Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"Taking Care of Mom" Mini-Retreat

I don't usually put events on my blog, but I am super excited for this one. It's called "Taking Care of Mom" Mini-Retreat. Don't those words, "taking care of mom" just jump out and grab you? After the hectic holidays and a cold, biting, crazy January, do you feel like you could use a little taking care of?

Boy, I sure do!

That's why I am inviting you to an event where you can come and learn how to regain these four important feelings:


Doesn't that sound wonderful? In the midst of crazy schedules and demanding lives and busy children, these things can seem so evasive, but they don't have to be. Regardless of how many children you have or what stage of motherhood you are in, they can be an everyday part of your life. Come enjoy an evening with other women; come share and laugh and learn together for a couple of hours how to regain some balance and find yourself again in the midst of motherhood.

If you want to make it even more fun, invite some friends and make it a girls night out where you can promise your husband you will come back renewed and ready to have more peace, order, purpose and joy in your life. I mean, what husband doesn't want that for his wife, right?:) The cost is just $25 and is totally worth it, especially considering you'll get a great dessert, too!!

Just click here to learn more details and to register:
Now, if you clicked that link you may have noticed that I am one of the presenters that night. Please don't let this discourage you from coming.:) These Power of Moms retreats are truly fabulous, and I will be presenting their material, not my own, so please come take part in this amazing two-hour evening. You have to come simply to hear from Tiffany, the other presenter, because she is truly delightful and awe-inspiring!

If I haven't talked you into it yet, you must have more peace, order, purpose and joy in your life right now than I do.:) I am definitely in need of a refresher course, and besides that, I have learned that few things buoy me up more than joining with other women who have similar goals of succeeding at this difficult role of motherhood and learning and growing from each other. One of the best things about these retreats is that they are interactive. You will be given tons to think about and tools to help you become the mother you really want to be, but you won't be sitting there all evening listening to someone lecture--you will be involved! You will be in a warm environment full of other women like you, where we all listen and share and learn from each other. It's truly fabulous!

I must warn you--these retreats often fill up quickly, so if you are interested, sign up now. And tell your friends, for heaven's sake! Its' so much more fun with friends! And it just so happens this event is happening the night before Valentine's Day, so you could go to this retreat with your friends on Thursday night, February 13th and get all buoyed up and feeling great, and then go out the very next night with your sweetheart for Valentine's Day! That's two nights out in a row!! Wow! I feel more peace and joy already! Ha!

Ok, I better let you go so you can sign up now. See you February 13th in Farmington!

Monday, January 20, 2014


The other night, as I lay sleepless on my disheveled bed, finally giving in to the fact that rest would not be coming soon, I envisioned a conversation I may have once had with God. It went something like this:

God: "Now, you are certain you want to be a mother some day and that you are up to the task?"

Me: "Oh yes, there is nothing I want more! I know it won't be easy, but I can do it."

God: "You are right, my child. It won't be easy, and I must tell you, it requires great moral strength. There are attributes you must work hard to develop."

Me: "Oh, I will work so hard. Just tell me what they are, and I am sure I can do it!"

God: "It will require love. More love than you can imagine. Can you love from deep within your soul?"

Me: "Love? Absolutely! I can definitely love. Love will not be a problem, Father. You see, I love my children already and I don't even know them yet. I can definitely love!"

God: "Very good. How about patience? You will need to have a lot of patience to be a mother."

Me: "Patience will not be easy, but I will work hard at that, and yes, I can be patient. I may not be perfect at it, but I can learn to be patient. After all, when you love someone with all your heart, it is easier to show them patience."

God: "OK. Let me tell you, mothers must be selfless. Your time will no longer be yours. These children  will require you give up much of yourself--your time, your talents, your wants and even your needs--to take care of them. Are you willing to do that?"

Me: I pause for a moment, then reply, "Yes, Father. I am willing. I can see these children will teach me much and make me better. I am ready to be selfless."

God: "Can you be forgiving? You will need to be forgiving."

Me: "Wow, this list is getting long. Well, I think I can do that, too. I mean, how bad can children be? How much could I possibly need to forgive?" (I think I hear a chuckle from God at this point).

Me: "So? Am I ready? Do you think I have what it takes to be a good mother?"

God: "Well, you will need a good sense of humor; you will need resilience; you will need tolerance."

Me: "Got it. Ok. And . . . Not easy, but I can work on that one."

God: "There is one more thing I must mention."

Me: "Anything. What is it? I'm sure I can do it. Just tell me what it is."

God: "Bravery."

Me: "What???"

God: "Mothers must be very brave. You see, you will be raising children with bright spirits and strong personalities. They have amazing potential, but they will challenge you. They will be living on earth at a time when there is much good but also much evil, and you must be strong enough to teach your children what is right though it may be unpopular to the world, to stand by your family's principles and standards, even when your dear children may be angry at you for it. You must be able to handle hurtful words such as, "I hate you!" "You're the worst mother in the whole world!" "I wish I was never born to this family!" and "You're the meanest mom ever!" even when you have been giving your best effort to motherhood. You see, my child, parenthood is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage and bravery like nothing else in the whole world. So I'm asking you, are you brave?"

Me: I feel the bile rise in my throat as I choke back tears and consider carefully what I have just been told. I don't know everything about myself yet, but I know enough to think long and hard about that word brave. And I begin to wonder if I really can do it. Bravery wasn't something I had considered when I thought about becoming a mother someday. But why not? Of course I would need to be brave! It makes so much sense now! Finally, I think of my children, take a deep breath and reply, "Yes, I will be brave."

God: He smiles a knowing smile and says, "Although it won't be easy, although you will be stretched and pulled and twisted in unimaginable ways, let me share a secret with you: motherhood will also bring you more joy than you could ever imagine. It will be totally worth it, so don't forget to soak up the little things and to take joy in the journey. And remember, you are not alone. I will help you. Now go--and be brave!"

Although I'm pretty sure a conversation like this probably never really happened, I can't help but wish  someone at some time would have told me I would need to be brave to be a mother. I think it's the one attribute about motherhood I never anticipated needing, and it's the one attribute I need most lately. I mean, motherhood takes fearlessness and outright courage!

It takes courage to get out of bed in the morning, knowing you have a grueling day ahead. It takes courage to potty train! It takes courage to work day in and day out with a child with a disability. It takes courage to say no. It takes courage to be consistent. It takes courage to establish rules and follow through with them. It takes courage to expect and demand modesty. It takes courage to take away electronic devices when your children are not keeping their contracts. It takes courage every single day!

Motherhood is not for wimps! And some days I feel like a wimp. Some days I do not feel up to the task. Some days I do not feel brave enough. But you know what? I have to be. I don't have to be perfect and I don't have to be SuperMom, but I do have to be brave. I have to be brave enough to not quit, to never give up, even when I feel like I am failing. I have to be brave enough to keep praying and keep trying and keep having faith that positive change is just around the next bend.

The dictionary defines brave as "valiant, fearless, lionhearted, ready to face and endure danger or pain."  I can't think of traits a mother needs more than those at times! When used as a verb, brave is also defined as "enduring or facing unpleasant conditions or behavior without showing fear." How I need to do that!

I think lately I have been what Webster would probably define as a coward. I have been the opposite of brave when it comes to motherhood. I have not been enduring unpleasant conditions without showing fear, nor have I been valiant and fearless. The daily grind has gotten to me a bit, and I have become quite discouraged. I think, little by little, I have laid down my much-needed armor--a shield of faith, a helmet of courage, a breastplate of lionheartedness (pretty sure that's not a word, but you get the picture)--and have just allowed my courage to dissipate. The good news is, that brave woman is still somewhere deep inside of me. I just need to find her again.

So, for anyone else who seems to lose courage at times, here is a call to arms. Find your faith again. Pick up your sword of valor. We as mothers can do this! It is not easy, but our children need mothers who are valiant and heroic and bold and intrepid. Mothers who love fearlessly with all our hearts, who forgive and show patience and empathy, who laugh and teach by example, who are consistent and caring. And most of all, they need mothers who are . . .


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Christmas 2013

 My favorite place to be for Christmas is right in my own home; however, due to the fact we are still living in our basement and space seems to be getting tighter and tighter (I wonder if that is really true or it just seems to be true), I decided it would be a good idea to not stay home for Christmas this year. Since last year we went to the Nates (my side of the family) for the holidays, this year we headed to the Congers. We were very excited, let me tell you.

The kids and I headed north to Logan on Sunday, three days before Christmas, leaving Dan behind to work for one more day before joining us for a big prime rib dinner the next evening. Yes, prime rib. Boy, did we eat like kings and queens while we were there! And since eating is something we absolutely love to do. . . well, we were in heaven pretty much all the time! The good thing about Dan coming a day later is that he was able to take care of all the little things I forgot--or the not-so-little-things. Ok, so the truth? I forgot some huge things!!! Like Regyn's major thing from Santa. And Regyn and Boston and Berkley's Christmas Eve pajamas. And dare I mention I forgot to ever take Boston shopping to pick something out for Hallee since he had drawn her name? Oh goodness! Good thing my husband is patient and was willing and able to make a trip home to search out all my hiding spots to find everything and bring it.

Anyway, here are some pictures of our Christmas this year. It was truly wonderful!

 Okay, so the Saturday before Christmas we actually went down to Salt Lake City to see "Savior of the World" at the Conference Center. It was amazing! I highly recommend it. It was a great way to start us off in the true spirit of Christmas.

Notice my flaming red hair. That was because I thought it would be nice to be a red-head and I colored my own hair from a box I bough from Wal-Mart. Not the best decision I ever made (although I did look quite festive, don't you think? Ha!). I fixed that baby the very next day to a very normal brown.
Each year we choose a project to do that helps us think of others. Usually we choose a family in need to do something special for. This year we did something we've never done before. We made hygiene kits for the Humanitarian Center in Hyrum. This is the only center run by a Stake throughout the whole Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We were lucky enough to get a private tour of the place while we were visiting over Thanksgiving, and that little tour really sparked my children's interest to do something to help out (I loved it!!). I mean, they were honestly ready to go right home and start building quilts or something. I love enthusiasm like that! Unfortunately, reality has to set in as well. We decided instead to make something every one of us could help with; thus, the hygiene kits. 

We all went shopping together, first at the Dollar Store, then to Wal-Mart. I was so excited at first, thinking we could whip out tons of these things, but then we realized that hand towels were quite expensive, especially when each kit needed two, and our excitement fizzled a bit. We weren't able to make as many as we first imagined, BUT we did do it together, and we did do something! That's what matters. It was a great experience.

Here we are stuffing the Ziploc bags (no easy task, I must say)

Here are the finished kits.
a little closer look

Next . . . Christmas cookies!

That is one patient, beautiful grandma!

Ok, so what is this? Nate seems to think a gallon of chocolate milk and some cookies are a normal snack these days. Can you say, "growth spirt"?

Berkley had to get involved, of course. She was covered in flour from head to toe by the time we were done. But oh, so cute!

Boston is the only one who stuck it out until the end. He looked at me and said, "I'm no quitter." I loved it!

This is the cookie Berkley frosted over and over and over again. She just kept licking the frosting off and then frosting it again. That is one great strategy, I'm telling you.

We all look happy (and blurry, darn it), but by this time, we were losing our edge a little, to be perfectly honest. Making Christmas cookies is not for wimps.

Boston made this ginormous cookie for Santa. It took him forever. But Santa sure appreciated it:)

His note was so cute. Too bad I can't remember what it said, and it's too little to read here. Oh well. It was cute anyway.
Dad even got involved by the very end,  you know, when it was time to eat them!

Does this look impressive or what?

Then there was Christmas Eve, my favorite. Dan's father, Reed, always tells a Christmas story (something I was unaware of, but I sure loved it!), and this year he told about the priest in Les Miserables, which just happens to be his all-time favorite book. He did a marvelous job recounting the story and the priest's merciful decision that changed Jean Valjean's life forever. Then we had a testimony meeting and presented our gifts to Dan's parents--memorized scriptures and pictures, as well as some favorite books we thought they might enjoy. The kids opened new jammies, we watched a new Christmas movie, Christmas for a Dollar (I highly recommend it), and went to bed with visions of sugarplums--or was it geckos and new headphones--dancing in our heads:).

And then, it was Christmas morning . . .

Berkley loved her new slippers . . .

. . . and her new Arial dress and her huge gorilla pillow pet

Regyn got her much-wanted Monster High dolls (it's worth giving her gifts just for the look on her face).

Regyn also got a karaoke microphone and Boston got an electric guitar. There was music all over that house, I'm telling you.

And then there was the gecko. It was so fun watching my kids watch the gecko.

Oh yea, I almost forgot the visit from Santa himself on Christmas Eve. He ran around the house a few times so my kids could spot him from the windows. It was . . . hmm . . . how should I put it . . . weird? That's as nice as I could say it. My kids were way to smart to think Santa was spending his time on Christmas Eve just running around the back yard waving at them. Dan's mother insisted he put this Santa suit on and do the jig, but it didn't quite go over the way she envisioned. Oh well, kudos for trying, right?

We had such a wonderful day together on Christmas day. We visited my grandmother and Dan's grandmother, both in their 90's. We played games, watched movies, rested and just soaked each other up. I love it when we can be together without expectations, which truthfully happens so rarely.

With Dan's grandmother

The day after Christmas, Dan went back to work so we packed up and headed to Wyoming to see my side of the family. It was another few days of fun.

Not sure what we were doing in this blurry picture, but we were together, which means we were having fun!:)

More karaoke concerts

Berkley got a makeover from my sister, Katie. So cute!!

There is so much to be thankful for in my life. Right now, I must be honest and say I am thankful it's a whole year until Christmas comes around again, but when it does, I know I will soak up the music and lights and smells and feelings like a sponge and love it all over again. That's the beauty of Christmas!

Monday, January 6, 2014


Sometimes when I stop to consider that my Boston would be the baby of our family if we had not adopted Berkley, it astounds me. That means my baby would have just turned seven years old! Thank heavens that isn't really true.Still, I can hardly believe Boston is in first grade, that in only one short year he will have the opportunity to be baptized, that he is learning to add and subtract numbers in his head and loves to learn interesting facts about unusual things. How does this happen so fast?

The thing about Boston is that it hasn't been an easy journey so far. Not from day one. He was the one child we didn't get to take home from the hospital because his lungs were not functioning at full capacity. He was in the NICU for a number of days and then came home with a huge (and I mean huge) oxygen tank attached to him, making it difficult to even hold him. When we finally got his oxygen levels up to normal, we noticed he wasn't gaining weight. At two months old, he wasn't even his birth weight, even though I was supplementing and working hard to help him gain weight. He spent a week at Primary Children's Hospital, where they finally decided he suffered from failure to thrive and I stopped nursing so I could make sure he was always getting enough to eat. It was then he contracted RSV, then a month later another ailment. And it just never ended. The first year of his life was spent at hospitals and doctors' offices.

When we finally got him healthy, I realized the toll it had taken on me personally. I felt like a complete failure as a mother. I was exhausted in every way--physically, emotionally and mentally. No matter how I looked at things, I just kept thinking if I had been a better mother, we could have avoided many of Boston's health issues. Not only did I feel I had let my baby down, but since he had demanded so much time and attention, I also felt I had been failing my other three children. All in all, it was a difficult year, and one that had left me feeling completely depleted and downhearted. My dreams of being a really good mother went right down the tubes, and I remember thinking I would take just being a "regular" mother over the failure I was sure I was at the time (that sounds so funny, I know, as if being a "regular" mother isn't enough anyway). It's amazing how circumstances in life can beat you down to the point that you lose all sense of who you really are and what you are accomplishing. I had definitely lost perspective. No matter how hard I tried to see the good I was doing, all I could focus on was my flaws. I had to really turn to the Lord for help to see things clearly again.

For whatever reason, Daniel and I decided to put previous plans of having more children on hold. In fact, we decided our family was complete; after all, we had two girls and two boys now, and who could really ask for more than that? Thus, Boston became our caboose. Now, it is not really in my nature to coddle and baby my children much. Truthfully, I think that may be a weakness I have. I do love to love them and hold them and shower them with words of endearment and praise, and I love to hug and kiss them to death BUT I also love to see them grow and mature and become independent. And so, I tend to work towards helping my children reach new steps of independency right on cue (maybe even sometimes before they may be ready). I love it when my baby starts sitting up on his own, or when he starts to crawl or walk or talk. Some moms dread these milestones, but I rejoice in them! To me, it means my child is learning and growing and is ready for the next stage of life, and that makes me terribly happy. Anyway, with Boston, I think I may have let go of my natural tendencies a bit and allowed a few too many fits, gave in a few too many times, did things for him in a few too many instances because one day I woke up and realized my little boy was not really doing all that well. And that is not a good realization as a mother.

It happens so easily, doesn't it? I mean, especially with your youngest child (or the one you think might be your last anyway?). Since you're not as worried about another child coming along and you needing this child to be independent and secure and under control, you just sort of sit back and let things happen. At least, I think that's what I did. And it worked out great for quite a long time. Boston was cruising along just great--until I decided one day that he needed to start pulling his weight around our home. WHAT??? He didn't really want to. And I learned that training a toddler is much easier than training an older child who is already set in his ways. I felt terrible. This was painful--for me, for Boston, for the whole family. And I had nobody to blame but myself for my lazy parenting. Note to self: Lazy parenting just never pays off in the end.

Needless to say, these past two years have not been easy. I feel like I have spent countless frustrating moments with this sweet boy, working to reteach and retrain him, and he has resisted quite a lot. There have been a lot of meltdowns, a lot of tears, a lot of "I'm sorry's," and a whole lot of "I love you anyway's," but this mother has sure learned a lot from this seven-year-old, let me tell you.

Boston has a tender heart. He is very smart and loves to learn new things. He hates to see me upset or know that I am hurting in any way. He has certain insecurities my other children have not had, making adjustment to first grade very difficult for him. He has no real interest in sports, as my other children do, but has still tried playing soccer and basketball. He actually has great potential in athletics but no real desire, so we are still trying to figure out what he is passionate about. He loves to swim and is a very good swimmer and diver, but he is too concerned about certain things to join the swim team just yet. Because of his emotional needs, Boston has required consistent, with-it parenting, which has been exhausting at times but also has humbled me and opened my heart to loving him more. He is teaching me important things about myself and about motherhood that I don't think I would learn in any other way. I'm so grateful for that, even though many days are grueling and frustrating and difficult. There are also many days of happiness and growth, and those days fill me with gratitude.

I sometimes wonder what the future holds for this handsome little boy. I am certain he has gifts and talents that will bless the world, and I pray as his mother to help him figure out what those are. Growing and maturing can be so painful--for adults as well as children!! I feel I have been going through the process right along with Boston, as well as my other children. I am so grateful they are so very patient with me. Children are so forgiving.

One inspired thought I had as I prayed for guidance on how to help this sweet boy was that he needed a friend to call his own. This panicked me, I'm not going to lie. I am anything but a pet person. Getting a fish a couple of years ago was a huge step for me, so to even consider something bigger was monumental. But I knew it was what we needed to do. I also knew our family could not take on a puppy at this stage of things, especially since we are still living in our basement (5 more months, not that I'm counting:). I felt strongly that Boston needed a pet, a live friend that he could talk to, hold, and take care of--be responsible for--that was just his very own. So, I took Hallee and we went to the pet store. This is what we came up with. . .


Here he is from the front.

We had to get this huge terrarium for the gecko. Finding a place for it in our already-crowded basement was not easy.

Here are all my children on Christmas morning just staring at it. So cute!!
Yes, meet Oscar Oasis Conger, as Boston immediately named him. And I'm getting way ahead of myself because Boston actually got Oscar for Christmas, and this post is supposed to be about his birthday, but since it's mostly about Boston, I had to put it in here. This gecko has been amazing so far. Boston has fed him every day and talked to him and tried to hold him (we accidentally bough a non-tame gecko--oops), and he has made this little boy so very happy. I'm so grateful for inspiration.

Now back to his birthday. He had an absolutely wonderful day because his parents went out of town and his Grandma and Grandpa Conger took him out for breakfast at Granny Annie's (his favorite) where he got a free cinnamon roll that "he didn't even have to pay for!!" They gave him seven presents, and he had the best day of his life!! He really needed a day like that, let me tell you, as he had had a lot of not-so-great-days before that. Then his parents came home and told him how very much they loved him, and he was as happy as a seven-year-old boy could be.

His mother even took him to YoGoToGo a couple of days later because he had (finally) reached a goal of good behavior he had been working on.

It was so cute. I had physical therapy on my neck right before we went. Boston was with me. The therapist asked him what he could do with his little girl to help her make good choices. Boston told the therapist, "It helps if you set some goals with her." I loved it!
 This boy just happens to be one of the sweetest, most giving little people I know. He got Hallee's name for Christmas and wanted to save up to buy her a laptop computer. Not very realistic, but I love his heart. Here he is watching her open his present. I love this picture!

Here is another picture I love. I just smile when he smiles.

Okay, last picture. He and Regyn happened to match the other day when they got ready for church so I made them pose for a picture. Are these two adorable or what?

Let's look a little closer at their cute little mugs. . .

I sure love my children, each one of them. They each challenge me in different ways, but they also teach me and make me realize things about myself and about life that are so meaningful.

I am so very grateful for this little seven-year-old boy. He is such a joy in my life. Happy Birthday, son.

I love Boston's look in this picture. He is so serious. It cracks me up.