Monday, August 15, 2022

Social Emotional Learning in Homeschool

After the world upheaval of the pandemic during the last two years and the volatile political climate that we've seen, many kids are having a difficult time. Research shows a rising number of kids are experiencing anxiety and difficulty with self-regulation. And after a growing number of school shootings, parents and educators are looking for ways to reach and help children who are struggling. One of these ways is through social emotional learning. It's a foundation that can be worked on both in school and at home. I'm grateful to Dr. Gwen Bass for the following guest post on the importance of developing social emotional learning in children and how to do so in a homeschool environment.

This post contains affiliate links.

What is Social Emotional Learning?

As we head into another post-quarantine school year, many homeschooling parents are thinking about how to support kids’ academic development alongside their wellbeing. One of the best ways to do this is to focus on social emotional learning (SEL) – a framework that supports children in developing competence in the following areas:

  • Self-awareness 

  • Self-management

  • Social awareness

  • Relationship skills

  • Responsible decision-making

*Learn more about SEL competencies.

© Can Stock Photo / vaeenma

How SEL Helps Children

Positive social and emotional development has been shown to improve academic achievement and social skills. In schools, the SEL model encourages educators to introduce these skills using specific lessons and to reinforce them through “classroom climate.” SEL is often added on to the regular curriculum and taught through short lessons once or more per week, as time allows. 

But we’re learning more about the benefits of integrating SEL into daily activities. This gives children a real chance to practice the skills they are developing and encourages adults to not just teach SEL, but to model it. The more we can show, and not just tell, our kids that social and emotional skills are grown over the course of our lives, the better.

Research on SEL tells us that children are most likely to do well in learning and life when they: 

  • Understand themselves

  • Regulate their behavior and emotions

  • Demonstrate empathy

  • Are a good friend and collaborator

  • Make thoughtful decisions about how to achieve their goals

It’s important to note that we decide whether or not a behavior is “appropriate” or what “good self-regulation” looks like based on our experiences and our values - cultural or otherwise.  You and I might have different levels of comfort with, for example, a child who is yelling because they’re angry or one who is running around the house excitedly.  We might not react the same way when a child interrupts a conversation we’re having with another adult, or to a child who is shy and not playing with other children. 

How to Teach SEL at Home

When implementing SEL, you want to find a way to do so that aligns with your personal and cultural beliefs.  Think about the ways in which social expectations may vary at home and beyond, and talk with your kids about these.  

As a homeschooling caregiver, you will want to review the SEL competencies and come up with a description of what it would look like for your child to be successful in each of those areas.  Ask yourself: How will I be able to tell if my child has developed this skill?  What will I see them doing, or not doing? 

Here are a few ideas to keep in mind as you incorporate SEL into your homeschool routines:

  1. Let your child know what the goal is and create opportunities for them to explore and practice. Talk to your child about the skill you’re helping them develop, explain the importance of that skill, and point out situations where the child can use or practice the skill.  

For example: You notice that your child gets frustrated and leaves the table when learning something new.  

  • When they are calm, ask what they feel in their body when a task feels too hard, is just right, is too easy.  

  • Together, come up with a few strategies they can use to calm down when they begin to notice they are feeling upset. 

  • Throughout your lessons, ask them to check in with their bodies and practice the calm down strategies as needed.

  1. Talk about situations that elicit big feelings before they occur.  Anticipate moments that will be most challenging for your child.  Prepare them for what’s coming, talk about big feelings that might arise, and brainstorm strategies they can use to regulate.

For example: You’re getting ready to present your child with a new learning task that you think might frustrate them.

  • Make a schedule so they know what to expect (I’d suggest sandwiching the frustrating task between tasks your child can do easily and enjoys).

  • Look at the schedule together and ask your child how they think they might feel doing each of the activities listed. 

  • Together, come up with a list of strategies they can use to manage any big feelings (e.g., deep breaths, a walk outside, or a special signal they use to let you know they’re upset).  Remind them that you are there for support.

  1. Have your child help you come up with examples and non-examples. Be explicit about what it looks like to demonstrate a specific SEL skill.  Together, make a list of behaviors that align with the goal, and a list of behaviors that don’t. 

For example: Your child is getting ready to have a friend over, so you want them to think about being a good host.

  • First, have your child identify how they are feeling about having the friend over and ask them how they think the friend might be feeling about the playdate.

  • Have them name a few strategies they can use to keep themselves regulated during the playdate so they can have fun. 

  • Talk about how they could help their friend feel safe and welcome (e.g., picking out a few games the friend likes, showing them where the bathroom is when they arrive) and a list of things they could do that would NOT make their friend feel welcome (e.g., hogging all of the toys, not offering any snacks).  

  1. Model positive social skills and emotion management.  Children take their cues from adults, so we need to walk our talk when it comes to SEL. This doesn’t mean we need to get it right 100% of the time. When kids see adults making mistakes, taking responsibility for them, and trying to do things differently the next time, they learn to do the same.

For example: Your child sees you get upset and raise your voice to someone in the household.

  • Name the emotion you’re feeling, find a strategy to self-regulate (take a walk, a deep breath), and tell your child “I’m feeling ___________ so I’m doing ___________ to calm myself down.”

  • Once you’re calm, remind your child that it’s okay to have all kinds of emotions and explain how your emotions affected your behavior (e.g., “I was getting really mad and it was hard for me to control the tone of my voice.”)

  • Talk to your child about how you will repair the situation or what you hope to do differently next time.

As a homeschooling parent, it’s important to build your own self-awareness and empathy so you can offer your children the guidance they need to grow as social and emotional beings.  However you choose to incorporate SEL into your school and home life, be sure that it aligns with your household rhythms and your family’s culture, otherwise it will feel inauthentic and forced. Think about how you might adopt some of these ideas and SEL competencies, along with your own values and traditions, to help your children reach their goals.

Picture Books that Teach SEL

There are many wonderful books that you may use in your homeschool lessons. Here are just a few that we recommend...

by Janan Cain

by Julia Cook

by Zachariah O'Hora

by Douglas Wood

Dr. Gwen Bass is an educational consultant, parenting coach, and member of the EQuip Our Kids! speaker bureau.  Her work focuses on social-emotional learning, trauma-informed education, culturally responsive teaching, positive identity development, and special education.  She is deeply invested in supporting learning and wellbeing, especially for those who experience learning difficulties, mental health challenges, and/or who are coping with trauma. Dr. Bass provides consultation for educators and caregivers. For more information or to schedule a session visit:

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Downloadable Fill-Your-Backpack Game in Spanish

For many years now, Spanish for You! has been a remarkable sponsor of MommyMaestra. Every month, I am absolutely delighted to share with you the brilliant downloadable resources that this program offers as samples of their excellent homeschool Spanish program. In fact, those downloads remain a very popular series on this blog. Why? Because they are high-quality mini lessons and activities that give parents and educators a taste of Spanish for You!'s product line.

This month, they are offering a wonderful bonus for those of you who are looking for an affordable homeschool Spanish program.

Free Fill-Your-Backpack Game in Spanish

Get a FREE Downloadable Fill Your Backpack Game with the purchase of a Spanish for You! Homeschool Themed Course Package that lasts the school year! No experience needed.

Get your kids excited and warmed up for learning Spanish with the Fill Your Backpack Game! They'll learn some vocabulary of things they use in school through play. The game includes simple instructions, all the materials you need to play, and audio so you can hear everything! 

The Homeschool Themed Course ($44.95) gives you an entire school year of Spanish learning ready to go! Super easy to implement in your homeschool with multiple ages that you can do at your own pace with the step-by-step lessons. It's also completely reusable and comes with a 30-Day Money Back Guarantee!

 Listen to Debbie tell you about what comes inside a Homeschool Themed Course Package:

The Spanish for You! Homeschool Program

Your kids will learn to use vocabulary, properly conjugated verbs and grammar concepts to understand, speak, read, and write in everyday life. And, they will have fun doing it!

PLUS, you can even email Debbie Annett directly with questions while using the curriculum! She has written and taught every lesson and has worked with homeschool parents and co-ops for more than 20 years. 

To get your FREE Downloadable Fill Your Backpack Game with the purchase of a Spanish for You! Homeschool Themed Course Package that lasts the school year, use code: freebackpackgame  

Be sure to put both items in your cart. Valid through 8/30/22.

Any questions prior to purchasing, feel free to email Debbie at

An Affordable Spanish-Learning Program

Of all the Spanish programs available, Spanish for You! is the most budget-friendly. You aren't required to purchase a massive program all at once. Instead, you can purchase themed lessons and move through them at your own pace. 

Remember! Spanish for You!'s program is geared for middle schoolers and is the perfect choice for homeschoolers and afterschoolers alike because their concepts are carefully divided up into manageable bundles that are available for immediate download from their website.

If this is your first time here, you can find other free samples from Spanish for You! here. There are some fantastic downloads of games and activities for you and your family to enjoy. If you enjoy this activity, be sure to visit the Spanish for You! website where you'll find tons of additional resources for you to help your young Spanish learner!

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Spanish for You! is a budget-friendly homeschool Spanish program for middle schoolers.

Monday, August 8, 2022

10+ Videos on How to Draw Frida Kahlo

I was sitting and thinking about fun activities to kick off the first day of school, and started just browsing through my notes. The one that leapt out at me was the topic, How to Draw Frida Kahlo. I stumbled through some absolutely wonderful how-to videos for this earlier this summer while researching Frida activities. There were so many that it was hard for me to choose just one - which I featured in my master post, Frida Kahlo Lesson Plans, Activities, Coloring Sheets and More

So I made a note to just go ahead and write a post sharing a variety of the best video tutorials for drawing the legendary Mexican artist. I tried to choose videos with different styles so that you had a nice selection to choose from... or do them all!

I hope you enjoy these. And if you are interested in other Frida-related crafts, check out my post Frida Kahlo Crafts for Kids. You'll be sure to be inspired!

This post contains affiliate links.

Gather Your Art Supplies

Before you get started, first decide on the video tutorial you'll be using. Then go ahead and get all your art supplies together. Here are some of the supplies used in the following art lessons.

How to Draw Frida Kahlo Videos

The first ones come from Ms. Jess Art Class. She actually has two fabulous video tutorials.

The next one is for K-2nd and comes from Morgan Mays

The next one was uploaded by StudioUs Chicago. I love how Rachel talks us through all the steps.

I also enjoyed this video by Draw with Gufo

Art with Ms. Naomi has this delightful video.

If you'd like to use different media, maybe this lesson plan for a minimalist style that uses watercolors will appeal to you. It's nicely done by Susan Crilley Creative Crafts for Kids 

Mrs. Lauren Wynn also uses a combination of drawing tools, including crayons, markers, pencils, and more.

doodleacademy has this quick time-lapse video of a simple watercolor painting. I really like the style of this one.

And finally, here's a painting how-to from Paint with Lovejoy. You can download the traceable by watching the video on YT and clicking the link in the description below her video.

BONUS Frida-Inspired How to Draw Videos

For something a little different, check out this tutorial from Ms. Bakker's Art Room for drawing Frida's spider monkey!

Or you may enjoy this super fun one from Ms. G's Studio

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

The Latino Family's Guide to Homeschooling 2nd Edition

The Latino Family's Guide to Homeschooling 2nd Edition

Five years ago, before the whole pandemic mess started, I published my first book titled, The Latino Family's Guide to Homeschooling. It is jam packed with great information for Hispanic families looking to get started with homeschooling. From bilingual homeschooling to prepping for college, this book includes the stories of eight other Latinas from very diverse backgrounds who share their own experiences and tips on homeschooling.

But after five years and a pandemic, some of the resources I listed changed. A few disappeared, but a lot more have been created. When I started homeschooling 13 years ago, there was virtually nothing available about or for Hispanic families. Over the years, that has slowly changed. But the last two years have caused an explosion of resources. When Latinos couldn't find the resources they needed, they stepped up and created them.

An updated guide for Latino homeschoolers

So I'm super please to announce The Latino Family's Guide to Homeschooling, 2nd Edition of my book, which has been newly revised and updated to provide current products and services available to Hispanic homeschoolers, is now available!

Latinos are one of the fastest growing group of homeschoolers. But publicly, the homeschool arena is dominated by non-Latino whites. And many Hispanic parents still remain hesitant or anxious about starting to homeschool. Information on getting started is just overwhelming. 

If you are looking for a community to help you, consider joining my Facebook group, Hispanic and Bilingual Homeschoolers. We would love to have you. 

As more and more families realize this is an option for them, the demand for Spanish-based and culture-based products increases. Join me in keeping an eye out for new companies. And share them with me!

And if you are thinking about homeschooling but don't know where to begin, pick up a copy of my new book. I think you'll be glad you did. 

Preschool at Home: A Guide for Caregivers

A homeschool preschool guide

And if you are just looking for advice and guidance for teaching your preschooler at home, consider picking up a copy of my book Preschool at Home: A Guide for Caregivers. It is a condensed version of my other book and focuses only on preschool.

One of the best parts of this book that isn't included in my bigger homeschool guide is the reproducible pages available in the back. These include checklists of concepts and skills that preschoolers should learn, as well as planning pages for establishing a routine and organizing lessons. 

I know you'll love it. 

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

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Monday, August 1, 2022

Homeschooling the Montessori Way

Montessori. Some homeschool mamas read that word and turn tail and run because how could they possibly incorporate Montessori approaches into their homeschool when Montessori schools themselves are taught by specially-trained teachers and cost more money than typical families can afford?

“I can’t afford Montessori training,” they say. 

“I can’t afford Montessori materials,” they say. 

“I can’t even wrap my head around what Montessori is!”

Although having Montessori training and beautifully crafted Montessori materials can absolutely be helpful when trying this approach in your homeschool, it is NOT mandatory. Like all things homeschooling, this is NOT an all-or-nothing methodology. You, the homeschooling parent, can make it work for your homeschool family and you do not need gobs of money to do it. Be ready to customize to suit the needs for your family and whether you settle on creating a simple Montessori-inspired shelf for your homeschool or end up buying an entire Montessori curriculum, just know that all you truly need is an eager mind and open heart. But first, what is the Montessori Method? To answer this, we need to first learn who Dr. Montessori was. 

The following post contains affiliate links.

Who was Dr. Maria Montessori?

Full Disclosure: The following may turn into an entire paragraph of me fan-girling over Dr. M because she is a rock star and I want to be just like her when I grow up (I’m currently 39 so I suppose that should be soon, oh well.)

Italy 1892, a young Maria Montessori, having already studied mathematics, went to the University of Rome to study medicine. During her medical training at an asylum for children, Dr. Montessori’s life would change. She observed these children, children society had discarded because they were “retarded” or “insane,” playing with crumbs. The nurses dismissed this behavior as “greed” because they thought the children wanted more food. The compassionate heart of Dr. Montessori, coupled with her brilliant scientific mind, observed something completely different. Dr. Montessori hypothesized these children just wanted something to play with. Their minds needed something to play with. Children need to play. The first Montessori schools were established in the slums of Rome where she was able to observe children and refine her method. Fast forward over hundred years later and Dr. Montessori’s methods and school still impact education all over the world and over the last few decades have trickled into the homeschool sphere. Dr. Montessori’s story is fascinating and I strongly recommend reading her own words and story through her books, particularly The Montessori Method and Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work by E. M. Standing. There is also an adorable children’s book about her from the Little People, Big Dream Series, Maria Montessori by Ma Isabel Sanchez Vergara. 

What is the Montessori Method?

The main goal of the Montessori Method is to promote the joy of learning through a hands-on and step-by-step approach that emphasizes repetition. The method is based on the belief that children should be free to succeed and learn without restriction or criticism.

In the early years, children are taught to develop their observation skills through a variety of hands-on activities that explore the senses, movement, and coordination. The child is provided with a safe but stimulating environment where they can explore and learn without fear of harm.

Grade school children are allowed to proceed at their own pace, exploring the subjects of math, science, reading, and writing in such a way as to develop their abstract thinking ability. There is a great emphasis on encouraging the child to absorb their environment and culture.

In Montessori education you will find that standard subjects like math, language arts, culture, science, etc., but you will also find that Dr. M also felt sensory learning and life skills are incredibly important to the development of the child. Therefore, you will find Montessori education treats Practical Life and Sensorial Learning as their own subjects. 

I would also like to focus on two other aspects of Montessori instruction: the  absorbent mind and sensitive periods.  Because Montessori emphasizes observation of the child and respect to their development, it is important to understand that children have what Dr. M calls an “absorbent mind” and in fact she wrote an entire book about The Absorbent Mind.

Children cannot help but learn from everything that’s going on around them. You have probably experienced it when your small child embarrassingly repeats something you said when you thought they weren’t listening…That would be their lovely absorbent mind. So, teaching things like grace and courtesy for example, a hallmark of Montessori instruction, would be easily taught because they learn what they see anyway. Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace and Courtesy is a helpful book to help you address just that.

Regarding sensitive periods, these are the stages of development where the child just jumps ahead at a new skill. For example, there is usually a moment in a toddler’s development where they go from speaking a few words and phrases to suddenly talking all-day-long. Right there, that’s the moment they are in a sensitive period for language.  That is your que to talk right back, ask questions, read lots of books, sing lots of songs, and do what you can to nurture their language development.  Living Montessori Now has a wonderful post on encouraging your child's sensitive periods.

How To Start Implementing the Montessori Method in Your Homeschool

Allow me to make this as easy as possible for newbies to Montessori to get started by recommending books, blogs, and ready-made Montessori programs for homeschooling. After years of searching and researching, these recommendations are, in my humble opinion, solid Montessori in approach, have the best reviews from experienced parents, and offer the best support for families.


Begin first by reading a couple of books about the Montessori Method.  Aside for Dr. M’s own books these are the authors I recommend reading because of their experience training, teaching, and advocating for Montessori education:

There are other nice looking new books on the market but these are the ones I recommend for purchase whereas, I recommend checking out any others at the library before purchasing. 


Next, begin to follow Montessori blogs and social media accounts.  There are thousands and you might get lost and highly discouraged by many of them because all those Instagram accounts are, shall we say, a wee bit too pretty.  Let me cut through the noise and recommend these fabulous ones:

Living Montessori Now - This is THE blog.  If all you did was read through this blog and get ideas for your homeschool, you’d be set. Deb Chitwood homeschooled her own children and she knows ALL you need to be successful as a Montessorian and as a homeschooler. 

Carrots Are Orange - I really like her “Beginners Guide to Montessori Theory” and feel like it’s a brief yet fantastic guide to Montessori education. 

Natural Beach Living - This blog is not completely devoted to Montessori, but she offers “200+ Amazing Montessori Activities and Printables” for free on her blog.  Nice!

The Helpful Garden - Speaking of free, this blog has soooooo many freebies.  The reading printables alone are worth visiting the site. Bookmark it on your browser. 

Montessori Curricula

Ready to dive right in but still want the support of reputable Montessori programs designed for homeschoolers?  These are very well reviewed, have been around for years, and have parental support, Facebook groups, customer service, online classes, etc.  Everything a homeschool mama would need to get started with a Montessori homeschool.

Right Start Math: Solely a Montessori-based math program but trust me when I say, it has so much.  If you are just starting out with littles, Right Start Math and a solid reading program would be enough.  Right Start Math is also a spiral math program for those learners that prefer that approach and offers all levels of math to cover elementary and middle school. 

Shiller Learning: Originally started as a math company, Shiller has expanded to offer Montessori-based Language Arts and activity packs for social studies and science.  Lessons are scripted so as soon as you familiarize yourself with the kits, it is open and go.  

Keys to the Universe:  Montessori albums and mentor support.  This is truly a small business, so if you prefer a personal touch, I recommend this vendor. 

Honorable Mentions:

The following programs are not Montessori, per say, but they are multisensory, systematic, incremental, and used by homeschoolers who want the feel of Montessori-learning but either cannot afford Montessori materials or do not feel like making their own. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. 

You may also prefer to buy Montessori albums, manuals, and materials through training organizations and vendors such as these:

Not enough? If you’re like me, you might want to throw your whole heart in Montessori training and these are the two programs I recommend looking into.
But if you’re also like me, you do not have the money for the official training programs. This certificate program is pretty comprehensive.  I took Karen Tyler’s Montessori Certificate Program years and years ago when there were no Facebook groups and all we had were Yahoo Groups.  It was still an unforgettable experience.

For FREE training demonstrations in the Montessori Method, try Montessori World.  It is intended for classroom teachers, and is NOT intended to replace a certificate program. However, it features video lectures with Margaret Homfray, who trained directly under Dr. Montessori herself! You can watch the videos and get links to written lessons as well. 

Montessori In My Home

After reading Dr. M’s book, The Montessori Method, I was entirely convinced to homeschool and went all in with my oldest 2 kids (at the time I only had 2).  We used Montessori math and Montessori reading techniques and found them to be outstanding.  In fact, I credit Montessori techniques with teaching my kids to read fairly easily despite their dyslexia.  We now use another program - you can read about Barton Reading here. But guess what? It still has major Montessori influences, as Orton-Gillingham based programs do.  

After a few years, it became very clear that military-life and frequent moves are not conducive to keeping a large amount of “official” Montessori materials which would end up broken or lost. I’ve had to say goodbye to some beautiful sensorial materials. Wah! It also became clear that I wouldn’t always be in a house that I could fit my carefully curated Language, Math, Sensorial, Culture, and Science shelves. So, in my situation I incorporate one beautiful Montessori-inspired shelf in our homeschool space. In each little cubby I try to keep sensorial materials, whole-hand and fine motor materials, language materials, culture materials, and math/science materials. Sometimes, I use a theme to decide what materials to place on the shelf, and this is where I have lots of fun! Here is a pic of my Winnie the Pooh Shelf (I have a very healthy obsession with Pooh Bear).  This is where I encourage an overwhelmed homeschool mama start.  Pick a theme, pick some picture books and age-appropriate activities, and place them on a shelf the child can reach.  Let the child enjoy it. Living Montessori Now will have lots of ideas. 

Montessori Practical Life is my jam and this is how I have incorporated Montessori approaches in my parenting. At the appropriate ages, my husband and I teach the kids to “do it themselves” meaning we teach the kids many practical life skills. Our kids fold their own clothes, clean their own rooms, fix their own snacks and lunches, load and unload the dishwasher, clean their bathrooms, vacuum, dust, clean windows, and care for their younger siblings. Our kids care for our pet dog, and offer to help the neighbors with pet-sitting and baby-sitting. While it may sound like I am bragging about my children (and I am a little bit), I am trying to demonstrate how much children are actually capable of doing. It is our ultimate goal as parents that our children do not need “adulting” courses because we have taught them to do things like laundry and cook meals early on. We have taught them to “do it themselves.” 

Hopefully, this post inspires you to take a deeper look at Montessori education and leads you down the happy path of homeschool curriculum shopping for this new school year! Don’t forget to check Mommy Maestra’s Montessori Planner for your planning needs. 

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Image Credits: 
© Can Stock Photo / Kabachkiphoto
© Can Stock Photo / trendsetterimages
Ctmontessori, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Written by:

Stacie Servantes Farias is an Army wife and mom of 6 with a “very healthy” obsession for Snoopy, Disney movies, Audrey Hepburn, Dr. Pepper, Whataburger, books, and homeschooling. Originally from Mission, Texas, Stacie and her high-school sweetheart hubby live with their kids and dog in a different home every few years, because that is the military life. She has big plans to write a book exploring her theory that La Llorona drowned her children because they would take their socks off all over the house and then would complain that they never had clean socks! Stacie also thinks she is really funny, but she is mostly lame awesome.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Children's Books About Sharks in English and Spanish

To continue our celebration of Shark Week 馃, I started looking through all the bilingual shark-themed children's books on the market. I put together a list of the ones in English and Spanish that I liked best. There are a couple that had both English and Spanish versions. I tried to list all of the titles below starting with books for the youngest "readers" first. 

If you are looking for activity books with a shark-theme, then be sure to check out my post on Children's Crafts & Activities for Shark Week. I've listed those separately at the bottom of that post.

Happy reading!

This post contains affiliate links.

Books about Sharks

Children's Books in English that Feature Sharks

by Jess Keating

(Smithsonian Kids First Discovery Books)

by Erwin Lorinser

by Brian Skerry

Children's Books in Spanish that Feature Sharks

Tiburones sorprendentes
by Nicola Davies

Tom y el 煤ltimo Tibur贸n
by Erwin Lorinser

by Tamia Sheldon

by Anna Membrino

(Scroll up for English version.)
by Mike Lowery

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