Sunday, April 22, 2012

Teaching little ones to know and love Christ

We all want our children to be loving and kind, and not just so they'll stop pulling so many tantrums. For me, my greatest measure of success as a mother would be to raise a child who is not only loving to all but generous, happy and peaceful. This is just one of the reasons my husband and I have made it a point to teach our son about Jesus Christ at a very young age: so he will know in whose footsteps to follow.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are told to teach our children while they are young, even in their infancy. It's very noble advice and wise counsel, but when I finally became a mom I was perplexed at just how to accomplish this feat. I wondered, am I supposed to read the scriptures to him? Do we ignore Santa Claus and focus only on Christ's birth? How I teach him about the crucifixion and resurrection? How do I get a young mind to understand Christ's divinity?

All these questions and more plagued me until I lost sight of the point. But little by little I realized that teaching children while they're young isn't so that they'll get a head start on theological knowledge. The point is to introduce our children to the greatest role model they could ever follow, and to remind us as parents the qualities we should be instilling in our children — and emulating ourselves.

At the core, teaching our children about Jesus is teaching our children about unconditional love, generosity, sacrifice, patience, kindness, service, devotion, and many more virtues that Christ embodied. Beyond that, we are laying a foundation for a loving relationship between our children, Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father. We are showing them the path to eternal joy by teaching them whose example to follow.

You will find, as we have, that as your children grow they will know Jesus by sight and take an interest in what you say about him because they are familiar with his loving face. What's more, they will hear the fondness with which you talk of Christ and know from this alone that he is a very special person, one we should pay attention to and want to be like.

There are a million ways to go about this, but here is how we started teaching our son about Christ. My husband and I are forgetting the big, complicated stuff for now. At the beginning, we simply began an introduction. We show him pictures of Jesus at church and in our family's homes. We sing Primary songs to Evan before bed. At Christmastime, we sing songs about Christ instead of Santa Claus. We take occasional visits to Temple Square in Salt Lake City and let him touch the Christus statue (which is stunning. If you haven't been, or it's been a while, go!). 

It was Evan himself who reminded us we did not have our own picture of Jesus at home. When he was about 16 months old I rearranged our living room and hung up some new pictures, one of which was a black-and-white closeup of the Statue of Liberty. He pointed to it and excitedly said, "Jesus!" After explaining that no, it was not Jesus, I knew it was time to take Evan to the store and buy his very own picture. 

We walked around Seagull Book and looked at all the various paintings of Christ, and I let him choose which one he'd like to take home. I bought one of the little 5x7 cardboard prints for about $1 and also found a little set of playing card-sized photos of Christ. The larger picture we put in a frame in his bedroom, and the smaller pictures I put in a special gold box and keep with his toys. These little pictures he can hold, stack and look at whenever he likes — and he does, frequently. We talk about what's happening in these photos, like, "Here's Jesus when he was a little teeny baby," and, "Here he's holding a little boy and helping him not to be sad." It helps set the foundation for an understanding of Christ's life and teachings, but at a toddler level. 

Without a doubt, my 18-month-old son knows who Jesus is and knows that Jesus is a very special person. This knowledge has also brought some hilarious moments as well as tender ones. About two months ago, when Evan was tired of sitting in Sacrament meeting and wanted to look at the pictures in the hall, he stood in the aisle, pointed to the door, and yelled, "Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!" And just last week at the park, when Evan caught sight of a long-haired, bearded maintenance worker, he stopped, pointed, and asked if that was Jesus. 

This second event, while definitely hilarious, was also a very sweet moment for me. Evan looked at that man in earnest and excitement, and I swear that if I'd said yes, that's Jesus, he would have run over and given him kisses. When I was done laughing, it almost brought tears to my eyes. It made me think, what if Christ suddenly walked among us? How proud I would be to have my son among the children Christ called to him, not only because of the loving reception he would receive — but because I could be proud to know that we did not forget to teach our son about the most important person he could ever gain knowledge of. It also made me a little sad that my son will not meet Jesus face to face in this life; however, I am doing my best so that when the time comes, he will be prepared for that meeting.

Yes, I am very proud that my son not only knows who Jesus is, he knows that Jesus loves us and wants us to be kind. He knows that Jesus is special, and we go to church to sing songs about him and learn of him. He also knows (but is apparently ignoring the fact) that Jesus wants us to be happy in church and not scream and cry. On top of that, he knows who the prophet is, and he knows that the prophet talks to Jesus. This is a concept that many adults struggle with, and yet our little tyke knows and is impressed by this already.

So while it may seem intimidating to impart this knowledge on little minds, it is easier than you may think. There are many ways to do it, and none of them are wrong. It's just important that we start.

What are some of the ways you teach your children about Jesus Christ and his gospel?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Recipe: Made-from-scratch Italian sausage bolognese

Tonight I made this:

Into this:


Would you like to know how? Look no further: Here is my very own made-from-scratch recipe for Italian sausage bolognese.

Before I begin, something to note: This is not exactly a quick-fix recipe, but it's also not complicated or difficult; it's just a little time-consuming to prep all the ingredients if you're doing it by hand and not using a food processor. If you want quick-fix, open a jar of Prego. If you want something that's fresh, delicious and a little fancy — something you could serve at a dinner party to make yourself look awesome — this is the recipe for you.

One other thing to note: Since this is literally something I made up in my head, I don't have exact amounts for the ingredients — it's a by-taste thing. But this is so easy to make I'm confident that you can do it this way, and then you can say, "Oh, I just threw in a little of this and a little of that" — again, making yourself look awesome.

Mormon Mommy's Italian Sausage Bolognese


  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms
  • 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 to 1 lb. Italian sausage
  • 1 pint jar tomatoes (or canned tomatoes Italian style)
  • Italian spices (oregano, basil, parsley, etc.)
  • Dash of sugar
  • Salt & pepper
(To make tonight's entire dish, I used penne and a blend of mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses)

1. Chop all the vegetables except for the Roma tomatoes. I used a Cuisinart mini chopper, but you can also do it by hand. I like my veggies a little larger than the size of cooked rice, like this:

2. Chop the Roma tomatoes into chunks, about the size of grapes. Add them to the rest of the vegetables and set aside.

3. Heat the oil in a large skillet (I use a wok) over medium heat. Mince the garlic and add it to the oil, sauteing for about one minute. Do not let it burn.

4. Add the rest of the vegetables and saute, stirring, until they begin to soften and the onion turns yellow.

5. Turn the heat to high and add the sausage. Cook until brown, and drain the grease if necessary. 

6. Add the jar of tomatoes, breaking them into small pieces with the spoon or spatula. Alternatively, you can chop them ahead of time (I also use the mini Cuisinart). Add the spices to taste. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, about 15-20 minutes.

And that's it. The traditional Italian way is to serve it chunky as is, but if you're feeling American and you'd like a smoother sauce, you can put everything back into your food processor for a bit to get the desired consistency, like this:

For tonight's meal, I cooked up some penne and tossed it with the sauce. Then I topped it with cheese and stuck it in the oven to melt (which I left in a bit too long, but it actually was yummy having that little bit of a crunch to it):

The final result: deliciousness:

If you try this, let me know what you think. What's your favorite way to make bolognese?

Monday, April 16, 2012

A "perfect mom"? Ha!

A week ago a lady in the neighborhood gave me quite the compliment. Before I get to that, here's the setup: She is my visiting teacher, and a few days before she had taken Evan and me for some frozen yogurt. I loaded his little "pack-pack" with toys and snacks and got there a bit early so he could wander around and check the place out. Evan was so good, just sitting and playing happily and sampling my ice cream with gusto. When he wasn't so good, I would talk to him, give him a little one-on-one attention, then give him a new distraction. This wasn't any new territory to me; As a full-time mom I take Evan almost everywhere, so I've got him figured out and know what I'm doing by now. Other than the occasional little outburst, he's happy to be out and about 95 percent of the time.

Anyway, this lady stopped by my house last Saturday. She said how much fun she had and was so impressed with how I handled Evan and how I interacted with him. She said I was "the perfect mom."


What a compliment, and what a claim to live up to! While I was definitely flattered, I don't think it's possible for anyone to be the perfect anything. Yes, I've got this going out thing figured out, and I work really hard with Evan to help him be patient, happy and secure. But when it comes to motherhood as a whole, I'm just like every other mom: I'm figuring it out as I go along.

Now, I do read a lot of parenting articles and a few books, and I pay attention to other moms and how they handle their kids for good ideas (and for bad ideas to stay away from, too). And, I'm lucky that I get to spend a lot of one-on-one time with Evan, figuring him out day by day. But even if there was a Perfect Motherhood Manual, there's just no way you could follow it and have the perfect child or be the perfect mom. That's because every child is different, every mom is different, and every moment of every day is different. It feels like over half of everything we do is adjusting to the circumstances we're given. What may have worked yesterday or even 15 minutes ago may lead us to a big fat failure now. It's all about adapting to the situation at hand and making the most out of what you've got, even if it's not a lot.

For me, that's what makes this life all the more satisfying. It's hard to take much pride in something that comes easily. It's solving problems and working through trouble spots that makes you feel like you've done something great, because you have — you've conquered something that was insurmountable to you before.

Years ago a friend of mine asked me how I succeed at everything I do. I literally laughed in her face. Everything? Hardly! While I've had my share of big victories, I've had many, many heartbreaking (and embarrassing) losses and failures. I've hit rock bottom more than a few times and been so very lost along the way. But the thing is, I never give up. Call it dogged determination, obsessive drive, or just plain stubbornness — I do NOT give up. I may feel like it, and I may say I'm going to, but I don't. Ever.

That's why I think I'm getting good at this motherhood thing. After every day that makes me want to get in my car and drive into the sunset, ne'er to return, I get up the next day and vow to try again. And I do.

Lest you think I'm putting on false modesty about this "perfect mom" business, let me assure you that I am not. Just yesterday I totally lost my cool, yelled at my kid and left him sitting in his bedroom wailing because he was putting up such a fight and would not let me get him dressed. I was so upset I wanted to punch a hole in the wall. It was not one of my prouder moments, and I don't feel good about it. But I do feel good about the fact that I calmed myself down, went back into his room, apologized, and helped him calm down, too. Then we had a little chat about what we can do to feel better when we're mad or sad. I don't know if he understood, but hopefully one day he will. The point is, I made a mistake, but I didn't give up and leave the situation a mess. I tried again.

So, perfect? Nope! Far from it. Determined? Yes. Obsessively, stubbornly determined. But maybe in the end, the result is the same: a happy child and a proud mommy. Which makes it all worth it.

I'm going to leave you with another visual. It's one I did not create, and of a quote that may be old news now thanks to Pinterest. But it got me through some really tough times 10 years ago and it's still powerful whether you've heard it before or not. Enjoy, and remember.

Image created by gemgoode via

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Motherhood Mantra for those less-than-perfect days

It's ironic that after writing that last post about choosing to be a full-time mom, we've had just about the worst week yet around here. Or maybe it's not ironic at all — it's just a faithful representation of what this lifestyle entails: the best of times, the worst of times, and everything in between.

Nothing too dramatic has happened, which is perhaps what makes this week so infuriating. Evan's got some major allergies and may be teething, which makes him a giant cranky monster. But other than that, there's no "cause" for our foul moods and short fuses, nothing we can point to and say, "When we fix this or when this ends, everything will go back to normal." So, on top of being cranky, we are a left a bit helpless an stranded.

Unfortunately, that's just how it is. It's a very win-some, lose-some life. Some days are filled with laughter and new experiences and those loving, tender moments that remind you that to be a mother is to fulfill your highest purpose. Some days are filled with tears, anger and yearning for the time when no one depended on you for every little thing or clung to your leg with an iron grip, begging for more animal crackers on the verge of an explosive tantrum if those requests are not met. And, oh yes, for those days when you used to be able to pee alone without little hands pounding on the door or wandering in just to see what's going on.

Hence the ol' motherhood cliche: It's so hard, but it's so worth it.

I hate to say it, ladies, but this awful, worn-out cliche is true. It is SO HARD. It makes you want to cry and scream every bit as much as it makes you want to smile. It makes you wish for any life but your own, just like it makes you grateful that heaven smiled upon you the day you were blessed with a child.

But remember what it is you are doing as a mother: You are raising a human being. You are, in essence, creating a person from scratch. You are daring to make the world a better place by shaping a young mind to be curious, be smart, be kind, be loving, be adventurous, be generous, be an individual. You believe enough in yourself to impart your ideals and values onto another human being who will then go out into the world and leave his or her mark forever. And, you are forging a bond that is one of the most important things your child will ever have — the love of a mother.

And that's why it's SO WORTH IT.

When my little dude was about two months old I came up with a Motherhood Mantra to remind me that what I'm doing is so very, very important. I wrote it on a 3x5 card and put it on my nightstand so I would see it and repeat it every day. It reads:

"My child is a divine gift. Being a mother is the most important duty I have ever been given. I will care for my child with patience and joy and be grateful for the privilege of this honor."

Reading this daily helps shift my focus when I delve into despair or self-pity or just plain boredom. My child IS a gift from God. I am unbelievably blessed just to have him here, healthy and whole. Being a mother IS more important than any job I could ever hope to hold. I WILL care for my child with patience, and I WILL remind myself daily that this is a great honor bestowed upon me by my Heavenly Father.

And because I like you all so much — you stalwart mothers, future mothers, and mothers at heart — I made a little printable so you can put this by your bedside too:

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Why I became a full-time mom

I never in my life wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. Beyond being repulsed by antiquated images of June Cleaver or the archetypal frazzled mom doomed to live in sensible sneakers and Mom Jeans, I never thought I had the chops. I have ambitions, I have dreams, and I plain just don't have the patience to sit at home all day while the world passes me by.

And then I had a child.

At the time, I had what was pretty close to my dream job. I was an editor for a local TV news website, the second most popular broadcast news website behind only I loved the work, I loved my co-workers, and the future possibilities seemed endless. Still, it seemed like the perfect mom job because it was only part-time. I worked from 3 p.m. - 7 p.m. most days, so I found a wonderful lady in the neighborhood who babysat Evan from 2:30 to 5:30, when his dad picked him up. It seemed like the perfect scenario, where I could have the best of both worlds.

And it did seem perfect for a long time. I had the bulk of the day to be home with my son, and I got to go do the working-woman thing and still be home in time for dinner. But then he grew, and his schedule and needs changed. By the time he was about 5 months old, things started getting tough. Each day became a race against the clock to get his diaper bag packed, get me ready for work, get dinner prepped, and be sure he had his two naps before going to the sitter so the rest of the night wasn't plunged into chaos. Then I had to be sure I woke him up in time to get him changed and ready to be out the door, and pray that he didn't spit up all over my work clothes and his and force use to start over again. Anyone who's been in this scenario knows just how stressful it is. If you haven't been there, just take my word for it. It's harder than it sounds.

I found myself hardly enjoying any of it when I was supposed to be enjoying all of it. And yet, I just didn't see how it was possible to quit. We needed my income, small as it was. We could barely make ends meet with it let alone without it. And I needed the sanity of those four hours away from home in the grown-up world.

I started praying for an answer: Should I quit? Should I become a stay-at-home mom? How will we have enough money? Should I find a different job, or try and change my work schedule? I could never sort out an answer or my feelings, because my logic and fear always stepped in when I should have let the Spirit take over.

The months passed, and little by little I couldn't ignore the thought that this wasn't the life we were meant to be living. It got to the point where, because he wouldn't nap at the sitter's, Evan was in bed before I even got home most days. I finally knew this was a problem when, one Saturday morning when he was about 9 months old, my husband and I brought him in bed with us to hang out and snuggle. He sat up in the bed and looked from dad, to mom, to dad, to mom and back again, just grinning from ear to ear. That's when I realized, he hardly ever sees us together. He is shuttled from parent to babysitter to parent, with so little family time on the weekends.

That's when I finally knew I had to quit. My son had two loving parents, but he needed a family.

I remember praying one weekday morning after Evan had gone down for a nap. I basically said, "OK, I believe now. I know I'm supposed to be a stay-at-home mom, but that's all I know. I can't figure out how to make this work. I will do it, but please take me the rest of the way."

I stood up, went downstairs and picked up my cell phone. I had a missed call from a work colleague in a different department, in charge of the company's freelance contributor network. And suddenly I knew how to make it work. He called about something completely different, but I called him back about a job as an at-home editor.

The rest fell into place. I quit my job as a scheduled employee and became on-call, allowing me a few days here and there to fill in and get some grown-up world sanity. I am an at-home freelance editor, able to work when Evan's asleep. My paychecks are smaller, but with the money I save by not needing to commute or hire a babysitter, it works out just about evenly. And best of all, I am home with my son.

Evan and Mommy, July 2011

I learned so many lessons from this experience, the most important of all about letting go of logic and trusting the path that the Lord has for you—and that once you finally submit to the Lord's will, everything will fall into place. I never in my life wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but when I let go of my stubbornness, opened my eyes to the possibilities, and was willing to do what God wanted me to do, I discovered a lifestyle that was made for me. It is not easy-peasy, by any means, but it's just what I need to become the best version of me. More importantly, it's what my son and my family need.

Since becoming a full-time mom nine months ago, I have become an entirely different person. All those motherhood things I didn't think I had in me — now I know they weren't there because they were waiting to be cultivated in me. I now have so much more patience, kindness, gratitude and joy than I ever could have built on my own. I laugh every day. I ignore the clock and sit on the floor and play every day. I snuggle with my son, we read books, we snack, we explore. And we love. The only way for me to become this person was to take this path, fully and completely. I never could have imagined that this was the only way to bring out the best in me — but thankfully my Heavenly Father knew it, and He kept on pushing me until I took the leap. And I am so infinitely glad that He did.

I haven't even gotten into the ways this has changed my son and my family. That's for another post entirely. For now, let's just say that I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am fulfilling my higher purpose. Nothing in any job or career could bring me as much satisfaction, joy, pride, fulfillment or appreciation than being a full-time mom. I repeat: NOTHING. This is what I need and what we need as a family. This is what I was created for. I am forever grateful that I took this leap of faith.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Why I want to blog

Here it is, just another Mormon mommy blog. Is this worth my time? Should a blog really be a priority in my life? What could I possibly add to the discussion about motherhood that hasn't already been said? Will anyone read this?

To answer those questions: Yes, yes, plenty, and I hope so.

I've been turning the decision of starting a mommy blog over in my mind for the past few weeks. I am a writer and an editor in between my duties as a full-time mom to an 18-month-old son. I am busy, I have so little free time, and my family's happiness is the most important thing to me — and it also takes almost all of my time. And yet, the idea wouldn't go away. When that happens, I've decided, I think the idea is more of a spiritual prompting than some impulsive, wild idea. So I kept thinking about those very same questions I just posed.

Is this worth my time? Yes, it is, if I budget my time well. Writing has long been a hobby of mine and a personal talent. But since I do it professionally, I seldom have the time to write about the things that inspire or perplex or enrich me. This includes journaling, and in our technological age, what is blogging if not journaling? By taking an hour or two a week, spread out here and there, it is time well spent to document my feelings and events for posterity.

Should a blog really be a priority in my life? Yes, for the reasons above, and for this other very important one: We mommies need to stick together. Because we live in a techie society where it's easier to text or Facebook a friend than to call or meet face to face, this is my way of connecting with other mothers who may be in need of a like-minded sister. By talking through challenges I may help another mother solve her own. By relaying a funny or crazy motherhood moment I may give someone a chuckle or make her problems seem a little smaller in comparison. By affirming my belief that what I'm doing as a mother is the most important thing I will ever do, I may inspire other mothers to believe in themselves and the path that they have chosen. In this vein, just as the way compassionate service should be a priority in my life, so will blogging be.

What could I possibly add to the discussion about motherhood that hasn't already been said? I may not have completely original insights all the time, but my voice is completely different than any other mother's voice. My experiences are unique and my beliefs are sincere. Therefore, I will always have something to say that is at least new, if not valuable. And at the very least, it's all new to me.

Will anyone read this? I hope so. But even if only two or three people do, if it can help just one of them even in the slightest, then it will be worth it.

Even after all this consideration, what really solidified my decision were the words of Sister Julie Beck, the outgoing General Relief Society President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In a discussion in which she took questions from women, she quoted President Spencer W. Kimball:

"Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world."

She then had this to say about women bloggers:

"Think about the influence Latter-day Saint women could have if they are articulate. Not just about anything, but they are articulate about the things they stand for, which are encapsulated here (holding up the Relief Society book "Daughters in My Kingdom") and in the scriptures. If they can express their faith. If they can express what families mean to them. If they can serve in a way to seek out and help those who are in need of those covenants and ordinances and the blessings of the gospel in a distinct and different and happy ways, from the women of the world -- those are some principles."

And so, I will blog. I hope you will join me and encourage me in my journey.