Thursday, March 31, 2011

Favorite Book:
Little Sweeters Spread Sunshine


A good friend of our family, after the death of his wife and daughter in a tragic auto accident, wrote a book called “Little Sweeters Spread Sunshine”, based on the simple teachings he and his wife used while raising their 8 children.

We have utilized this book (written in a interactive format where my daughters have the opportunity to illustrate what each principle means to them), to teach Ella and Louisa that they can weave sweetness into their lives. There are 24 loving ways in the book, including: “Little Sweeters tell the truth”, “Little Sweeters work until the job is done”, “Little Sweeters think nice thoughts” and “Little Sweeters dream”.

One review of the book states, "As you illustrate each loving way it will become even more a part of you. Even before children learn to read they can understand how it feels to spread sunshine in a loving way."

Because of “Little Sweeters Spread Sunshine”, my daughters are learning that they can choose sweet thoughts and actions amidst the challenges of their daily lives.

You can purchase a copies of
Little Sweeters Spread Sunshine
for your children (or yourself!)
by visiting Amazon.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Journeying Together

As a newly married couple, my husband and I joined my parents on a trek of the Grand Canyon. We planned and prepared to hike the 24-mile distance spanning from rim-to-rim. On the night before beginning this adventure, we gathered as a group for dinner at Jacob Lake Lodge near the north rim of the canyon. It was there we overheard, “When will we begin the race from rim-to-rim?

Steve and I were shocked by the word "race". Unbeknown to us, our group was planning to run not hike, as we had planned!

We were ill-prepared and ill-trained. But as a couple, we had two choices: we could join the drivers on the interstate for a 5-hour drive from the north to the south rim, or we could participate - feeling quite inadequate - in the "race."


The next morning, Steve and I were dropped off at the snowy 14,000 foot north rim. What followed was an amazing journey over beautiful terrain. Yet, 5-miles in, my legs were aching. There were 19 miles remaining and no turning back.

As we descended the canyon, 15 degree winter weather became 80 degree summer sun.
At 10 miles, I had already ran through exhaustion once. At 15 miles, we reached Phantom Ranch, and stopped running - but only briefly - to fill our water bottles.

We continued on, and at seventeen miles began our ascent up the Bright Angel Trail. This climb pushed me beyond my limits. I remember wanting to lie down on the trail to sleep – and await helicopter rescue. When incoherence officially set in, fortunately Steve took my hand. Together we were able to reach the south rim.

***
Isn't life often like this journey? Perhaps we start our tour with expectations of grand vistas to be experienced in the comfort of hikers stride. But the reality becomes that the hike turns into an endurance race! We feel inadequate to meet the challenge, yet we must not let our feelings of inadequacy keep us from step-by-step responding to our challenges. And along the path, through the hands of others, we are strengthened to do things beyond what we thought was our limited capacity.

I count it a great blessing that I can walk, hand-in-hand and step-by-step, in this journey of life (which offers great vistas but also steep ascents) with my husband Steve. He is a great source of strength for me.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Great Enthusiasms & Great Devotions

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly..."

Teddy Roosevelt
Citizenship in a Republic
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mothers as Guardians of Virtue

All weekend, in and out of my mind I have viewed the scene from a favorite painting. In this painting, a child is sweetly being guided - with gentle yet forceful movement - by heavenly hosts toward his new earthly home.


Each time I view this image (rendered in 2009 by Utah artist Brian Kershisnik), I am visually reminded of my almost constant prayer for my daughters -- that they may be guided and guarded by legions of angels as they as they progress through this life.

This is my prayer, as a mother of daughters, because I see that my girls are being raised within a world that embraces messages which are so destructive to long-term happiness. Messages where external measurements are more important than internal goodness. And media messages that portray women who are valued only as objects or for their sexual and sensual appeal. Admittedly, these messages can be greatly frightening to mothers!

Yet, Saturday night I heard messages that do not echo these words of the world. The messages I heard, instead, guide me toward time-tested principles for long-term happiness. One of these messages was spoken by my mother at the General Young Women Meeting of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

My mom, Elaine Dalton, spoke of women and mothers as "Guardians of Virtue." She defined virtue as "a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards" which "includes chastity and moral purity.” And she spoke of guardians. A guardian is someone who protects, shields, and defends. She eloquently stated that "as a guardian of virtue, you will protect, shield, and defend moral purity because the power to create mortal life is a sacred and exalted power and must be safe-guarded until you are married."

My mom spoke of being "more fit for the kingdom". And it felt refreshing to me! In an environment so focused on the results of physical fitness (slim, trim bodies)... wouldn't it be nice to instead have our primary focus be on being "fit" for another kind of destination? Even fit for a reunion with the Maker of our souls?

My mom talked of how each young woman and each young man needs to be a guardian of their own virtue. And she echoed lessons about making decisions in advance, just as she has taught my brothers and I for years. In her words, "some decisions only need to be made once." She challenged each of us to write list of things we will always do, and things we will never do.

My favorite quote of the night was:

"For the mothers listening tonight, you are your daughters’ most important example of modesty and virtue—thank you. Never hesitate to teach them that they are royal daughters of God and that their value is not based on their sensual appeal. And let them see your belief modeled correctly and consistently in your own personal attitude and appearance. You are also guardians of virtue."

I loved being in attendance at this meeting with my 10-year old daughter Ella (yes, special permission was granted for her to attend!). I am always amazed when I watch my mom "in action" and see how she is magnified to fulfill her calling. Her message about being "Guardians of Virtue" was profound and touching.

You can view my mom's message in the video below, or the entire General Young Women Meeting at this link.



It is my hope that as mothers, our gentle yet forceful movements can prod our children in paths of virtue that will allow them to be guided and guarded by hosts of angels.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Favorite Book: Whose Mouse are You?


I can remember my mom reading this book to us when we were young. We begged for “Whose Mouse are You?” and she read it so often that soon it was easy to “read” this book – reciting memorized lines page by page – to each other and to the new babies who joined our family!

This book made me think seriously at a young age about how I would feel if my parents and siblings – weren’t with me every day. "Whose Mouse Are You?" made me consciously thankful to be a part of a loving family. The timeless message of this book to me is that families are people who love and protect each other.


I love the way this little mouse, who feels that he's "nobody's mouse," thinks of heroic ways to help and be with his mother, father, sister, and his new baby brother. I enjoy the delightful ways this little mouse goes accomplishing great things for the good of his family.

What he doesn't know, but learns throughout his journey, is that he's always been somebody special, and his family has loved him all along!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Our New Friend Pistachio!

On Tuesday (March 22nd), we brought a new little friend into our home...
Pistachio!

Pistachio, the English Budgie

Artwork by Louisa


We are having fun holding Pistachio and getting used to her playful nibbles. She is right at home on our fingers, and especially loves to sit on our shoulders as we go about our daily activities.
Pistachio - still a baby, and just 7 weeks old - came to us well-trained and hand-raised from Lisa at West Point Aviary.

Pistachio is aptly named, and is turning out to be quite a fun little "nut"!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Family Dinner: Party Pasta


Recipe from the Jones family.

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 ounce can Italian crushed tomatoes
1/2 t. red pepper flakes (I halve this)
1 T. dried basil (I double this)
1 C heavy cream
1/2 lb. Fontina cheese, grated (I used Gouda, it is cheaper than Fontina, and available at Costco)
1/4 Cup grated Romano Cheese
2 T. chopped fresh basil leaves
1 lb. Rigatoni, cooked "al dente" and drained
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, cut in quarters and sauteed in butter

In a heavy skillet, saute the sausage in olive oil until no longer pink, crumbling as it cooks. Add garlic. Cook one minute. Add tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and basil. Cover, cook for 10 minutes. Add heavy cream and Fontina cheese. Stir on low until cheese is melted. Place cooked pasta on serving platter. Top with sauce, sauteed mushrooms, grated Romano cheese, and chopped fresh basil.

Serves 8 (but I always double this and make two batches of sauce one at a time).

* Be careful that you get sweet or mild italian sausage because some is too spicy!

We serve this meal with a Caesar salad and bread sticks (made from frozen bread dough and dipped in butter and parmesan).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Models of Motherhood

My mother and grandmothers have been the greatest influences and role models in my life.

My mother, Elaine Dalton, is currently serving as the General Young Women President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As such, she has championed a return to virtue. She lives and teaches that at the very core of virtue is chastity and moral purity. She has said, "I believe that the disintegration of faith and families… are directly related to the lack of virtue in our society. And I believe that a return to virtue could save an entire nation.” She teaches that each girl is important, a daughter of God. She travels from nation to nation to teach and visit young women and their leaders. Her own virtuous life is a testament to young women all over world.


From my mother, I have learned that consistency in small things over time leads to great success. Because of her, I know that I can find strength to do work beyond my individual capacity by relying upon God for strength. I can teach these things I have learned to my daughters. I hope that from my example, they can know that the world does not define them; they can rise above moral pollution and live as befits daughters of God.

Another role model, my maternal grandmother, Emma Schwartz, is an unsung hero. Through her teenage years and beyond, she continuously cared for her mother, who suffered from a series of strokes that left her paralyzed and unable to speak. Later, she cared for her father who was also of ill health. She married and all too soon her husband died. She focused on raising her small children while also supporting her family by teaching school for 43 years. She is now in her 90th year. My grandmother’s life of service and her strength, even in times of struggle, are lessons I internalized as I cared for my husband throughout his recovery from a stroke.

My Grandma Dalton at age 92

My paternal grandmother, Jessie Dalton, lived a beautiful and full life. Yet, at a young age, when she was unprepared for great sorrow, my grandma lost a child – her only daughter Anna Jane, just after Anna’s first birthday. She wrote of this experience, “The only comfort comes from the knowledge that we will be united sometime, somewhere at the proper time.” In a similar manner, experiencing the loss of a child through stillbirth has helped me to understand better the eternal nature of families and that being a mother is a privilege beyond compare.

My role, as a daughter and granddaughter, is to pass this legacy to my children. It is my hope that I can lead my daughters Ella and Louisa down the same paths that stood before my mother and grandmothers – paths of virtue, service, education, courage and hope.

Because of those who have gone before me, I have learned that through motherhood I can affect the future.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bumpa's Birthday!

On Saturday, March 19th my dad turned 66 years old!
Below is a tribute from two of his adoring granddaughters:
Bumpa enjoying a BYU basketball victory on his birthday!

Louisa:
I love when Bumpa tells stories of when he was little. Like the time when he pointed at a magazine with a picture of a monkey and said, "That was me when I was a baby."

Ella:
I love that whenever he sees us, he says, "Hi, boys!"

Louisa:
When he tells stories, he says, "When I was a little girl..."

Ella:
Bumpa loves Gatorade!

Louisa:
And he is always willing to share the Gatorade!
That means he likes us the most. He is willing to share everything.
We look up to you, Bumps!

Ella:
Bumpa works so hard - especially in the yard.
I remember one day that we worked with him in the yard so much. Then the neighbors came by, so we worked in their yard too!
I bet the neighbors appreciated that!

Louisa:
When we give Bumpa a kiss, he wiggles air in his cheeks.
And when we push on his puffy cheek, the other one fills up!

I also like that Bumpa likes to hike in the mountains.
When I hike with Bumpa, it is really fun... because Bumpa is fun!
Ella:
I love that every morning Bumpa wakes up and runs - no matter what the weather is.
That keeps him energized and productive.

I love how much fun it is when we go to Cafe Rio together.

Louisa:
It is fun when he tells jokes.

Ella:
And I love his silly smile!
He is so much fun. He is the best "Bumps" ever.

Louisa:
I love my Bumpa.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

We Believe in Teaparties!

Imaginative play at its best -
sweet cousins Louisa and Alice!
March 19, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Extra, Extra! Read All About It!

Louisa brought this "newspaper" - created during free play - home from school on St. Patrick's Day.

The cover page:
"nespapre"
Newspaper

The headline news:
"Leprkos orr ril"
Leprechauns are real


I am amazed with the belief that can be fostered so simply in a child -- in this case utilizing 5 chocolate coins spread atop the kitchen counter and just a few drops of food coloring strategically placed (both in breakfast cups prior to the milk being poured as well as in the toilet water).

Friday, March 18, 2011

Singin' in the Rain!

There is little that compares to the joy of being a child
and dancing in your pajamas amidst an early spring rainstorm!






Pictures and video captured earlier this week on the evening of March 16th, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Favorite Book: The Heart's Journey


I love the story told without words in the book “The Heart’s Journey” by Judy Pelikan. The illustrations depict a heart that encounters pain and suffering, yet finds the strength and capacity to heal.

This is a universal story of love, loss, and the growing process that leads to blooming in our barren places.


Experiencing broken hearts – including difficult times during which God can be near and tutor us – may actually help us keep our hearts open receptacles for God’s greenery. Our trials, large and small, can soften and refine us rather than harden and pull us away from the gifts of God.

God can open and transform our hearts. The scriptures read, “I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11:19)

We can each seek growth – at all times, and especially within difficult times – by opening our hearts to the seeds of healing, refining love.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Blast from the Past:
Chicago Tribune Article

In 2002, while living in Chicago, I was contacted by the Chicago Tribune and asked for information on Mormon women. Below are a excerpts from the article:

Perceptions of Mormon Women Miss the Mark, Some Experts Say
February 13, 2002. By Lisa Bertagnoli. Special to the Chicago Tribune.

With the Olympic spotlight on Salt Lake City, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is choosing to stay largely in the background. Some assume that's nothing new for the women of the church, but members and experts say that assumption is just one of many myths about Mormons.

"Mormons are a conventional, established religious group," says Rodney Stark, a University of Washington sociologist who has studied the church extensively but is not a Mormon himself.

Yet the church's strong focus on family skews the general population's perception of Mormon women. "The emphasis on family life is protective of women, and some feminists would say that limits their options," Stark says.

Here are some common perceptions about Mormon women and the reality behind those perceptions.

Perception: Mormon women are stay-at-home moms.

Reality: Tell that to Brigitte Madrian, 35, an associate professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the mother of two. "The biggest misconception about Mormon women is that we stay home with the kids and do what our husbands tell us to and that's our lot in life," says Madrian, who lives in Oak Park. Not so: Madrian has worked full time since finishing graduate school, taking only a few months off after the birth of her children.

For others it's a matter of choice, as it is for women who have the financial means to choose to stay home. Emi Edgley, who has a degree in business management, chooses to stay home with Ella, her 11-month-old daughter. "I had the difficult decision of continuing my career full time or taking care of the baby and I made the decision to stay at home," Edgley says. "It's a great privilege to have the ability to have childbearing and the work of family be my life's work."

Full text of the article can (still!) be found online here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What I Find Most Fulfilling
in Family Life as a Young Mother

I find it fulfilling that, as a mother, I can further the work of God in quiet but significant ways.

We tend to tell the story of our lives in terms of exceptional events and big decisions, yet, frequently it is the commonplace, ordinary events that shape our lives and touch the sacred.

A few years ago – at Christmastime – we found ourselves as a family at the cemetery, wrapped warmly in coats. We were there to place a wreath on the grave of our first child, that of our daughter Eliza, who was stillborn. While at the cemetery, in the midst of birdsong and rays of sunshine – surrounded by the beauty of an ordinary day – Ella, (then 5 years old) scolded us with her wise-beyond-years wisdom for calling it a “grave.” She remarked: “It is not her grave; it is a door!”

Ella taught me that day to see life in a new way. Our lives can touch heaven more often than we realize. Children – like my daughters Ella and Louisa – know how close heaven, angels and our Heavenly Father are and have always been.

I remember another day when we were, as a family, sitting in Church. Louisa (then 2 ½ years old) flipped open the scriptures and was looking at them with great intent. I asked, “What are you doing?” and she replied, “Sending an email to Jesus.”

Email. Sunshine. Birdsong. Even graves. Elements like these within our mostly routine lives may be ways for us to discover divine fingerprints on the surface of each day. I believe that a common day can become a holy one.

I am grateful to be a wife and mother. It is in these divine roles that have I experienced my greatest challenges, utmost joys and most enduring fulfillment. I am learning – everyday – that joy resides less in the extraordinary things of life and more in recognizing God in the midst of the ordinary.

As a mother, I can experience days where – even in the midst of laundry, unpaid bills and spilled milk – I am conscious of miracles and I recognize them all around me, just like I notice the warm sun on my skin after a run of overcast days.
Through daily experiences as a mother my life is dotted with eternal instants – times where I glimpse into heaven and recognize the hand of God in the midst of my life.

As a mother, I am blessed with moments where heaven and earth intersect.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Superior!


Both Louisa and Ella had the opportunity to participate in Federation at the University of Utah this weekend: Louisa on the violin and Ella playing the piano.


Louisa played two variations of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" as well as "Lightly Row".


Ella played "The Acrobat" by Carolyn Miller and "Waltz" by Cornelius Gurlitt.

Many hours of practice paid off: both played beautifully and received "Superior" ratings for their performances.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Family Dinner: Crème Lasagne

Crème Lasagne is one of our favorite "special occasion" family meals.

Remember, as you look through the ingredients, the ground turkey (healthy, right?) cancels out the not so low-fat abundance of cream and butter.

Crème Lasagne
from the kitchen of Courtney Zwick

Red Sauce:


1 ½ pounds ground turkey
2 jars spaghetti sauce (I often use Granato's pasta sauce, but Ragu works great too!)
1 pkg. fresh sliced mushrooms

Cook ground turkey and drain fat. Set aside. Sauté clean mushrooms in 1 tbsp. butter. In large saucepan, combine turkey, mushrooms and spaghetti sauce.

White Sauce:

1 stick butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 pint whipping cream

Bring butter and flour to a simmer on the stove. Do not let burn! Once the flour is dissolved into the butter, add the pint of whipping cream. Cook on med-high heat until white sauce has begun to thicken. Do not let boil!

Rest of Layering Ingredients:
1 pkg. No-Boil Barilla Lasagne noodles (thin & flat)
1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup fresh shaved or grated Parmesan cheese

Spray lasagne pan with Pam. Put a little of your red sauce in bottom so noodles don’t stick. Then begin layering in order from bottom to top:

1. No-Boil Barilla noodles (break in half if necessary to fit in pan)
2. Red meat sauce
3. White crème sauce
4. Mozzarella cheese (1/2 cup)
5. No-Boil Barilla noodles (break in half if necessary to fit in pan)
6. Red meat sauce
7. White crème sauce
8. Mozzarella cheese (1/2 cup)
9. No-Boil Barilla noodles (break in half if necessary to fit in pan)
10. Red meat sauce
11. White crème sauce
12. Fresh Parmesan cheese

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes until cheese begins to brown. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Favorite Book: The Country Bunny
and the Little Gold Shoes


This is a book I hold dear, not only because of childhood memories of reading it throughout the year (not just at Easter!), but also because of the lessons I have learned from the tale, among which are:

Children Have a Profound Ability to Shoulder Responsibility: Mother Cottontail trains her children to be very responsible. She teaches them skills around the house and garden, and that each of them can do small things to make family life lovely. They are each sweet, polite and industrious, and valued members of the family.

The Role of Parent is Pre-Eminent: I believe that the Country Bunny is chosen to be one of the 5 Easter Bunnies not in spite of her children, but because of her children. For a season, Cottontail “stopped thinking about hopping all over the world… and she took care of her babies.” The book relates that being a mother or father is of greatest importance, and can be a stepping stool in building our ability to achieve other goals (which will also bless the world).

You Will Be Entrusted with Seemingly Impossible Tasks, But Aided in the Accomplishment of Those Duties: Cottontail grew up in humble circumstances and experienced the difficult work of parenting. As such, when chosen as the fifth Easter Bunny, she has the ability to understand and to feel to act for many, and yet also to make great efforts for the one – in this case, a lonely, sick child on a remote mountaintop. A difficult journey is entrusted to her. With great effort she makes it up the mountain, but then an accident happens and she tumbles down injuring her foot, just as the sun is about to rise. Before all hope is lost, she feels a tap on her shoulder from Grandfather Bunny, who commends her for her bravery and awards her Gold Shoes, which she places on her feet, enabling her to deliver the last egg of Easter!

I remember seeing, sitting upon the shelf in my mom and dad’s bathroom, a porcelain figurine: that of Mother Cottontail with 5 bunny babies in her arms and 16 babies swaddled in the bassinet. I loved to count them while mom braided my hair! And my mom would say, “Emi, motherhood prepares you for everything.” This is true (I know this because of my own mother’s example!).

May each of us strive to be wise, kind, swift, clever and brave.

***

My favorite illustrations as a child were those of Cottontail and her children lined up, as well as the great hall in Grandfather Bunny's castle with eggs piled against the walls. As a mother, my favorite illustrations are those which depict the ways in which Mother Bunny taught her children to work!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Two Cooks in the Kitchen


I awoke from a peaceful Sunday nap to the sweet sounds of two little girls, arm deep in frothy bubbles. Dressed in aprons and dishcloth hairnets, Ella and Louisa were cleaning up ("just like all good cooks do!") after exercising their culinary creative juices.

Ella and Louisa excitedly sat Steve and I down at the counter and announced the creation of a new delicacy: green "from-scratch" pancakes topped with peanut butter and honey.

More delicious than the pancakes served were the sweet smiles of two darling girls - who had worked together to feed our family.