Saturday, December 14, 2013


Hallee turned fourteen right before Thanksgiving. I still look at her and wonder how she ever got to be this beautiful teenage girl.

It seems like just yesterday she was a tiny little thing. Now she's taking honors courses and trying out for a 16 Power Club Volleyball team (and making it--yea!!). 

Here she is with her two good volleyball friends. They all made the team. Such darling girls.
She is becoming friends with her siblings, instead of fighting with them (something I am a huge fan of, let me tell you). She is becoming this person I can talk to and listen to and laugh with and truly enjoy. I love it! It's so fun watching her truly become. I know she is still very young and has a lot of becoming yet to do, but so far she has been so mature and so wise for her age and she has brought us so much joy.

It's definitely true that it all goes by in a blink. This girl has been growing up so fast. And she has been such a delightful, wonderful first child that I have thanked God for her every single day of my life. I decided a very long time ago that I would never want to be the first born. I mean, parents just have absolutely nothing figured out, and although they shower that first little child with love like crazy, which of course matters more than anything, they make so many mistakes. Hallee has been so patient with us (and will hopefully continue to be). It's just no secret I am crazy about this daughter of mine. She's got her flaws to be sure, but she's one fabulous girl in my book.

I think birthdays should be special every year, but I also try to not overdo it year after year because, well, I just think it's easy to overdo it and then kids tend to get over-spoiled and have way too high of expectations and then they don't really appreciate things, and then birthdays aren't fun or special any more (Okay, sorry for that little tangent on my feelings on birthdays). Anyway, we decided in our home to only have big birthdays and friend parties on extra special, big birthday numbers, which we termed to be 5, 8, 12 and 16. Therefore, this was not one of those years for Hallee. Still, I, of course wanted the day to be good for her and special, even if it wasn't a huge, monumental thing. So I tried to do some small things to let her know I was aware of her favorite things and loved her uniqueness. Instead of a birthday cake, I ordered peanut butter bars from a local bakery (her favorite); we put up the family "Happy Birthday" sign, opened presents, made a breakfast casserole at her request (which I stayed up late the night before to start and then she wasn't crazy about, darn it). Then her Grandma and Grandpa Conger took her to Salt Lake to stay at the Kimball and go shopping for the night. Talk about spoiled!

Darn, I am struggling with blurry pictures lately.

The wonderful breakfast casserole that I personally loved. Too bad she didn't:)

Love that Happy Birthday sign!

Hugs after favorite gifts were given. I love this picture.

I always wondered if having a teenager would be the death of me. I am learning that it definitely takes consistent, constant, with-it, involved parenting, and sometimes I wonder if I am really up to the task, but it's also a wonderfully rewarding and fun experience. I am just at the very beginning, so I have miles and miles to go in this journey (which seems completely overwhelming, I'm not going to lie), but so far, it's been pretty fabulous. Not perfect by any means, but I've never expected perfect.

The scariest part of having a beautiful, smart, talented (Ok, so I'm a little biased here:) teenage daughter is this four-letter-word: BOYS. I hate to admit it, but I just have secretly wished they would not appear in our lives at all until. . . like. . . after mission and a college. I know that's completely unreasonable, but I'm kind of serious. Somewhere deep inside, however, something told me they would be hard to avoid that long. Maybe it was all the people who keep telling me I had better lock my daughter up, or all the parents who've secretly told me their sons have crushes on Hallee, or maybe just common sense, but I knew that four-letter-word would appear sooner or later. I just hoped for later.

But nope. Sooner came all too soon.

This girl turned fourteen, and the next thing I know, I hear about a ninth grade boy who likes her. What??? And then I notice she is on her iPod much more often than usual. And then I see she is spending a little more time in the bathroom, working on her appearance in the mornings, and I start to add things up. I try not to panic. I take lots of deep breaths and do what any reasonable, put-together mother would do: I pretty much start freaking out inside! I do not want this!! I do not want a boy to start texting my daughter or liking her or anything like that. Not yet. And I definitely don't want her to start doing it back! 

Regyn, my little 8-year-old informant (in other words, my nosy little snoop--love it!), tells me this boy snap-chats Hallee and tells her he likes her. The next thing I know Hallee is asking to have friends over Friday afternoon after school. This is highly unusual for her (she has very seldom asked to spend time with friends--just has never really needed a social life). The kicker is, a couple of the friends are boys--one of them being this ninth-grader! Yikes! I seriously feel my blood pressure sky rocket. I am so not prepared for this! I calmly tell her I will talk with her dad about it and get back with her. Then I go in my bedroom, shut the door and have my own private little panic session.

Dan and I discuss it later and we sound like a couple of idiots. We have no plan, no policy for this. This is a first for us, so we have no idea what our family rule is, and we feel like we have been blind-sided. Two weeks ago this girl could have cared less about a social life, and now this! What happened? It was eye-opening, I'll tell you. I learned you have to be ready long before these things actually occur because things can change in a big fat hurry. We gave her an answer, then talked it over more, decided we gave her the wrong answer, and changed our answer by morning. LOL! How is that for fabulous parenting? I think that's just how it goes when you are doing the best you can and trying hard to follow your heart and work together with your spouse to establish important precedents and guide your children along this all-important path that leads to eternal goals. It is not easy. Decisions are not made in an instant. They take careful consideration. And it's ok to think it over and change your mind. At least, that's what I learned from this little experience. 

The best part about it all is that none of them could come! Whew! Dodged that little bullet. 

But it has given me time to think about what is ahead. And to talk with Hallee about this stage of her life. And about boys. And her iPod. She has had that little device for two years and has been so responsible we have never even had to police it at all (our kids don't have cell phones yet--we've teased them about getting them when they turn 18, but seriously we've made it this long without them and it's been great, but the iPod Touch does have a texting feature if there is wifi). But now, we realize it is probably time to set up some rules and boundaries. We wanted to do it in the right way and under the right circumstances so she wouldn't feel she was in trouble or like she was all of a sudden totally restricted. This was tricky, to be sure. Believe me, I've spent a lot of time on my knees in prayer lately over this child. I think parenting requires that, especially during times of deep learning curves, like this one. I got up at 2:30 a.m. one morning this past week, and although completely exhausted by the next evening, it was so worth it. That time I spent pondering and praying and earnestly seeking answers from the One perfect Parent who loves my daughter even more than I do and can help me maneuver through these tricky situations with love and patience and grace, was more valuable than I can express. I'm so grateful to know we are not alone in this eternally important role of parenting, that there really is a parenting Expert, so to speak, that is ever ready and always willing to help us and give us inspiration on how to help our children and our families. I think I would feel totally helpless without that knowledge.

Anyway, I was reminded of a blog post I read a long time ago from the blog 71 Toes by Shawni Pothier where she shared a Technology Contract she had used with her children. I looked it up and found it, and it was a great place to start! I tweaked it a bit to fit our needs a little and then printed it off. Dan and I took Hallee out on a date last night for fried ice cream--so delicious--and then we drove up on the mountain side where we could look out over Kaysville and see all of the beautiful lights. 

Here is Hallee and Dan enjoying the fried ice cream.

With a prayer in my heart, I told our amazing daughter how very much we loved her. I told her how I thanked God for her every day of my life and how truly wonderful she was. Then I told her that because we loved her so much, we wanted to protect her and help her navigate through life as safely as possible. We read the contract together (here it is):

Dear Hallee,

You are the proud owner of technology we never dreamed of having when we were your age. You are a good and responsible child and we WANT you to have this. But as with many things in your life, as your parents, we feel the need to present some rules and regulations because we adore you. We have been around a little longer than you have. We have seen the marvels of all this great technology and we are so grateful for it! But we have also noticed a gradual decline of old-fashioned communication that we feel is so very important for your spirit and your general development. So we’d like to introduce you to some rules and regulations we are establishing in our home.

Please read through the following contract. Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your technology freedom. We hope you understand it is our job to raise well-rounded, healthy young individuals who can function in the world and co-exist with technology, not be ruled by it. You may be mad at us for a while about some of these things. You have enjoyed some great technological freedom, which you have not abused and we are proud of you for that. But we feel the need to train you (as we train ourselves) to not let technology take over in our family or with your friends. We love you with all our hearts and look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the years to come.

1.     Your iPod is given to you with the understanding that you will act responsibly. If you choose to put a password on this device, we will always know the password.
2.     Do not ever ignore a message from Mom or Dad. Not ever.
3.     Pray and read your scriptures before you turn on and check your iPod every morning.
4.     You will hand your iPod over to one of your parents promptly at ______________________ every night and turn it on again before you leave for school. You may not text anyone late at night.
5.     Although it is ok to take your iPod to school with you, realize it is mostly so we can get a hold of you if we need you. Pay attention to your teachers. Work on assignments. Fill your brain with knowledge. Have conversations with people you text in person. It is a life skill. Do not text or turn it on in between classes unless you need to text Mom or Dad.
6.     If your device falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Babysit, save birthday money, clean houses, etc. It might happen, so be prepared.
7.     Do not text or message anything through this device you would not say in person, out loud or with your friends’ parents in the room. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Censor yourself. This is very important.
8.     We reserve the right to be the only ones to give you license to any new apps. Please let us know if you want something new and why. We love to discuss these things with you, and we mostly trust your judgment. We also reserve the right to delete an app if we realize it is not in your best interest to have it. We love you and want what is best for you.
9.     No pornography. Use the Web only to search information you would openly share with us. If you have a question about anything, ask a person—preferably us—we know more than you think we doJ
10.   Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public—especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow your device to change that.
11.   Do not take seductive or inappropriate pictures of yourself or anyone else. Remember first and foremost that in our family we seek after goodness and want to shine our light to others. Remember also that Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. Be careful what you put there. It is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear—including a bad reputation and hurt feelings.
12.   Leave your device home sometimes and feel save and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO (fear of missing out).
13.   In addition to the music you love, download music that is new or classic or different form what all your peers listen to. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.
14.   Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Take a walk. Talk to someone new. Wonder without Googling.
15.   After school, you are mine for 15 minutes (at least). Tell me about your day before thinking about looking at a screen.
16.   Most importantly, remember your spirit is the most important thing you have. Don’t let this privilege cramp your wonderful spirit. Don’t ever let your iPod or technology seep into your relationship with your Heavenly Father. The noise of technology is quick to make us all think looking at a screen is more important than talking, especially to God.
17.   Remember: You will mess up. You will make mistakes. And we will take away your device. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. We are always learning. BUT, We are on your team. We are in this together!

It is our hope you can agree to these terms. Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply to iPods but to life in general. You are growing up fast in an ever-changing world. It is exciting and enticing. Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine!


Mom and Dad

We laughed and cried together. We reminded her of her worth as a daughter of God and to stay as pure and beautiful as she was right at that moment. We told her lots of boys would come in and out of her life over the years, to get to know them, to become friends with them, but to always keep in her heart the kind of man she really wanted to be her eternal mate and never to settle for anything less. Dan told her she would make mistakes as the years went by but that we would always be here for her. The air was thick with love and the spirit, and I just wanted to take her in my arms and squeeze her tightly forever. 

I am sure there will be lots of bumps in the road as Hallee continues to grow up, but I can say the last 14 years have been a tremendous journey. I love this girl with all my heart, and I'm so glad she's mine.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Berkley's Hair Intervention

One thing we did this summer (yes, I'm still catching up on summer) is a major intervention on Berkley's hair. I had been told over and over that it would not be easy to take care of African American hair, and I totally believed the rumors, but nonetheless, somehow my baby ended up with a mess of hair that needed major help.

See what I mean?

LOL! Just kidding!

Seriously though. Here are a few shots of her hair before the intervention.

Is this heart-warming or what? I love this picture! That hair, though? Not so much.

The fro!

Very blurry (sorry), but this is what she looked like some mornings. A mohawk fro. Gotta love it.

We tried doing different things with it to make it look cute:
Pigtails are super cute, but the truth is, I couldn't even comb the hair into those--I just grabbed it and stuffed it in.

Super cute from the front--not as cute from the back. Plus, she would only leave that headband in for hmm. . . let's see. . a couple of minutes. Little rascal.

The worst part is that I couldn't even comb through it in the back anymore. I'm not sure how or when it got that way. It's like one day we woke up and her hair was super thick and extra curly and no amount of hair product would do the trick.

That's when I knew it was time for an intervention. So, we followed the advice of another family with children who had unmanageable black hair and set up an appointment. I was nervous, let me tell you. I was certain these women were going to hang me up by my toenails when they saw Berkley's hair.

I took Hallee with me for extra moral support. They didn't hang me up by my toenails, but they did reprimand me just a little bit. I'm sure to them I sounded like an idiot as I tried to explain the products I had been using on her hair and how often, etc. I had been washing it, trying to comb it, etc.

That's when they gave me the 411 concerning the treatment Berkley's hair should really be getting, and they went to work. Poor Berkley!!! Two hours later we left the salon, but it was a long, grueling two hours, let me tell you! I felt like the worst mother in the universe for allowing my baby's hair to get to the point they had to go to such drastic measures to save it (It was starting to turn into dreadlocks--yikes!).

We decided the best form of action would be to chemically straighten her hair so we could comb through all of it and get rid of the dreads. It took both Hallee and I to hold her and keep her hand down while the cosmetologist applied the very potent straightening cream. Berkley did not like it one little bit. Then it took two stylists to get it rinsed out.

This was the worst part. After applying the straightener, they had to comb through her head of very tangled curls. It took forever and was very painful. I felt like crying right along with Berkley.

Is this heartbreaking or what?
 Hallee held her while she got her hair straightened with a straight iron at the end of the process. I was pretty much physically, and especially emotionally, spent by this point.

Teenage daughters sure come in handy sometimes, especially sweet ones like this one:)
 Apparently Berkley was even more exhausted than I was! She fell sound asleep while they styled her hair. The trauma was over at this point, and she was completely tuckered out.

So sweet!
 The end result was worth it, I just have to say. I did want to bawl once again, however, when I first saw her. My two-year-old looked like she was at least four!! BUT I could comb through her hair! It was a miracle!!!
I sure love this little beauty!

Here is a picture of the back. Who knew her hair was so long? They actually cut about three inches off the back, too. 
In the end, we all survived the process, but it was a life-lesson for me, to be sure. I whipped through the beauty supply store on the way home to gather all the products they suggested I use on Berkley's hair, and I have faithfully combed through it every day since! I definitely do not want to repeat that little experience again!

We now have a huge basket of hair products just for Berkley. It's a little ironic we use more products on our two-year-old than on the rest of our family combined, but after our experience this summer, I just go with it. Some things just have to be. And besides, she's absolutely worth it!!

Her hair is actually still curly, which I love. It's just more manageable now. I think it is beautiful!