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I love advent calendars. They are the concrete anticipation of Christmas for kids and adults alike. Even though my kids enjoy opening the numbered door for each day, in my house I began to notice that things were becoming less than holy.


Soon it became all about whose turn it was. Or who got the little piece of chocolate. Or opening the wrong number. There was no family togetherness, instead it became a battle. This was not what I wanted advent to look like.

I knew that I wanted advent to be a time of family togetherness and for us to focus on the meaning of the season as we counted down the days. Thus began 24 days of Christmas Books.

The premise is simple: Each day your family reads one holiday-themed book together. 10 minutes a day is all it takes. As my family started the tradition, we found it was no longer about cardboard calendars. Now it was about what really mattered.

Beginning on December first, my kids find a basket in the living room filled with Christmas books, however they are off limits until we read them together. (If you are so inclined, you can even gift wrap each book to open one a day.)

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I’ll warn you, it’s a lot of books, so we use our library and slowly build our collection by one or two books a year. Make sure to plan early so you get the books you want. Another great surprise is to invite another family member to read. Grandparents or aunts or uncles are fantastic for this, and even if they live far away, you can Facetime or Skype the book reading.

24 Days of Christmas Books is a great way to spend time together during the busy holiday season. Here are some of our favorites to get you started.

 

The Littlest Angel

by Charles Tazewell

This is a precious story about a young angel searching for the perfect gift for Jesus. Make sure to get the edition illustrated by Paul Micich, it is stunning.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

by Susan Wojciechowski

A tender story about how we can spread joy to even the hardest of hearts.

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree

by Gloria Houston

A family in a small Appalachian town seeks to hold onto Christmas traditions while the father is away.

A Wish to be a Christmas Tree

by Colleen Monroe

All the animals of the forest help the lonely pine that feels passed over at Christmas.

Humphrey’s First Christmas

by Carol Heyer

The journey of the wise men told from the point of view of the camels carrying the gifts.

The Legend of the Candy Cane

by Lori Walberg

A sweet reminder of what the candy cane represents for all of us.

The Legend of the Christmas Cookie

by Dandi Daley Mackall

The story of giving during the holiday season, and it includes a cookie recipe to try!

Great Joy

by Kate DiCamillo

A favorite children’s author tells a sweet story about a girl, an organ player, a monkey, and joy.

The Carpenter’s Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree

by David Rubel

A perfect story to read when you watch the lighting of the Rockefeller Center tree, this story explores how we pay blessings forward through one sweet boy’s story.

The Polar Express

by Chris Van Allsburg

A timeless favorite that will enchant even the oldest kids.

The Joy of Giving

by Jan Berenstain

A fun story with our favorite bears that teaches kids how fun giving can be.

The Light of Christmas

by Richard Paul Evans

Evans masterfully shows that the heart behind the gift matters more than what you have to give.

One Wintry Night

by Ruth Bell Graham

A beautiful rendition of the Christmas Story for young and old alike.

The Legend of the Christmas Stocking

by Rick Osborne

This sweet story helps kids understand the meaning behind the Christmas stocking.

Christmas Day in the Morning

by Pearl S. Buck

Through a young boy we discover what the best gifts truly are.

The Gift of the Magi

by O. Henry

A classic tale that beautifully illustrates how to find the most special gifts of all.

Christmas in the Big Woods

by Laura Ingalls Wilder

This book takes you on a journey to Christmas so many years ago.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

by Dr. Seuss

No holiday book list would be complete without the classic story of the Grinch discovering what Christmas is really about.

The Night Before Christmas

by Clement C. Moore

A classic holiday poem, this story is one that will be repeated for years.

Christmas Farm”

by Mary Lyn Rae

The perfect story about Christmas trees and the tender determination of two kids.

The Little Fir Tree

by Margaret Wise Brown

A sweet story of how an ordinary tree’s dreams come true.

God Gave Us Christmas

by Lisa Tawn Bergren

The beautiful story of a little polar bear wondering if Christmas is about Santa or God.

Itsy Bitsy Christmas

by Max Lucado

Some cute little mice wonder how they fit into God’s great big story on the night Jesus is born.

An Orange for Frankie

by Patricia Polacco

An important lesson about tradition and giving is wrapped in this Christmas tale.

Do you have any special books that your family shares during the holidays? Share in the comments!

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If there's one thing you learn as a new mama, it's that routine is your friend. Routine keeps your world spinning, even when you're trucking along on less than four hours of sleep. Routine fends off tantrums by making sure bellies are always full and errands aren't run when everyone's patience is wearing thin. And routine means naps are taken when they're supposed to, helping everyone get through the day with needed breaks.

The only problem? Life doesn't always go perfectly with the routine. When my daughter was born, I realized quickly that, while her naps were the key to a successful (and nearly tear-free!) day, living my life according to her nap schedule wasn't always possible. There were groceries to fetch, dry cleaning to pick up, and―if I wanted to maintain any kind of social life―lunch dates with friends to enjoy.

Which is why the Ergobaby Metro Compact City Stroller was such a life-saver. While I loved that it was just 14 pounds (perfect for hoisting up the stairs to the subway or in the park) and folds down small enough to fit in an airplane overhead compartment (you know, when I'm brave enough to travel again!), the real genius of this pint-sized powerhouse is that it doesn't skimp on comfort.

Nearly every surface your baby touches is padded with plush cushions to provide side and lumbar support to everything from their sweet head to their tiny tush―it has 40% more padding than other compact strollers. When nap time rolls around, I could simply switch the seat to its reclined position with an adjustable leg rest to create an instant cozy nest for my little one.

There's even a large UV 50 sun canopy to throw a little shade on those sleepy eyes. And my baby wasn't the only one benefiting from the comfortable design― the Metro is the only stroller certified "back healthy" by the AGR of Germany, meaning mamas get a much-needed break too.

I also appreciate how the Metro fits comfortably into my life. The sleek profile fits through narrow store aisles as easily as it slides up to a table when I'm able to meet a pal for brunch. Plus, the spring suspension means the tires absorb any bumps along our way―helping baby stay asleep no matter where life takes us. When it's time to take my daughter out, it folds easily with one hand and has an ergonomic carry handle to travel anywhere we want to go.

Life will probably never be as predictable as I'd like, but at least with our Metro stroller, I know my child will be cradled with care no matter what crosses our path.

This article is sponsored by Ergobaby. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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After quite a wait (he was born last week) Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have finally revealed their baby boy’s name and it isn’t what the internet was expecting.

While Kim had previously hinted at the name Robert, after her late father and her brother, the couple went with a name that makes sense given Kanye’s new Sunday Services.

Baby number four for the Kardashian-Wests is called Psalm West, his mom announced via Instagram.

Psalm is the fourth child for Kim and Kanye, who are already raising 5-year-old North, 3-year-old Saint and 1-year-old Chicago.

Welcome to the family Psalm!

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Back in the day, when I saw my mom sporting a fanny pack, I cringed. I was a tween, and my mom was utterly embarrassing with her nylon belt bag. Flash forward a couple of decades and as I juggle four kids at a playground while my tote keeps slipping off my shoulder, I find myself thinking, "Maybe, just maybe, my mom was onto something."

And I'm not the only one. That's right friends, fanny packs are BACK. Why? Well, for celebs and fashion-types, it's because everything that was once old must always be reincarnated.

But for us mamas, there is one simple resounding answer: The bag is incredibly convenient. It allows us to have our hands free—to, ya know, change a diaper or put a bandage on a knee—and it also forces us to pare down the litany of items we'll throw into our purses before we head out the door. Like, those ten extra snacks or a juice box or a coloring book — the items that result in your purse suddenly weighing 50 pounds.

Oh, and this just in: You can also sling a fanny pack around your body, now. We've got options!

Is it the ultimate mom bag? Listen, we're not going to say it is. But we're also not going to say it's not. Catch our drift? And if you see yourself in a mirror while sporting your new belt bag, we dare you not to start singing, "I'm too sexy for… my fanny pack."

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Shop our favorite patterns and styles below, some of which start as low as 6 bucks.

Dagne Dover Ace Fanny Pack, $85.00

Dagne Dover Ace Fanny Pack

This just in: We all need more neoprene in our lives! We're loving the yellow lace design detail, and the fact that this one has a key clip and card holder inside, too.

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Pam & Gela Leopard Print Belt Bag, $105.00

Pam & Gela Leopard Print Belt Bag

We're just going to say it: One can never have too much leopard in their closet. This one will definitely spice up your daily jeans and t-shirt outfit.

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Herschel Supply Co. Fifteen Belt Bag, $30.00

Herschel Supply Co. Fifteen Belt Bag

Durable? Check. Fun colors? Check. Cute Herschel logo badge on the front? Check.

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Lululemon Everywhere Belt Bag 1L, $38.00

Lululemon Everywhere Belt Bag 1L


Yes, you need a sporty fanny pack, too. This one is perfect when you're heading to Saturday morning yoga.

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Sun Squad Cooler Fanny Pack, $6.00

Sun Squad Fanny Pack Cooler Grapefruit

A insulated fanny pack that keeps snacks cool? Amen!

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State Crosby Fanny Pack, $42.00

State Crosby Fanny Pack

Proof that fanny packs can be uber-hip (and sleek!) at the same time.

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No Boundaries Fanny Pack, $5.97

No Boundaries Fanny Pack

This sweet-pea pattern screams, "Spring!" and at this price, we might buy two.

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Lola Los Angeles Moonbeam Belt Bag, $28.00

Lola Los Angeles Moonbeam

We're loving the nylon fabric and cool Lola badge on this one, which also comes in black, red and maroon.

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Tee Shirt and Jeans Janie Fanny Pack, $11.99

Tee Shirt and Jeans Janie Fanny Pack

This one had us at pompoms. Oh, and that price. Sold!

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MZ Wallace Metro Belt Bag, $145.00

MZ Wallace Metro Belt Bag

Moms everywhere love MZ Wallace for their crazy parenting-friendly totes, and turns out they make an equally utilitarian belt bag in a variety of fun hues and patterns.

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Gucci Ophidia Small Suede Belt Bag, $1,390.00

What's that? You only wear designer bags? Fear not, they've adapted to the fanny pack trend (except they refer to the style as a "belt bag,") and this Gucci stunner will transition seamlessly from the park to date night.

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Clare V. Perforated Leather Fanny Pack, $299.00

Clare V. Perforated Leather Fanny Pack

The epitome of cool-girl bag brands, Clare V. has brought its chic aesthetic to the fanny pack category, and we couldn't be happier about that. We adore the perforated leather of this bag, as well as the high-contrast zipper.

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Jansport Fifth Avenue Fanny Pack, $17.00

Jansport Fifth Avenue Fanny Pack

If we're going to go the fanny pack route, we might as well go the whole way, right? Right. And nothing screams "90s!" like a Jansport bag. The good news is they haven't raised their prices too much in the past two decades.

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Nike Benassi Just Do It Fanny Pack Slide Sandal, $50.00

Nike Benassi Just Do It Fanny Pack Slide Sandal

Okay, okay, this isn't a true fanny pack per se. It's better! It's actually two amazing '90s trends packed into one perfect product. We give you... the fanny pack slide!

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Mornings can be so rough making sure everyone has what they need for the day and managing to get out the door on time. A recent survey by Indeed found that 60% of new moms say managing a morning routine is a significant challenge, and another new survey reveals just why that is.

The survey, by snack brand Nutri-Grain, suggests that all the various tasks and child herding parents take on when getting the family out the door in the morning adds up to basically an extra workday every week!

Many parents will tell you that it can take a couple of hours to get out of the house each morning person, and as the survey found, most of us need to remind the kids "at least twice in the morning to get dressed, brush their teeth, or put on their shoes."

According to Nutri-Grain, by the end of the school year, the average parent will have asked their children to hurry up almost 540 times across the weekday mornings.

We totally get it. It's hard to wait on little ones when we have a very grown-up schedule to get on with, but maybe the world needs to realize that kids just aren't made to be fast.

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As Rachel Macy Stafford, the author of Hands Free Mama, Hands Free Life, writes, having a child who wants to enjoy and marvel at the world while mama is trying to rush through it is hard.

"Whenever my child caused me to deviate from my master schedule, I thought to myself, 'We don't have time for this.' Consequently, the two words I most commonly spoke to my little lover of life were: 'Hurry up.'" she explains.

We're always telling our kids to hurry up, but maybe, maybe, we should be telling ourselves—and society—to slow down.

That's what Stafford did. She took "hurry up" out of her vocabulary and in doing so made that extra workday worth of time into quality time with her daughter, instead of crunch time. She worked on her patience, and let her daughter marvel at the world or slow down when she had to.

"To help us both, I began giving her a little more time to prepare if we had to go somewhere. And sometimes, even then, we were still late. Those were the times I assured myself that I will be late only for a few years, if that, while she is young."

It's great advice, but unless we mamas can get the wider world on board, it's hard to put into practice. When the school bus comes at 7:30 am and you've gotta be at the office at 8 am, when the emails start coming before you're out of bed or your pay gets docked if you punch in five minutes late, it is hard to slow down.

So to those who are making the schedules the rest of us have to live by, to the employers and the school boards and the wider culture, we ask: Can we slow down?

Indeed's survey suggests that the majority of moms would benefit from a more flexible start time at work and the CDC suggests that starting school later would help students.

Mornings are tough for parents, but they don't have to be as hard as they are.

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If you've ever shopped at Vineyard Vines you know two things. One, it's simply adorable. Like, the stuff that Nantucket dreams are made of. Stripes, checks, plaids and pinstripes in soft pastel hues for the entire family. Even the dog.

And second, you know that in order to achieve such a crisp, cool East Coast vibe that will look oh-so-perfect in your professionally-shot family photo you'll have to pay. Nope, that wee whale logo is not cheap, folks. How much are we talking? In the range of $50 for a boys button-down shirt or $70 for a girls madras dress (to be fair, it does have flutter sleeves and holy cannoli it might just be worth the price tag!). The good news is that we can verify the quality is top notch—my two sons regularly receive my nephews' hand me downs and even after being worn by four boys, they're still in top-notch condition.

Needless to say, for those of us with a penchant for prep on a tighter clothing budget, the news of Target's Vineyard Vines collaboration was music to our ears. We've actually tried the product and we're drooling... over the styles, the quality and the prices! Comprised of more than 300 pieces, the collection is priced from $2 to $120, with most of it costing below $35.

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Let's say it together, friends: Yassss!

Check out our favorite pieces for the whole family below.

Vineyard Vines for Target Women's Sleeveless Ruffle Tie Waisted Midi V-Neck Dress

Price: $35

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Vineyard Vines for Target Baby Ruffle School of Whales Sleeveless Bodysuit

Vineyard Vines for Target Baby Ruffle School of Whales Sleeveless Bodysuit

Price: $12

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Vineyard Vines for Target  Boys' Short Sleeve Polo Shirt

Vineyard Vines for Target  Boys' Short Sleeve Polo Shirt

Price: $16

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Vineyard Vines for Target Men's Striped Swim Trunks

Vineyard Vines for Target Men's Striped Swim Trunks

Price: $25

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Vineyard Vines for Target Girls' Striped Scoop Neck Romper

Vineyard Vines for Target Girls' Striped Scoop Neck Romper

Price: $20

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Vineyard Vines for Target Toddler Boys' 1/4 Zip Pullover Sweatshirt

Vineyard Vines for Target Toddler Boys' 1/4 Zip Pullover Sweatshirt

Price: $16

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Vineyard Vines for Target Women's Blue One-Piece Swimsuit

Vineyard Vines for Target Women's Blue One-Piece Swimsuit

Price:$35

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Vineyard Vines for Target Women's Women's Gingham Long Sleeve Shirtdress

Vineyard Vines for Target Women's Women's Gingham Long Sleeve Shirtdress

Price: $35

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Vineyard Vines for Target Throw Blankets & Pillows

Vineyard Vines for Target Throw Blankets & Pillows

Price: $25-$30

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Vineyard Vines for Target Pet Accessories

Vineyard Vines for Target Pet Accessories

Price: $6-$11

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