Spark Student Motivation Saturdays {June 22nd}

Happy Saturday, friends! I am so excited about today’s schedule….sleep in, blog peruse, “boot camp” exercising with friends and family, and linking up with Joanne and her Spark Student Motivation Saturdays linky party! ūüôā

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I’m going to use the dreaded word “standardized testing” today. Despite my frustration with using that one method to judge my teaching ability and what students have learned, I know that it is not going away.

I spent 10 years in North Carolina and was spoiled by immediate testing feedback. We would test Tuesday – Thursday and receive scores back on Friday. Students were held accountable because if they were unsuccessful on the test, they spent the remaining weeks of school reviewing with the dreaded possibility of summer school on the horizon.

In South Carolina, school is long over before testing data is received. Although many of our students work hard on the test, it really has not merit with them because they’re already in the next grade before they even find out their results. EVERYTHING is hanging over our heads (teachers) and NOTHING is hanging over our students’ heads.

Last year, our 6th grade team created a PASS Prize Card to encourage our students to try their best on the test and use those strategies that we’d worked on all year.

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Last year, the cards worked….”ok”…. This year they worked fabulously! One of the reasons that they worked so well is that this year 6th graders actually had to take the Writing test in February before the Reading test in May. Students who received all initials on their card spent a Friday morning celebrating their hard work. They were treated to ice cream sundaes and each room had a different activity – dancing, Wii games, board games, and movies. Those students who were unable to go to the Writing Incentive Party made doggone sure they went to the May PASS Incentive Party.

And their hard work paid off. My students went from 68% mastery to 72% mastery this year. 32% of those students scored on the Exemplary level. Whoop!

Well, off to get ready to get my butt kicked in boot camp….I’ll tell you all about it later….

Until the next time,

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Five For Friday {June 21st}

Five For Friday

I’m linking up with Doodlebugs for my very first Five For Friday! ¬†Usually on Fridays I am so wiped I can’t even think of things to post. ¬†These past two weeks have been awesome and I have to share them! ¬†We started our Personalized Learning graduate course last week and have been on the go since day 1. ¬†The teachers have done an awesome job with this new learning curve – I just can’t say enough. ¬†So for this week’s Five for Friday I am going to highlight a few of our most awesomest moments as well as the fun I had this weekend.

 

1. ¬†iOS Training – On last Monday and Tuesday, we had a representative from Apple to come and give us some key tips, tricks, and apps to use. ¬†Jamie was really good – I wish I could have her job. ¬†Traveling around the country working with teachers about technology? ¬†A dream job….

Ios

 

2. ¬†Comprehension & Collaboration – This is the name of the book that we are using for our class. ¬†It focuses on inquiry circles in the classroom and making students responsible for their own learning. ¬†This book is¬†very¬†dense, but the information is excellent. ¬†We’ve been able to review the book and then make real world connections. ¬†Our goal throughout the entire class is that teachers have lessons that they can take back to their classroom and use.

Comprehension_Collaboration

 

3. ¬†Atlanta – On Saturday our church parish took our children and youth to Atlanta. ¬†We visited the Martin L. King, Jr. Historic Site and hit up a Braves game. ¬†The kids have a great time and were so well behaved. ¬†I had been a child the last time we visited the MLK site and it was amazing to me. ¬†The spirit in the church was overwhelming – it brought me to tears. ¬†It’s unbelievable how they preserved all of those items….absolutely unbelievable.

Baby Girl and Me Having A Great Time!

Baby Girl and Me Having A Great Time!

 

4. Father’s Day – After leaving at 3:30 in the morning on Saturday and getting home at 3:00 in the morning on Sunday we were exhausted. ¬†But we still got up for church and had a marvelous Father’s Day. ¬†I have a great hubby and a great daddy, so I had to give them this tribute:

The Best Men I Know!

The Best Men I Know!

 

5. ¬†Graduate Course Completed! ¬†Bring on the iPads…. – The course is done and now the hard work begins. ¬†Finding the ways to implement these amazing devices is going to be an exciting challenge. ¬†One I can’t wait to begin!

Hard At Work!

Hard At Work!

 

 

DSCS iTEL Pilot Members

DSCS iTEL Pilot Members

 

Until the next time!

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Tried It Tuesday {June 18th}

Tried It Tuesday

I’m linking up with Fourth Grade Flipper for my very first Tried It Tuesday! ¬†Since we’ve been working in our Personalized Learning graduate course for the last two weeks, I have tried a lot! ¬†We’ve been searching and adding apps for the past few days. ¬†I’m going to highlight Facetalker and SockPuppets.

Facetalker РFacetalker allows you to grab a photo (camera roll, Facebook, or templates) and then manipulate the mouth.  Very funny Рand a neat way for students to share information.  Here is a sample that I created.

SockPuppets –¬†Sock Puppets lets you create your own lip-synched videos and share them on Facebook and YouTube. Add Puppets, props, scenery, and backgrounds and start creating. Hit the record button and the puppets automatically lip-synch to your voice. ¬†You can upload the video to Facebook or YouTube. ¬†There is a free version which gives you 30 sec. ¬†The full version is $3.99. ¬†I like this one so much, I will probably go ahead and buy it!

sock puppets

 

Before I close out, my blogging buddy Joanne over at Head Over Heels for Teaching has reached 300 followers. ¬†She has a MASSIVE giveaway going on and I’m giving away a free item from my TpT store. ¬†Click on the giveaway picture to link up!

300 Follower Button - HOH

 

Until the next time,

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It’s “App”solutely Worth It!

Through Eberopolis’s blog, I found this really neat linky party! Kelly at Thirsty Firsties is hosting “An App A Day” linky party. Her principal has just purchased a iPad lab for her school. Since we’re moving to 1:1 iPad Deployment this party will be as helpful to me as it will be to her! ūüôā

AppaDay

I purchased my own personal iPad two summers ago and it was one of the best decisions I ever made!  So, I spent two years using it as a teacher in my classroom and am really excited about having the chance for every student in my classroom to have one!  I have so many apps that I would love to share, but I will follow the rules.  I am sharing one free app that I use in my classroom, one paid app that I use in my classroom, and one app that I use for personal use.

1. ¬†Free App –¬†Ok….I lied….I can’t just do one. ¬†For free apps these are my top two: ¬†Class Dojo and Edmodo.

freeapp

I know….I talk about Class Dojo all the time!

ClassDojo is a classroom tool that helps teachers improve behavior in their classrooms quickly and easily. It also captures and generates data on behavior that teachers can share with parents and administrators. ¬†Class Dojo helps me to run my class so much more smoothly! ¬†As the teacher I can choose what behaviors I do and do not want to see and award points based on their behaviors. ¬†Students are always wondering who the “ding” and “boom” are for….and it keeps them focused. ¬†I use it for behavior and academic behaviors. ¬†We follow the EDI model (Explicit Direct Instruction) at our school and our goal is always 80% mastery. ¬†If I give the class a “Checking For Understanding” question and 80% of the class gets it right – they earn a point! ¬†If 100% get it right – they get two points! ¬†They hold themselves and their peers accountable.

I’ve used Edmodo for two years now and I absolutely love it! ¬†Edmodo is designed to get students excited about learning in a familiar environment. On Edmodo, teachers can continue classroom discussions online, give polls to check for student understanding, and award badges to individual students based on performance or behavior. ¬†I have put the majority of my assessments on Edmodo and even though the still complete the test on paper, they have to input their answers into Edmodo – so¬†no grading for me!!! ¬†I can also give them written assignments which I can grade anywhere because of the app!

2.  Paid App РExplain Everything

Explaineverything

 

This one is a fairly new purchase, but I think it’s going to be great with my students! ¬†Explain Everything is an easy-to-use design tool that lets you annotate, animate, and narrate explanations and presentations. You can create dynamic interactive lessons, activities, assessments, and tutorials. It records on-screen drawing, annotation, object movement and captures audio via the iPad microphone.¬† Import Photos, PDF, PPT, and Keynote from Dropbox, Evernote, Email, iPad photo roll and iPad2 camera. Export MP4 movie files, PNG image files, and share the .XPL project file with others for collaboration. ¬†My goal this year is to create “flipped” lessons so that students who were absent, or who need additional support can use the videos for assistance.

 

3. ¬†Personal App –¬†Dropbox

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Dropbox¬†is a free service that lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them easily. Never email yourself a file again! ¬†It’s an online storage. ¬†It allows you to sync across multiple computers and devices. ¬†It also has a camera upload feature so any picture that you take with your device will be automatically uploaded. ¬†I love it, because that means I always have what I need right at my fingertips!

Now it’s your turn. What are your three (or four) favorite apps? I’d love to hear about them, and be sure to link up¬†if you get a chance. She’s running the contest for the chance to win a $15 iTunes gift card through today at Midnight.

Until the next time,

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Tricks of the Trade Thursday: Homework Collection

Yes, I know it’s Sunday, but with the ending of school, I’ve been MIA in the blogosphere. ¬†Jessica at Joy in the Journey is hosting an AWESOME linky party – Tricks of the Trade Thursday and with this week’s subject being Homework Collection….I had to jump in! ¬†I’ll get on track next week!

Tricksofthetrade

 

I am a supporter of homework. ¬†I know how difficult it is to get students to actually complete homework – but I also see the benefits when it connects to current concepts as well as a review of concepts that students have not done well with. ¬†I know that many teachers don’t feel this way, but *shrugging* to each his own. ¬†Besides that, it is required at our school. ¬†So win/win for me!

When I moved to my new school three years ago I went from being responsible for 50 students to 100+ students…..Whoa! ¬†Believe it or not – it makes a¬†HUGE¬†difference! ¬†I also went from having 100 minutes to 55 minutes with students……Double Whoa! ¬†Before, we had 20 minutes of Self-Selected Reading everyday and I could use that time to collect homework¬†It’s taken me three years to come up with something that is workable and I can keep up with.

Students are given a weekly “Homework Sheet” on Monday that isn’t due until Friday. ¬†I got this wonderful idea from our 8th Grade ELA teacher. ¬†She does it for the entire 9 weeks, but sixth graders can barely keep up with assignments week to week! ūüôā It is in three parts: ¬†reading that focuses on concepts, writing/grammer, and independent reading.

HomeworkSheet

Although it isn’t due until Friday, I still check daily to make sure they’re on track. ¬†On Monday, I use PowerTeacher to create a roster that highlights the homework outlined for the week. ¬†I have a student in each class period that checks off on the clipboard and I use Class Dojo to award points for those students who are on track. ¬†I also have them stamp on the assignment as an additional incentive.

HomeworkDOJO

On Friday, students staple the Homework sheet to the loose-leaf paper that they’re required to complete the assignments on and turn it in to me. ¬†Students who do not have their homework lose Class Dojo points and are given a Missing Homework slip that is completed by the student and signed by the parent.

MissingHW

They complete both sides and I cut the slip in half. ¬†I keep one and attached it to the signed parent one after it’s brought back. ¬†Each part is a separate grade and I average the three grades to given them a Weekly Homework Average. ¬†Students that have a stamp for every assignment get an additional $5 in Jefferson’s Bucks.

Students are also required to write their homework down in their agenda daily.  As their ticket out the door, I stamp their agenda.

If you’re interested, you can click here to download the Missing Homework Slip from my Teacher’s Notebook Store.

Until the next time!

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Spark Student Motivation Saturday: Flocabulary – Learning Through Music Videos

I definitely enjoy linking up with Joanne on her Spark Student Motivation Saturdays!  I get so many great ideas from her and the blogging buddies who link up!

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Today, I want to share with you a favorite of mine….Flocabulary!

 

Flocabulary

Flocabulary is an online learning platform that delivers educational hip-hop songs and videos to students in grades K-12. Founded in 2004, Flocabulary is now used in over 15,000 schools and reaches a weekly audience of 5 million students. Their mission is to motivate kids and help them reach their full academic potential, not only by raising test scores but by fostering a love of learning in every child.

Here is a video about test taking skills:

My kids absolutely love it!  They have videos for every subject matter as well as a vocabulary component for English teachers.  They also do The Week In Rap, a weekly current events video.  When Flocabulary initially launched, the majority of the videos were lyrics, but not much video.  They are continuously evolving and I am so impressed with this site.

I use the videos to introduce concepts that we are working on, but if we finish an activity early or the class has been really good Рthey beg me to play a video.  As they are walking down the hall, I hear them singing the lyrics to the songs Рwhich mean they are LEARNING key concepts!  A win/win situation!

There is a small cost involved ($7 – 10 a month), but it is definitely worth it. ¬†Stop by Flocabulary and check it out! ¬†And don’t forget to stop by Joanne’s site (click on the linky picture above) and link up as well!

 

Until the next time!

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It’s Currently Time!

This has been one of my best school years ever! I’ve worked with an A – MA – ZING group of kids and been offered some FABULOUS opportunities! I work with the hardest group of women anywhere and an AWESOME staff! Blessed…..just blessed I tell you! Normally, we’re out of school by now, but we are 2 half days away from saying “Have a great summer!” to these babies with one more day to closing out the school year for us adults. But with it being June, it’s also time for a new Currently linky party! ūüôā

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Like I said earlier, time has flown by so quickly, I can’t believe it’s June already! But like one of my blogging sheroes, Kim over in Finding Joy in 6thh, said, my mind is already racing ahead to the start of the next school year.

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DD’s last day of school was last Tuesday (she goes to school in a different school district), and she’s been with Nana and Papa ever since……being spoiled rotten! Going to pick up that sweetie later today to get ready for summer camp. Since she’s gone it’s been remarkably silent. You’d be amazed at how many “Mama can I…..?” I hear on the weekend….well, maybe not…..

I am so excited about the new opportunities that have come my way! ūüôā First I was stoked about being a part of an e-learning committee, which then morphed into being a part of a 1:1 mobile device project, which then morphed into being an instructor in the graduate course…..unbelievable! It’s amazing where we’re headed technology wise…..five years ago nothing like this was even on the edge of my mind….

After the last conference I attended, I decided that I was going to start stretching professionally outside my school district. My proposal was accepted and I’ll be presenting at the Upstate Technology Conference in July. I also found out that our district tech coordinator wants us to present at the State Technology Conference in October! Whoop!

About a month ago, my mom asked me if I wanted to attend our sorority conference in Canada this year. Of course! I hadn’t even mentioned it, because I didn’t think it was an option. That has morphed into me presenting at the conference….wow!

Although the school year is ending, things will keep rolling right along for me! Graduate course, 2 Common Core workshops, Leadership, and the Tech Conference….plus…..planning for our 6th grade transition camp (for rising 6th graders) and next year…..Whowza!

My fridge is empty and I know the hubs is hungry….cause I’m hungry….but I don’t wanna get outta this bed….ugggghhhh!

My vacation must faves? Tech gear (iPhone, iPad, computer) is a must (my brain never shuts off!), family and friends (we have the best time together!), and fitness gear (bought a fit bit to keep me on track). I’ve got a lot planned this summer….and I’m going to enjoy every single bit of it!

Click on Farley’s pic above to find the post and link up. Make sure you follow her rule of three, comment on the two before and one after yours!

Until the next time!

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End of Year Reflections Linky Party

I’m linking with Erin, Miss Lifesaver, for her End of Year Reflections linky party.

 

Reflections

 

I don’t know about you, but I can’t¬†believe that the last day of school is 5 school days away! ¬†I’ve had an awesome year with an awesome group of kids and I’m going to miss them terribly.

Now for my……

End-of-Year Reflection Questions:

  1. What was the biggest professional challenge you faced this year?
  2. What was the biggest personal challenge you faced this year?
  3. How do you think you’ve grown from your experiences?

 

1. I have had an amazing school year it’s really hard to think of something. ¬†I would say that my greatest challenges have been: (1) finding confidence in myself again and (2) teaching, I mean¬†really teaching, writing again. ¬†I have always been very proud of my instructionally sound lessons and great standardized test scores. ¬†Mine have always been at the top¬†and I have been able to produce well rounded children. ¬†With my change three years ago to a new school, I went from 90 minutes to 60 and that made a huge difference. The first year our scores came back I cried like a baby. ¬†Year two scores were better, but not what I am used to. ¬†Although I am still struggling with the shortened time, I found ways to manage my time better and fine tune my lessons so that I was able to get the bang for my buck. ¬†Unbelievably in fifteen years, I have never been directly responsible for students who would take our standardized writing test. ¬†In North Carolina students take the standardized writing test is 4th and 7th and when I moved to South Carolina students only took the writing test in 5th and 8th. ¬†I was absolutely terrified! ¬†But, with the help of my coordinating teacher and an 8th grade ELA teacher, I think the kids did a good job. ¬†We worked our butts of those last few weeks, but they all seemed very confident on test day.

2. ¬†I think my greatest personal challenge has been balance between work and home. ¬†My DD is autistic and started first grade this year. I have been so worried because these years will be so important for her and with her language delayment (she didn’t start talking until she was almost four), I know that reading will always be difficult for her. ¬†With DH working a second job at night, home cooked meals have been far and few between. ¬†My partner and I spend long hours at school which makes our evening short. ¬†Thank goodness for after school care because homework is done before we get home. ¬†All we have to do is review and get ready for tomorrow – which until last month was all me. ¬†But, last month I decided that Miss Cam was going to start helping out. ¬†She is now expected to pick out her clothes for the next day and pack her lunch box. ¬†Those few changes have made such a huge difference in our night routine. ¬†She is also now responsible for unloading the dishwasher and folding her underclothes. ¬†I’m a very proud mama!

3. ¬†I’ve learned to trust myself more and that it’s ok to rely on others. ¬†In the past, I used my co-workers to validate my ideas, but never to give me new ideas. ¬†I even switched classes with a partner to have her teacher a writing lesson to my students because she does an excellent job at it! ¬†I’ve also learned to¬†¬†allow DD to become more responsible. ¬†We will not use her autism as a crutch! ¬†She will be successful because she is smart and knowledgeable, and sweet as pie! ūüôā

With our iTEL pilot being funded (iPads in the hands of every sixth grader)….I know that there are plenty of challenges ahead. ¬†There will also be some new changes on the horizon (we’re getting a new superintendent…which means we’re probably getting new district office staff as well) but I’m definitely excited about what’s to come!

Want to link up?  Head on over to Miss Lifesaver by clicking on the photo above.

Until next time,

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My Kids Rock! and Budding Blog Linky

I know it’s been a minute since I posted, I’ve been¬†recuperating¬†from testing….lol! ¬†It’s been a little over a week since we’ve finished, and my kids and an AWESOME job! ūüôā ¬†I am so proud of them. ¬†The Monday before students tested, we had a PASS Celebration/Pep Rally. ¬†Grade levels competed in the following categories: ¬†Academic Challenge, Banner, Chant, and Rap/Song. ¬†When I say we rocked every aspect of the celebration, I mean we¬†ROCKED it! ¬†See a youtube video clip of the rap the kids performed. ¬†I showed them a few examples and various students came up with all the lyrics. The Academic Challenge group answered 11 out of 11 questions. BOOM! You can also see a pic of the banner in the video.

On test days, my babies worked so hard! ¬†They annotated out the wazoo! ¬†My requirement is that as they answer questions, they have to underline key words and phrases in the selections and then write their answer reasoning beside the choices. ¬†No matter what the outcome, I am so proud of these students! ¬†We won’t find out anything until June about how they actually did…..but I already know they killed it!

I’m linking up with I {heart} Recess for her Budding Blog linky party! The only requirement is that you have less than 200 followers….so that’s definitely me! ūüėČ

Budding Blog

To participate in the linky party you have the answer the following questions:

1. Why did you start blogging?
I initially started using a blogging platform for my classroom website. I loved the versatility of it. I especially loved the fact that I could embed documents directly into the site and it allowed for some interactiveness with students and parents. After blog stalking for almost a year, I decided to create a personal blog to share my experiences as a middle school teacher and for a way to share my thoughts and ideas with the world.

2. What is your favorite subject to teach and why?
I am an English Language Arts teacher, because I love to teach reading! I am a voracious reader and I love to share my excitement with my students. I become giddy when I realize they love a book as much as I do!

3. Describe your teaching style.
Hmmmm. My teaching style would be considered tech geek infused. Since I love technology so much, I love to embed it into every aspect of teaching. I use my Promethean board every single day! Students use ActivExpression devices every single day! We are frequently using our netbooks for various reasons and next year I will be a part of iPad pilot! Can you say “stoked”? I’m like a kid in a candy store….hopping, jumping, and dancing around. I’m definitely a “hands on” teacher. I love my kiddos and we have so much fun together. But I’m also a very strict disciplinarian. My students know if they work hard, we’ll play hard. But if they don’t meet my expectations……whoa…..

4. Give three interesting facts about you.
1. When I was two, I fell down the stairs of a college dormitory at my cousins’ college graduation. I knocked out my four front teeth, dislocated my jaw bone, and cracked my bottom front bone. I was without front teeth until I was in the fourth grade. I graduated from that college 20 years later.

2. In college, I sang in a girls group. We performed at the Apollo theater one summer. Although we didn’t win, it was a wonderful experience.

3. I’m addicted to trashy reality shows. R&B Divas, Love & Hip Hop Atlanta, even Keeping Up With The Kardashians….the trashier the better. So sad, I know. I’m utterly horrified, yet unable to look away….no judgement

5. Do you have a TpT store? If yes, post the link ūüôā
I do have TpT store, but it’s very, very, very, small. One of my goals is to work on that this summer. ūüôā
Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth - TeachersPayTeachers.com

 

 

Until the next time,

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D Day Has Arrived and Currently

Oh my…..I’m trying not to be stressed, but I am so stressed, and so trying not to be…..HELP! Tuesday is D-day….my kiddos take the ELA portion of our standardized test. We have worked hard this year, and I am so proud of the work they have done. We met our MAP goal and exceeded our benchmark goal and I can SEE how hard they’re trying. It just breaks my heart that all their hard work is ignored in the face of this one test. Because the truth of the matter is this…..if they read on a fourth grade level, then who can expect them to pass a sixth grade test? And that’s what really breaks my heart…those students who work their butts off….but just can’t handle the content….

But N-E ways (as my kiddos say)……

In preparation for testing next week, we are having a celebration on tomorrow. Now, THIS I am utterly excited about! Our grade level is competing against other grade levels for some major prizes! And again, they have come up with some down right AWESOME things to do! And I do mean AWESOME! I can’t wait to post the pics and video up tomorrow.

And I work with an AMAZING group of teachers. We’re going to serenade the kids tomorrow. I found a song that someone…I need to look it up so I can give her credit….created using the song, Call Me, Maybe – changed it to Test Me, Baby. I switched it up to PASS This, Baby (PASS I our test acronym) and my amazing cousin sang the lyrics on an instrumental track, because none of us can sing like that it it would’ve been just pitiful….lol.

On now on to May’s Currently….

I truly can’t believe that it is May already! It seems just yesterday I was getting ready for the first day of school and we are now five weeks away from the last day of school……wow!

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My Summer Bucket List

1. We only live an hour and a half away from the beach….but hardly ever go. For one, I can’t stand the summer beach traffic! But DD loves the beach so this summer we are definitely going…..and more than once!

2. Over the summer I have Girls Getaways with my sorority line sisters and my best friends. We always have so much fun! I can’t wait to hang out with them, laugh, party, and reminisce.

3. 5 years ago I lost 100 pounds. How? Clean eating and exercise. Somehow I’ve gotten away from that and gained back waaaaay more than I like. So, I’ve joined up with my cousins to get our healthy sexy back! We have our own little group on Facebook where we encourage each other and hold one another accountable.

Well, I really need to get ready so, I’ll holla at’cha later!

Until the next time,

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