Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Book Review: Dear Jane by Rachel Ward

Sometimes I'm in the mood for a really deep read that makes me think, but sometimes I'm just in the mood for an enjoyable and fun story. I recently read Dear Jane by Rachel Ward, a new LDS romance, and amazingly enough, it fit both bills for me!

Looking for a clean romance to read? Dear Jane by Rachel Ward is just the book you're looking for.

Dear Jane begins while Quinn is serving her mission and receives a "dear Jane" letter from the boy at home who is supposed to be waiting for her. As devastating as that was for her, she had always dreamed of being a missionary and she resolved to complete her mission with a renewed tenacity and focus. She refused to let that letter ruin her mission.

When she arrives back home she is met with several situations that try her faith in different ways—that's the part that really made me think. There is a lot of depth to Quinn's character and the lessons she learns as she faces her various trials. Perhaps the most difficult thing for her to learn was that bad things can happen to good people—even to return missionaries who are trying their best to do what's right. The meat of the book really lies in the way she works through her problems.

Even though it is a book with a surprising amount of depth, it is still a fun and enjoyable read. So enjoyable, in fact, that I stayed up rather late one night reading it start to finish it ON MY PHONE. I absolutely hate reading on my phone, but my Kindle died, so I was stuck. The characters and the romance and the unexpected twists and turns all made it so I simply couldn't put it down even though I can't stand reading on my phone longer than 30 minutes or so!

Simply put, I greatly enjoyed this book, and if you're looking for a clean, fun romance that also gives you some food for thought you should definitely pick it up.

Purchase the book (affiliate link): Dear Jane on Amazon
Rachel Ward's Facebook Page: Rachel Sue Ward, Author
Rachel Ward's Blog: Trapped Between a Scream and a Hug

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

2016-17 Back-to-School Feast and Family Theme

My girls went back to school yesterday.

My husband is taking a sabbatical this semester, so we are in Utah living with my parents in my childhood home. School starts a couple weeks earlier here, so that's been a bummer for them, but I think it is so cool that each of them are attending the same schools I attended!

Because we aren't home in Michigan where school always starts the day after Labor Day, my preparation for our traditional back-to-school feast came upon me quite suddenly! Still, The Maestro and I managed to come up with something that we feel really, really good about and that the entire family needs to work on right now—not just the children.

Our back to school feast for the year focuses on finishing with an Olympic flair.

This feast is one of the traditions we really look forward to each year as school starts. It's a way for us to really start the school year on the right foot and make a few goals for ourselves that will help us all be better at whatever we are doing. Better students, better parents, better musicians, better readers, better friends, etc.

During our feast of excellent food made by The Maestro, we talk about the theme we have chosen for the year. I am often surprised that the introduction of the theme is usually the girls' favorite part. They always have such wonderful insights and they are quick to see how it applies to them and how they can improve.

Download this printable of 2 Timothy 4:7 and remember to always finish.

This year our family theme is simply Finish. We also included the scripture in 2 Timothy 4:7:

"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."

Two things influenced this theme for me.

1. I went to a BYU Education Week Class last week about organization. The teacher stressed finishing as being essential to stay organized and save time. She also taught us that finishing is often not what we think it is. We are not finished eating when we have finished the food on our plate. We are finished eating when we have cleaned up the kitchen and brought it back to a state of order. The messes and disorganization in our lives are often caused by not finishing the last few steps of a task and bringing things back to a state of order.

2.  The Olympics (obviously). We have loved watching The Olympics each night as a family, and it is so inspiring to see such dedication and hard work. These athletes always finish—sometimes finishing looks like crossing a literal finish line or finishing their routine, but they started long before that one race or that one balance beam routine. They finish on a daily basis, and that's what makes them great.

We are not very good finishers at our house, I fully admit. I am an excellent starter, but finishing can be overwhelming for me. I notice my kids are the same. They start things, they do what they are asked, but they often forget those last few steps that mean the task is complete.

For the feast, I tried to make it as "Olympic" as possible. I used a black tablecloth and napkins in the Olympic colors. I made a torch out of a water bottle, tin foil, and some tissue paper (you'll have to look closely to see it, I didn't think to take a good photo of it), and the theme printable I made includes the Olympic rings and a small nod to a gold medal.

Instead of the crowns I usually give the girls at the feast, I decided gold medals would be much more apropos. They were super simple to make, too! I just used small yellow paper plates, added their names and grades in glitter glue, and hot glued some grosgrain ribbon to the back so they could wear them around their necks.

I was worried they would miss the crowns too much, but they really enjoyed the medals. They did point out to me that the grades looked like they had come in 5th, 8th, and 11th place in their events—didn't think of that!

You can tell we've been watching a lot of Olympics at our house...

Bria and her Michael Phelps face.

Chloe thrilled to win gold.

Sophia biting the medal.

But for real, my girls were all super excited (and very nervous) to get going at school this year.

Bria is a freaking junior in high school. While I hate how grown up she is getting, I also love it. She's growing into a beautiful, thoughtful, talented, and poised young lady. She handled her first day in a new high school with grace—even though it literally has a thousand more kids in it than her high school back home.

Chloe is in 8th grade, also getting a little too grown up for me to handle. She is such a great girl. Fun, sweet, friendly, and hard-working. She also handled her first day at a new school well, though there were a few tears when she got home because she got signed up for the wrong band class and had to switch around her entire schedule and she'd already become attached to a couple teachers.

Sophia is in 5th grade—her last year of elementary school. She is fearless, outgoing, hilarious, and thoughtful. She loved her first day of school and already has two best friends, the best teacher in the school (according to her!), and is excited for this semester. She doesn't like that she is a "later gator" (her school has both an early and a late schedule), so I'm going to have to find something for her to do in the mornings that isn't sitting around watching TV or playing on the computer.

After school yesterday I probably asked the girls if they were finished with things about 50 times. "Are you finished?" is definitely going to be the new catch phrase around our house—and the girls are already becoming more aware of what finishing really means, whether it's breakfast, homework, practice, or something else.

We are so excited to finish out a great school year!

If you would like to download your own copy of our family theme, please enter your email in the form below. If you are on a mobile device, click here to see the form.


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Thursday, August 11, 2016

6 Ways to Help Kids Beat Seasonal Allergies

Children's FLONASE® Allergy Relief compensated me in connection with statements made in this post.

Sophia had to miss her first two field days at the elementary school due to her severe seasonal allergies. It was the saddest thing ever. Field Day is the most anticipated day for a first-grader, especially when you are as active as Sophia. I hated seeing her so upset, but we just weren't finding anything to make it easier for her to be outside without also feeling miserable.

Sophia at the doctor's office after a particularly bad allergic reaction to spring pollens.

Thankfully, she's managed to attend her last couple of field days, but only because we took steps to help alleviate her allergies. Because, like clockwork, the allergies show up right around the same time field day is scheduled. While I can't change the pollen counts (oh how I wish I could!), I can still do something about Sophia's indoor environment and her overall experience with allergies. I was actually really surprised about how much doing these things actually helps!

Allergy season tips for kids

6 Ways to Help Kids Beat Seasonal Allergies

Wash clothing immediately

I thought it seemed silly at first, but it is so important to make your allergic child strip down after being outside. I have Sophia put on clean clothes and put the ones she had on while playing outside immediately into the wash. It's amazing how much pollen they can pick up just walking home from the bus stop or playing in the yard for a while, and the less they are exposed to it the more comfortable they will be allergy-wise.

Shower often

I know, I know. Sometimes getting a 9-year-old kid to shower once a week can be torturous! But during allergy season, showering daily (preferably as soon as they come in from outside) is a necessity. The pollen sticks in their hair and on their skin. Help them to learn how to thoroughly wash themselves. 

If Sophia isn't careful—like the time she decided to play with the pretty weeds she is allergic to last year—the allergens can affect her nose and eyes. I didn't know she had actually been making weed bouquets until it was too late. If I had her shower immediately, there is a chance that she would not have had an allergic reaction.

Wash bedding often

I'm going to sound like a broken record now, but wash that bedding. It will pick up allergens that will exacerbate symptoms, even if it doesn't necessarily pick up pollen. However, if you happen to have windows open (try not to!), pollen will find its way into your home and onto the bedding. I have a couple sets of bedding to make this chore easier for me during allergy season, and I rotate it every few days.

Leave shoes off inside the house

Not only do shoes track in dirt and mud, they will track in pollens and other outdoor allergens. Leave them at the door. That means everyone in the house, not just the allergic child.

Vacuum daily

I don't love vacuuming, but it's essential when you have allergy sufferers in the house. Even more essential is that your vacuum has a good HEPA filter so that all pollens and other allergens are effectively trapped. Dusting often is also really important for the same reasons.

Talk to your doctor about medications

Obviously, it's important to speak with a medical professional when your child is suffering from allergies to the point of not being able to even participate in fun activities like field day! We tried a lot of things, but my doctor finally had us use Children's FLONASE® Allergy relief for kids ages 4+ nasal spray. It works to block 6 allergic substances, instead of just one.*

*Mechanism vs. most OTC allergy pills. Flonase acts on multiple inflammatory substances (histamine, prostaglandins, cytokines, tryptases, chemokines and leukotrienes). The exact number and precise mechanism are unknown.

Sophia used Children's FLONASE® Allergy Relief during the spring allergy season and it helped her to be greater than her allergies and be able to spend more time outdoors. I have been impressed with how much it helps her. It helps with both her nasal congestion and itchy eyes. It's the only OTC nasal spray indicated to relieve both nasal congestion and itchy water eyes.

Field day is now an option!

If you have a child who also suffers from seasonal allergies, go to the FLONASE® website and check it out. You can easily earn points whenever you purchase FLONASE®, watch videos and read articles, complete surveys, complete your member profile, and share content with friends. Be greater than your allergies, while earning Greater Rewards! Join today and you’ll immediately earn points and save up to $4 with a FLONASE® coupon.

Join Sophia outdoors this allergy season!

How do you keep allergies away?

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Monday, August 01, 2016

August 2016 Visiting Teaching Printable

I've been thinking a lot about love lately, so this month's visiting teaching message on Nurturing Families was perfect for me. The idea that the Lamanites were more righteous than the Nephites simply because they loved their families really hit me hard. (Jacob 3:7)

Sometimes it's hard to love our families—and sometimes it's just hard to show the love that we feel. I see that reality in action on a daily basis as I watch my children interact with one another.

August 2016 Visiting Teaching handout printable. "The Home is to be a laboratory of love and service." Elder Russell M. Nelson

I think that part of the reason we are put into family units on this earth is solely to learn to love one another. That's why I loved Elder Nelson's quote:

"The home is to be God's laboratory of love and service."

Isn't that a wonderful way to think of our homes? A laboratory of love and service. I will continue to experiment and learn how to love and show love with those I truly do love most. What a beautiful gift.

To download:

Enter your email address in the form below to download. Click here to see the form if you are on a mobile device.

The printable will be sent straight to your email inbox where you can download it and print it out or send it to a photo service for printing.

I print all of my visiting teaching printables at 5x7.

August 2016 Visiting Teaching handout. Print out Russell M. Nelson quote "The home is to be God's laboratory of love and service."

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