fiona and I will take a hike along the trails there while she's in class. We'll have a late supper after getting home. Nothing on this evening except probably a family bonfire.

Last night we had an amazing Summit Strings Chamber Group rehearsal, really hardworking, lots of progress made. Summit Strings is my three elder kids, three of their friends, and me, a violin-viola group. We're working on this piece, this one (this is three of my kids and some others last summer -- much less polished than now) and this one.

Anyway, after all that hard late-night rehearsing we deserve a bonfire tonight.

Miranda
 

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Hi...I'm mostly a lurker on these forums (even that not very often) but I feel like I wanted to reply to your spotlight.
Something that I have struggled with on and off since the birth of my children (two boys, 6 and 20 months) is finding a space that is for me in my day. I'm something of an introvert and throughout my life have sought out solitude and quiet...mostly patterned after my childhood, my siblings being 12 and 10 years older than me so essentially I was raised as an only in a lot of ways. Now with two boys, my oldest high needs (due to SPD and as yet undiagnosed autism...possibly PDD or Aspergers) and my youngest an energetic toddler...I have felt a lot of rumblings of "burn out"...

I found it very interesting that you could find the space to relax "with" your children as opposed to "without"...

wondering if you had any other "been there and done that" advice for those of us with the little ones?

I sometimes find myself reading stories of homeschoolers with older children and being in awe. How did they manage to get to that point when somedays I can't seem to manage the daily regular running of a household?
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
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Originally Posted by terra-pip View Post
I found it very interesting that you could find the space to relax "with" your children as opposed to "without"...

wondering if you had any other "been there and done that" advice for those of us with the little ones?

I sometimes find myself reading stories of homeschoolers with older children and being in awe. How did they manage to get to that point when somedays I can't seem to manage the daily regular running of a household?

I think this is one of those "your mileage may vary" things. "Us time" worked for me, but maybe that says more about me and my kids than about the approach. My kids are quiet observers in public and so when we would go out for a café date or to the lake it was easy for me. They'd amuse themselves by talking, playing or thinking quietly. Leaving home was a magical solution to sibling squabbles, other poor behaviour and whining. It was easy time for me.

With different kids, ones who are upset or easily overwhelmed by changes in routine or sensory overload, who wear their hearts on their sleeves and let their emotions spill out no matter where they are, our little scenery-changes wouldn't have worked at all.

One thing I do recall from those early years was that evenings were our best time. The kids slept in in the morning and stayed up quite late in the evenings, but that was fine with me, because evenings were when dh was home. I could spend special time with each child, time that was relatively calm and unmolested by siblings, because dh was a diversion for the others.

Another thing I did was hire a homeschooled girl (aged 12 to 14) to come and be with my kids while I was elsewhere in the house doing other things. For me it was violin teaching, which wasn't exactly "me time" by any stretch, but if I'd been able to swing it that would have been a great solution to feeling overwhelmed by the kids. She came over to mostly play with the kids; responsibility was minimal because I was in the house. So it was a great first job for her, inexpensive for me, and lovely for the kids to have a surrogate big sister to play with two afternoons a week.

Really though I just put in the days, trusting that life would continue and we'd all survive and do okay. There were definitely many days when I felt I couldn't manage the daily regular running of a household. And eventually I was able to look back and realize that things were getting much easier.

Miranda
 
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