"For Your Mistletoes" Free Printable

I often wonder how teachers do it. Charlie's class has 26 kids, and his teacher is usually on her own. I can barely handle 2 kids... I can't imagine 26! For both Olive's preschool class and Charlie's kindergarten class the parents go in on one gift card, but I wanted to give them a little something extra because they do so much! In the past three months of kindergarten, Charlie has learned how to read and write. Olive, independent and in her own world since birth, has somehow become the class social butterfly. And I give all the credit to their teachers!

I saw this "For Your Mistletoes" idea on Pinterest and thought it was so easy and cute (perfect for a last minute teacher's gift if you're still looking for one!). You could keep it simple with a bottle of nail polish, or add accessories like nail polish remover, foot cream, socks, and pedicure tools -- all things you can find at your local drugstore. I included fuzzy Christmas-themed socks (because who doesn't love socks), nail polish (in festive red), and foot cream. You can download a free printable of the tag pictured below here.

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18 Children's Books With Diverse Characters

Hive, I'm not going to lie. My heart has been so heavy and broken lately over the events surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. I'm not going to write a long post about it because I don't believe this is the place to do so, but I will say that what saddens me most is that these terrible events have shown that we, as a country, have really not come as far along as we had thought when it comes to race relations and understanding racial issues. It has been horrifying to see and hear some of the things people have shared and said in the aftermath. And while, yes, many of those remarks come from places of ignorance and lack of understanding and exposure, we can't just perpetuate the cycle of ignorance and ignore it.

As a teacher educating some of the youngest members of our society, I feel it's my duty to help my students understand one another and understand that ALL lives matter. I hope that when they leave my classroom, they are not only better readers and writers, but are also more caring citizens of the world. Thankfully, our school is amazingly diverse. Our students really can learn about diversity from each other and in many ways, it becomes second nature to them. However, I know that this is not the case in many schools across our country and it really does take a lot more effort to teach students in such schools about race and diversity. And I know that in communities and neighborhoods that are not very diverse, it might be hard for parents to talk and teach about race in a real and meaningful way. That's where I think children's books can make a huge impact.

I recently read an article about how characters in children’s books are almost always white and the fact that it's a big problem. I could not agree more with the writer. I even wrote a blog post about it and shared some of my favorite books about race and multiculturalism. I thought it was time, in light of recent events to share more titles that feature diverse characters. This time around, though, I wanted to focus on books that feature children of color where the culture or race of the character is not the central idea of the book. I wanted to share titles where children weren't necessarily used to explain diversity or to be a face for a cause. While those books are absolutely crucial, I strongly believe that they need to be balanced with other books that show diverse characters as protagonists in "normal" stories that children would love to listen to for the sake of a good story. I believe that such titles truly emphasize that all lives DO matter and they are worth being portrayed in great literature. This can help children see the value in every life, no matter how different those lives might look from our own.

I promised I wouldn't be long, but I couldn't help myself...so, without further ado, here are some of my favorite picks:

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Five Tips for Fighting the Stomach "Flu"

When you hear about 'flu season' this time of year, a picture instantly pops into your head. Coughing, aching, sneezing, fever and congestion are the hallmarks of a typical flu. But what happens when the flu you're battling is an entirely different creature? What happens when, shortly before Christmas, your whole house is knocked over by the STOMACH flu? In the Oatmeal house, it meant a million diaper changes, several jars of applesauce, and a ton of lounging and watching TV. We weren't sure what to do to combat this virus in ourselves, or in Little Oats; should we run to the doctor? Pop some pills? And what about that flu shot we got a few weeks back - wasn't this supposed to help?

I'll throw a little science at you from my limited knowledge bank (and handy Google). The stomach flu isn't actually the flu at all; it's gastroenteritis, an infection of the stomach and intestines. That means your flu shot is null and void in this case - they're two separate beasts. Where the real flu brings on aches, pains, fever and congestion, the stomach flu usually results in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomachache. This bug is often referred to as norovirus in the US, and sometimes called the winter vomiting bug in the UK, but regardless of what you call it, it's awful.

Norovirus is spread either person-to-person, or indirectly via infected food and water. Vomiting, toilet flushing, and sharing of food and drink can 'aerosolize' the virus, making it quickly spreadable. The CDC says that norovirus is responsible for over half of all food-borne illness every year; that last bout of 'food poisoning' you had could very well have been a norovirus. Though scary and unpleasant, most bouts of norovirus go away on their own, as the virus (or sometimes bacteria) runs its course.

Here are a few tips for preventing the spread of norovirus:

*Note: these are CDC recommendations...but take them with a grain of salt. Your kid is probably still going to lick the shopping cart at Target, CDC guidelines be damned.*

1. Wash your hands: Norovirus can be detected in your.... waste... days before you start feeling sick. That means, when you change a diaper, scrub those hands. Even if baby seems to be feeling fine, you might have just gotten yourself infected. Also, norovirus lives on surfaces for a very long time, and are extremely hardy and contagious; every door handle, railing, and flat surface you touch is a potential norovirus breeding ground. A little soap goes a long way for yourself and your kids.

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Spending on Traditions not Presents

I joined our local MOPS group, and one of the recent speakers talked about budgeting and financial issues, particularly as they apply to the holidays.  One thing that he said really resonated with me: spend more of your money on holiday traditions than presents. He asked how many presents we specifically remember from our childhoods. Of course, most people only really remembered a few specific "big" presents. For instance, I remember getting a Barbie house and a locket my parents gave me in high school. There are a few other things I can recall, but as the speaker pointed out, generally our memories of holidays center around our family traditions. His point was to make sure you put a good part of your holiday budget to making sure that you are building the traditions that you want your kids to remember, that you want them to pass on to their kids, etc.

Mr. Blue and I certainly didn't have neglected childhoods, but our parents also didn't spend an outrageous amount on presents for the holidays. Not making the holidays all about the presents and spending way more money than was wise has always been important to us, but at the same time, it's important to me that our kids have great, lifelong memories of the holidays. I think that's what made his point resonate with me so much. It's really easy, especially in our culture to get caught up in the idea that we all need to spend tons of money on presents for our kids if we love them, that they need to have just as much as their friends, as much as we see on blogs, Pinterest, etc. That's not where our values lie, however, and it's not what we want to teach our kids. Pulling off traditions, however big or small, costs some amount of money, and we need to plan accordingly.

With that in mind, we've been thinking about what traditions we want to prioritize.  This is a bit of a moving target because some things will change or be added or subtracted as our kids grow.  Here's a collection of some of our favorite ideas that we are considering incorporating into our family holiday traditions.

1.  Christmas Pajamas  - It's a little thing, but I love how much Mr. Blue and his sisters still like getting their Christmas pajamas and wearing them all day for a movie day during our holiday vacation. Cost:  pajamas & some holiday movies.

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Tips for Transitioning to Two

Becoming a mother to two children has been absolutely wonderful is so many ways. Little Deer is such a great big sister. She likes to kiss Baby Deer and give her pats on the head, grab a burp cloth and wipe Baby Deer's mouth if she sees her spit-up, and even hand me a diaper when I'm changing her. The other day Little Deer even took her favorite blanket lovey and put it on Baby Deer's lap while she was sitting in her bouncer. Baby Deer, in turn, is a very happy baby. She is constantly smiling and cooing. When you get close to her she just looks up at you with a chubby-cheek grin and kicks her little legs in excitement. Really, these girls have made my heart just melt.

On the other hand, I could also say that these past few months have been stressful. And TIRING. Sleep when baby sleeps no longer a valid option when you have a toddler, especially one who always loves to take short naps herself. Little Deer has also gotten more sensitive lately. I'm not sure if it's the impending second birthday or her getting used to sharing the limelight, but let's just say she's perfected the belly-flop tantrums. Seriously kid, doesn't that hurt? Baby Deer, though a sweet and happy baby, is driving me nuts with the love/hate relationship she has with her pacifier. Stop spitting it out if you want it so badly you little stinker! And the tummy issues… poor baby is pretty uncomfortable at night (leading, of course, to less sleep for everyone).

Even with struggling to stay afloat in these uncharted waters of motherhood, overall I would say the adjustment to two has gone well. It's also been helped immensely to have Mr. Deer home this time around (he deployed just two weeks after Little Deer was born—that was rough). Now that things are starting to stabilize and there's some semblance of a daily flow, I've been able to reflect back on these past few months a bit. Life with two is definitely a whirlwind, but for all those mamas expecting their second child in the coming months, I want to reassure you: it's a little hectic but it's definitely doable! To hopefully help with the transition, I thought I'd share a few things that have made my life with these two beautiful girls a bit more manageable.

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Welcome baby Paxton

We welcomed baby Paxton Xavier on November 24th at 4:04pm.

He was a whopping 9 lbs 3 oz and almost 22 inches long! Running throughout one's pregnancy and avoiding sweets does not guarantee a small baby. At all! I have no idea where he fit; no wonder my belly and ribs hurt so much in the end.

The first week was full of little sleep, tiny cries, and snuggling that felt surreal and romantic as only newborn hormones can make one feel. Unfortunately the good times were cut short by some pretty serious complications. We're recovering now and I started to feel better in the last couple of days, but I'll share the whole birth story in another post.

We're all in love with our little guy - even big brother, who may be a little bit too into the baby. Uh-oh!

Shopping in the "Tall" Section

As someone who works from home and dresses casually 99% of the time, t-shirts are a wardrobe essential. I hated how shirts always shrank over time, and after two kids I wanted more coverage in the stomach area, not less! One day I ordered some tees from Gap and Old Navy in "tall" on a whim. I'm only 5 foot 2, but I like to wear my t-shirts longer, and they inevitably shrink (a lot). Now I wonder why I didn't do this all along because I vastly prefer the fit of the tall tops. I've added tanks, sweaters, cardigans and tees to my wardrobe in tall sizes, and I will never go back!

Gap is currently running a 40% off sale (with no restrictions) with code WRAP through 12/20 for delivery by 12/24. They're also offering Gap Cash and you can get 2% cash back with ebates. Old Navy is running a 25% off sale with code PRANCER, and you can get 7% cash back with ebates with Christmas Eve delivery for any procrastinators!

I own most of these items in multiple colors because black, white and gray tees are pretty much my uniform. I tend to favor Gap over Old Navy because the material usually tends to be thicker, and when you catch a good sale like this one, Gap can cost less than Old Navy. But I've been wearing Old Navy's vintage v-necks for years, and they're my go-to summer uniform!

Does anyone else shop in the "tall" section?

1) Favorite Long-Sleeve Crew Tee |  2) Favorite Henley  |  3) Essential Rib Tank  |  4) Shimmer Tee  |  5) Turtleneck Tee |  6) Space Dye Fluid Tee  |  7) Cable Knit Sweater  |  8) Boyfriend Cardigan  |  9) vintage v-neck

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