Early Morning Pondering 

It is day 5 of our Christmas break with 8 kids. 8 yup. We have 5 foster loves right now. 1,2 and 3 year old along with twin 10 year olds. The day has barely just begun. And I’m awake. More from a stuffy nose. And my brain losing the argument about needing to use the bathroom. Now I’m pondering this early morning. Cause I can’t sleep. Christmas is just in a few days. I’m pondering how we will effectively reach each child with the Christmas story. With the love that God sent down. What activities, stories and actions show Christ’s love to children who may not all know. 

I’m pondering all the things I have to do to make Christmas morning magical. I have 4 9/10 year olds who still believe in Santa. Chances are this is the last year. 

I’m pondering that this is the first year with so many foster kids. Which means there will be Mommas waking up Christmas morning without their babies to open gifts. That is sad to me. I wish I could hug them and tell them not to stop working toward getting their babies back. 

I’m pondering that we still have cookies to decorate and hair cuts to get and kids still need to shop and wrap gifts.  But I know it’s ok if they don’t happen. 

I’m pondering how much I still have to wrap even though some elves have helped me a lot! 

I’m pondering that there is no late Christmas Eve service. Even though we could drive 30 minutes to one. Our kids do best in familiar grounds. But it is something I grew up with and my kids loved. To be in the sacuary so early Christmas morning. It is one of the few days I love letting my kids stay up late for. 

I’m pondering I’ve got Christmas dinner to make! And excited that Jeremy and crew is coming. Everyone is. We don’t see him enough. 

I’m pondering Mary. And what she was thinking riding on a donkey pregnant. Her preparations where very different than mine. She had one baby to worry about. And was she worried? What did she bring? They were on a journey. A journey that we all take every year. A journey to that place where Christ becomes flesh. 

This early morning pondering lead me to get up and enjoy the stillness of morning with a cup of coffee. Soon feet and chatter will fill the house. And we will spend our day singing Christmas songs, decorating cookies, sending kiddos on visits with their families and cleaning for Christmas. 

It’s been a while since I’ve shared any pictures here. Enjoy! 


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Touched by a Child’s View of Parents Going on Date

Written back in May.

Last night my three little ones got to enjoy parents night out at our local Little Gym. Which meant that Dan and I got some alone time to spend talking over dinner at O’Charlies and walking the mall. These times are needed to just reconnect with the each other.

As I got the kids out of the car last night Lulu- our foster child- said to me “I’m calling the police on you two.” I was like “what??” “You two spend too much time alone. That can’t be right.” I smile and told her it’s a good thing that mommy and daddy spend time alone. Makes us a better mommy and daddy.

She thought of it for a minute and said “you’re a better mommy and daddy when you play games with us after dinner.” And I told her I didn’t disagree. She is still learning about marriage and about having a mommy and daddy. Her view is valid to me. We had been so busy with end of school and church activities that even though we have been with the kids a LOT these last couple of weeks- it wasn’t the same in her eyes as just us sitting down not running around. Kind of like a family date.

So we will continue to teach our kids that dates are still important and we will continue to teach our kids why we go on dates.  We also will be touched by her innocent views on what we are doing on our dates and what we do as a family.


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Advent Season and Foster Care

Perhaps the two have more in common than I have ever thought of.  Both are seasons of waiting.  Waiting for something to come.  Waiting for a change to ones life.  Waiting.  Waiting for parents to make changes so children can go home.  Waiting for trails to happen.  Waiting for paper work to happen.  Waiting for forever families.  Waiting that for some kids happens their whole childhood.fosteradvent

 

Waiting.  I have been a foster parent for about 8 years now.  We have fostered over 20 kids both short term and long term.  We understand waiting.  Waiting for find out the next move of DHR.  Waiting for the next court next.  Waiting each weeks for visits and the aftermath we have to slowly help our children over come.  Waiting through bouts of screaming and yelling.  Waiting for social workers and others to visit.  Waiting.

This is the first year we have a foster child who believes in Christmas and Santa.  And she is waiting for what is next in her life.  We are waiting.  We have no control over this.  At all.   DHR does not either.  We are her 6th home in 2 years between family and foster homes.  So I try to put myself in her eyes of what she may be waiting for.  And how this Advent season I can give her something else to wait for.

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On a side note: We believe in Santa.  He helps my kids believe in things that are not their.  When they are old enough to know the magic around Santa, they get to help.  Our kids are well balanced in if you ask them about the meaning of Christmas, they are going to tell the story of Jesus.  We also got an Elf a few years back…Popper… and while it is a pain to come up with ideas, this year it will be a key element for a certain little girl waiting.

Waiting.

Our little Lulu (Not her real name, just a nickname I gave her) asked me a few weeks ago if Santa would know where she was this year.  THIS YEAR. Because remember she has been moved so many times in her little 7 year old life.  I promised her that Santa knows these things and that I would be send a special letter making sure he knew for sure.  Well, when our Popper made his crash landing yesterday, I made sure there was a note that came with him that included names.  Her name was on it.  I put the names in order of how they came into our family, not oldest to youngest.  (These things are important sometimes.) Little Lulu gets up first to goto school.  As she read Popper’s note, she was in awe that her name was on it.  “Santa knows where I am.”

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Waiting.

We have an Advent calendar that builds the Manger Scene.  Last year my kids fought over who’s turn it was to put the little things up.  So this year I said youngest to oldest-and they know which day’s are theirs to Christmas Eve.  (unexpected math lesson there LOL)

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Waiting.

Little Lulu doesn’t understand Advent Season.  At church Sunday she noticed our advent wreath.  The kids explained to her why only one candle was lit.  Last night we did our first Advent Devotion.  I decided to follow Truth in The Tinsel for our Advent Devotions. Our Popper brings them their clues every morning.  Little Lulu asked what Advent Devotions were?  I told her we are getting our hearts ready  as we wait for the birth of Jesus.  I believe she gets this waiting.  As does any kid waiting for Christmas Morning. Or any foster kid waiting for the unknown steps in her little life.

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Waiting.

We are waiting.  Waiting on her next step in her future.  Waiting on the next morning to see what Popper does.  Waiting to see what craft our devotion will bring us.  Waiting to see who’s turn it is to put up the next item on the advent calendar.  Waiting on the next family event.  Waiting to celebrate the birth of Jesus!

Waiting.

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When Notice Comes Due: Grief and Loss with Foster Care

baby_FotorOctober 1st of last year, we took in a 4lb 2oz foster baby girl. She was the tiniest little thing. She was a preemie -about 6 weeks early. She grabbed our hearts and off we went to be her foster parents. Length of time unknown. Or as my daughter would say: till further notice.

For months we grew this baby girl. Night time we got up and feed her every 2 hours-then 3. Slowly she grew. Her plan for her future went in many different ways. That’s her story. But if nothing worked out in the end: we were prepared to adopted her-giving her the continued stability she already had with us. This sat in the back of our minds as everyone fell more in love with her.

Foster to adopt. The children we foster-if they come up for adoption we have the first choice of adopting if we we feel this is what is best for all in our family. This concept helps keep children in stable loving homes longer if possible. We have our three beautiful children through this way. While we don’t set out looking to adopt-God places them in our lives.

We have had foster children come into our home that didn’t stay. We have said goodbye to many. It doesn’t get easier.

This one was the hardest goodbye. The abruptness of it threw us. Yet we know in foster care, children can be moved just like that. We had little time to prepare ourselves. We found out at 2pm in court that the next morning our sweet foster baby was moving home, just about a year after moving in with us.

And just like that our family was broken. The kids cried. We cried. We held her, loved her, spoiled her, kissed her. We treasured every moment with her.

‘Till she was no longer ours.

My heart ached.

I was just sad.

I became numb.

It was like our world stopped.

Then I saw the words “God is Good all the time” and thought -yes. He is. Even in my sorrow I have to find goodness. I have to my strength in Him.

So we stayed busy. I read scripture and sang. I prayed-even when I had no words. God has a plan- I just have to wait and see. I called on trusted friends to help in my sadness.

Soon there was laughter. My kids were looking at pictures -smiling. We found that we had to trust that God was looking out for our sweet Squeakers, and that there were other children who needed us to help them along their way.

Foster Care comes with sorrow not only for the foster children, but for the foster families also.  When I teach perspective families, we teach them to treat the foster child like their own.  So many of us do.  And when they leave it is almost like a death.  We grieve.  Yet knowing these children are still out there.  Sometimes some foster families have the benefit to build relationship with the birth families-we did not have that benefit in terms of reunification. Grief and loss with foster care comes in many different forms and knowing that they are there will help foster families understand what it going on after the loss of a foster child.

God is Good all the time.  Two weeks later we had a vacation planned.   A Disney Cruise.  We as a family needed that time to be away to heal, to relax, to unwind.  It was just the timing.  And as a family we would every now and then bring up our Squeakers, and a tear would flow.  It is part of the healing process.

Do I wish she would just come back.  Of course.  Do I pray that her family situation will be stable and healthy for her.  Yes.  Do we continue on the road with foster care? Absolutely.  Our journey is already continuing.


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Homeschooling with a Preemie Baby and Grand Baby

As some have pointed out-I have not blogged much lately.  It is not cause I don’t want to-or don’t have any grand ideas or cleaver post titles.  Those are coming to me at 1 or 2 am in the morning while I am feeding our now 10 week old sweet foster baby girl.

Life in our house changes all the time.  With one call we can have a little 4lb 3oz baby girl enter into our lives like that.  We can go from having 6 kids living here to 3 in one day cause my oldest son and his new little family are having major life changing issues.  God has shown us to be flexible and trust Him-He will take care of us.

For the past 10 weeks it has been 4 kids in the house with our new littlest sweet preemie baby.   She turned everything upside down, and her case continues to surprise us.  She is ours for now-all her cuteness and squeaks.  And we are learning to adjust and homeschool with a baby in the house.  The first two weeks she came we did not do a full homeschooling schedule.  Robby our oldest, he continued with what I assigned him, but the younger ones, they did various things but not a full schedule.  Thankful for computers, iPads and movies.  I had to get adjusted to having the new baby, and she was eating about every 2-3 hours.

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We just went through adjusting to homeschooling when my daughter in law moved in and we had a new baby in the house last spring when my sweet perfect grand-daughter Haddie was born!  She now spends at least 2-3 days with us and is just one of my kids when here.  But since she holds the title of grand baby she gets spoiled.  Yep- started the grand ma lollipop of the month club!  (note lollipop did not last long in her mouth-she didn’t know what to do with it)

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Little Squeakers (our baby’s nickname) is on about a 4 hour schedule.  So we can get most of our school work done in the morning now.  By the time we are done Autumn  will show up with Haddie for the day.  My kids are very much baby kids and want to hold and play with the babies!

Little Squeakers we did not let them hold her till about 4 weeks ago.  She was 6 weeks or so early and we wanted her to get a little bigger first.  She really spent the first 3-4 weeks in our room. We are blessed that Robby who is 12 now, took the Red Cross Babysitting training class this last summer and is a trained babysitter now.  He does well with all the kids!

So as we get ready for Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas, our homeschooling book learning will come to a rest for a while.  But life learning continues and that is the greatest learning of all.

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Robby said to me the other day, holding Haddie- “Mom, I am going to be a great dad cause I have a great dad and I know how to take care of babies from him.”  And that melted my heart because no book learning is going to teach my boys how to be a great dad but the example of a great dad.  And learning how to change diapers.

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Until Further Notice: A Child’s View on Foster Care

foster careWe have an ever-changing family.  Every year it seems we are different in number of children we have living at home.  Between our children, granddaughter and foster children, people never know how many to expect.  Saying we have 6 kids doesn’t bother us.  Somedays we are down to only 3 in the home.  That seems way too easy!

We are a foster family.

We are an adoptive family.

We are God’s family.

This is our family.

We have been fostering over 7 years, over 20 kids in and out.  Some for just a few hours, some for over a year.  Some babies, some teens, some became our forever children.

For the last two years we have done respite care.  We have done longer foster care, but we were dealing with our older son and his new little family.  They needed more of our attention.  But recently we have been placed with a small little preemie baby girl.

It is amazing how when you are placed with a foster child, one of the first questions people ask is “how long are you going to keep them?”  I think this comes from the fact that we had done respite and we knew how long.  I always tell people till the family figures things out.

We do foster care to provide a safe loving home while families figure out what they need to figure out. Our job is to love the children and care for them.  In this case, care for baby girl.  My kids have many questions.  It is normal.  We talk freely with our kids and they know that baby girl is with us till her family is ready to care for her.  We do not know how long.

So people ask our kids how long are the kids going to be here.  The best line that our little girl (7) gives them.  “Till Further Notice.”

The first time I heard her say that-I though perfect.  She understands this.  We were her third placement.  We are now her final notice because we adopted her.  But she understands that many kids do get to go back with their family.  We have seen it happen.  And we are happy and thrilled.  My kids of course want to have more children in our family (like there is not enough!  LOL)

So how long will we have baby girl?

Until further notice as my kids say.  And that is how foster care works. Till then we will love and take care of our newest bundle of joy.  Along with the lack of sleep, bottles that need washing and poopy diapers (no one said it was easy!)


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10 Creative Toys that Every Foster Home Needs

We have had children in and out of our house.  Through these children I have notice that there have been some toys that have with stood the test of children who need an outlet for creative play.  Plus these toys have also been my sons favorite toys and continue to be my children’s favorite toys.

I feel that toys should be an outlet for children to be creative with.  To do build, create, destroy, imagine, in ways that some kids don’t ever get to.   Many times foster children don’t know how to play.  It takes them time to feel safe or that they are even allowed to play.  Some may just want to throw.  Foster Mom’s gain a sense what each child needs.

Many times foster homes are given hand me downs, broken toys, toys that don’t have all the pieces.  But if you ever wanted to do something nice, buy one of these toys (and a plastic bin to store them in) and donate them to a foster family.  A child will thank you!  Here are 10 toys that every foster home needs.

  • Little People– They are good for toddlers to hold on too, and older ones to create little worlds with.  Watching the foster children while playing with the different people can sometimes help you understand what is going on in their head.  We have everything from Princess to the airport.  
  • Wooden Blocks-These are just great for everything.  Kids will use them alone or with other toys.  BUT be warned-if you have an angry child, use foam blocks.
  • Baby Dolls-Kids love to play house-especially with baby dolls.  We use to have all the extra’s but my little ones are hard on them.  But the dolls, Cabbage Patch Dolls, have with stood it all.
  • Trains – Kids love trains!  Especially little boys! Moving them, building them, the sound of them.  We have wooden trains, plastic trains, and Geo Track set.
  • Legos– (I Put this at 5 -think of the song 12 days of Christmas… now “5000 pieces of Legooooos”!! )  Ok Duplo, Legos- are these not the best toys in the world???  I had a little 4 year old high need foster girl-but she would sit and build with legos for hours!
  • Mr. Potato Head-Kids need permission sometimes to be silly.  And Mr.  Potato Head gives them permission to do that!
  • Lincoln Logs – Something about building your own house.  Fitting pieces together.  Creating something different.
  • Tupperware Shape O Ball Toy – This is the best toy ever!  Good for babies to hold and shake.  Toddlers figure out where the shapes go.  They roll it and have fun emptying it.  Even kids enjoy this toy.  Some foster children miss out of these basic learning skills, so this toy is good without seeming to “baby.”
  • Tinker Toys – Again-it allow children permission to create and be silly.  No rules, just have fun!
  • Art Easel – ours has a chalk board on one side and a white board on the other.  Kids can draw with chalk or water with paint brushes.  White board is good for drawing with markers. (maker sure they are dry ease ones!:)) tape up paper to make an art creation!  The Art Easel is great for the counselors that come to our house, they have kids draw pictures on it.

 

 

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10 Things I Wish People Understood About Our Adoptions

10. These are our children, regardless of skin color or hair.  We have two biracial children.  They are ours.  No I did not give birth to them, I adopted them to give them a loving home.

9. We did not steal them from their parents. We worked with DHR and their mom to make every effort to get them back home.  Doing that time we took care of them.  When the situation changed is when we started looking at adopting.  We did not steal or kidnap them, neither not DHR.  (I have had some people accuse me of this)

8.They are US grown.  My favorite line when Isaiah was 2, “Did you get him from Columbia?” No he is US grown.  All my kids are born in US, 3 in Alabama.  We worked with foster care in our county.

7.We do not look to be Super Heroes because we adopted. We did not start fostering to be super heroes or super parents.  Nor did we want people to go-look at them, how wonderful are the, we could NEVER do that.  We did it because we could, because we wanted to make a difference and we had extra space.

6.We did foster them first with the goal to reunite them with their family. Our first goal in fostering is always to reunite families.  This is not always the case.  Sometimes it is.  With our kids it was not-but we worked hard to keep the sibling family together.  We got the baby of the group and I worked with his mom every week to let him know how he was doing.

5. Our kids have many siblings, and the know and love them all in special ways. Sometimes our kids don’t know how many siblings they have.  They will tell people, I have a baby brother-people look at me and I smile “adopted into another family.”  We work hard so they have communication with those siblings.  Some easier than others.

4. There is no difference in our birth child and our adopted children-other than their birth stories.  Seems that some people think that when our adopted children turn 18, then we are done with them.  Wrong, they are our children.  Their birth mom gave up her rights to be their mom-and so we are their parents.  Forever.  That is what adoption is-forever.  Yes, we do use the word adoption-we have two biracial children-we celebrate adoption.

3. We do not do this for money. Our goal is not to get as many kids adopted to make money off of them. Some people seem to collect children for money, giving other adopted parents a bad rep-that we are in it for the money.  There is a some money in adopting special needs children.

2. We are one family-our family.  We are the Gehring’s-one family serving and loving God.  Some people still separate us-our adopted kids and Robby.  We are one family and I have paper work to prove this.

1. We love our kids with all our heart.  My kids are amazing and we love them with all our heart.  Some ask can you love an adopted kid as much as your birth child?  Well, mess with my kids and lets find out.

 


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Our Family Rules

This summer while our oldest had run away my husband and I finally nailed down some family rules on paper.  We felt that they worked for all ages and that they were simple enough to understand.  It was some of the good that came from a hard time in our family.  Though we now have the rules, we all still struggle with the  consequences of those rules, especially the kids!

Family Rules

I have had many people ask me for a copy so I am sharing our list with you.  I do not remember where we got these from.  I researched a few different web sites, tweaked and simplified for us. (So if you know of any of those websites let me know cause when I did this I did it for our family at the time)

Our Family Rules are:

  1. Treat yourself and others with respect: the Golden Rule applied first and foremost in our family.  No put downs, hitting, kicking, pinching,  or name-calling.  This applies to what you say to others and what you say to yourself in the mirror.  Use manners and say please, thank you, sorry, you’re welcome, and excuse me.
  2. Be honest and trustworthy: integrity is valued in our family.  Tell the truth, don’t omit details to attempt to avoid consequences, mean what you say and say what you mean, and follow through with promises.
  3. Be responsible and accountable: When you make a mistake, own up, apologize and ask how you can make it better.  Then take action to correct your mistake and improve upon the situation, ask a parent.
  4. Clean up your own mess: If you take it out, put it back.
  5. Show respect for people’s property: Knock before entering, ask permission before you use something, put it back better than you found it.  If you break it, rip it, or mess it up, replace it or fix it.
  6. Do not argue or talk back to your parents in a disrespectful way:Voice your opinion but respect the final decision made by your parents who make decisions based on what is best for the family, you and your well-being.
  7. Ask permission before you go out somewhere: First, ask your parents if your can go.  Be sure to tell parents or whoever is in charge who you will be with, where you are going, how you can be contacted, and when you will be home.  Then do what you said you should do.  If plans changed, call and let someone know.
  8. Do what Mom and Dad ask you to do first time they request it.  Stalling, ignoring, tantruming, complaining, rolling eyes and grunting are unacceptable responses. (this shows respect when you do it the first time.)
  9. Show gratitude: We are a blessed family.  Take time each day to say thank you for what you have, the people in your life, and the opportunities provided to you.
  10. Actively seek out ways to be kind and helpful to others: You do not need to wait for be invited to help.  We live in a home together, therefore we all need to pitch in!  We are all encouraged to provided unprompted, sincere praise for someone else or a show of affection to ensure that every family member feels valued and loved.

We of course have other house rules such as no eating other than on the tile….while verbal house rules are good-we find that some of our kids are black and white and need things written down.  And even written down, they still can’t understand them.  My younger ones are learning.  The biggest rules we deal with is 2, 7, and 8.  From the oldest to the youngest they struggle with these, and many times they don’t see them as important.  Some of my kids can look at you and lie right at your eyes like it is an every day event.  How do you punish for that?  And is their background (remember 3 are adopted) an issue in some of following the rules?

We struggle with the consequences, oh we have punishments, like time out, spankings or something is taken away.  They get mad…but instead of just sitting quietly for their time out or time away, they make noise or scheme….making their punishment longer.  Sometimes my little kids will sit in a time out 5 times their normal length.  I am finding that doing other things, such as extra cleaning is working better for some.  Still a learning process.

These family rules at least give us guide lines to help us along the way.  They are not perfect, like any family is not perfect, but parents we all need some place to start or our kids will think they are in charge.

I would love to hear your family rules and any list of consequences you may have!

 


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School Lunches: When a Child is Hungry {part1of3}

There is much talk about public school lunches.  I am the first to be all excited about more fruits and vegetables.  And for food that is identifiable.  But to tell a hungry child they may not eat any more.  Regardless how young they are or how old.  Some need more to eat for sports and some of these kids are just hungry.

There are hungry children.

I was naive to this.

One of those children was one of mine.

Now, please understand money is not an issue for us.  But our foster children are eligible for the free lunch program and we take advantage of that when we need to.    I had a most sweet little third grader.  Everyday, he ate at home breakfast, snack after school, and dinner.  We had dessert now and then and extra.  We drank water most of the time.  He wasn’t a big veggie eater because his family never could afford them .

It was a few weeks into school I was there visiting him doing his lunch time.  He ate all his lunch.  Then very quietly he asked “do you have any money?”  I said “no I didn’t have any on me today.”  I asked if he was still hungry?  He said no.  Then the little girl next to him said “He is always hungry after lunch.  He just never wanted to tell you.  I told him to tell you.”  Mad at myself for never thinking he couldn’t have been hungry, and sad that he was content to be hungry and not ever telling me- I looked at him and said I would fix this.

I went home and we opened both boys an account.  Our little girl already had one (we paid for her lunches or I packed them).  That way, he could go get seconds or what ever he wanted when he was hungry.  The 5-year-old never used his, but on Friday for ice cream-but he messed with his food more than eating.

The point is we the parents should be the ones in charge of deciding when and how much our children should eat.  I realize that not all parents are going to do that.  But maybe educating the parents?  But when the government steps in to the schools to tell our children “how much” the may eat now, what is next?

What if even with extra money in an account-today my child could not get seconds if he was still hungry? What if people told him, as small and skinny as he was, you ate enough calories and you will have to be happy and content-even with your tummy growling-what if that was true……..

My foster son opened my eyes to children who are hungry and don’t say anything. Imagine other children who are hungry.  They are going to get a set amount of food.  Maybe they don’t like the food served that day, so they don’t eat much at all.     Those children go home hungry. Many don’t get another meal till the next day.

A child is hungry and all the healthy food in the world is not going to fix that. 

Tomorrow I am looking at School Lunches-what we could learn from Disney, and the third part is School Lunches-a home perspective.

 

 


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