Free Date Printables for Your Calendar Center

Last week I shared a little about our calendar center and showed how I set up our little weather station. That is by far the favorite of the kids. After all, they get to go outside, rain or shine, and take measurements. I think I’m going to add on a rain gauge, but more on that later. If I actually follow through!

So, next up, the date!

That’s simple enough. Every day that we do our calendar time, we advance the date. The children tend to do this on there own, even on weekends, because it seems to bother them to have the wrong date hanging on the wall all day long. Putting it together really is simple enough, and if all you need are the months and numbers, here they are! You can download your own copy here: Calendar Center Months and Numbers

You will ultimately need to print of the numbers three times (six complete sets). That will give you some extras, but who doesn’t need extra number cards?

If you want more instruction on how to put it together and exactly what I used, read on! And yes, this involves some affiliate links. And although it would be great if everyone threw everything in their carts so I could earn a few cents, I’m really doing it so you know exactly what I’m talking about. Because I didn’t get any of this from amazon. Most of it was just laying around in various places it didn’t belong and the rest I picked up the copy store while I was waiting for my laminating job!

First off, did you notice my dry erase marker holders? Binder clips! That was my own personal moment of genius. Then again, I get excited over pretty little things. Like how well a binder clip holds a dry erase marker right there where I need it but out of reach of little hands who only use them to color themselves, anyway.

Next up, of course, are the months. I just made up a set that fit nicely on a standard poster board, printed them off on card stock and cut them apart. They would need to be smaller if you wanted to add the day of the week, too, but I like them a little bigger so they are easy to read. And trace. And copy.

I love having the months of the year on binder rings. It just helps emphasize the whole cycle of the months thing. And they can totally pull them off the calendar to cheat on their exercises when they forget what month comes next. Or, you know, just to practice. Because that sounds way better than “cheating.” A hole punch obviously works to punch the holes, but I thought I’d throw a shout out for the second coolest thing I’ve ever bought for homeschooling: my Japanese book drill. More about how I use it later, but for the moment, suffice it to say that it is perfect for making neat little holes anywhere on your project. Even the center of your poster board.

There are cheaper ones available if you only want to use it occasionally. Unfortunately, the nice one at amazon only comes with one bit and you probably want the larger, 4mm or even 4.5mm bit for this project. If you like making books, however, this one is definitely worth the price along with all the bits!

And, of course, a hole punch works, too.

To hang these and the numbers up, I just used these nifty little hooks. The best part is, they are removable. So when you get all your hooks arranged neatly on your poster and go to hang everything up and suddenly realize you put one upside down, you can totally fix it without destroying your poster. Not that I’d know from experience. Ahem

For the year, I put four pieces of Velcro on the laminated poster and then put some on the numbers. You could get away with just a few years worth of numbers, but I made a full set. Then we can use this to  practice adding tens and hundreds as I ask, “What will the date be ten years from now? Two hundred years from now? A thousand years from now?” And they can switch out the numbers with the Velcro.

After they put the comma where it belongs in the date, they copy it on the nice space provided. It’s a bit of lined posterboard. This stuff is great if you happen to have it. I have one sheet laminated to practice literacy skills. Once upon a time, it was part of my calendar time, too, so you might see it later! At any rate, this stuff is kind of pricey. You might want to just get some poster board or large paper to cut down to size. The lines are nice, but not necessary. This was given to me when I used to teach and I’ve dragged it through three moves!

The last thing I did was take a bit of leftover laminating film and attach some Velcro to make a pocket. This is a great place to put flash cards. More on the cards I have in mine later, after I convert it to upload!

And that’s it! Everything I used to make the date section of my nifty calendar! Stay tuned for the days of the week next!

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Walking through our Calendar Center: The Weather Station

I love setting up a weather center because it encourages young children to observe and measure changes in their environment. From simply learning weather related vocabulary to learning to use a thermometer, anemometer and barometer and finally recording, displaying and interpreting data, it is real science that they can do every day.

The other day, I shared a little about setting up our calendar center for Micah’s big start to kindergarten and this weather station is part of that.

Calendar time

And for anyone who hasn’t done this before, or would just like to see how different people do their calendar center, I thought I’d walk through how I set this up. It isn’t finished, yet, but you can definitely get the idea.

I’ll start with the weather station. Basically, because I loved the weather station at Mr. Printables and there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel!

Calendar Time Weather Center

The only problem I had with the one on Mr. Printable’s site is that there is no way a weather station printed on cardstock would last around here. So I added it to the “to be laminated” pile and had it professionally covered in glossy plastic. That made it a little trickier to put together, but it wasn’t anything a fastener and a little tape couldn’t fix!

I also don’t have a color printer and didn’t see any reason to use that much toner on the weather cards, so I redid them in black and white with some symbols on a few of them. I also used a tracing font so his sister (and later he) could trace the words. Then I just added a bit of Velcro to the back of the cards and to each of the squares on the weather station and voilà! Our very own place to track the weather. The little bit of color that is on the chart is crayon.

Because I want them to practice reading a thermometer, I also made a little weather card. As you can see, right now we just tuck them in a pocket on the big calendar. I’m going to add a couple of hooks to the bottom of the weather station, however, so all things weather related will be together.

Recording weather observations

There’s a space for them to draw the weather at the top and then record the temperature at the bottom. I debated whether to add the F on the card, but decided not to. That way we can use these same cards when we learn about Celsius and they can learn the importance of adding the F or the C after the temperatures they record.

The one thing I still need to add to this is the weather graph. There will be a graph underneath where they will record whether it is sunny, partly cloudy, cloudy, raining or snowing each day. They will just have cards to add to a Velcro strip in order to make a pictograph. At the end of each month, we’ll talk about the graph and turn the information into different types of graphs.

And if you like my nifty little card, I’ll save you like five whole minutes of figuring out how to design it with this totally free printable: Download Weather Card

Next up, printables and instructions for the date section of the calendar!

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Kindergarten and moving forward through grief

Micah starts kindergarten in the fall.

Around here, that’s a Big Deal. I’m planning, browsing amazon, ordering . . .  stuff. Stuff that, to a five year old, looks an awful lot like toys. And we’ll even plan a little party for the first official day of school. (Did you know that in Germany, the home of kindergarten, they celebrate the first day of school, not the last? It’s a Big Deal there, too, with cones full of goodies, pictures and all sorts of excitement.)

It also represents a change. Little Micah is growing up. We don’t do preschool here. He plays while the others are doing their lessons. And yes, he has a binder and he has lapbooks for astronomy and history. Some days he chooses to color in them and sometimes he chooses to see how high he can build a block tower. I have a strong respect for the power and importance of play in a child’s life.

But now that Micah is Five Years Old, his world can open up a little more. He can have a box of sand in the house. He isn’t limited to the watercolors when he wants to paint. He can use real tools to explore and manipulate his world.

And the first thing I did was set up his calendar. I don’t know how many of you do calendar time in your home, but it is an engaging way to practice basic math, science and literacy skills daily. I sat down with Micah and went through several websites, looking at the different calendar centers and trying to remember all I did with mine the last time I set this up.

We finally decided on a basic design and I got started modifying and printing and finally dropping it all off at the print shop to be laminated. And as I sat trimming pieces and arranging them on the poster board, I was struck with a strange sort of grief.

I didn’t do any of this for Tiggy. But I didn’t do it for Nisa or Elianna, either. For a very long time, I was just getting through the day. And it’s not that we didn’t do anything. Other than spelling, they’re all on track with where they should be. I just wasn’t in a place where I could take on a project that took daily maintenance. Even the thought of something like that was overwhelming.

The children noticed, too.

Calendar time

“Mom, why didn’t you do anything like this for us?”

“Sweetie, when I would have put this together for you was right after Tiggy died.”

“Oh, yeah.”

I paused. There didn’t seem to be anything else, to say, really. It’s hard, sometimes, to wonder just what toll my grief has taken on their lives. But then again, they were allowed to grieve, too. And they didn’t have to return to school as if nothing had happened and sit through lessons while their mind was occupied with deeper issues. And other than in spelling, I can’t really say they’re behind.

“But you can do it now.”

“Really?”

“Yes. Especially when we start recording the weather and I set up the graphs and the clock, there will be plenty here for you as well. The teacher who taught me how to do this was a fourth grade teacher. It isn’t just for kindergarteners.”

And they seemed satisfied. Especially since the finished product was “way better than anything in the stores.” At least according to them.

If you are interested in a closer look at the different parts of our calendar time, here they are with links or associated printables you would need to complete them (as I post them):

The Weather Station

The date

 

Posted in education, Grief, homeschooling | 3 Comments

Road trips with boys

So, over the weekend our 4H group went out to Kearney, Nebraska to see the sandhill crane migration.

sandhill cranes

Somehow, I ended up with all the boys. ALL the boys.

Just let that sink in for a moment. One hundred sixty miles one way with ALL the boys from our 4H group.

Somewhere along the way, they decided to have a story telling competition. The goal was to tell the funniest story that made everyone laugh but everyone would just vote for their own stories. The only solution, it seemed, was to let Micah — my five year old — judge.

Thus it began. And they quickly discovered that any story involving poop or pee made him laugh. You can imagine what happened to the story telling from there. It went straight into the toilet.

Literally.

After awhile, Asa, my two year old, decided he wanted to join in the fun. And, having gotten the main point of Every. Single. Story. for the last fifty miles, he began shouting.

Pee! Pee! Pee! Pee! Pee! Pee!

Given the sudden laughter that ensued, I say he won. Hands down.

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A lullaby for the soul

Sitting in the rocking chair, holding little Asa. I trace the outline of his sleeping face, stroke his cheek and unwind from the day. A pang of sorrow for the pregnancy so recently lost and overwhelming thankfulness for the warmth of his cheek against my chest.

It is good to have a few moments to reflect. To cherish what is and miss what isn’t so it doesn’t get buried too deep.

Micah walks in and I’m annoyed. I don’t want to be disturbed from this moment. From this moment of bittersweet melancholy mixed with joy that seems to make up motherhood whenever I slow down enough to notice. And he’s supposed to be in bed.

“What do you need, sweetheart,” I try not to sound too annoyed.

“Me made up a song. Me want you to sing it.”

I just want to tell him to go back to bed. I don’t know what game this is that he’s playing with his bedtime, now, but I’m not in the mood. Still, there’s that twinkle in his eye like a child on Christmas morning so I try my best to set aside my irritation.

“How can I sing a song you made up in your head? I don’t even know the words?”

“Ok, me sing it.”

And he begins singing his lullaby in his sweet little voice to the tune of Jesus Loves Me.

Rock your baby back and forth,
If him falls then pick him up,
Nurse him nurse him ’til him full,
Love him love him, and kiss him cheek.

I smile. “I like that song,” I tell him. “That’s a very special lullaby and a very special gift.”

And I love how his eyes get that same twinkle every time he hears me sing his lullaby to little Asa. His gift to my soul.

Posted in family, Grief | 2 Comments

I had a miscarriage

A week before Christmas, we got quite the surprise. We found out we were pregnant again. It wasn’t planned. I was pretty sure little Asaroo was our last. But every life is a gift and I cherished the thought of the little surprise growing within me.

We talked about our little surprise, our little secret. And the kids just thought we were teasing them about their Christmas presents. But Christmas is a busy time of year and I really didn’t have time to think about it that much. A little tinge of nausea would remind me. I would smile and would it would pass.

For one whole week, I harbored a special little secret. And then it was gone.

When the bleeding first started, I was only a little concerned. It was just a little spotting, really. The second day there was nothing. I was actually told I was having a miscarriage in the ER with my first child in London based on the amount of blood and she’s 17 now. I know that a little blood doesn’t always mean the worst.

But as I waited for my appointment with the nurse, the spotting turned to bleeding, turned to heavy bleeding with clotting. And in the middle of the night, I started to wonder at exactly what point I should go to the ER. I was past the recommendations of the nurse, but it was the middle of the night. I didn’t want to wake the children up and scare them.

So I decided to wait and see if it got worse or better or if anything changed at all. And all the while there was no pain. No cramping. No aches of any kind. At first, I was thankful for that. And then it didn’t seem quite right that a life could pass from this world so quietly and with so little struggle.

In the morning, I was told what I already expected to hear. My hcg levels were actually where they were expected to be, but my progesterone was at 1.3. “Early miscarriage. Come back in two days.”

Now, she wasn’t as callous as that. She was actually quite a nice nurse. But that’s what my soul heard as I hung up the phone.

The waves of nausea started getting worse. What was just a tinge here and there before Christmas was beginning to take over the day. I got a package of snack sticks from the hog we recently had slaughtered because eating helped calm it. I felt more pregnant than I did before the miscarriage.

The return visit to the nurse wasn’t a whole lot of help. My numbers actually came up. “It can take awhile for your body to catch up with what is happening in your uterus. The morning sickness can last several days until the hormone levels start dropping.”

I knew that. In my head, anyway. The rest of me still felt pregnant. First the nausea and now I had to use the restroom. For the second time since arriving at the office.

Thirteen days after the first spot of blood, the bleeding finally stopped. But the nausea remained. No longer a reminder of life, however, it now seems like a cruel joke, dragging this on until I find out whether or not a D&C is needed or if the miscarriage completed on its own.

And as short as its little life was, my baby decided not to pass quite so quietly after all.

Posted in family, Grief | 17 Comments

My New Year’s Resolution Type Thing

Well, I wouldn’t call it a resolution, exactly. I’ve never been very good at those. It’s like an annual Set-Yourself-Up-For-Failure tradition that I just can’t get into. I could choose a word or a theme or whatever the trend is now, but as cool as they all sound, they all just boil down to one thing: me trying really hard not to be me until I slip into enough of my old habits to just be me again.

So this year, I’m choosing a focus. The last several years, my focus has been chosen for me by the unpredictable and demanding nature of grief. It went from just getting through the day, to just “the next thing,” to improving our animal husbandry in between everything else that goes along with homeschooling six children while running a small hobby farm.

My focus this year is going to be on the garden.

It has limped along since we first moved here, suffering from lack of weeding and lack of fertilizing and lack of any effective means of fighting the annual plague of the squash bug. Each year we make headway. We get a little more produce, but continue to be frustrated with how much more we could get if we had more time and resources to build the soil, tend the crops and keep up with the weeding.

And so far, my Don’t-Call-It-A-Resolution-But-A-Focus thing is going really well. I circled all the seeds I wanted in a seed catalog, made a plan for the garden and put in an order. I even made a colorful little garden map on the computer because then it is really official.

OK, so “up” is actually west on this little map, but it doesn’t really matter. The squares on the bottom represent the 4′ X 4′ raised beds we’re going to make this winter and fill with spent hay, straw, compost, manure and topsoil. I actually have enough room for nine if I leave two feet in between them, but nine didn’t look so tidy on my diagram and diagrams are all about the looks. The kids are each going to grow the salad veggies they like best in their boxes and I’m going to grow peppers in the rest.

In June, we’re supposed to be getting 40 broilers. Now, I don’t really have a good place to put 40 broilers. That’s a lot of chickens and they do a fair amount of damage to pasture if they can’t roam. They do a fair amount of damage to pasture if they can roam because they’re so big and lazy, they don’t generally roam even when they can. But that, combined with this lady, gave me the idea to just put their pen in one section of the garden. They can eat and drink and scratch and poo to their hearts’ content, occasionally catching a bug and devouring every green thing that dares pop up in the pen for the nine weeks we have them. They’ll leave it lightly tilled and heavily fertilized when they move to the freezer and I can follow them with a cover crop.

The next year, everything will move up (west) one section so the squash (the heaviest feeder) will always follow the chickens. In seven years, the entire garden will have benefited from having the fertilizing devotion of chickens for an entire growing season. And without even setting out to do so, that little section will get the seventh year rest mentioned in Leviticus.

OK, so I think that actually says to leave your entire land to rest, but we’re not exactly Torah observant here at Roscommon Acres.

The rest of the garden shall continue to receive the benefit of being cleaned up by the livestock at the end of the season and being covered with a layer of straw to be tilled in each spring. But I’m hoping to see measurable improvements to the soil fertility with the addition of chickens to our crop rotation.

The other part of my plan is the hard part. Weeding. Other than just simply to do it, my big plan this year is to space the garden sections so the tiller can pass between the rows. This may seem like a no-brainer, but . . . well . . . you may be dealing with people who aren’t exactly brainless, but do lack significant experience.

  • We tried a no-till method that the weeds really loved. They’ve been begging to go back to that.
  • We had it spaced for a tiller, but it broke down and the newer, hardier one that would actually sort of break through our hard clay in the summer was too wide for the rows we set.
  • Then we planned to make chicken runs in between the rows so they’d do a lot of the weeding except that we never made the runs and the space we left was too narrow for the tiller.

So this year, I’m just going to till. Till, till and more till. Also, I’m getting all bush varieties of plants so the dumb things stay in their sections and don’t overtake the paths. Because in theory, a big ol’ pumpkin plant can spread out every which way, shading out the weeds and taking care of itself. But in reality, it spreads out every which way, making it impossible to pass through and allowing all manner of weeds to spring up within the protection of its prickly fortress.

As far as the squash bugs . . . ahem. I really don’t know. Last year, my solution was to skip all things curcubit, but I miss them. I’m hoping that lessened their numbers, but I think my solution may include the judicial use of sevin dust. I’ve read that you can start a squash plant indoors and set it out in a pot and wait for them to attack. Then you smother it with sevin dust, wait and do it again. Then you can destroy the bait and plant your crop. It doesn’t sound that promising, but I might give it a try. Who knows? Without the pumpkin leaf forest, maybe picking off the eggs won’t be such an impossible task since I’ll only have bush varieties anyway.

So there we go. I drew up a plan and put it in writing. That makes me like ten times more likely to succeed, right?

Posted in Gardening | 2 Comments

Last minute card/gift idea to make with your little ones

Do you need a last minute Christmas craft or card idea? I happen to think these are the cutest little cards ever, probably mostly because they’re my two year old’s hand prints, but it was still a lot of fun and totally worth the mess.

So have yourself a “monkey” little Christmas . . .

and a Happy Narwahl!

Ok, so the narwahl looks a bit more like a bird, but you have to be a bit flexible with handprint art.

This actually came from an alphabet book we’re working on.

An idea we “borrowed” from the Red Ted Art blog which is like the best blog to follow if you have preschoolers. She does everything I wish I did. And I blame her for all the half finished projects we’ve started because I get all inspired, but my follow through isn’t all that great.

So anyway, “M” was for monkey and “N” was for narwahl. And that was all we needed to decide little handprint Christmas cards would be The. Cutest. Thing. Ever.

And then you can wish everyone A very monkey Christmas . . . and a Happy Narwahl!

And have this song stuck in your head for the rest of the season:

We wish you a monkey Christmas
We wish you a monkey Christmas
We wish you a monkey Christmas and a Happy Narwahl!

Good tidings we bring
To you and your zoo
Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy Narwahl!

The steps are pretty obvious, but here they are, anyway.

1. Gather supplies. You’ll need brown paint, blue paint, white paint, a paint brush, blank cards or card stock and diaper wipes (the best cleaning supply ever).

2. Write “Have a very monkey Christmas” on the front of the card and “and a Happy Narwahl” on the inside.

3. Turn the card upside down to do the monkey. Older children will try to turn it right side up again so make sure you pay attention. Otherwise you get upside down monkeys. We have a lot of upside down elephants in our alphabet book for this reason.

4. Paint your child’s hand brown, encourage them to splay their fingers, and splat it down on the card, pressing firmly. Then a little paint on the finger should make a wiggly tail. Glue on googlie eyes and you’re done. Or you can get some green paint and let them make fingerprint leaves all over the outside of the card because paint is cool and why stop now?

5. The narwahl is a little more involved. Turn the card on its side. If you’re using the left hand, the bottom of the card should be on the left side.

6. Paint the thumb half of the hand blue (minus the thumb). Paint the other half white.

7. Encourage your child to squeeze their fingers together and press firmly on the page.

8. Paint a little stripe for the narwahl’s tusk and add googlie eyes.

9. You can be done here or let them cover the page with fingerprint water drops, because painting is fun and why stop now?

Also, watch out for the two year olds. After doing these, I held Asa’s little hand while I got a diaper wipe to clean his hands. But he REALLY wanted to see what that paint felt like on his face. So while I was occupied trying to free a wipey, he smooshed his face into his hand and rubbed paint all over his face. He was an adorable mess and I totally would have taken a picture except for the the fact that half my front room would have been painted by the time I got a picture.

And it really doesn’t take that long and makes a super cute last minute craft to occupy excited little ones or make some cute handprint Christmas greetings for someone special on your list!

Posted in family, holidays, homeschooling | Leave a comment

How I almost set my house on fire. And then walked out the door.

So, I guess it was just one of those nights. I mean, it’s not every night you set your house on fire on your way out the door. And almost don’t even notice.

It started with a toddler temper tantrum. And a frantic search for shoes because it was time to go and no one had any. And all the other typical little kid things that put me in a rushed frame of mind as I’m trying to leave the house.

And then I did it. See, we keep our keys and wallets in a little basket on top of the desk along with whatever other odds and ends get dropped in it now and again. It’s a good place to go for loose change. And it’s a good place to drop things I’ve taken from the baby that he shouldn’t have. So as we were on our way out the door, I grabbed the basket, took out my wallet and put the basket back on the desk.

It’s these little things you do every day that you just don’t think about. Little risks you take without a second thought. Little things that could lead to you stepping right out the door as your desk becomes engulfed in flames.

So anyway, then I turn to open the door and I smell smoke. I think, “Well, duh. We heat with wood.” But it just wasn’t quite right. It didn’t smell like smoldering wood smoke. It smelled like a freshly lit match and that first burst of warmth smell you get when you set a bunch of papers on fire on top of the wood in the stove.

This is the moment where the rush and the distraction could have led to me going right out the door.

But instead, I hesitated.

And I turned around, thinking it was all very odd. And suddenly became aware that there were flames shooting out of the basket I had just taken my wallet out of!

Fortunately, it was contained to a couple of papers sitting in the basket and all I had to do was pick them up, blow them out and toss them in the stove for good measure. And then stand there staring in what seemed like a perfectly harmless basket just moments before. Because normal baskets don’t just burst into flames when you take wallets out of them.

Then I saw it. A wee little burnt match wedged in the basket. Somehow, it had fallen out of a box of matches and taking the basket down and putting it back up on the desk was just enough to get it to strike. And set my papers on fire.

And had I just pulled the door closed behind me instead of turning around, it could have grown to take the basket, the papers around it, the desk and the whole house.

All because I grabbed my wallet as I rushed my children out the door.

Posted in family, humor | 5 Comments

Thank you, Donald Trump

Dear Mr. Trump (because Dear The Donald just sounds awkward),

I must thank you for being the first candidate to tackle one of the biggest issues of our time. It may, in fact, be the only one that really matters.

I feel strongly about this. I don’t usually talk politics on this blog. It is my happy place. It is my grieving place. It is about my little place in the country with all of its ups and downs. Politics hasn’t really found a home here. It’s just too . . . divisive. But sometimes you just have to stand up for what’s right and you, dear sir, are the first candidate to inspire me to take this humble little platform and do just that.

I must humbly confess that up to now, you have not been my favorite candidate. I just didn’t trust you. After all, you threw your support behind Hillary Clinton. I understand you’ve come clean on that. Something about being a man of business and knowing where your bread is buttered. And while I can see your point, I rather prefer a man of principle in office. A man who will back what’s right even to his own personal disadvantage. After all, John Hancock was one of the wealthiest men in the colonies who stood the most to lose and he still staked his life on a few principles that guide our nation yet. I’m sure he could have paid off a few people and gone on in relative peace, his fortune largely untouched, but that is neither here nor there. After all, that was only the British Monarchy he was standing up against.

And you’ve always seemed to me like a caricature of conservative values. Like the face behind all those forwarded emails and facebook posts that no one ever checks out before sharing with everyone on their friends list. I just never quite trusted that you were real.

But thanks to your recent stance on the Starbucks coffee cup crisis, I now know you are the man to lead this country in the right direction.

“I have one of the most successful Starbucks, in Trump Tower. Maybe we should boycott Starbucks? I don’t know. Seriously, I don’t care. That’s the end of that lease, but who cares? If I become president, we’re all going to be saying Merry Christmas again, that I can tell you. That I can tell you.” ~ Donald Trump

Pure Presidential poetry.

Because no one should be forced to drink overpriced coffee in a plain red cup this time of year. It’s time to finally get rid of holiday trees and season’s greetings for good. I want Christ’s name slapped on all of my holiday excesses and co-opted pagan symbols. And anyone who believes otherwise can just turn in their citizenship and move to the Republik of Kalifornia.

Thank you, Mr. Trump. For taking a stand for all of us.

Roscommon Acres

Posted in culture, holidays, humor, Uncategorized | Leave a comment