Tuesday, May 29, 2012

American Mothers/Power of Moms Recap

Okay, so this is not going to be easy but I'm going to attempt to catch up a little bit here and post about a few events I went to that were dedicated to motherhood this past month. I am going to apologize in advance for the poor quality of pictures (as well as the lack of pictures of some things). There was this really nice man at the National American Mothers Convention who followed us around and snapped tons of photos of everything, so I have been waiting on access to those pictures to write about my experience, but since I still don't know how to get to them, I'm forging ahead without great pictures. You may have to use your imagination a little. Lol.

Four weeks ago (yikes--has it really been that long?), my husband and his mother and I boarded an airplane and headed to Washington D.C. for the American Mothers National Convention. Here is a less-than-wonderful recap of our experience there.

Wednesday: Arrived! Somehow managed to hop on the right trains in the Metro, even if it did take us a while to figure it out. Checked into our luxurious hotel, the Mayflower Renaissance (don't know what happened to my picture of it--but doesn't the name sound so romantic and historical? Definitely more upscale than we are used to). Walked around the neighborhood searching for food. Finally decided on a little Italian number and enjoyed a quiet, kid-free dinner--again, not something we are used to. Crashed early due to jet lag and two-hour time difference.

Thursday: Toured the White House (my favorite room was the "Green Room". Met President Obama's dog, Bo (he's quite the dog, let me assure you). I only got in trouble once for sitting briefly on a chair in one of the rooms (apparently they aren't for sitting) when my back started throbbing. Visited the White House Visitors Center (I absolutely loved the photos of the past Presidents and their families--so cool). Tried to buy some postcards but the power went out unexpectedly and they couldn't get the computers up and running, so they gave them to us for free. Saved at least $2.25! Ate the most delicious breakfast at Ebbett's Grill--I am not kidding--amazing! Attended Orientation meeting and met the other Young Mothers of the Year from around the country. There were 13 of us in all. Met last year's National Young Mother of the Year, Shawni Pothier, which was a great privilege. She is definitely worth knowing (see if you want a little taste of some wonderful reading). Visited the Capitol Building and ate hors deurves (felt very important--Lol!)Attended a Pampering Party for honored guests, where I got a free manicure, a 15-minute massage, and some yummy treats. It was so fun!

Me, Shawni Pothier, Darcy Ure (California's current YMOY), and last year's California YMOY (darn--not remembering her name right now but a wonderful woman!

In front of the White House.

At the Capitol Building. Shawni was so sweet. She got down on the floor to take this charming picture of us with the amazing done above us.

This darling girl gave me a manicure, and behind her was where the massages took place.
Friday: Enjoyed a delicious breakfast, then listened to all of the Young Mothers give their speeches. The topic was "Inspired. Empowered. Raising the Next Generation." Maybe I will post mine some day. Because I was from Utah, and they placed us in alphabetical order, I was the last one to give my 3-minute speech (talk about pressure--they told us we would be escorted off-stage if our speech went over three minutes). I absolutely loved hearing from these other young mothers. They were wonderful! I truly felt inspired and privileged to be among them. That afternoon, we listened to the more seasoned Mothers of the Year from around the country. There were 21 in all--amazing women. So much to be learned. That night, Daniel and I decided to skip out on the tour of D.C. and attend a Nationals baseball game instead (you can guess whose idea this was). I have a bad habit of wanting desperately to skip out on ball games after about six innings, but I was determined to see this one out. I made it nine whole innings this time! Unfortunately, the game went into extra innings, so my poor husband still didn't get to see the exciting end, as I flashed him my puppy dog eyes during the ninth, and he had mercy on me, agreeing to catch the end on television. What a guy!
Look at these wonderful women! They represented young mothers from the following states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Texas, and of course Utah.

Me giving my speech. No, I didn't really have demon-eyes, thank goodness!

My sweet husband, Daniel, me, and my dear mother-in-law. I felt so blessed to have such tremendous support.

At the ballgame (btw, Nationals won!, so we found out later:)
Saturday: Attended "Mom to Mom" Conference. Listened to Aundray Collins, then Ree Drummond (TV host on the Food Network and Pioneer Woman blogger). Ree was pretty entertaining as she shared her journey from being a housewife in the middle of nowhere to her success in blogging and hosting a food show. Allison Sweeney was the guest speaker at the luncheon. Her husband and little boy were there as well. Darling family. She talked a bit about juggling her career and taking care of herself, also her passion for what she does on the Biggest Loser. Heard wonderful messages from Shawni Pothier (she talked about Habits of a Dragon Mother--so awesome) and Ernestine Allen (last year's National MOY), listened to a panel on violence against pregnant women, then enjoyed hearing Rick Grandinetti speak about how to create successful relationships. He said you either contribute or contaminate--be a contributor. Also our new family motto: "You cannot fail if you never give up." Saturday evening we finished up the event by attending a formal American Mothers Gala. It was something else. Everyone dressed up in fancy clothes, eating fancy food. That's where the new National YMOY and MOY were announced. And the winners were . . . (drum roll): Carrie Leonard from Oklahoma (darling woman), and Ruby Cheves from Georgia.
Me with Ree Drummond.

Alison Sweeney at lunch with her husband and son.

All the Utah women got their picture taken with Alison Sweeney. She was very gracious.

Shawni Pothier, me, and Janny Gibson (Hawaii's YMOY) at Gala
I have to admit by this time, my experience was turning a little bittersweet. Saturday was my sweet baby's first birthday (yes, I missed it!), and although she never knew I missed her birthday (we celebrated when we got back), I knew it, and it was a bit painful. Also, my 10-year-old son hit his first out-of-the-park home run, and I wasn't there to see it. Man, I was missing my kids! My sweet mother had been at my home taking care of them while we were gone, bless her heart. I was definitely ready to head back home by this time.

Sunday: Attended the National Cathedral for services. It was an amazing building with many worshipers. Very different from the LDS services I am accustomed to. I appreciated all the people who took time on Sunday to come to worship and strengthen their faith, but I have to admit, my heart was wishing I was at fast and testimony meeting in my own ward back home. It's always good to miss something and gain even deeper appreciation for it, and I'd say that's how I felt. We boarded our plane and headed back home Sunday evening. I cried when our plane touched down in Salt Lake City and I saw the beautiful, majestic mountains once more. Then again when I felt my children's arms around my neck again. There's just no place like home!

In front of the Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral. This picture doesn't do it justice. It was huge.
And so . . . I came home so grateful for all I had, grateful to miss my normal life, grateful to have so much to come home to.

And then the following weekend, I attended yet another conference on motherhood, this one much closer to home, thank goodness. I had the privilege of attending a day of the Power of Moms Mother's Day Retreat in Park City, Utah at Richard and Linda Eyre's home (yes, it was absolutely a fabulous home and I had to keep pinching myself that I was there).

This retreat was a 2-day deal where 85 women met together to get inspired, encouraged, educated and uplifted in the cause of motherhood. It was truly wonderful! I highly recommend this opportunity to any woman who feels they need a boost in the area of motherhood. It was well worth the time and resources spent to be there. The co-founders of Power of Moms are Saren Loosli (who just happens to be Shawni Pothier's sister and the Eyre's daughter) and April Perry. I am amazed at what these two women have started and how hard they work to encourage deliberate mothering. It was such an honor to meet them.
Saren, Me, April
And then, if that wasn't awesome enough, they actually allowed me to participate! First, I was in a panel discussion with none other than Linda Eyre herself (I was shaking so hard sitting next to her--it was kind of surreal. She and her husband are the sources of tons of parenting wisdom) and Macy Robison (singer and presenter at Time-Out for Women). I felt so honored and so out of my league, but it was truly a wonderful experience. Then, I gave a presentation entitled, "I'm Not a Perfect Mother, and That's OK!" I truly feel passionate about this topic and was thrilled to be with a large group of amazing women, all trying to become better mothers, and share a few thoughts on this topic.
Linda Eyre and me. She is so darling and sweet, I'm telling you.
As the day wore on we heard uplifting music from Macy Robison, learned how to be deliberate mothers, how to use parenting partnerships, how to set up family legal systems and family economies.We talked about being a "benevolent dictator" and building a strong family culture, plus so much more! We shared a delicious lunch and some wonderful small-group discussions as well. All in all, it was a fabulous day! I went home feeling so uplifted and inspired. If you haven't heard of Power of Moms, check it out ( They are doing wonderful things! I am eager to become more involved and feel so strongly about their focus.

Whew! I am exhausted just recapping all of this. No wonder it has taken me 3-4 weeks to get it all down! I will end now by saying this. By far, the greatest blessing that has come into my life through being named Utah's YMOY is the women I have had the privilege of meeting and associating with. I have been humbled, uplifted and wowed by the many different women I have been able to rub shoulders with. They have taught me and inspired me to be better. They have reinforced my own feelings of the value and importance of motherhood and they have helped me realize even more how powerful a mother's influence in the home really is.

I've definitely experienced a month full of wonderful experiences speaking about and listening to presentations on motherhood. Now comes the hard part--implementing all I've learned!

Monday, May 21, 2012

What Matters Most

There are so many things I want to write about and I just can't seem to get to the computer and get it done. I want to share my experience in Washington D.C. when I went with my husband and mother-in-law to the American Mother's National Convention a couple of weeks ago. I want to share the amazing experience I had the following weekend when I attended a Power of Moms Retreat in Park City at Richard and Linda Eyre's home. I want to write about daily life and all I am learning, plus much, much more and hopefully I will get to it. But today, I have something weighing heavily on my mind, and so I just have to get it out.

What matters most in your life?

That is the question I have asked myself over and over the past couple of months as I found myself feeling over scheduled and overwhelmed. I, like many mothers out there, love my children to pieces and feel like they are amazing people who could capture the moon if necessary. I mean, they are smart and funny and oh, so capable. On top of that, they are good, good souls who can make such a difference in the world if they chose to. So, I've done what I thought a good mother would do.

I've provided numerous opportunities for them to develop their talents, hone their skills, learn responsibility and teamwork and goal-setting, and so much more by encouraging them to be involved in a lot of different things. On top of that, to set a good example and use my own skills in productive ways, I have added a heap of responsibilities to my own plate. And you know what I have reaped in return?

A bit of chaos, unrest in my soul, weariness, and a strong desire to change things.

The truth is, although my children are fabulous, they are really nothing more special than anyone else's children. They probably won't be president of the United States some day or find the cure for cancer or be Olympic gold medalists. And you know what? That's OK with me. Those things are all worthy goals and wonderful accomplishments, and I would be thrilled if any of my children achieved any one of those things. But not at the expense of what matters most.

And what matters most to me is this: that my children choose to be committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and that each one becomes a better parent than I am.


If they don't play college sports or become valedictorian; if they don't master the piano and a foreign language; if they don't ever make football captain or become a volleyball MVP, I can live with that. Because, although all of those things are awesome and require valuable skills such as dedication and hard work, they are not what matter most. Yes, they can build self-esteem and team-working skills. Yes, they have value and they make life more fun and rewarding--all of which I am in favor of--but if my children do all of those things and yet do not choose to live what we believe or to be dedicated, loving parents, then what would be the purpose?

Now, don't get me wrong. I love sports! I love music! I want my children to develop their talents. I want them to be involved in activities they enjoy. And I am in no way implying that anyone else's family is too busy or needs to make a change. I am speaking solely of my own situation. And I know we have to be more careful. I am blessed to be married to a man who cares as much about our family as I do and who really wants to work with me in raising our children. Together, we have to be so wise. It's not easy. There is a lot of enticement and pressure to do many things. Good things. But I am simply not satisfied with spending too much of our time, energy and resources on good things.

I want more.

Three weeks ago one of my huge commitments ended. I was coaching a club volleyball team that required me to drive to Weber State two nights a week for practices and of course be at all of the tournaments (there were nine in all--one in California). I love volleyball and I love coaching. But when it was all over, I felt something I hadn't anticipated. Complete and utter relief and freedom. I went outside and played with my kids when they got home from school. I laughed. I soaked up the beautiful weather. I hugged my kids over and over and told them how much I loved them. It was almost like I had missed them, like I had been gone or something, when in fact, we had been living under the same roof all along.

But it had been too much. And the past three weeks weeks since it all ended, I have been able to give myself to motherhood again. I have been able to plan for our summer, get organized, and work on important family matters. Our days have been full of hugs, giggles, stories, work, play, and so much more.

And it has felt wonderful!

This is the life I truly want to live. Giving the best of myself to my husband and children. Not signing up for more than I can handle. Not having so many commitments that I go to bed at night exhausted at 9:00 p.m., having not spent most of my day's energy on my family. Not being overwhelmed by schedules and commitments.

I woke up with a startling realization the other day. It was this: YOUR CHILDREN WANT YOU. I had just spent the previous afternoon playing 3-Square with my kids in the front driveway, laughing until we cried, being silly and goofy, enjoying time together. This had come after my children had begged me to go out and play with them, promising work and obedience if I would just give them ME. I realized all of a sudden that their desires to spend time with me was no small thing. It was nothing to be taken for granted. Surely there will come a day when I am not their first choice (or their second or third), so how can I not take advantage of this time in my life when my children really want me--my time, my energy, my focus? I simply can't let this opportunity pass me by.

Motherhood. Family. Our faith. That is what matters most to me. That is where true joy lies. That is where my heart truly wants to be. And so. . .

I'm going to reach out and take it. I'm going to choose it over everything else. I'm going to wear out my days in teaching, loving, guiding, working with, laughing with my children, and if it means we give some good things up in the process, so be it.

I only get one shot at being their mother and helping them understand and choose what matters most. I can never come back to this point in our lives and make a different choice. I have to make today count. And then I have to get up tomorrow and do the same thing. There will always be many choices. I want so badly to choose right, to be wise enough to go for the best things in life, rather than getting caught up in only what is good.

I make so many mistakes as a mother. So many. But I have to believe if I can accomplish this one thing--staying focused on what matters most--I will be a more successful mother. And although I know it will not be easy, these kids. . . well . . .


 . . . they are are oh, so worth it!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Memorable Mother's Day

This is how Mother's Day started for me:

French toast. My sweet husband tried to copy a breakfast we ate (at Ebbitt's Grill) while in Washington D.C. the week before because I raved about it. So yummy.
Breakfast in bed. The "Special" plate. Warm, smiling children excited to present me with a plethora of Mother's Day cards and coupons.

And this is how Mother's Day ended for me:

A trip to Wee Care to get stitches.

Everything was going fine . . . until it wasn't. We had decided to go on a relaxing family walk together to enjoy the beautiful day and get some wiggles out. Dan and I buckled the baby in the stroller while the rest of the kids hopped on their bikes. Just as we rounded the first corner, we happened upon some friends. This was serendipitous due to the fact we were heading right to their home to wish them good luck in their upcoming move and tell them how much we would miss their family.

We started talking. In an effort to ward off boredom, some of the kids started riding their bikes in circles near the corner where we were standing. That's when my husband suddenly said, "Oh no." I turned just in time to see my five-year-old hop up off the gritty blacktop road and come running towards us, howling.

We were only about 20 yards away, but by the time we met (we running towards him and he running towards us), he was already bleeding profusely. Dan swept him up in his arms and we proceeded down the street back to our home, my hand pressed against his bloody head in the area it appeared the wound was.

We laid him on the counter and proceeded to try to clean him up so we could tell how bad he was injured. There was literally blood everywhere--on his shirt, on his feet--even his ear was full of blood. Not knowing exactly what to do, especially since it was a Sunday evening, which meant our medical options were limited, we called his Primary teacher, who just happens to be a nurse. She came right over with her medical kit. We finally got him cleaned up enough to tell he had a pretty bad abrasion and puncture in his skull above his left eye. She bandaged him up and suggested we take him to get stitches.

He was obviously not too happy about life at this point.

There is nothing like seeing your children in pain. This little boy happens to be a pretty tough kid, so hearing him constantly cry about his head hurting was agonizing. He had a humongous goose egg on his head and I was quite worried about a concussion due to the fact that he broke his fall off the bicycle with his head smacking on the road.

Thankfully, everything turned out fine. Four hours and three big blue stitches later, we returned home with a tired, achy, but happy, little boy.

It's amazing to me it looked this good in the end.
So, although it wasn't quite the Mother's Day I was hoping for, it was definitely memorable. And I just have to say it was meaningful as well. As I held my bloody little boy in my arms, waiting for our turn to see the doctor, my eyes filled with tears at how much I loved him. I thought of how blessed I was to be right there, holding my child in my arms, comforting him, trying to ease his pain. I thought of how much this little boy loves me back, despite all my flaws and mistakes as a mother, and I just couldn't help but feel part of something so much bigger and more important than anything else in the world. I looked into his trusting blue eyes and was humbled at the thought that God trusted me and his dad enough to take care of him and train him and teach him and protect him.

And so, at the end of the day, I went to bed happy and humble. Grateful my child would be OK and that his injuries weren't worse, grateful for my husband's strong arms and quiet reassurances, grateful once again to be a mother.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


It's hard to believe one year can pass so quickly.

One year ago today, we brought our beautiful baby girl home from the hospital. She was five days old.

She was tiny. Only 4 lbs., 13 oz. She was beautiful. She was ours. She was a miracle to us.

Berkley was born on May 5th, Cinco de Mayo. Because of her birthday falling on this holiday, her mother named her Maya. We had planned to rename her Berkley Fern (after my Grandma, Fern Nate, an amazing woman), but when we found out her birth mother had named her Maya, we felt impressed to add it to her name, thus becoming Berkley Maya Fern Conger.

A lot of names for one little girl, but each one was so significant, we couldn't leave it out. Besides, this was no ordinary little girl so of course she would need no ordinary name.

Dan and I could hardly believe this tiny miracle was ours. Having given birth four times before, I had experienced (and my poor husband with me) the progression of pregnancy and the anticipation of birth. But adoption is a bit different. There were no physical signs from my body warning me the date might be arriving; there were no sleepless nights due to discomfort; no contractions or heartburn or crazy food cravings.

There was only hope.

And yes, a little fear, too.

Not the usual kind of fear, like hoping I could endure another labor or hoping she didn't have my chin. This time, the fear was that we would anxiously await her arrival, only to be told she wouldn't really be ours.

That is everyone's fear who adopts a child. But for us, it was even more poignant because this very thing had already happened. We had anticipated two baby girls being placed in our arms, only to have our hopes dashed when the birth mother never showed up with her babies. It was excruciating pain. Something I hoped to never feel again.

I will never forget waking up the morning of May 5th to the phone ringing. It was the adoption agency. The birth mom was in labor! It was five weeks before her due date, so although we had been warned the baby might come a little early, we were not expecting it to be quite so soon. I was ecstatic, but frightened. Hopeful but careful. Would everything work out okay? Would the baby be healthy? Would the mother have an easy delivery? Would she sign the papers?

Thankfully, I didn't have to wait long. The baby was born shortly after her arrival in the hospital. She was healthy and strong, but tiny. How I ached to hold her in my arms! But it would not be so. The birth mom wanted a closed adoption, which meant we could not go to the hospital while she was there, which meant it would still be a couple of days until I could hold this sweet baby in my arms. It was an agonizing wait.

We talked. We prayed. We hoped. And we prayed some more. Finally the news came. Her mother had signed the papers and this baby would be ours! Oh, the gratitude Ifelt! After two long months of waiting for this birth, trying not to get our hopes up, but hoping just the same, she would finally be ours.

Still we waited. We were told we could not come to the hospital to see her but would have to wait until she was eating well enough to come home. I tried to be understanding. I tried to be paitent. Finally, I called the agency, and in tears, explained to them that my baby needed me and I needed her. They arranged a short visit. Berkley ate well for the first time as I held her in my arms and told her how much I loved her.

I am often asked how the bonding experience goes with adoption as compared to biological children. I cannot answer that for everybody, and my guess is, it's different for every person. But for me, the first time I laid eyes on Berkley and held her in my arms, she was mine. She was familiar. She was a Conger. Yes, it was sort of surreal, but it was also very real.

After five days, we were finally able to check her out of the hospital and take her home to four siblings who could hardly wait to get their hands on her. It was a joyous day.

She was, and still is, constantly kissed and loved.

Now, 365 days later, all I can say is that this baby has changed our lives. Each of our lives. Our family will never be the same. We are bonded by our love for this little curly-haired girl. She is nothing short of a miracle to us, just as each of our other children are.

Berkley's blessing day

I thank God this day for Berkley's birth mother. For one year now we have written her monthly letters and sent monthly pictures. I hope wherever she is, whatever she is doing, she will think of this sweet baby she so unselfishly gave to us, and she will smile, feeling our gratitude for her decision.

Berkley's One Year Photos--Is it just me or is that the cutest little leopard butterfly you've ever seen?

Love her beautiful smile

Those chubby little legs are absolutely irresistible!

My life has been so blessed! To have given birth four times to four uniquely wonderful children, to have added another sweet spirit to our home through the miracle of adoption, to be married to a truly wonderful man.

I could never ask for more.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Amazing, Incredible Women

My head is literally swimming due to the fact that I've just spent two weekends at different conventions talking about motherhood and listening to others share their feelings/stories, etc. on this topic. Since I am way behind on life, I am going to try to catch up one post at a time; therefore, this week I am going to write about the amazing experience I had last week when I attended a luncheon to honor Utah mothers at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City (and hopefully soon I can share my experiences from being in Washington D.C. at the National American Mothers Convention, which is where I've been for the past five days).

The greatest blessing that has come to me from my association with American Mothers over the years, and especially this year, is unquestionably the remarkable women I have had the privilege of meeting and learning from. To rub shoulders with amazing women who are wearing out their lives in the best way possible--taking care of their families--is truly an unbelievable experience for me. From this experience alone, I was privileged to associate with women such as:

Emi Edgley, 2011's Utah Young Mother of the Year. A delightful, amazing woman who warms everyone's heart she comes in contact with.

Cynthia Richards, 2012's Mother of the Year. A woman of strength and intelligence and amazing musical talent and insight.

The American Mother's State Board--full of incredible, capable women who serve diligently in a cause they believe in (too many names to mention, unfortunately, but truly wonderful women).

A group of 18 women being honored as Mothers of Achievement for their outstanding accomplishments within their roles as mothers and also in other notable areas, women such as Elaine Dalton (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint's General Young Women's President) and Saren Loosli (co-founder of Power of Moms, an amazing organization that promotes deliberate parenting), just to name a few.

Just some of the women who were there. Sorry--not a very good picture.

Wow! It's a little staggering to think about.

I had the unique opportunity to be a guest speaker at this function. I know what you're thinking--probably the same thing I was: Why in the world would they ask me to speak when there were so many more qualified women to do it? The reason is simply that I am the Young Mother of the Year for Utah this year, and so they were graciously honoring me and allowing me the opportunity to share my thoughts and feelings on motherhood. And it truly was an honor.

After the luncheon, I had the opportunity to visit with many of these women, and I can tell you, I felt part of something great. I thought of the powerful force for good all of these women are (and many others there as well), and I could hardly believe I was in the midst of such greatness. And that's what I truly think dedicated mothers are living--lives of greatness.
My husband is always there to support me. He is absolutely amazing!
My sweet mother, Aunt Colleen and sister Katie came as well. I'm truly so blessed.

At the luncheon. Did I mention Ruth Todd, KSL news anchor was the Master of Ceremonies? She is another incredible woman! (I don't think that person speaking is her, however--I am realizing my pictures are awful).
You don't have to be the president of some organization, or have doctorate degrees in six different areas, or speak three languages, or spend hours volunteering to make a valuable contribution to society and to the world. You simply have to be a dedicated mother. After all, who else affects the outcome of our society more than the women who are raising the next generation?

I left this luncheon feeling humbly grateful once again for the blessing of being a mother. If I am never known for anything else in my life, I hope to always be known as a mother. If I do nothing more than raise children who grow up, marry well, and then become successful mothers and fathers, my life will be all I ever hope it to be. My goal is to raise daughters who become better mothers than I am, and if my sons ever became better fathers than their own father, well then, they would be absolutely remarkable!

To conclude, just let me say this: I am humbled by the greatness that surrounds me on a regular basis. I never cease to be amazed at the women I meet who are quietly making every day as a mother count. I am blessed by what I learn from each one. And I've decided that this opportunity to serve as the YMOY this year for Utah is truly awesome because I get to meet and associate with and learn from incredible women everywhere! It's fabulous!

(BTW, I was tempted to post my speech, or at least part of it because many people have asked me for it, but I didn't want to overwhelm any blog readers with pages and pages, so if you are interested, feel free to e-mail me: and I can send it to you).