CLICK HERE FOR THOUSANDS OF FREE BLOGGER TEMPLATES »

Sunday, February 22, 2015

LOVE


It’s been so long since I have written. Life continues to move forward at a dizzying pace and I long to sit down and pour out my soul and record our family’s experiences, but it just doesn’t happen. Tonight though my heart feels ready to burst and I know I must write.

I have often wondered what response I would give if I had to state in one word what I have learned most from motherhood—from my children. Would it be patience? Certainly I have had to exhibit large amounts at times and practice this virtue on a regular basis. Maybe it would be humility. Motherhood has most definitely humbled me time and time again as I have searched for answers and wisdom far beyond my own in an effort to teach my children important values and truths. Faith is another word I have had to become well acquainted with as a mother—faith things would turn out all right, faith I was not alone in this important endeavor, faith I could keep going. The faith of children has always been somewhat mind-boggling to me, and I have most definitely been awed by my own children’s faith at times when my own was wavering. Perhaps the word would be exhaustion, for I have never been more tired or more drained, from staying up with sleepless newborns to working tireless hours to being sleepless myself due to concern for one of my children.

Today I realized that none of these words could even come close to the one thing I have learned most from this journey of mothering my five children. Today I realized what my one-word response—without hesitation—would be. The thing my children have taught me most is this:

LOVE.

From the moment my first baby was placed in my arms to right now, today, I have never loved so deeply or been loved so much. It’s difficult to even write about the love I have experienced as a mother because the words sound so cliché and lack the power to convey what I really feel, but I am going to attempt it anyway because I want my children to know—really know—what a gift they are to me and how deeply I truly LOVE them.

The thing about the love that exists in a family is that it is so unique, so binding and so incredibly powerful that it transcends every other emotion—fear, anger, disappointment, envy, and so on. Love truly produces miracles; I’ve experienced it time and time again. Love softens hearts, breaks down barriers and leaves understanding in its wake.

I’ve tried to pinpoint what it is I love most about my children because truly they bring me so much joy. Yes, they quarrel and exhibit unkindness on a regular basis; yes, they are disobedient and unruly at times; yes they make the same dumb mistakes over and over again. But they are mine. And they are amazing. And they have given me one of the greatest gifts in my life—the gift of love.

The thing about the love a mother experiences for her child is that it’s truly unconditional. To me, that is a miracle. Of course it’s easy to love my children when they are making good choices and being obedient and causing those around them to feel happy. But what I have come to appreciate even more is the deep love I feel for my child when he/she actually has feet planted on the wrong path. I think when I was a young and naïve mother (now I’m an older naïve mother), I was quite devastated when my children were naughty, especially when they seemed to enjoy it! My initial reaction was to show my disdain and censure them. What I am learning instead is that exhibiting love—sincere, heartfelt love—goes so much further. Not only does my child’s heart soften, making him/her more willing to be taught and to repent, but it bonds us together in unspeakable ways.

I have truly come to appreciate the love I feel from my five children. They hug me and kiss me and offer words of affection to me; but even more than all of this, they trust me and they forgive me (time and time again) and they continue to come to me, even when I have offended them. They want me near them. They want my time and my attention. They want my affection and my care. They even want my words of advice at times J. All of this, even though I am so weak and so inadequate as their mother. That is incredible to me! I have never felt so loved as since I married the man of my dreams and we started a family.

And then there is the love I feel for each one of these children I have been blessed with. They are so very individual, so very different from each other (that never ceases to amaze me!) and yet I love each of them immeasurably. I marvel at their strengths and abilities and I appreciate their struggles and weaknesses, knowing that with weakness comes the opportunity to grow. I love them when they are kind and respectful. I love them when they are accomplishing great things. I love them when they are giving of their time and energy to serve others. And I love them when they are failing and living far below their potential as sons and daughters of God; in fact, I believe it is in these moments my love for them grows the most because I come to appreciate all they are up against and marvel at their strength and desire for goodness. I understand the difficulty of this journey they are on and respect so very much their courage to sojourn it.

So the question I am left with is this: how do I instill in each child how unequivocally and powerfully I love them? How can I help them understand the love I feel for them when they accomplish great things? How do I help them know the love I have for them when they brighten my day with their beautiful smiles, their quirky senses of humor and the light that shines in their eyes? How can I tell them adequately how much I love them when they reach outside of themselves to lift others? How do I express to them how much I love them when they grow another inch or master a new skill or grow in character and integrity? How do I ever help them understand that sometimes the love I feel for them is so great and so full, I feel I might actually burst?

Most certainly I do it with constant words of affection—everyone needs to hear they are loved. I also must hug them regularly, kiss them goodbye and goodnight and hold them close to me when they’ve had a particularly bad day and just need to feel safe and warm in someone’s embrace for a moment. I believe it takes forgiveness to really love completely. My children must know I will forgive them and that I am a strong believer in fresh starts. More than anything, however, I feel I can show my love most generously by giving each of them my time. Time is the hardest thing to give it seems, but oh, how they each need it! They need to know they are more important than my other endeavors and they need to know I will be here for them—with my eyes, my mind, my heart and especially my time. I feel them hunger for it, and it is what I must give.

How grateful I am for the amazing gift of love I have for/from my children! They have loved me at some of my most unlovable moments. They have laughed with me, cried with me and prayed with and for me. They have never given up on me. I imagine their futures and know hard days are ahead. I know they will stumble and fall at times and make heartbreaking choices, but that will not change my love for them. In those moments, I pray with all my heart, I will love them better and love them more, not for their lack of judgment and righteous decision-making, but for their ability and desire to get back up and keep trying. Everyone needs love at those times.


My earnest prayer is that each one of my children—Hallee, Nate, Regyn, Boston and Berkley—will know unequivocally that their mother, this imperfect, undeserving mess of a woman at times—loves them with all her heart and soul. And that will never change! 


Friday, November 7, 2014

Halloween 2014

I've never been a fan of Halloween. In fact, I think to put it bluntly, I just truthfully have a strong distaste altogether for the holiday. I don't know if it's the practical side of me that clashes so much with the whimsies this day demands or if it's simply that I have a disorder or something (ha!), but I seriously do NOT like Halloween--so much so that I heave a huge sigh of relief every year on November first, when I know it's a whole 365 days until this horrid day will roll around again. I know, I know--I sound completely awful. And I'm sure you're wondering about my poor children. So did I, so a few years ago I sat down and drafted a little poem in their honor. I endearingly named it "The Grinch of Halloween." Ha!

THE GRINCH OF HALLOWEEN

I don't know where it came from
Or how it got it start,
But sometime after childhood
I had a change of heart.

My eyebrows started furrowing,
My stomach formed a knot,
And before I even knew it
My attitude went to pot.

I tried and tried to fix it;
I thought it'd be a cinch,
But every year at Halloween
I turned into a Grinch!

It's not that I hate candy
(Quite the opposite is true)
But when my children beg for it
I don't know what to do.

And then there's dressing up,
Finding costumes that are great.
I really shouldn't say this,
But it's the main thing that I hate.

I know my kids aren't lucky;
They'd trade me in a pinch.
It can't be easy when your mom
Becomes a Halloween Grinch!

So, what does one do when she is a Halloween Grinch? She thinks, thinks, thinks, thinks of ways to make the holiday great for her and her family, even if it means going completely outside of the lines of tradition. And that's exactly what I did! I sat my kids down and asked them how they would feel about scratching the costumes and trick-or-treating and going to a hotel instead for swimming and a family party of games and popcorn and fun. And guess what they said?

YES!

It was unanimous.

I'm not going to lie--I was surprised the first time I asked and they were so willing to let it all go and do something different (OK, it might have helped that I threw in a hotel stay and their favorite activity--swimming--but hey, I had to make it good, right?). So we did it. And it was awesome. Now, of course we can't do this every year because of school, so we have had to wait for about six years to try it again. But guess what? Halloween happened to fall on a Friday night again this year, so we were ready for another Conger Family Halloween. And this was one was better than ever!

It was a little crazy to begin with because we ended up stopping by the car dealership in Ogden on our way to pick up our new car (can't believe I didn't get pictures of the kids with that car because man alive, were they excited!). I thought adults got excited over new cars, but our kids thought this car was the best thing that ever happened to them. It was hilarious. I finally had to tell them I was glad they liked our car but I seriously couldn't stand one more comment about how awesome it was. Ha! (Seriously--they were excited about every single feature--it was getting annoying).



Then we were on our way to Logan. Kinda funny we drove to Logan to stay in a hotel but the local Marriott didn't have the size of room we needed (and wouldn't you know we had a free night's stay at a Marriott through our rewards points so we didn't even have to pay for the amazing suite we got--AWESOME!!!). We drove to Grandma and Grandpa Conger's house first where Dan's mom had an amazing dinner prepared for us. It was fabulous!

Since Boston's birthday is coming up in just two weeks, she was all prepared to make him feel special. She is so good that way. He loved wearing the king's crown and blowing out his 8 candles on this unique birthday donut. It was a great start to our evening.



Then we were off to our hotel and to swimming. The fabulous thing about going to a hotel pool on Halloween night is that nobody is there! We had the whole pool to ourselves for the longest time until one other little boy finally joined us. Our family was so loud that he spent most of his time just staring at us. Ha! Boston was playing Truth or Dare with Dan and thought for sure Dan would dare him to jump into the cold pool after being in the hot tub, but instead Dan dared him to ask the boy what his name is and be friendly. It took him 20 minutes to get up the nerve, but finally, right before we left, he found out the boy's name--"either James or Jake. I couldn't really hear him." Ha!






We showered quickly and then the games began! It's not easy coming up with games both teenagers and three-year-olds will enjoy, but I was pretty clever this year (truthfully, I stole one game from a preschool Mom, and the other game is one I play with my preschoolers--ha!). We played a game called "Trick-or-Treat." I had the words "trick" or "treat" in a bag. We each took turns pulling a word out of the bag. If someone pulled the word "treat" out of the bag, they just got to choose a treat. But if they pulled out the word "trick," it would tell them a trick they had to perform to get a treat. The tricks were funny things, like stand on your head and whistle a tune, or skip backwards around the room while rolling your hands or do 10 push-ups while singing the ABC's. It was so fun watching everyone do their tricks. We laughed so hard! I decided laughing together as a family is one of my all-time favorite things in all the world.



Next, we played "Don't let the ghost touch the ground." In other words, don't let the balloon his the ground. We all spread around the room and had zones we were in charge of. If the balloon came our way, we tapped it up in an effort to never let it touch the ground. We soon found we were so adept at this game, we had to make it more challenging. That's when we decided each person could only touch the balloon one time in a row. Oh, how much fun we had diving around the hotel room after that balloon! I felt terrible for whoever was in the room below us (secretly hoping it was nobody), for we are one competitive group of Congers and we were not about to let that balloon hit the ground. The rule was, every time it hit the ground, we all had to do 5 push-ups. We did very few push-ups, let me tell you. We laughed and played until Dan said we were probably about to get kicked out. Then we brushed our teeth and snuggled in our beds with the sweetest of memories. SO much better than costumes and cold trick-or-treating.



The next morning we got up early (because we can't help but be early risers--Oh ya, and because Nate had a football practice and basketball game to get back to) and went downstairs to a really fabulous continental breakfast. I'm talking biscuits and gravy, waffles, eggs, oatmeal--pretty much anything you could want. Dan and Nate left to go back for the practice and the kids and I decided to hurry and get ready so we could go watch a cousin play basketball. We thought he would love the surprise of having 5 extra fans walk in and cheer for him. After all, who wouldn't love that, right?



We ran to our aunt and uncle's house after that to see their beautiful new home and then we were off again to head back home to catch Nate's basketball game (Is it any wonder I came home and sacked out on the couch afterwards?).

It was definitely a Halloween to remember. As I lay in bed last night thinking about our time together, I thought about why I have such a strong distaste for the regular Halloween traditions. And then I decided it didn't really matter. What mattered is that we were building memories--good, strong, happy memories that I hoped my children would treasure forever. Whether we were trick-or-treating and going to haunted houses in crazy costumes, or whether we were swimming and playing silly games in a hotel room--all that mattered is that we were together and that we were building relationships. I often secretly wonder how my children will choose to do things when they have their own families, and I do hope I haven't ruined the--ha! Mostly, I hope I am teaching them that holidays are about family and family is about being together.

The best part about all of it is that I don't dread Halloween like I used to; in fact, when we have experiences like this coming up, it's something I look forward to. Maybe I'm not such a Halloween Grinch after all! Ha!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Power of Moms Davis County Retreat 2014

There are few things better than getting with other moms and sharing a day together, especially when yummy food is involved and lots of great discussion about how to strengthen our families and ourselves as mothers. I absolutely love it! And that's exactly what happened this past Saturday right in my very own home.

My dear husband was such a trooper as he loaded up our children (all except Hallee who claimed she had too much homework and stayed to help me out a little as well, a little fact I was grateful for) and headed out the door at 7:15 a.m. Saturday morning. Truth be told he didn't need to leave quite that early for me, but Nate had a basketball game at 8:00 in Ogden, so they trudged out to the car quite sleepy-eyed but happy as I said, "Please don't come back until at least 5:15. Love you!" Ha! I wondered how Dan would keep them all happy and busy for that many hours, but I needn't have worried. They had a fabulous day--at the ball game, then running a few errands for me (picking up the sandwiches and cookies I had ordered and dropping them off quickly), then selling our car and getting a new one--yes,  as crazy as that sounds we sold our car that day and he spent hours at the dealership while our kids ate popcorn, drank pop and watched television (nice!:), and went to Costco (anyone can spend hours there, right?). Anyway, they had a fun but busy day and when the kids all filed in at 5:15, they couldn't wait to tell me about their adventures--all at the same time!

Meanwhile, back here at home, I was so happy for the opportunity of sharing some fabulous Power of Moms material with some eager and thoughtful and wonderful women who showed up to spend the day with Tiffany and me. Now a bit about Tiffany Sowby. She is amazing! I love working with her because she is not only a hoot, but just a fabulous, down-to-earth, real and tremendously great woman and mother. I always feel it such a privilege to spend the day working with her, so I was in heaven just having this opportunity. Then as each woman entered my home, I felt such a unique and special warmth and spirit from each one. I always admire someone who is willing to take an entire day out of a busy life, and spend a chunk of money, too, to come to a stranger's home in hopes of gleaning inspiration and tools on how to be a better mother. I think that says so much about that woman's heart.

Oh, how I wish I had pictures of everything!! Ugh! Not so. I did have Hallee snap a few and I took a couple at the end, but they certainly don't do justice to the amazing feelings that prevailed throughout the day, or the fun we shared together, or the touching moments of "wow." I guess you will just have to attend one of these retreats to know what I really mean. Ha!

That is Tiffany standing up front. Not sure why so many empty chairs in this picture. Some moms must have been in the bathroom. Ha!

Another view. That is me sitting up front in the blue pants.  Sorry about the sun glaring through the windows. 

On my back porch at the end. Unfortunately, a few moms had left by this time, but here is most of us--there were close to 25 in all, I think (I was taking the picture).
We were also super fortunate to have Saren Eyre Loosli join us for the last 45 minutes of the day. She is the one on the far left. She is actually the co-founder of Power of Moms, and if that isn't impressive enough, she is one absolutely amazing woman! I love her dearly. She spoke to us for about 20 minutes, and in that short time, I was reminded of so many small but very important things. I was so grateful she could stop by. Isn't it awesome when you can rub shoulders with fabulous people? I think it's just so . . . remarkably tremendous (OK, so I had to work hard to come up with some new words that meant the same as fabulous, awesome and amazing--ha!)!! Seriously though, it really is a wonderful thing to be around people that make you better. I'm always thankful for that.

Anyway, my biggest fear when I speak to women about motherhood is that I will in some way give the false impression that I think I am an expert or that I am doing it all right and have all the answers, because truly I'm not and I don't. I've probably made more mistakes than anyone else. And in fact, there have been times I've felt like quitting. Ha! Like that's an option, right? But this journey of mothering children is so very difficult and there are layers upon layers of intricate situations to navigate through, and it literally takes every ounce of everything that's within us sometimes. But that's what makes it so absolutely wonderful and worth it, too, because we all grow together. I have learned so incredibly much through my mistakes, and I've learned to be patient with myself (or at least I'm trying to learn that:) and to stop sweating the small stuff so much and sit back and enjoy this amazing journey a little more.

And my biggest hope is that those who listen will feel a connection somehow, that they will feel understood on some level and feel hope where maybe they've felt despair, and that they will be reminded that they are the right mothers for their children and they they can do this! Sometimes as moms we just need to be reminded that we are doing most everything right (because somehow we've convinced ourselves we're doing everything wrong), so we can take a deep breath, wrap our arms around these kids of ours we love so much and just keep going. Maybe we can choose one or two things to focus on that will bring us more peace or help a struggling child or target a specific problem in our home, but overall, we must remember things are going to be OK because we are doing our best.

One of the perks about helping with these retreats is that I am reminded myself of valuable parenting tools I may need to brush up on. I too become inspired by everyone there and their comments and suggestions. I feel refreshed and rejuvenated. Ok, so I was exhausted too by the end, but it was the good kind of exhausted. Ha! At the end of the day, I realized what I felt most was grateful. Grateful for the privilege of being a mother to my five children. Grateful to be parenting together with my husband, whom I love with all my heart. Grateful for what I am learning through this process of motherhood. Grateful for fresh starts and new days when I mess up. Grateful for children and a husband who seem to love my like crazy, despite my insanity and stack upon stack of flaws. Grateful, oh so grateful to be a mother.

I hope that everyone who came felt it was well worth their invested time and money, and I hope they went home feeling optimistic, rejuvenated and inspired. Every mother has her own set of challenges, strengths, commitments outside the home, and more. That's why I feel we are all in this together, and when we can join in strengthening and learning from each other, it's an awesome, powerful experience.

Thanks again for all who joined us--hope to see you again soon!


Friday, October 10, 2014

Oh, What a Summer!

Warning: Super duper long (after all, it's a whole summer's worth, right?)

The fact that it has been three months since I have written saddens me greatly. I hoped this summer would be different and I would be able to keep up with recording our lives, but evidently, I was wrong. It's hard to know where to begin when I am three months behind, but here goes . . .

Our summer started off with a houseful of cousins, cousins, cousins! We loved it! After spending nearly three years with very limited space and limited guests, we were so excited to have all of the Nate cousins over for a week for swim lessons. Boy, did we soak them up (no pun intended-ha!). Meal times were especially busy.



Berkley was the only one in our family who took lessons this year. She was not exactly thrilled every day to go, but she was a trooper in the end. She would hide from us, throw a huge fit, tell us no. . . and then hop right in and do great! What a girl!






A couple of weeks later, on July 1st, we said goodbye to Berkley and caught a redeye flight to New York.


We all look very happy, but I have to say, it was not easy walking out the door and leaving that little bundle of joy behind. We felt a little empty at first.



It was so much work to get ready we were exhausted by the time we got to the airport, but we were also very excited.


Of course, when you fly redeye, it is mandatory you wear these blue eye shades over your eyes:).


The first obstacle we encountered was simply trying to get to our hotel from the airport. The worst part was that the subway station would only let us put 2 tickets at a time on our credit card; then we had to wait 30 more minutes before it would let us use that same credit card again. We were stuck in the hot, very muggy, smelly subway for what seemed like forever early the next morning, just wishing like heck we could get to our hotel. I love this picture I happened to snap at one point. Hallee's face says it all!:)


When we did finally get to our hotel, we were oh so grateful they let us check in early--like, way early--because by this time, we were exhausted! Nobody had slept on that redeye flight, and after the two hours it took us to maneuver through the subway system of NYC, we were all ready for a nap! Notice how tired Regyn was--she didn't even notice Hallee's feet on her head! Ha!


After nearly four hours--yes 4 hours!--we felt rejuvenated enough to start vacationing. I took Hallee, Regyn and Boston and headed for Central Park. Boy, was I proud of myself for venturing out alone like this. I mean seriously, let's not forget I am a little Wyoming ranch girl who grew up in a town of 500 people here. This was major! Ha! We rented bicycles (and felt like we would get hit by taxis the entire time we rode them:) and maneuvered around the park for a while, then the kids bought hats (it was blistering hot, I tell you) and we marveled at Times Square.







Meanwhile, Dan and Nate went to a Yankees game. I mean, you can't really go to NYC and NOT go to a Yankees game, right?




Everything went great . . . until the ride home. That's when Dan and Nate got separated on the subway. Dan told Nate to hurry and get off at the next stop. Nate did. Dan didn't. The train kept going. Panicked, Dan motioned for Nate to stay right there and he would be back. Nate said he felt like crying but he didn't know what to do except wait there. Just then, a man approached him and told him he had seen what had happened and to follow him. Now, what do you do in such a situation? Do you follow this stranger? He was not a clean-cut guy (we were not in Utah) and Nate wasn't sure if this guy was going to kidnap him or murder him or help him, but he only had an instant to make a decision. He went with his gut (and what he felt in his heart from the silent prayers he was offering) and followed the man. Thankfully, this guy knew exactly where Dan would be getting off and led Nate right to where he needed to be to meet up with Dan. In just a few moments, they were reunited. How grateful we all were that night for this kind gentleman's intervention on our behalf. Nate, however, was panicked about the subway the whole rest of our time in NYC. We had to all hold hands and form a train any time we entered or exited. I guess we can cut him some slack for that after his traumatic experience. I think everything can be learned from, and I hope Nate remembers this for a long time.

After going to bed early and getting some great sleep, we were ready for a full day in NYC. The kids were all dying to see the Statue of Liberty, so that was our first destination. Dan and I had planned to take them on a rather long tour around Lady Liberty, possibly even exiting on Ellis Island to look up family names. Well, this is NOT what our kids had in mind. We got to the boat rental/tour place, and the kids immediately locked eyes on "The Beast." They wanted the speed boat tour, and that was that. I must admit, it was a hit for me, too. We may not have had a large history lesson, but we sure had a lot of fun!

Here we are walking to the ferry. We did A LOT of walking those first few days, so I had to snap a couple of pictures.


I think this is one of my all-time favorite pictures. I just love it!


Here we are at the ferry. Notice "The Beast" behind us. We are all very excited to get on that thing.



Is this a great picture or what???!!


I must admit, it felt great having the wind blow through our hair.



The New York skyline was beautiful from where we were.





And that's when it happened. We were told we might get wet on this ride, but there were not big waves splashing over the sides, so I wondered how it was possible for us to get wet. Here's how. One of the tour guides gets a huge water gun and starts squirting kids. Some of them have great attitudes about it (like this awesome girl) and others cry (I'm afraid I might have been more of the crying type when I was young).




Here is the culprit. Boy, did he enjoy his job!


The best part is when we left the ferry and Dan grabbed the water gun and squirted him as we disembarked. It was pretty awesome! I have to say, I was pretty surprised though. Dan isn't the quiet shy guy everyone makes him out to be.


All that fun made us pretty hungry, so we stopped for some cheap NY pizza.



From here we went to Ground Zero, which is a pretty humbling place. I know my kids can't possibly take in the tragedy that happened there, but it was good to stop by and just try to imagine it for a moment.






 After the solemness of the Memorial, we decided we needed to have some fun again, so we went to Canal Street. My kids weren't all that excited . . . until we got there and we started shopping! Then they had the time of their lives! Their grandparents happened to have given them a little spending money, and they were all too eager to use it. If you've never been to Canal Street in NYC, you must put it in your bucket list. It's pretty fun, I must admit. Every child found a treasure or two to take home. Nate found a suitcase of all things and we wondered how we were going to travel with an extra bag. I knew he wasn't feeling to hyped about going to Cooperstown and greeting his baseball buddies with the hot pink suitcase he had borrowed from his sister! Ha!


We were exhausted by the end of the day, and this is how we looked on the subway heading back to the hotel. Some of us never lose our excitement, while others of us. . . well . . . I think you can tell:)


Since most of the children were too tired to go out to eat when we got back, Dan and I took Nate out for Thai food all by himself to this little restaurant called "Yum Yum" (in the background). It was definitely yummy. 


Here is Nate after a full day in NYC. I felt the same way.:)


The next morning we were off on a new adventure. We hopped on a bus and headed out for a very long bus ride to Oneonta, NY, where we would stay for one week while we watched Nate play baseball just 30 miles away in Cooperstown. The bus ride was a welcome change from the subway. It helped that we had friends on the bus with us. And maybe because it was the 4th of July or something, we were in pretty funny moods. The bus driver, however, did not find us funny.







Upon arriving in Oneonta, our friendly house rental lady picked us up from the bus stop and dropped us off at our new "home" for the week, a cozy little cottage that had the narrowest staircase we had ever laid eyes on. Seriously! We mused at how some people might innocently rent the home and then be too large to ever be able to use the largest bedroom of the house because the simply couldn't make it up the narrow staircase!:) I'm telling you, this picture doesn't do justice. These stairs are about 12" wide!



We realized how hungry we were once we got settled, so we walked to a nearby Italian restaurant, and boy, was the food delicious! We loved the atmosphere, too. We tried to ignore the pricey pizza and just enjoy it:)


Since it was actually the 4th of July, there was a big celebration going on. We walked down to see what this little town had to offer. Surprisingly, it was chilly, so we decided not to stay long, but there were fire-throwers, bounce houses and all kinds of food booths. It looked like a regular county fair to me. I think we might have felt more festive if we hadn't been so tired and cold. As it was, we hurried "home" and watched the first of many Christmas movies for the week (for some crazy reason, the Hallmark channel was featuring Christmas shows all week, and since we didn't know what else to do, we fell victim to their snare-ha!)



The next morning we awoke to Dan's famous buttermilk pancakes (he got up early every morning to cook us breakfast--what a man!) and then anxiously hopped in our rental car (did I mention Dan also went on an early-morning run to the rental car place to snag our car??? He really is fabulous!) and headed for Cooperstown--about a 25 minute drive. We pulled in to see our very own Davis Dawgs right at the front gates taking pictures. We hopped out and snapped a few ourselves.








Cooperstown Dreams Park is a dream in and of itself; I mean, this place is amazing! It's truly like the Disneyland of Baseball. Music plays throughout the park, and it is clean as a whistle. The fields are pristine and friendly workers are everywhere, waiting to help you out. You can even hop on golf carts and be driven to far-away fields so as not to have to walk too far. I really worried about Boston and Regyn during this trip. Knowing baseball isn't really their favorite extra-curricular activity (especially Boston's), I thought they would get tired of the long baseball days in a big fat hurry. Not so. They loved it! It's hard to explain the magical feeling in the air or why the games are so much more fun, but we all enjoyed every minute and hated to see it come to an end.


The Opening Ceremonies were something else (and way too long, if you ask me), but one cool thing they did was bring the American Flag down from the sky--literally. Two sky divers got dropped from planes with flags--and the astonishing part was that these divers were old geesers! They had to be at least 70 years old--I couldn't believe it!


All of the baseball teams (I think there were over 100 that week) marched around the field, one by one, carrying their team banner. It was pretty cool.



Finally the games began! And oh, was it fun!




We were a bit sad that they had to play on Sunday. We watched part of the first game that morning, then left to rush off to the nearest church (about 45 minutes away). We were in the car about 10 minutes when we got a text saying that Nate had hit a grand slam!! We were so excited (and maybe just a little sad that we had missed it). We absolutely loved attending church though, especially since it was Fast and Testimony meeting. It so reminded me of my mission 20 years earlier (yes--20 years--yowza, time flies!) and the many experiences I had working with members to share a message I believed with all my heart to be true. My heart was so full as now I sat here with my children and husband all these years later, realizing how much the gospel of Jesus Christ had truly blessed my life.

After church, we went back for more baseball and then left for Greenville, New York, an area I had served in for nearly 6 months--a long time for a sister missionary to be in one place! It was a place dear to my heart, and I was anxious to see couple that I loved very much. I had been in contact with Wayne and Maria Marquitt to tell them of our arrival, but I certainly did not expect the wonderful welcome and fabulous dinner they had prepared for us when we got there.


We shared precious time together and memories and got caught up the best we could in a few hours' time, and to my absolute delight, my children adored them as much as I did immediately. They didn't want to leave when it was time to say goodbye. I was so grateful we had made the 2-hour trip out of our way to see them. It was priceless time together.




During most of our time in New York the weather was beautiful, but near the end of the baseball week, there began to be some severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings. It was crazy. One minute the weather would be absolutely fabulous; the next a torrential downpour. Then back to beautiful again. It was like Mother Nature was bipolar or something. Either way, the views were magnificent!



Regyn made fast friends with another girl whose brother was on our team. They had all kinds of fun together.


Of course we had to take a few trips into the village of Cooperstown and visit the Baseball Halle of Fame (actually, it was too expensive to go inside, so we opted for just being satisfied for a picture of the building-ha!).

We saw this t-shirt and decided we definitely fit the description:)


The architecture in New York is definitely different from what we are used to in Utah. The homes are all two-story, antique, old-style homes. This one was hard to miss. I wondered who on earth would dare paint their house such a bright yellow, and then we realized it was a Bed and Breakfast, and I was immediately impressed. I wished we could have stayed there one night.


The boys were very serious during game-time, so I loved catching moments of pure fun.


Regyn and her new little friend latched on to one of the boy's baby sister, the sweetest little girl with down syndrome, who reminded us of our little niece as a baby. These two mothered this poor baby almost to death. But they were pretty cute about it most of the time.



Sure love that number 9! It was hard catching some great photos from the parents' dugout we were in during all the games, but man alive, I love watching this boy of mine play ball!


Hallee was given the coach's super nice camera for a while and told to take some great pics. She loved this assignment! She's an artist at heart, and this was a form of art for her, so she took this job very seriously. I loved that I was able to catch a few pictures of her taking pictures. She got some good ones, btw.


Here's Regyn snuggling that baby.

One thing I love about Regyn is that she's always up for learning something new. She decided she wanted to help keep the books, so by golly, she took a basic course from the professional team mom book keeper and helped with books late one night when our games had been rain delayed and we were playing until midnight. Love that girl's smile!



Our team did so well in this tournament! They ended up losing late one night to an amazing baseball team. It went down to the very last hit, and boy, were we ever proud of these boys!! It was a fantastic experience, and we were so grateful our family could share it together with Nate.


The Closing Ceremonies were almost as long and boring as the Opening Ceremonies:) but I guess it was worth it because Nate got the most amazing ring! I'm talking this looks like a Super Bowl ring. We were sad to see the baseball come to an end, but so excited for the last leg of our journey to begin.

Nate was a little worn out from his exciting week of baseball (notice that humongous ring on his finger), but that didn't stop us from having a great time as we headed off for Palmyra, New York to see the church history sites.


Did I mention our rental car worked just dandy when Nate was with his baseball team, but when we added him to our journey . . . well . . . we weren't exactly legal. Ha! I hate to say it, but this is how we had to spend the last few days of our journey. This is what you call "family togetherness!" Ha! See those smiles? They didn't exactly last the whole time.


As were were traveling along, I saw road signs that said "Tully." I immediately got excited and told Dan to pull over. The kids were rolling their eyes, but this was my first area as a "greenie" missionary way back when. Man, do memories come flooding back when you visit a place you haven't visited in a long time. It was great telling my children stories about my experiences here.


We got to Palmyra and visited the Visitor's Center at the Hill Cumorah. I was wishing our children weren't in such a rush to get to our hotel. There was so much there to take in. I guess they thought it wasn't worth spending a lot of time on because most of it is info they have heard their whole lives. Even so, it was amazing to be there--in the very place where these events took place--and I hoped they would feel the power of that.


The Hill Cumorah itself was nothing too large, especially considering the amazing mountains we are used to in Utah, but it was neat to see the Angel Moroni monument and to look down on all the seats down below, knowing we would be sitting down there later that night to see the amazing Hill Cumorah Pageant we had heard about our whole lives.




We try to stop by a temple every chance we can, so we had to make a stop at the Palmyra temple. It was small but beautiful. Of course I encouraged my children to touch the temple.


My favorite part about this temple were the stain-glassed windows--something most LDS temples do not have. These windows told the story of Joseph Smith's experience in the Sacred Grove, just down the road, where he prayed to know what church he should join, and received a heavenly visitation from God and Jesus Christ in answer to his prayer. Beautiful!



Our walk through the Sacred Grove was beautiful. Again, our children were wanting to take things at a sprint. Still, there was a special feeling there, and I was grateful we could be there together.


I loved it when Regyn pointed to this spot and said she thought this was the very spot where Heavenly Father and Jesus appeared to Joseph Smith. I had to take a picture. That moment was thick with a special feeling, and I wanted to just soak it up. Maybe she's right; maybe she's wrong. It doesn't even matter. I love that she felt in tune in that moment.


It was incredible to visit the homes where the Smith family lived and learn more about their lives. Oh, what they went through to protect the gold plates! They were truly remarkable, humble people. I was so glad to be there with our children and give them the opportunity to hear from missionaries their testimonies of these events and walk where the Prophet Joseph walked and experienced these events. I prayed their testimonies would be strengthened.



It was finally time for the pageant. We talked with some of the participants walking around--just ordinary people who gave a few weeks of their lives to voluntarily come from all parts of the country and be a part of this amazing event. It was so fun!




The Pageant was truly amazing. We were in awe at the special effects and how efficiently the story of the Book of Mormon was portrayed. We only wished we hadn't been so tired and that it could have started earlier (of course they have to wait until dark, so it goes until late at night). This is how we looked only a short time after it ended.


The next day we got to go to the Book of Mormon publication site and learn more about the history of the publication of this book we love so much. We got to walk on the very floor Joseph Smith walked on and learn of the inspired and miraculous events leading to the Book of Mormon's publication. It was wonderful!






We spent our last night in New York with some very dear friends--from Utah!! Our neighbors, Dennis and Sheri Ray happen to be in New York serving a mission themselves, and we had the opportunity of meeting up with them, going to Pageant with them and staying with them for an evening. It was wonderful catching up and being with them again. The kids loved swimming in their pool, swinging on their swings, eating their delicious food, and going on a picnic to Lake Ontario with them. It was a wonderful way to end our vacation.








We got home from two weeks in New York happy, exhausted and grateful for time spent together and wonderful memories made. I realized how important trips like this can be and vowed to save up to go on another family trip again in a few years, before Hallee graduates and moves away--this time with Berkley joining us. There is just something about getting away from normal life--from the stress, the routine, the pressure, the constancy--for a while and just being with each other, having new experiences that bond you together in ways that are a little unexplainable. I knew none of us would ever forget our time in New York and that it was worth every penny to make that trip work.

The rest of the summer was spent like this: volleyball camp, Young Women's Camp, Baseball State Tournament, Family Reunion at Bear Lake, High School Volleyball Try-outs, dreading the first day of school . . . and Wham! Summer was over, just like that.

But oh, what a summer it was!