Monday, 22 April 2019

My journey as a parent and how it went.

Do I miss anything about parenting?

NO.

Seriously, I miss nothing about it, let me tell you why.

My time as a parent has come to an end. Obviously there are 5 adult children out there in the world who still have a mum, who may or may not want my advice, my input, to be part of their lives. But my responsibility for them has come to an end. They are responsible for their own actions, their own thoughts and their own feelings.

Just a quick background. Mother of 3, mother to 5. I'm not including the trials and tribulations of merging 2 families together, as all the kids consider themselves to be siblings and Peter and I are the parents as they refer to us. Also our eldest child is profoundly disabled and is in the full time care of Social Services, but we still have an active involvement in her life and decision making on her behalf. There are 10 years between the boys. They were toddlers and teens at the same time, we only ever had 3 teens at anyone time. Now they are 4 adult men.

2002 our one and only holiday as a family of 7, France.

Parenting isn't about stages and development, it's not a tick box for successfully getting through each stage and moving onto the next. All these stages slowly morph from one to the next, they run concurrently.

We spend a lot of time as parents in the first few years encouraging our children to move onto the next stage. We can't wait for our baby to sit up, start weening, crawl, move onto solids, talk, walk, sleep through the night, then start school.

Taking first steps, maybe better footwear would have helped.

Then as they reach every stage we look back and wish they were babies again. I guess this is why people want more than one child.

The ages 5-11 sort of just happen, they develop differently, they discover their interests, have their own personalities and as parents we tend not to give another thought about the next stage until it happens.

There's a newish word for the pre teenage years, tweens. I've never really got this stage, maybe it's because I have 4 boys, I do tend to find it's more something that parents of girls refer to more. With 4 boys I never really stopped to think about hormonal changes. Yes their voices got deeper, they started to shave, they started to inflict their presence on each other as equals and exercised their right to be the alpha male.

During the teenage years we want it to all stop. We realise they're growing up and turning into adults and one day they'll be leaving home. We look back on the earlier years and question if we could've done things differently, ask ourselves why they have to grow up, wish we'd not encouraged them to move at the speed they did, wish they were still little.

Life with a disabled child has been very different, milestones have still yet to be reached, despite her being 31 now. Milestones that will never be reached were acknowledged a long time ago. Different milestones were set, more realistic ones. Hopes and dreams for a profoundly disabled child are different. Getting through a day without wet clothes when your child is in their 30's is something to be celebrated, just as much as potty training the boys was.

So how did my journey as a parent go? Most of it just happened, the memory fades. the children feel like they've always been the age they are now. Yes we can recall individual challenges, achievements and first words, but if I'm honest a lot of it gets merged, it gets attributed to the wrong child.

Me, aged 20 with my first born. 27 years later, I'm grey.

Being pregnant:
I was never the material type, even now I look at other peoples babies and think 'there's nice' but I prefer them when they're a bit older and have a personality. I didn't enjoy and neither did I not like being pregnant, it was just something I went through. I have to consult the boys red books to tell you what day of the week and time they were born. I do remember the date and year though. There are no photo's of me pregnant, ever.

Giving Birth:
No one in their right mind enjoys the physical side of giving birth, but nature has a funny way of protecting us from the memory otherwise we'd never have more than one child.

Breast feeding:
Nope, didn't like it.

Teething:
It was just something we all went through.

Sleepless nights:
At both ends of the spectrum, as babies, then as teenagers, waiting for them to come home at 2am in the morning.

Playgroups:
OMG no, no, no.

Weening:
Fussy with what they'd eat one day, they wouldn't touch the next. However they ate anything and everything as a rule. We had a few food intolerances to deal with but in general they'd eat hummus, veg, fruit, fish. But as teens they lived off pot noodles, pizzas and what I call 'orange' and bland foods. Now as adults they've had the gaul to complain that I didn't cook tasty food.

No baby led weening here.


Yep, letting my baby have chocolate.

Potty training:
Just one big night mare, from poo droppings behind sofas and peeing against the bathroom walls.

A note by child 4 to remind himself to wipe his bum, it's framed and in the bathroom still.

Siblings:
They hated one another, they still don't really get on now. Arguments and physical fights over toys, who they shared a room with and how the others were always favoured over them.

School:
There were tears on the first day of school for the first child only for primary and secondary. It was a relief when the others went. School was a constant battle with being called in for at least one of boys on a monthly basis, fighting, not doing homework etc. Don't get me started on school fees either, we paid enough over the years to have purchased an average 4 bed house in the UK.

After school activities:
No, no, no. I hated the amount of time I spent driving, the organisation and timing of activities. Standing for hours on end in the middle of a field while they played football usually in the rain. The cost of gym, music lessons, horse riding etc, all the activities they insisted they take part in then wanted to drop just after I'd paid a terms fees.

Teenage years:
See siblings. They just happened, we didn't survive them, we just got through them, of course we did we can't stop the ageing process.

Leaving home:
This was tough, but inevitable. For us though it was a bit different than it is for most parents. Our eldest left home aged 12 to go into care, the next, aged 18, joined the army, within a year he was posted in Germany. The next one, also aged 18, left home and 3 months later we moved 6000 miles away to South Africa. Our youngest left home next, aged 13, to return to the UK for boarding school and the last one left home aged 20 to join the army.
As each child left home, the others filled the gap, it didn't get easier because we were down in numbers, it just changed. There was more time for homework, activities, but meals still had to be cooked, washing and ironing done, school runs and breaking up fights.
We weren't around to support any of our children into adulthood, it wasn't a gentle break for any of us, it was an arm ripping off moment each time.

Empty nest:
We moved to Dubai the same time our last child left home in 2014, the youngest two returned to South Africa to say their goodbyes and to physically move with us, although they returned to the UK within a few weeks. Moving countries is stressful in its own right and while I was grateful to not have to sort out schools, negotiate traffic on school runs on the wrong side of the road, helping them make new friends and finding activities for them to join in with, I was incredibly isolated and lonely.
I'm over empty nest now, but I do wonder what the future holds for us in regards to our relationships with our adult children as they begin their own journey into marriage and parenthood.

You'll notice I have more to say about leaving home and empty nest and this is because they happened more recently, they're fresher in my mind. They were recent events, I've not done much since the kids left home, I did return to teaching for a year which contributed to filling my days and I had the death of my father and health issues to deal with over the following 2+ years.

When we all get together, which is rare as a family of 7, with our chosen homes, the last time was for the youngest's 18th birthday in 2017, we talk about the fun times, the memories that make us smile, the holidays, the time we lost the children and the day we went on holiday only realising we'd locked one of the children in the house and left them behind was one another child asked where they were.

At the end of the day we can't stop the process or even slow it down, parenting just happens. Sometimes we need the support of the wider family, teachers, doctors and other professionals.

Most of the time we can't stop or change what our children go through, they develop at their own rate, we can't fix a friendship, stop the bullying, mend a broken heart, get better grades or even have a great deal of influence over their lives as they become adults. We're just there to support them however we feel best at the time. We will have regrets, we will have issues. I know I do.

Please note: ALL this was done without the internet and there aren't many photo's to prove it.






Saturday, 20 April 2019

One Daily Positive - Week 16 Inside Dubai Malls.

Peter has been away all week. Stayed up late the first night and got bored so I snacked. Won't be doing that again. Forgot to ask Peter to sort my bike tyres out before he left so couldn't ride my bike all week, but did do a lot of walking and swimming. Bob gets walked every morning and every evening while the weather is good. I even tried yoga this week at the local dog park. I really enjoyed it but can feel places aching I never knew were possible.

I decided to have a mini holiday this week, a staycation and visit the top tourist spots in Dubai. It only took a few hours each morning to do as I've visited these places numerous times, in fact a couple most weeks. I've focused on the inside of the malls, if you're on instagram or twitter, you can find the other photo's from the visits by searching chickenruby.

Last week I said my energy levels had dropped. Blood tests this week, show my ferritin stores are almost depleted so another iron infusion after we get back from the UK. I'm still anaemic, but that's improving. B12 levels dropped and been told to come off the tablets and see if they rise once the ferritin levels are restored. Few other things going on with my blood still to sort. Chest x-ray clear, I've had several bouts of pneumonia over recent years and chest infections.

There's been NO rain this week.

104 Sunday A few chores completed then off to Dubai Mall for the day, where I drank coffee, walked for miles, blogged and shopped. I've not been here since February. I took some snacks with me instead of having lunch out as I had a cottage pie defrosting in the fridge for my dinner.

105 Monday A trip to the Doctors in the morning for a blood test and chest xray, stopped at the Mall of the Emirates for some shopping and coffee, spent the rest of the day at home and cleaned downstairs. Watching TV and an early night.

106 Tuesday Dog park with Bob and yoga. Packed for the UK then cleaned the upstairs of the house then went swimming in the afternoon to cool down. Went down to the Marina Mall early evening for a walk and dinner out. Had an early night.

107 Wednesday Took myself, a picnic and a book to the beach for the morning. Swam a little and just chilled out, it was nice. Called in at the supermarket on my way home and pub quiz after dinner and dog walk in the evening.

108 Thursday Took myself for a coffee at the Souk Madinat and some blogging, haircut and gel mani at lunch time. The plan was to catch up with the washing, but the landlord had the water tank cleaned today so there was no water till early evening, so I watched TV instead and read a book.

109 Friday Visited Deira City Centre, it's one of the areas in Dubai where you shop without malls, as in walk the streets and pop in and out of shops. Collected Peter from the airport at midday, did the washing, walked the dog and chilled out watching TV.

110 Saturday Dropped Bob and Pushkins off for boarding for the week, we had breakfast on the beach, went to friends for a coffee, did the ironing, Peter packed and we will be having an early night ahead of our flight to the UK in the morning.

On the blog this week:

Why I dislike like other people's kids

Things to do with adult kids when visiting

Things I miss about the UK


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Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Why I dislike like other people's kids

I don't dislike kids, I have 5. I've also been a youth worker, child welfare officer, ran a youth football club and worked as a teacher.

One of the rare occasions where the kids weren't tearing chunks out of each other and causing disruption to others, with me running around, apologising, trying my best to parent and breaking up fights.

We've just had half term in Dubai. As my kids are now all adults I only notice it's half term when a) there's no school bus honking it's horn outside my door at 6.45am because the neighbours fail to get their kid ready for school on time every morning b) the roads are empty c) when I look try to book a flight I find it's showing 'only 4 seats left' and the price has gone up and d) the local pool/mall/coffee shop is full of kids.

Like I said I don't dislike kids in general, I just dislike the way some parents allow their kids to behave.

In the Mall one morning a group of mums having a coffee, where are their kids? Running up and down the mall, screaming and fighting. I'm trying to have a coffee in peace, so are their parents, so the kids are no where near them, it's my table and other shoppers they keep running into and screaming at. The parents didn't look up.

At the pool one afternoon the kids are jumping off the side, running amok, screaming because they've been splashed by a sibling, while the mother's sit and chat ignoring them and the life guard who is now running a creche to ensure the kids don't get injured.

Two young girls around the age of 10/11 are playing music on their phones, competing with each other, what did I hear the mothers yell? 'Go and sit down there, we don't want to hear your music, we're trying to talk' So the girls move to new sun loungers, right next to me, the opposite end of the pool from where their mothers are sitting and play their music full blast.

I ask, strike that, I tell them to turn their music down, they ignore me, so I call across the pool to the mother's to tell them to tell their kids to turn the music off, as I don't want to listen to it any more than their mothers did. They are told, it is done grudgingly, I am now the bad guy.

Kids in general are wonderful and I obviously don't dislike kids, like I said I'm a teacher by trade and a mum of 5 with numerous nephews and nieces.

You'll note there is a direct link with my dislike for kids when their parents are around, it's like they have a safety net and permission to behave in a certain manner to test the boundaries and authority because their parent is right there, there to protect and defend them and to shout at anyone who dares to complain about their off spring.

I'm more than happy to let kids be kids, I fully understand the screaming baby on an aeroplane and how fraught the parent already is, there's no need for me or anyone else to make tutting noises, there's the toddler that kicks the seat behind me, it's bored, so am I on a 7 hour flight, I'll make eye contact, smile and hope the child settles. I also fully understand 'hidden' disability. In fact it's always my first assumption if a child is screaming hysterically or running around and disturbing others, but I'll observe the parent also and often offer to help if they're trying their best to manage the situation.

There are many situations out of the parents control. But there are also many situations where the parent just doesn't care how much disruption their child causes others as long as they can make that call, eat their dinner, chat with friends over a coffee in peace and just don't care about anyone else.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Dating for the over 50's.

I'm 47, my husband 61 and we have been happily married for the past 16 years and together for 20 years. We had both been married before and were newly single when we met. Neither of us since our early 20’s has been involved in the dating game. I can't speak for my husband but when I was younger dating was very different from what it is now, back then one tended to date people from the local area, people you already knew or knew through friends or in the workplace.

So, you may ask just why then I am writing about over 50 dating?

We have quite a few single friends between our ages, both Male and Female, we are both grateful that the dating game is something we haven't had to play for a long time now. We both met our former partners through mutual friends and not blind dates. My husband and I met through our children, it was almost a year of getting to know each other before we started dating though.

Friends our age often talk to us about how hard it is to meet someone to form a relationship with. Relationships within the work place are often discouraged and can often be impulsive because a lot of time is spent together rather than having shared interests and hobbies.

Dating in the real world is described as competitive and often a mutual attraction stuck up in a club or a bar doesn’t have a long-term future and the friends we have spoken with about this are looking for long term commitment and not one-night stands.

I can't imagine at my age if I was single going out to bars and clubs in the hope of meeting someone special, it was hard enough as a teenager, being egged on by friends to chat someone up you had nothing in common with, let alone now as an adult approaching 50 in a body that is now 30 years older and the confidence issues that come with that.

Also, as many friends our ages have children still living at home, although in their teens, it’s difficult and expensive to spend time and money going out to bars and clubs. They often talk about the dangers of meeting people they know nothing about and have only just met.

Many of our friends use online dating sites and say they prefer to get the opportunity to build up a friendship and to talk openly and honestly over a period of time before exchanging phone numbers and meeting up. They feel more relaxed and have some idea of the person they are going to meet, know a little more about them such as likes and interests, they get the opportunity to chat with them over the telephone and get more of a feel for the real person they are going to commit to having a date with.

Many of our friends have said they’ve turned up to dates where the person they are meeting has used an old photo of almost 20 years, lied about their age, family situation and have even been married, just using dating sites for extra marital relationships.

Signing up to older-dating.com helps you set up your profile and allows you to connect with people you are most compatible with rather than make a decision based on looks alone as some dating sites operate. You’ll be asked a series of questions to enable you to save time scrolling though endless photo’s, matching you with other like-minded singles

Getting to know someone online in the comfort of your own home, is reassuring and comforting, you’re not wasting time meeting up with people you have nothing in common with.




This post is written in collaboration. 

Things to do with adult children on visits.

We're off to the UK next week to visit family and friends. For the past 8 and a bit years we've lived abroad, first in South Africa and currently in Dubai.

When we left in January 2011, child 2 was living in Germany, child 3 had just moved to Reading 4 months earlier and children 4 & 5 came with us. During our time in SA, the kids and I visited the UK twice a year for 2-3 weeks at a time and Peter once or twice and usually with work.

By the time we moved to Dubai in December 2014 we were child free. Now we live in Dubai, I visit the UK for several months at a time and Peter is over 2-3 times a year.

The first 6 years we stayed with family and friends, then in 2016 we purchased a one bed flat in the town where my mum lives so we had a base, somewhere to stay and just switch off and relax in.

However for the first two years it was lived in first by child 5 and then child 3, while they were in-between jobs and travels.

All the kids are back in the UK now apart from child 3 who lives in Australia.

When I'm back in the UK and in the flat, which is near my mum and my niece and her 3 children who I refer to as Thing 1, 2 & 3 on social media, with Thing 4 due in August, I'm able to just drop in and out of their lives, meet them in their homes, coffee shop or in the park.

Spending time with our children though is harder. Child 2 lives a few miles away with his wife, child 5 is in the Cotswolds, some 50 miles away, Child 1 lives in a care home 40 miles away and child 4 and his fiancé live in Northern Ireland.

As it's a one bed flat it's difficult to entertain visitors in such a small space, however it makes a great meeting point for child 2 and 2a to come and visit before we go out for dinner and of course we are made very welcome when we visit them and they're close enough just to pop into for a cup of tea on my way too and fro from visiting child 1 & 5 and the wider family who live near them.

Visiting the eldest and youngest child is more difficult. Child 1 is profoundly disabled and lives in a care home, whilst it's a beautiful home and the care staff are lovely, it is difficult to make ourselves at home there and we rarely just visit and sit with our daughter, instead we take her out. Due to her needs and weather dependant, we go for short walks or if it's raining visit the local supermarkets where we can use the toilets, the ground is even and we can access food and drink easily for her. Occasionally we'll visit on a weekend so we can take the short drive to visit child 5 in his home town and walk around there with them both.

Visiting child 5 involves after work activities and we usually just end up in the pub for dinner. We can't really visit him in his home as he lives in a HMO.

Child 4 and 4a involve a flight, car hire and accommodation, or they'll come over to the mainland when we're in the UK, they'll stay with my mum if both Peter and I are in the UK or I'll vacate the flat for them and stay with a friend who lives in the town. When we visit them they are keen to show us around their town and surrounding area and we've been for days out and walks with them as well as meeting extended family and friends of theirs.

Top left and then clockwise
Child 2, child 3, child 5, child 4 and child 1


So what do we do with our adult kids:

We shop/wander around town
Meet in the pub
Pop in at theirs
They pop in at ours
Sit in the garden/by the river
Meet at family or friends houses

What else could we do with our adult kids and why we don't:

Go to the cinema - can never find a film we all agree on.
Go to a concert/theme park/museum/stately home/garden centre - No one is really interested, not in a group anyway.
Go to the beach - to do what? Sit there? Rock pools? Dig sandcastles? Eat chips? - everyone works, only Peter and I are on holiday when we visit.

Of course when they come to visit us, they are on holiday and there's so much more to do in Dubai, it's not really that big and the weather is perfect November till February for days on the beach.

Do you have adult kids? Do you do anything different?






Monday, 15 April 2019

Things I miss about the UK

I miss the weather.

While it's nice to have the sunshine here in Dubai, half the year it's just too hot to go outdoors to enjoy it. Yes really, well I don't miss the rain and the cold, I miss having seasons.

I miss the pubs.

We have pubs here but no draft ale, the prices are sky high and there's not one in walking distance from us.

I miss the food.

Yes we can buy almost anything we want here in Dubai, but we have to go to certain shops to buy certain things, such as bacon, Hellman's mayonnaise and chips.


I miss just walking around.

Whilst we have beaches here and parks and shopping malls, there are very few places to just take a walk and have a sit outside watching the world go by without spending money.

Shopping.

Yes I miss shopping, here we have all the shops in the world you could imagine, but what we don't have are small towns and villages to just stop off in, pick up a pint of milk, go into a charity shop and collect a few new books, visit a tea room and have a simple sandwich or a jam donut with your tea.

Old Buildings.

All I can see here are buildings, new modern designs and whilst they are impressive, nothing beats seeing a variety of buildings, both old and new.

Greenery.

Yes we have a garden, there are trees and plants and parks, but when you're out driving there's just sand, no rolling landscapes, no fields full of colour and hedgerows.

People.

Of course people live in Dubai and huge numbers of tourists visit all year, but it's a city and I miss just randomly bumping into people I know and striking up conversations.

TV.

I miss crap game shows and daily news. We do get some UK TV and of course we get all the sport, including football and 3pm kick offs on a Saturday, but no Match of the Day. We get world news and keep up to date with social media, but there's never anything on the TV other than choosing which movie you want to watch.

Do you live abroad? Are there things you miss?

In South Africa we couldn't get PG Tips.
In Dubai we can't get Heinz Chicken soup.

I'm taking curly wurly's to a friend in South Africa and from South Africa, I'm taking cheese curls and mint crisps over to friends in Germany.






Saturday, 13 April 2019

One Daily Positive - Week 15 More rain.

Dentist, sweeping sand, more rain and a visit to the doctor. AGAIN.

Getting fed up now with the weather, although not looking forward to summer either. Also had enough of dentists, doctors and all these issues, so I got myself a plan to cheer me up.

Rejoined swimming pool and am forcing myself to go everyday. There will also be random bike rides to the coffee shop and pick up bits of shopping as well as dog walking every day. I'm going to pick something new to do each week and read more, instead of watching TV during the day (read 3 books this week)

97 Sunday Spent the morning after a dog walk in the garden, cycled to the local shop for a coffee, swept both the balconies, went for a swim. Had a BBQ for dinner and sat in the garden blogging and reading. Walked Bob again with Peter.

98 Monday Dentist early, stopped at Wafi Mall which is built like a pyramid, for a coffee, came home, sat on the sofa and read a book all day. Plans out the window having woken up to a thunderstorm and rain.

99 Tuesday Dog park, coffee and natter with human friends. Bathed Bob and then went for a swim and tidied up the house, finished another book and started the next one. Peter was off work with a heavy cold.

100 Wednesday Plans went to pot as we woke to rain, having to drag everything back inside, walked Bob and took myself off to the Marina Mall for a coffee, blogging, reading and a walk. Child 3 spent 4 hours airside in Abu Dhabi this morning on his way back to Australia. Peter was off work again, decided against the pub quiz as we're both a bit poorly. Spent the afternoon and evening watching movies.

101 Thursday Walked Bob, went to the Dr's for more blood tests, then onto the dermatologist to have a mole on my back removed that's changed in size and is catching on my bra strap. Walked Bob in the early evening. Popped in for a drink or three with one of Peter's colleagues at the Marina.

102 Friday Visited the outlet village, didn't buy anything other than a coffee. In the evening we went to the Irish Village for dinner and to see Boyzone. I've seen them before in 1995 and 1997. It was an open air venue and it rained.

103 Saturday A day of nothing, popped out for lunch. Peter flew out to Pakistan for the week. We had the biggest storm to date, thunder, lightening and torrential lane. I watched TV, did a few chores and had an early night.

Finished the week feeling just the same, so lethargic, body aches, chest pains and breathlessness, rain, more sand to sweep and more blood tests next week.

On the blog this week:

Using up all the household plastic.

Parenting highlights with the youngest child.

Wedding venues - All under one roof.

My top tips on Interior design to get your house Insta ready 


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Friday, 12 April 2019

My top tips on interior design for those perfect instagram posts for #myhousethismonth

Those of you who have arrived here based on the title alone, then carry on, you're already doing well and you know it.

The rest of you are just intrigued because you know me well enough to realise I'm not being serious.

But if you want some tips then here they are:
  • Ensure each room looks exactly like page xx of Next home or whatever store is in vogue and similar to everyone else.
  • Purchase display towels and make sure your family know they can't use them (actual conversation over heard in IKEA in Dubai) I know people who have 'display towels'
  • Spend an hour or two every day staging photos and tidying up for the perfect shot
  • Move that house plant around for it to appear in every photo
  • In all bathroom shots make sure a) yours looks like everyone else and b) that pot plant is placed near the loo
  • Make sure you only buy or just tag expensive wall paper/paint companies
  • Spend a fortune on buying the latest 'must have' cushion in the latest colour, for the photo
  • Don't up cycle anything, if you want shabby chic then buy it already done like that
  • Paint your walls grey and call it greige, same with all other colours, give them a made up name
  • Have a glass of wine, fresh flowers and freshly baked bread/cake in every shot also

Or you could do what I do.

Show the reality of your home, the mess, the work in progress, realise that the above is not true to life.

Here's how my house looked on Tuesday when I wrote this post and after a 2 hour tidy up. If you click on the #myhousethismonth hashtag on instagram you'll see how far off the mark I am with every being qualified to offer you a top tip on interior styling or design.

Cushions used to stop Bob the dog making himself comfy on the sofa.

We rarely draw the curtains and the bed only ever looks like the 2nd photo on the day I change the sheets, I made it especially for this post.

Entrance hall and dumping ground, used for everything that comes in and out of the house. Yes, the bike really does live there.

Kitchen is hit and miss, for this photo I just removed everything that shouldn't be there and dumped it on the stairs.


The lojunge at the end of every day and within half an hour of peter being up, easy to tidy, just plump up the cushions. The single chair also has to be dog proofed or he'll sleep on there at night and when we're out.


My lovely outdoor space on the balcony and the bedroom floor that everything gets dumped on when it rains, as keeps happening.


It takes around 45 minutes to sweep the sand up after a storm and everything gets set up, then I use the chairs to dry the washing on.



Then it rained the following morning and everything jsut got dumped in the dining room.

Is your home insta ready all the time? 
Mine is like anyone of the above photo's at anytime and I welcome anyone in at anytime also. 
I don't have time and energy to keep it looking perfect. 
It's a home, it gets lived in.


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