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Brainy Apples: 2015
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Turkey Trot


Welcome to “The Chalkies” Turkey Trot! We hope you enjoy a jog through our blogs gobbling up freebies, ideas, and recipes for some holiday joy!

We have a new blog name!  We switched out the word "Primary" for "Elementary". We want to meet the needs of any teacher K-6. Our blog has been thoughtfully designed to help you find what YOU need for YOUR classroom level!

I love those grade level tabs {seen above} that help me grab what I need. This trot will also take you through the grade level blogs of your choice.

We hope you enjoy this little meal from appetizer to dessert!

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This sampler of my close reads pack "Significant People in Black History" is for 4th grade, but I also have one for 3rd and 5th grade reading levels for differentiation. It includes the full lesson on Ruby Bridges. This pack is a seamless way to integrate reading and social studies. Each person available comes with 1 original nonfiction text, 2 pages of close read questions, and 2 answer keys.

{Click here} to see this freebie.


As Christmas break nears, I find my students super excitable, more antsy, and very talkative. One thing I have started doing the first 10 minutes of my class is having them watch the daily CNN Student News. It highlights 10 minutes of top events every day, and my students LOVE it. LOVE IT! One day when we had a shortened schedule due to a pep rally, and I didn't start off class with it, they were a tad upset with me. Seriously! I have found that starting off class with this 10 minutes of lights of, world events, has really helped my students get in the right mindset for class. They can be talking a lot, but as soon as it begins, they stop. And it leads to some great discussions afterwards as we transition into our daily activities. And often, something shown can be related to what we are studying. Win! I always watch it before showing my first class, though, just to make sure it's appropriate. I haven't not shown my class an episode because of this, though.

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One thing food/drink I look so forward to during the holidays is spiced apple cider. Oh my word! It's so easy, but so tasty!

All you need is:
gallon of apple cider
3 small sticks of cinnamon
1 nutmeg
2-3 cloves

I have a metal container that I put the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in. You could also use a cheesecloth. You can also buy pre-made spice mixes, but I would rather buy the above because it's the perfect combo for apple cider and crisp winter nights. Then I pour the cider in a crock pot, put the metal container in it, and let it sit for a couple hours. WARNING!!! The longer it sits, the spicier it gets. I made the mistake and left it in for 4 hours once. WOWZERS! All I tasted was cinnamon. Not.Good.

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I have many products in my TpT store for grades 1-5 for literacy and math. I have just branched out to include middle grades social studies products, too! One of my favorite newer products is a social studies word wall I created for my kiddos that covers all of our social studies vocabulary.
{Click here} to check it out!

Full color graphics for each word.

Want exclusive freebies, special offers, the latest happenings, teaching ideas & tips, and even more goodies?! Sign up for my {newsletter} and I will send you your first exclusive freebie immediately to download!

 is Created by MrHughes!


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Back to School Tips, Freebie, and Giveaway!

All of us over at Upper Elementary Snapshots thought it would be fun to have a whole week of giveaways right before the new school year! That's right...a whole week!! To start off our week, we are going to be linking up all of our blogs just for you, and giving some great "Back-to-School" tips and freebies to help you start your year off right!

I don't know about you, but I tend to get pretty lazy about meal planning during the summer. I can go to the store whenever I want, and I am not on a time crunch to rush home after school, get my kiddos changed into their soccer/baseball gear and fed, and then rush them to practice or voice lessons. I can make breakfast at a leisurely pace when I wake up. And then BAM! Back to school! Preparation is key, folks!
My Back To School Tip...
Even if you aren't a meal planner, make a conscience effort to plan out your first week's breakfast and dinner menus…even if you don't have kids. It's awfully easy to hit the drive-thru on the way to/from school, or eat a bowl of cereal for dinner (no judgement from me, I have been known to enjoy a bowl of Lucky Charms for my main course). However, that first week back is a real energy drain! You have to be eating a healthy breakfast to ensure your body has the energy it needs to make it through the school day without hitting a wall, and you have to eat a healthy dinner so you can recover from being on your feet all day!

There are SO many quick breakfast recipes you can use that don't require ANY morning prep, and they are healthy and delicious! Here are two of my favorite recipes (and my kids love them, too!) This one is a crock pot oatmeal recipe (sure you can throw instant oatmeal in the microwave, but this tastes SO much better!) You set it the night before and it's ready when you get up. Best part is I triple it because I am feeding a small army and the leftovers are yummy heated up.

This is another breakfast fav: overnight cold oats. I will admit, it sounds really gross (truth), but it actually tastes really good! You can make a few of these in advance because they keep well.

For dinner, I am a crock pot lover. I NEVER thought I would say that, growing up on less than superb crock pot dinners, but there are some really yummy recipes out there! I love coming home and dinner is ready with little prep. And when we have 30 minutes from walking in the door to leaving, there is just no other way to get a healthy dinner cooked. Chef in Training has some fab crock pot recipes like this one. (**BONUS- my hubby and I take the leftovers for lunch the next day) I have two Pinterest boards where I pin most of the recipes I <attempt> to cook, so if you want additional ideas, take a peek at my Yummy Yums board and my Healthy Yummy Yums (this is the one I try to use the most often).  I have had some friends swear by electric pressure cookers, too, but I don't own one. I am thinking about buying one, though, so I can expand our dinner options.

Before you head over to grab your next BTS tip, please download this FREEBIE for determining cause and effect. You can use it with any book, even that first day read aloud!

For more tips and FREEBIES, make sure you visit all 12 of our blogs! You can use the links below to help you get there faster.

Also, don't forget to enter for a chance to WIN one of our AWESOME prizes in our "Back to School" Giveaway!

That's not all!!!  Watch out this whole week for ways to collect even more goodies from all of us at Upper Elementary Snapshots!  We are going to be doing some special promotions through Facebook and Instagram too!  Make sure you follow us to hear all about it!!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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Who Wants to Go to Vegas?!

 Can you picture it now?  YOU in LAS VEGAS? 

How about YOU in LAS VEGAS attending a one day session of the SDE conference?

Primary Chalkboard is giving away YOUR CHOICE of a 1 day session at SDE!

So, will it be Singapore Math, Differentiated Instruction, I Teach K, I Teach 1st, or the newly added I Teach 2nd? 

How fun is that?

BUT, that's not all, we're also including a $25 gift card to the SDE bookstore, CRYSTAL SPRINGS.

So, NOW can you picture YOURSELF in VEGAS?

Oh, you say you need money for airfare, hotel accommodations, or just some spending money while you are here?  Well, we've got that covered, too.  How about  
to help you out with that?!?!?

NOW, can you picture YOURSELF in VEGAS?

Here's how to enter for a chance to win.

Hop through our Facebook pages and collect a tip for your (possible) visit to Vegas.
Be sure to "like" each page as you hop through so that you can collect the tip.
Each tip will have a number on a playing card.
Add the numbers together and enter the sum  on the Rafflecopter on the Primary Chalkboard blog for a chance to win.
Be sure to add a comment and include #primarychalkboardsendmetovegas.

For an extra chance to win this, take a selfie, post it on IG with #primarychalkboardsendmetovegas 
Don't forget to tag us in your picture! @primarychalkboard

The winner will be picked on April the evening of April 5th.

A HUGE thank you to SDE (Staff Development for Educators) for their kind and generous donation!

**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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Ready for Some Spring Cleaning?!

Spring is in the air, and, if you are like me, you get that itchin' to do some spring cleaning. Not that you really WANT to…it's just that you feel like you need to start fresh! How about some FUN spring cleaning? Instead of cleaning up your house, let's clean out your TpT wish list! 

My buds and I over at Upper Elementary Snapshots are hosting a giveaway that starts T-O-D-A-Y!!! Today and tomorrow you can enter using the Rafflecopter below. What can you win, you ask? Well, if we want you to do some spring cleaning of your TpT wish list, I guess that means we better give you som TpT gift cards to do it with! Up for grabs are SIX $20 TpT gift cards that you can use to buy ANYthing on your wish list…or maybe some awesome new resources you just happen to stumble across :) Be sure to spread the word to your friends that they need to do some "Spring Cleaning," too!

**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

No Worksheet Wednesday Kick Off!

I am SO excited for our new linky this month! I am a FIRM believer in using as few worksheets as possible. Yes, sometimes you don’t have a choice. Students really need that practice, but, most times, a worksheet just doesn’t cut it. Several years ago when I was leading a staff development training about designing and implementing authentic performance tasks, I started off the session by showing a slide with one quote on it: “Worksheets don’t grow dendrites.”
Are worksheets easy? Yes. Do they keep the kids busy? Yes. Do they require students to use higher-level thinking skills? Sometimes. Do they allow students to use their creativity? Usually no. Do they keep kids truly engaged? Most often, no. There is a difference between keeping kids busy and keeping kids engaged. Worksheets are often busy work. Time fillers. A stand-in when you didn’t have time to really plan. So I really hope this linky gives you some great ideas and a little bit of encouragement to move away from those worksheets and dip your toe in the performance task/project-based learning waters.

****disclaimer: I am in no way saying using worksheets is bad teaching. I am just trying to say that using worksheets all the time for practicing skills isn’t the best way to ensure your students have truly learned the material at a high enough level to apply those skills in new context.****

One common “concern” I heard during my session was, “Don’t these take a long time to complete? We don’t have enough time.” Well, I look at it as quality versus quantity. I don’t need to give my kids 6 worksheets when they can complete one task. Yes, I will have one grade versus 6, but is it the quantity of the grades that matter or the quality of what they reveal? (Click {HERE} to see my post about grading versus noticing). I know some schools or districts have requirements on how many grades you must give per quarter or semester, but you can use informal observations as grades, too. And often times, a task incorporates more than 1 skill, so while there may be just one task, you could have 2-3 grades as a result.

Now onto the fun stuff! For my first “No Worksheet Wednesday” post, I wanted to share the activity I had my 6th graders do to help them remember all the pronoun standards. I could have given my kids worksheets to fill out, but I thought this way would be more meaningful. They would be investing more of their own time and creativity into it, so they would have more ownership in the contents and the final product. It took us about a week to complete, but I think it was well worth it. I was able to snag multiple grades from this one activity. I graded if they understood each type of pronoun (there were 4 different types, so that was 4 grades); I graded if they could use correct punctuation and mechanics (that was 2 grades); I graded if they understood antecedents (that was 1 grade). Seven grades came from this one activity that took 5 days. If I had the same amount of grades from worksheets, that would be more than 1 worksheet per school day in the same amount of time. Which do you think would truly engaged the kids?

My students made a flipbook with the following labels:
And, because sometimes you realize you missed something, I had them write “Ambiguous” on the back of the flipbook (one too few flaps).
They gave their own title for the flip book (most had WAY better titles that I came up with!)

For each page of the flipbook, they needed to have the following:
*definition of that type of pronoun
*the pronouns that were of that type
*an example sentence using that type of pronoun
*in the example sentence, they needed to circle  the pronoun and, if present, highlight the antecedent.
*if they wanted to add an illustration of their example sentence, they could
For the antecedent and ambiguous pronoun pages, they obviously did not list specific types (that was the only difference).

Some of the tasks/projects I assign are a lot more involved. This wasn’t one of them, but I wanted them to practice the skills in another format besides worksheets. Did I still have them practice choosing the correct pronoun in a sentence and labeling its function? Yes, but I like to think of making compromises with my students. I know they dislike worksheets (as do I), so I throw in activities that they can exercise their creativity as much as I can.

Here is a {LINK} to the activity above in case you want to use it with your kiddos! Enjoy!

**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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SALE and $20 Giveaway!

In case you haven't heard, the next TpT site-wide sale kicks off Wednesday! The theme is "Teachers Are Heroes," which I totally agree with! I am not only participating in this sale, marking my prices at 20% off (and if you use the code "HEROES" you will get that extra 10%, giving you 28% off your total), I am also offering a chance to win $20 to my TpT store before the sale begins! I figure it's a great way to get into the shopping mood. I mean, who doesn't love shopping for free stuff?! There are SO many ways you can enter using the Rafflecopter below.

Before you enter, maybe take a sneak peak at some of my favorite resources that you could win with your booty! Here is a blog post about how using my Daily Math Reviews help strengthen your students' math skills.


My Interactive Notebooks for Close Reads are one of my best sellers. Read this blog post to find out why!

The Beginner's Kit is perfect for getting your feet wet!
This set is for Close Reads of Literature, grades 2-5.

This set is for Close Reads of Informational Text, grades 2-5.

Peek inside the informational notebook.

Peek inside the informational notebook.

Peek inside the literature notebook.
Peek inside the informational notebook.
 The last set of resources I want to highlight are my Social Studies Close Read Packs. These are PERFECT for seamlessly integrating literacy with social studies. There is never enough time in the day, but these packs make it super easy! It's like getting extra minutes! I talk about the American Revolutionary War Heroes pack in this blog post, but now I have packs for Significant People in Black History and a pack about Theodor Seuss Geisel. The first two sets are available in packs for 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade, or you may want the bundle option of all three grade levels to differentiate for your students. They can all ready a passage on the same topic, but on their level! The pack about Theodor Seuss Geisel is available as a bundle.


You get ALL this in one grade level pack!
You get ALL this in one grade level pack!
You get ALL this in one grade level pack!
You get ALL this in one grade level pack!
Same pieces in each pack as the Significnat People in Black History packs!

I hope you take some time to read about how I use these resources in my classroom and how they can help you in yours! Be sure to enter the Rafflecoptor, and GOOD LUCK! It ends at 11:59pm tomorrow!

OH, and one more thing- some of my best blogging buddies are also offering a $20 TpT gift card, so you can enter to win multiple prizes! Head on over to their posts to ENTER ENTER ENTER after you ENTER ENTER ENTER mine!
Jen Bengel from Out of This World Literacy
Vicky from Teaching and Much Moore
Autumn from The Primary Techie
Lisa from Growing Firsties
Cyndie from Chalk One Up for the Teacher
Corinna from Surfin' Through Second
Karen from Mrs. Jones's Class

**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Strengthen Your Students' Math Skills With Daily Math Reviews and Word Problem of the Day

I must say that when my district finally made the move to letting us teach math units, I was beyond ecstatic. Previously, we taught multiple math skills every 9 weeks, never to the mastery of the standard. For example, for money, 1st 9 weeks we taught counting money up to $1 (this was 2nd grade); 2nd 9 weeks we taught counting money up to $5; 3rd 9 weeks we taught counting money up to $20; and 4th 9 weeks we taught giving back change from $5. While this may sound great in theory (I guess it sounds great in theory. I never liked teaching math this way), having to teach money, computation, measurement, number sense, etc. EVERY.SINGLE.QUARTER was beyond exhausting and difficult for the kids. It was really hard to get good solid assessment of what students mastered because we really could only teach a skill for about 1 week before moving on to the next. For kids who catch on quick, this wasn't an issue. For my little ones who needed constant practice, this proved to be extremely difficult.

So when the standards-based report changed to units each 9 weeks, I was jumping for joy. I also knew, too, that I needed to have something in place so my kids would not forget math skills from units we completed. Ideally math builds from one skill to the next, so you are using learned skills to teach new ones. But that isn't always the case. I guess I did see ONE benefit from laddering math skills all year long, and that was old skills constantly came back up. I also loved using Calendar Math on a daily basis because when we counted money every day, by the time the money unit came up, most of my kids had a solid understanding of each coin and were already counting change. Sure, some of my students still didn't understand money even after counting coins for 103 days, but they did have more background knowledge than if we hadn't counted coins for 103 days. Thinking about these things, I decided to create a product I could use with my students from day1 because I did not want them to forget math skills we had learned earlier in the year, and I also wanted to give my kids daily exposure to skills we would be learning later in the year so they would have background knowledge.

I know some teachers don't want to spend time having students solve math problems involving skills they have not yet taught, and I do agree with that to an extent. If students are going to be making mistakes, then they shouldn't be completing these problems. It will just create bad habits you have to break later on. The expectation you set for the Daily Math Review has to be clear for students.

What Are Daily Math Reviews?
My Daily Math Reviews are set up so that each day students are practicing one problem from each of the grade level's math domains. For grades 1and 2, that means they have 4 problems to solve from the following domains: Number and Operations in Base Ten, Operations and Algebraic Thinking, Geometry, and Measurement and Data. For grades 3-5, add in the domain of Numbers and Operations-Fractions for 5 problems. In about 10-15 minutes each day, my students are refreshing and previewing math skills from each domain. 

How Are My Daily Math Reviews Different?
I created a Daily Math Review for each month of the year for each grade level. July begins the year with June ending the year. July and August include standards from the previous grade level, and May and June include a preview to the following grade level's standards. The first few months of DMR (July, August, and September) are much easier than the last few months (April, May, and June). I wanted students to become used to completing the DMR and gain confidence before moving onto more challenging problems. Some of the problems are basic computation, but, as the year progresses, I include more multi-step word problems for the skills and less basic computational problems. Many teachers and parents who have used my DMR have commented that they were challenging at first for students to complete. However, students' math abilities improved greatly as a result of using these and they were able to solve more complex problems with ease.

Every month includes 4 weeks of DMR, and each week includes 5 days. That means that there are 20 days worth of DMR for every month. School calendars differ, and I wanted to provide enough days of DMR to fit your calendar. You may not use every day, and that's OK. The most important thing is that you will not run out of DMR pages! If your school year ends in May, you can run copies of the June and July (for their next grade level) editions for your students to keep their skills sharp over the summer. If your year ends in June, you will have plenty of days to use until summer break!

Students are at different readiness levels and ability levels. It's important to be able to differentiate based on your students. When I taught 2nd grade, some of my kiddos were at a struggling 1st grade level, while others were at a 3rd grade level. Some of the math standards are similar from one grade level to the next, varying in the degree of difficulty of that particular skill. I wanted to be able to provide extra support or challenge my students. When I taught 2nd grade, I did not give ALL of my students the 2nd grade edition. Most of my students got the 2nd grade edition, I had a handful that got the 1st grade edition, and a few more that got the 3rd grade edition. Many of the problems are similar from one grade level to the next (depending on how similar the standards are), so my students were not solving completely different problems, just problems on their level.

I love teaching thematically. And my students love it, too. It helps create a common thread among all the subject areas, and it also helps my students become more excited about certain things they might not otherwise like…such as math. They would much rather solve problems about spiders than Jan and Jack. So, for every month, there are 4 monthly themes worked into the math problems. Most of the themes match up with the time of year, and the other themes are high-interest for students. For example, September includes the themes of Johnny Appleseed, football, baseball, and trees. August includes the themes of planets, pirates, chameleons, and the ocean. On the cover of each edition are pictures that show that month's themes. 

How I Use Daily Math Reviews
I found great success using my Daily Math Reviews, but my students also knew that if there was a problem they totally didn't understand, it was OK to not attempt it. There were more problems not attempted at the beginning of the school year, and that is completely fine. I used my DMR as morning work and the first few minutes of math. I gave my students about 10 minutes to work on the day's problems, then we spent about 5-10 minutes going over them. I did not use actual math time for my students to complete the review, but I did use actual math time to go over the review. I did not offer in depth explanations for the skills we had yet to cover through a unit, but I did show students how to solve those problems. I spent more time on the problems that we were either currently working on or had already learned. Over time, more and more students were solving the problems that included skills we had yet to learn simply because of the daily exposure to those skills. Most days I went over the DMR in groups because I used math stations in my classroom. This was very beneficial because students were not all completing the same grade level edition, so it allowed me to focus on each group's strengths and weaknesses for the specific grade level they were completing.

I loved using parent volunteers in my classroom, and I actually trained a few of my volunteers on how to go over the DMR with my students. I loved the option of being able to use the DMR as a center with a parent volunteer once or twice a week.

I include a monthly spreadsheet with each DMR. You can use this page to track student progress over time. I created a key to show how students were doing. A check plus meant that a student completed the problem correctly on his/her own, a check meant that a student completed the problem but needed some help, a star meant that a student incorrectly completed a problem, and I left a box blank if a student did not attempt the problem. This helped me see trends over time, and if students were really struggling with specific standards. I used these progress sheets to create flexible math groups based on specific skills during RTI time.

I sent each month's DMR off to the copy center to be double-sided copied and stapled into packets for my students (you could also have them hole-punched and place them in a pronged pocket folder). This way they couldn't lose pages, and, at the end of every month, I collected these to keep in their portfolios. I stapled their progress sheet to the top of the packet so I could easily gauge student progress, or easily have data for IST/SST meetings.

The Benefits of Using My Daily Math Reviews
I used these DMR on a consistent, daily basis in my classroom. Over time I saw my students' math skills improve dramatically, and they became independent and successful problem solvers. I found that when we finally got to our money unit or our line plot unit, most of my students had such a strong background knowledge that they mastered the content more quickly than students in previous years before I used these DMR. I also found that I had to do less reteaching of certain skills because of the constant review of those skills. I was able to easily differentiate for my students using different grade level editions, so my students were spending time each day targeting specific strengths and weaknesses based on their abilities. I was able to see if a student who struggled at the beginning of the year on a specific skill was still struggling months later very quickly without having to give a separate formative assessment. I can't tell you how many times I pulled out a student's progress sheets stapled to the monthly packets for data to present in an IST or SST meeting. It was great documentation that didn't take any extra time on my part! Oh, yeah, and answer keys are included for easy grading!

Need an Editable Version of My Daily Math Review?
I am currently in the process of adding an editable version of my DMR as we speak! Although I don't recommend altering the problems because I purposely included each problem in a systematic progression, if there is a specific skill you just don't teach at all, I did want to offer you a chance to tweak it to fit your needs. So far I have added editable files to the February through May editions for each grade level. If you have already purchased these editions, you can download the updated file for FREE! Just go to the "My Purchases" tab on your TpT dashboard and redownload the file. I know some people are not fans of zip files, but it is very easy to open a zip file. Just right click on the folder and click "unzip." I had to use zip files because I found out that the clarity of the PDF became blurred when I inserted jpegs for each page. I decided to keep the original PDF file and add a new ppt file with the editable portion. Now you can have the best of both worlds! If you have purchased this file and can't get the folder to unzip, please email me at with your TpT username, and I will send you the files separately. My plan is to have all the editions in an editable version this summer. 

**Please know that you MAY NOT use the editable version to create your own product to sell. This editable version is only to be used for the purchaser's OWN classroom use. You MAY NOT tweak the editable file and use it commercially. If you use the editable version and sell it, you will be violating my copyright terms.**

Did my students struggle at the beginning of the year completing these? Yes! Did these DMR become easier for them to complete as the year went on? Yes! Were these DMR responsible for my students math skills improving dramatically? Absolutely! Do I want you to give my DMR a try? Of course!

Want to Try Out My Daily Math Review?
You can snag a free week's worth of my DMR by visiting my TpT shop {click here}. I wanted to let you try out this resource free for a week to see if it is something that you could use. I also wanted to give my dear blog readers a little something extra special, so if you want to receive the July edition for FREE, please email me at This way you can look at an entire month for free, and even use it for a month for free, before committing to the full year. I have multiple options available from single month to monthly bundles. The larger the bundle, the greater the savings! Click on each grade level to go to my TpT shop where you can check out the 12 month bundle: 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th grade.

Worried about adding 4-5 problems a day to your math block? Maybe my Word Problem of the Day packs are better for you {click here}. Like my DMR, these spiral through all the math standards, but instead of multiple problems a day, there is just one. Each week contains at least one problem from each of the math domains.

Do you currently use my DMR? How do you like it? Are you interested but not quite sure? What are your reservations? I would love to hear from you!

***If you liked what you read please consider subscribing to my email list. You will receive free goodies, blog posts, and updates right to your inbox! Just click here to join.

**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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