December 11, 2015

I Don't Deserve a Pay Raise...

I'm about to stir the pot, y'all.  This title alone probably got some blood boiling.  Just hang with me, please.  I am a teacher (surprise!).  I teach Kindergarten in Oklahoma.  And I don't think I deserve a pay raise.   Respect, I deserve.  More pay...I want.  There's a difference.  However, I think that teachers must get a pay raise.  Not because WE deserve it, but because our students do.  Let me tell you why it's about the students, and not about me and my wallet. 

Teacher pay is a hot-button issue in Oklahoma right now.  A school district in my state recently posted a video to YouTube that was inspiring, uplifting, and heartwarming.  It addressed many challenges faced by teachers in our state, but it also highlighted reasons why we love what we do.  I cried at the 8:00 mark. One local news station wrote up a story on the video and it began with this quote, "Teachers in Moore are taking to social media with a video they say they hope earns them respect. They also say they hope it gets them the paycheck they deserve." 

Cue all the naysayers that ever were.  

"You knew what you were getting into when you became a teacher."

Let's just start with that first argument.  Yes! You are correct!  I did know what I was getting into when I became a teacher.  You know that saying, "Teachers are in it for the outcome, not the income?"  Well, it's true, for almost all of us.

"Well, you do only work for nine months of the year."  

If you want to start a fight with an educator or lose them forever as a friend, comment about how nice it must be to have summers off.  While it is true we get some down time to spend with our kids (if we have them), or recover mentally from the grueling mental and emotional toll the year takes on us, we spend much of our summers preparing for the upcoming school year!  We attend professional development seminars, book studies, and spend countless hours in our classrooms.  We cut laminate at home, write lesson plans, study material and blogs related to our subject/grade level, craft projects for our classrooms, and put together student notebooks.  Also, as far as paycheck goes, our contract is a ten month contract that is split over a twelve month period. 

"It's not like you're starving." 

For me, this is also true.  However, I am blessed with a husband who works very hard and supplements my income.  I also have two side jobs.  I have a photography business with my sister and I have a Teachers Pay Teachers store.  So that helps some as well.  

"If you want more pay, find another job."

This right here, folks.  This is the winner.  FIND ANOTHER JOB.  Well, guess what?  That is exactly what teachers are doing.  The State of Oklahoma is in a teacher shortage crisis.  Young, brilliant people are choosing other careers instead of teaching based on pay alone.  Don't we want our best and brightest educating our youth? Then we need the pay to draw them in.

Those who do choose to go into the education field often take jobs in neighboring states, where they can make more money.  At the same time, as pressures and frustrations in our field rise, veteran teachers are leaving the profession to pursue other careers, or to retire.  This left our schools with over 1,000 vacancies at the beginning of August this year, and not enough teachers to fill them.  

I want to add that the numbers in this image are a bit skewed.  I am going to add an image of Oklahoma's current Teacher Pay Salary Schedule for perspective.

As a result of those 1,000 vacancies, a record number of emergency and alternative certificates have been issued.  In August of this year, the total number issued was 842.  This surpasses the PAST FOUR YEARS COMBINED at 825.  If you aren't aware, an alternative certificate means that anyone with a bachelor's degree (in any field) who passes a background check can become a teacher.  These candidates are required to take some courses during the year, but not near the amount of training that certified teachers who received a bachelors in an education field of study.  

Now, I personally know some fantastic emergency & alternatively certified teachers.  They are fantastic at what they do because they have given their heart to the profession and have had great mentors to guide them.  On the flip side, I have seen the effects of disastrous emergency & alternative certificates.  People who think that teaching will be "fun," and don't realize what a true honor, challenge, and responsibility it is to educate our youth.  I remember reading in a book (forgive me that I can't recall which one) that everyone thinks they can be an educator because they went to school.  At the same time, we have all been to the doctor, but we cannot all be physicians. This is where education gets discredited.

However, these problems can be fixed.  Teacher pay raises can increase the number of professionals entering the field.  It can draw in the best and brightest students to educate our children.  A pay raise for teachers would also keep our teachers in Oklahoma from leaving for other surrounding states and other professions.  Now, I am not a politician.  I don't have a solution for HOW to pay teachers more money.  There are several theories on what would work best. The video link above mentions some, including an oil tax or increase in sales tax. That's why they pay the politicians the big bucks.  TO FIND A WAY.

I don't deserve a pay raise.  I am so in love with teaching, I can't imagine that I would ever leave.  I love my students, I love the light bulb moments, the "ah-ha's", the hugs, and the excitement.  I wouldn't be happy anywhere else.  I am in it for the outcome.  I don't deserve a pay raise.  However, I believe that my students deserve the BEST teachers out there.  Our future students deserve the best and brightest that our state has to offer.  So, Oklahoma, do you think that our students deserve a teacher pay raise?  

November 10, 2015

10 on 10

Hey guys!  This month I'm linking up with Rachael over at The Classroom Game Nook for a fun linky that gives you a peek into my personal life.

10 on 10 means ten pictures on the tenth of each month. Here is my November 10 on 10!

My first three pictures are of the time I spent this year at my alma mater's Homecoming celebration.  Oklahoma State endured an unthinkable tragedy that day during the parade, and I am so thankful that my family and I did not attend.  We spent some time wearing smiles for my sweet baby girl, who was SO excited to be attending her first game (that she could remember), but our hearts were absolutely broken.  

Three generations of cowgirls!

MG loves the orange fountain!

MG and Auntie Em!

Halloween is of course, a holiday the littles look forward to every year.  I tend to just endure.  Haha! Although, I do love sneaking some Reese's from their buckets!  
TD is dressed as "Zuma" from Paw Patrol and MG is a "feather queen" (her words), aka, "masquerade girl."  Thanks to Uncle Vik and Aunt Jenn Jenn for bringing her the costume pieces from New Orleans so I didn't have to come up with anything!

Hubster and I dressed for a grown-up party, as Hunter and Doe. Although my dear BIL teased that I looked more like a kangaroo. You can tell by hubby's costume just how much he loves to dress up. :)

 Tomorrow is Veteran's Day, so I couldn't post this 10 on 10 without mentioning my grandparents.  My dad's parents were both World War II veterans, and I am so proud of the legacy they leave.  I miss them every day.  Gramps fought on Saipan and Memere was in the Canadian Air Force before moving to Oklahoma and meeting Gramps.  

My paternal grandfather, Loren, pictured left.

My maternal grandmother, Denise, pictured right.

 Today was MG's Veterans Day Program at school, and she was so proud to have her daddy and Gramps in attendance!

My last picture is not a great shot, but it means SO much to me.  This month I created and published my first large unit to sell on Teachers Pay Teachers.  I created it first and foremost to use with my students, and we have been doing the activities in my Oklahoma unit over the past week.  I am so happy to see them excited about what they are learning!  It feels like such an accomplishment to create the materials for my students' learning myself! :)

There you have it!  Thanks again, Rachael!  I hope to link up again next month! You can check Rachael out over at The Classroom Game Nook!

October 20, 2015

My Happy Little Classroom: A Tour

It's August and my classroom just got a "mini makeover" of sorts. I posted this same post last October, and the pictures were...scary.  I loved my little classroom, but I didn't realize how haphazard certain areas were looking!  So this summer (the first time I had time), I really did some overhaul and took new pictures.  I am not going to post the before/after side by sides because, well, it just isn't that big of a deal.  Let me just say that my pictures aren't going to rival some classrooms I've seen on Pinterest.  I'm okay with that.  I like my classroom a lot.  In fact, I happen to love it.  I love the bright colors, and the fact that it didn't all come straight from a store.  I love that when I look around the room, it feels like a place my students and I have built together.  That makes me happy!  It's not fancy, but it's ours.  We think it's pretty great!

Right inside my door sits my student folder basket where students place their take-home folders each morning so that I can check them for notes.   Also, my dismissal clip chart, my line order and student job chart (currently missing since it's summer, and the clips are hanging out on the dismissal chart), some fun good-bye's for dismissal, transition task cards from Miss Kindergarten Love, and our library and lunch card basket.  The black shelf underneath is where I have students place lunch boxes and I put snacks that students bring for the day.

Right next to that are our box cubbies and our Rainbow Word bulletin board.  My Write the Room station basket and clipboards for the stations sit on top.  To the left is my rolling cart that holds our BUILD math stations.

On the other side of the doorway are our hallway chants, emergency procedures (on bulletin board), Literacy Station and BUILD Math Station rotation pocket chart, our early finisher tubs, also from Miss Kindergarten.  The cubbies underneath hold our writing journals, math journals, and take-home folders during the day.  The shelves to the right hold all our math manipulative tubs, puzzles, and games. You can spot our handy glue sponges stacked up high.  We love those things!

Straight in from the door is our classroom carpet area.  Our rules and our carpet listening expectations hang next to my teacher chair.  I use my teacher cart to store ALL THE THINGS.  We start each day with morning meeting at the carpet and we also gather here for stories, songs, math lessons, and many other games and activities.  I love carpet time!  At the back of our carpet, the orange table you see is our VIP table. The stadium shelf holds our theme books for the next week or two, and our block center drawers are also located here.  

I do my Word Wall a little differently than most.  I modeled it after No More Letter of the Week.  I DO teach Letter of the Week, because we use Saxon Phonics and it introduces a letter a week.  I should say that even though I do Letter of the Week, we are, of course, doing TONS of whole language activities all the time.  I have one student per letter who is the "Letter Expert."  They teach us about that letter and bring something from home that starts with the letter.  The Kinders LOVE this!

Our Writing Station is next to our carpet area, and storage drawers help keep papers organized.   My little orange pocket chart holds cards for different activities, such as Deedee Wills' Writing Station activities, which I LOVE.     

This awesome loft was built for me by an AMAZING dad of a former student who I am forever grateful for.  It freed up so much room in my classroom!  It houses my Reading Station.  Underneath is my Dramatic Play Station.

Here is our calendar wall where we gather for calendar and other SmartBoard activities. Pardon that beautiful power strip and the darkness of this photo.  The long table to the left is my "iPad" center and I also use it to teach when I use my iPad document camera.

I got rid of my teacher desk the first day I moved into this building.  I use my teacher table for my desk.  How often are we really sitting in Kindergarten anyway?  I just did these awesomely organized colored drawers using a little spray paint and scrapbook paper and it has made me so much happier!

And here are some cabinets and my Paint Station and my microwave.  On top of that counter are my blue tubs where I organize daily plans and work.   You can also see my clip chart.  GASP! I know, a clip chart.  Rest assured, I use it to build up and not to break down! It works for me!  

To the left of all this is my sink, my bathroom, and my Fine Motor station (sand table).  I use the small student desks for play dough, or if needed, extra space during literacy stations. 

So that's that!  If you stayed with me through all that rambling, you deserve a gold star.  If you have any questions, or there was something you wanted to see but didn't, or you need a close-up, just leave me a comment!   

October 14, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me! Here's a Gift for YOU!

Hey y'all! It's my birthday and that makes me feel like giving!

I LOVE spending my birthday with my Kinders at school.  It's one of my favorite days of the year.  This year we celebrated with donuts!  I also wanted to do something a little bit different, because I turned the big 3-0 today.  So last night I came up with this activity to do today where we broke down my age!

It was so fun to see how old they thought I was!  You might want to make sure to remind them to make SMALL tally marks though.  Next, we flipped the paper over and they wrote what they wished they could gift me for my birthday.  This was the sweetest!  My plan is to make a class book and keep it forever and ever, because I am a crazy hoarder when it comes to sweet mementos from students!


If you are a Miss, a Ms., or a Mr. do not fret!  I included pages with your title and pronouns as well. :)  Click the picture below to download and I hope you enjoy! Have the happiest of birthdays on your day!  How do you celebrate with your class?

October 3, 2015

Happy October FREEBIE!

Because it's my birthday month and because I love ya, I am posting a freebie!  I just finished a new file yesterday for my store, and this freebie is from that file.  I hope that you find it useful in your classroom! Click the image below to download.  Happy fall!

September 26, 2015

What's In My Teaching Bag?

Linking up with some fellow bloggers for some get-to-know-you fun! I've spilled out my teacher bag so you can see what's inside!  Take a look!

  1. MacBook Pro leopard print sleeve.  This girl LOVES all things leopard!
  2. Erin Condren Life Planner and Teacher Lesson Planner.  I am super organized and cannot live without planners!  My favorite part about these planners are the pretty designs, functionality, and the stickers!!! I love stickers!
  3. Senegence catalog.  My colleague sells it and just had a party at school.  I've been carrying around the catalog ever since.  I am guilty of leaving things in my bag for loooong periods of time. Eek! Under that catalog are various papers and notes that aren't important and can probably be trashed.
  4. Professional Development certificate from our training earlier this week.  It was titled "Teaching at the Speed of Creativity," and focused on the use of technology in the classroom and student driven projects.  
  5. Perfect Fit protein powder, which is my favorite healthy, quick,  small or post-workout meal.  It's great for school because I usually don't have time to eat lunch this time of year! 
  6. A Littlest Pet Shop toy that my precious daughter stashed in my bag.
  7. Kleenex, for those pesky seasonal allergies.
  8. Pens, although not my preferred flair pens!
  9. Not pictured, but also usually found in my bag are various receipts, my cell phone, my teacher iPad, sunglasses, my teacher badge, lipgloss, and my wallet!
What do you keep in your teaching bag?

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September 21, 2015

5 Tips for Stress-Free Literacy Stations

1.  Set clear and explicit expectations for students.  

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is the most important part of literacy stations!  I always tell my students that literacy stations are "working stations" and that we don't play during literacy stations.  I make sure they know that they will have fun, but they have to be working the whole time. We also talk about using "secret telling" voices and staying in our station.  A great book to read for voice levels is the book "Decibella and Her 6-Inch Voice," by Julia Cook.  I love all of Julia's books!

2.  Keep student work groups small.

I put two students in a group, because I have found that when students are grouped with more than one other person, they are much more apt to play, argue, and be noisy.  In other words, it is an absolute circus! I create my groups with one high and one low student, that way they can help one another.  If I have an odd number of students, like I do this year, I will have one group with three.

3.  Monitor stations for 2-3 weeks before starting reading groups, to make sure students are meeting expectations.

Even when they seem like they might have it down, give it a little longer.  Just like other procedures, the more time you spend making sure your students have it down pat, the smoother your classroom will run.  "I wish I had only spent a week setting up my station procedures," said NO TEACHER EVER! ;)

4.  Have a plan for what students will do when they finish their work.

This might include early finisher tubs, book tubs (like what you might use in Daily 5), journaling, or other activity.  In my room I have used book tubs in the past.  While it worked okay, students were bored quickly.  This year I am trying two different methods.  In our district, we are fortunate enough to have iPads in our classroom.  I have created an abcmouse.com account (free for teachers!), and profiles for each student.  When my students finish their station work, they may work only in the ABC Mouse app under their profile.  I am also going to try using an All Done Station that I purchased from Miss Kindergarten. I can't wait to try it out!

5.  Have a behavior management system in place.

I think it is a great idea to have a separate behavior management system just for literacy stations.  For instance, in my classroom, I use a clip chart, but I also have a system in place that is separate from the clip chart for literacy stations.  For stations, I use a punch card that I created.  Students get their cards punched at the end of stations when I check their work.  They do not get cards punched if they were too loud, were out of their station, or were playing instead of working.  This system has worked WONDERS for me!  When they get 10 punches, they get a piece of candy, and 20 punches is a trip to treasure box.  Again, this is totally separate from my regular behavior management system.  Students are motivated to do high quality work and to work quietly! It doesn't get any better than that!

September 6, 2015

Wobble, Baby!

If you teach early childhood like I do, you are most likely seeing a push-down of curriculum and pressure for more rigor, which equates to more seat work for little ones.  I try to incorporate as many brain breaks and movement opportunities into my day as possible, but when I heard about Wobble Chairs, I knew I had to find a way to get some for my Kinder darlings.

If you haven't heard about Wobble Chairs, they are a plastic stool with a rounded base that allows students to rock and turn while staying seated.  It also helps promote proper posture in young children.  Much like the yoga ball chair movement, but I preferred the stool to balls rolling all over my classroom.  Call me crazy.

So, last spring I wrote a Donors Choose project for a classroom set of 24 Wobble Chairs.  If you haven't done a Donors Choose yet, you should! So easy to complete and I have had both of my projects funded quickly.  I wrote this project pretty late in the year, and even though it was funded within a week or two (thanks the support of my awesome family, classroom parents, and other donors), the products did not ship until the start of this school year.

Our chairs arrived to my site on a Friday, so I spent the weekend unpacking.  They were so easy to assemble!  They come shipped in a flat box, and are in three parts.  The top and the base snap onto the "stem," and ta-da! They are ready to go!

I grouped them at tables by color, because I tend to be super obsessive compulsive organized, and anxiously awaited the arrival of Monday morning! 

Monday arrived and "Katy, bar the door!" The students were just as excited as I was! There were many unforeseen hiccups, and I found myself saying, "Okay, new rule!" about every 5 minutes.  I run a pretty tight classroom, and I didn't like not knowing what to expect with the chairs.  So here are some things I wish I had known about the Wobble Chairs before my students arrived:
  • Students will try to spin on the chairs, both on their bottoms and laying on their stomachs.
  • Students will try to stick their feet out and balance on the chairs (almost like a reverse plank).
  • Students will want to rest their feet on the plastic base, instead of the floor.
  • Students will "fake" that the chairs are "too wobbly" to stay on.
It took me all of twenty minutes to figure out about every ground rule that needed to be established.  Luckily, that is about the time it takes from the time students arrive to the time we meet for morning meeting.  During morning meeting, we established these rules for the Wobble Chairs:
  1. Bottoms on the chairs at all times.
  2. Feet on the floor.
  3. You may rock on the chairs, and you may twist, but no spinning.
  4. If you can't handle the Wobble Chairs, you get to sit in a regular chair. 
I made sure to keep several "regular chairs" on hand in my room, just in case.  So far, no one has had to move to a regular chair, although it has been threatened at least twice ten times.

I've had the Wobble Chairs in my classroom for a week, and I am already seeing the benefits! I am so excited to see what the year brings.  My students are SO much more focused during long periods of seat work, because they can move.  It's hard to tell movement from a picture, but if you look closely below, you can see some rocking and leaning.

Of course, I still break up seat work with brain breaks, but I have noticed such an improvement in behavior and focus during these times.  Once the "newness" wore off the chairs, they have been such a great addition to our classroom!  I will definitely be doing a follow-up post, but for now, I am in love with wobbling! :)  And, yes, I have tried them out myself! Wobble, baby!

Why I Teach Kinder

Most of the time when people ask me what my profession is, they respond to my "Kindergarten Teacher" answer the same way:  "God bless you!" "How do you do it?"  And I can't blame them, because I respond the same way when others tell me they teach Middle School.  Teachers are a special breed, and we are definitely called to our area of expertise by a higher power.

I love my job.  LOVE my job.  There are days when I come home frustrated and angry and threaten to find something else to do, but that feeling is gone in about an hour.  My frustrations are never because of a student.  Every part of my being feels an enormous sense of responsibility, pride in, and love for every one of my students.  I'm also very seldom frustrated with a parent.  Most of my qualms, most of what makes me feel disheartened, is what education is becoming.  How educators are neither trusted nor valued by our government and, as a result, or society as a whole.  But in spite of all that, I come back every day with a smile on my face.  I will continue to come back because I was born to spend the day saying "sit on your bottom" a hundred thousand times.  I was called to sing silly songs and play with my students.  I have learned that you can be firm in your discipline and still pour your heart into those precious beings.  

I teach K because I may be the only person who hugs a particular child that day.  I teach K because it's pretty awesome having a throng of little people tell you that you are beautiful and nice and the best teacher they've ever had and you color so pretty (all in one breath).  I teach K because I care about the foundation of education.  I care about social skills and manners and cutting and gluing and coloring and skipping.  I teach K because I want to foster independence in those kids whose parents do everything for them and for those whose parents have told them "you can't."  THEY CAN!  I teach K because there is nothing more fulfilling than hearing a child say "I love school!" or "I did it!!!" I teach K because I believe in our future and I believe that our students can have a quality education, in spite of what legislators are doing to ensure otherwise. 

My students know that it's okay to be angry, but it's not okay to hit.  They know that it's okay to be frustrated, but it's not okay to quit.  They know that they are safe when I am near.  They know that they are in charge of their own bodies, lives, and choices.  They know that there is more to life than a number on a page or a statistic in a study.  They know what good readers do, what good writers do, what good mathematicians do.  They know that play is important.  They know that school is fun.  

I'm not perfect, and neither are they.  We laugh together, we talk together, we grow together.  We make mistakes and we learn how to correct them.  And every year, when May rolls around, it is so bittersweet.  I love seeing how much they have grown, how far they have come.  I love that I will get a month or two to relax a little and spend time with my kids. But I'm always sad, too.  I'm sad that they won't be in my care everyday.  I'm sad that they will love another teacher, maybe even more than me.  Because my students are my children for a year.  It's so hard to let go.  At the same time, I know they will go on to greater things than simplistic Kindergarten.   Many years from now they may not even remember my name, but they will all have a very special place in my heart. 

Those precious little hands and hearts and minds.  That is why I teach. 

July 27, 2015

Keep Calm and Clip Chart On? {FREEBIE}

Hey y'all!  Welcome to my blog!  First, thanks SO much for stopping by!   I hope to keep sharing lots of fun happenings and products (and freebies) as Keep Calm and Love Kinder expands.  I am kicking off my blog with a rather controversial topic:  the clip chart.  All summer my Facebook newsfeed has been full of posts arguing both sides.  The good vs. the ugly.  I have used a clip chart in my Kindergarten classroom for several years, and it has been successful for me every year.  I have to admit, though,  all the hoopla had made me wonder if maybe I was missing something! This summer I was fortunate enough to attend a classroom management session by  Elizabeth Hall from Kickin' It In Kindergarten at the I Teach K! Conference in Las Vegas.  She put all my worries to bed! Thank you, Elizabeth, for making me feel okay about using my clip chart!

The clip chart, like all classroom management tools, can be used to build up or break down a child.  It is so important that it be used the right way.  From the first day in my classroom, I make sure my students know exactly what behaviors are expected of them and what the consequences will be if those expectations are not met. We read lots of stories about making friends and being a good citizen.  Some of my favorites are "How to Lose All Your Friends" by Nancy Carlson"Have You Filled a Bucket Today" by Carol McCloud,  "Rules Rap Sing & Read Along" by Dr. Jean, and "A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue" by Julia Cook.
 Something else I am going to use this year to help teach expectations are these clip chart readers I created, and you can find them over in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.  I love these readers because they give students specific behaviors to work toward for clipping up and to avoid for clipping down.  I also think they will be beneficial for parents!  Every year I have parents ask, "What can my child do to clip up?" I hope that these readers will create better understanding for students and parents of clip chart expectations.
One of the best ideas I took away from Elizabeth's session in Las Vegas was adding visual cues to a display in the room help students understand which behaviors were associated with clipping up or clipping down.  So, I came home and added the visual cues to the actual clip chart!
I love using a clip chart because I think that it helps the students feel accountable for their actions and, at the same time, positively reinforces good behaviors.  I have rewards in place for my students who clip up to WOW and stay on GOOD WORK, and there are consequences for those who clip down.  For clipping up or staying on GOOD WORK, I give my students "tickets" that can be traded at the end of the week for treasure chest or class coupons (ranging from "Bring Show and Tell" to "Pick Your Seat for the Day").  We store our tickets in buckets in a shoe storage rack on our classrom bathroom door.
When a student clips down to WARNING, nothing bad happens.  If they have to move down to OOPS that is the "Teacher Choice" section and might include time out, loss of recess or center time, or other similar consequence.  OH NO is a parent contact or principal visit, depending on severity of the actions of the student.  Also, if you are new to clip charts (which you probably are not), you need to know that students ALWAYS start the day on GOOD WORK no matter what the previous day held.

Another key component of the clip chart for me is parent communication.  We have folders that go home with students ever day.  There is a pocket in the folder called keep at home, and I put a page in there called "Daily Notes".  This is another file (editable!) in my store.  Every day I highlight what kind of day students had and write notes (good or bad) if applicable.

Clip charts and the tools used to reinforce and discipline vary so much from classroom to classroom.   You truly have to find what works best for you and your group of students.  I have my Visual Cues Clip Chart (Black and White version)  up in my TPT store as a FREEBIE!  To create my clip chart, I printed each of the pages on different colors of cardstock and laminated for durability.  I three-hole punched the tops and bottoms of each page and hung them with loose-leaf rings. It is different than the one pictured in this blog, so head over to TPT and download to check it out!  Clip charts are not for everyone, but if you do decide to use one, I hope that you will find this one helpful!

Run on over to my store and grab this freebie! 

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