Thursday, November 5, 2015

Halloween 2015

It's no secret I am not a fan of Halloween. The truth is, my disdain for this holiday grows every year until I am now at the point of deciding our family is absolutely NOT following traditional Halloween rituals ever again. Now, I know that sounds harsh and maybe even a bit ridiculous, but the thought occurred to me that if following the expected traditions of the world is making me so unhappy and unsettled, why on earth should I keep doing them? I realize there are many, many people (I am definitely in the minority on this one) who love this spooky holiday, and I think that's great. But since I am not one of them, I have decided to celebrate differently from now on (and I'm hopeful my kids will still turn out OK--ha!)

This Halloween happened to be one of our worst ever. It might have had something to do with the fact that I was ill-prepared for it. I had done little to no planning, and as everyone knows, that is usually a recipe for disaster. Since our family made the decision we are going to stay in a hotel in Rexburg for Thanksgiving this year, going that route for Halloween, like we did last year, was not very realistic. Therefore, I decided to simply go with the flow and borrowed a couple of costumes for Regyn and Boston from my mother-in-law's playroom wardrobe. Berkley is over the moon crazy about My Little Pony right now, so I splurged and actually bought her a Rainbow Dash costume.She loved it and looked adorable in it, I have to say. Dan, on the other hand, couldn't get over all the glitter that managed to fall from the costume and sprinkle itself all over our house.

The one thing my kids (at least the three younger ones) actually enjoy is going to Dan's work at H&R Block the day before Halloween and doing a quick Trick-or-Treat session from desk to desk. I actually don't mind this tradition either and especially like how it is indoors and we get to say hi to all of Dan's co-workers. Boy, oh boy, do we get a loot of candy in no time! That's when I'm left to ponder what on earth to do with all the candy. We collected this huge bowl of candy in about a half hour's time. Wow! 

Halloween morning actually started out fabulously. Dan's parents were in town and we had all gotten together with some new (old) friends who just moved back to Utah from New Hampshire the evening before. It was so much fun eating and talking together--our families really hit it off (which is especially great since Hallee actually asked their son Zack to the Christmas Dance coming up next month--more on that later). After a fun-filled Friday evening together, we all decided to go to breakfast together Halloween morning before my in-laws and their in-laws (who just happened to be great friends and traveled from Cache Valley here together) had to go back home. I wish I had pictures of the event. We ended up in our own large banquet room, with three large round (yes round) tables slid together to form one big long breakfast set-up. We had a fabulous breakfast together before heading home to decide what else to do for our Halloween.

Unfortunately, I had a migraine--a really bad one--and crashed right when we got home. I snuggled up on the couch and never left it the rest of the day. My poor children entertained themselves all day and then made their own plans with friends to go trick-or-treating. Actually, Dan and Nate went to Ogden to watch the last of the city football games of the season, Hallee spent most of her time upstairs in her bedroom listening to music and doing homework, while Regyn and Boston figured out a trick-or-treating plan. Poor little Berkley didn't even get to go at all since her dad was gone and her mom was a mess of a person laid out on the couch. 

Not the best scenario for Halloween. Poor Boston realized he had left his costume in Dan's car and went out the door without a costume or a candy bag. Thankfully, the neighbors helped out and when he came home a couple hours later, he had on a wizard costume and carried a pillowcase full of candy. Our family had decided we were at least going to watch a movie together when everyone got home--around 8:00 p.m. Unfortunately, even though I had already slept for four hours during the day, I could not stay up a minute longer and I ended up going to bed.  Talk about family togetherness! Ha! 

All I can say is my last thought before drifting off to sleep was how grateful I was that when I woke up, Halloween would be over and I wouldn't have to think about it for a whole nother year! It had been a rough night. Since I had a terrible headache, I told the kids to put a bowl of candy out on the porch with a sign to take some, hoping nobody would ring our doorbell. That little tactic did not work (apparently, most Halloweeners are small children who do not yet know how to read). The doorbell still rang constantly, and every time it did, our sweet little dog would start yelping as loudly as he could. Not the best cure for a mirgraine, I tell you. I finally told Berkley to turn off all lights--outside and inside--hoping it would look like we were not home. So sad, I know. Aren't you glad you are not my neighbor??? I am one pathetic Halloween neighbor!

I am determined next year will be better. Why? Because we are going to do our own thing! I am going to be prepared, and by golly, we are going to spend some time together as a family! I'm also hoping for no migraine next time--that would definitely help our situation. The good news is, as awful as my children's mother was at planning and carrying out a fun-filled holiday, my kids still love me and think I'm almost great. That's what I love about kids!

Thursday, October 22, 2015


Over the years I have become less and less in love with the autumn season. Not because I don't love what goes on around here every fall (namely football and volleyball season and the kids starting up school fresh again), but simply because of one thing: fall means winter is close behind. I actually love and appreciate the change of seasons Utah affords, but I absolutely hate to be cold. I also hate snowy road conditions. These two aspects of winter have led me to dread its arrival and pray for its early departure.

As a result of my disdain for winter to arrive, I usually find myself moaning and groaning when fall arrives and the evenings cool down. I simply can't seem to enjoy it when I know snow and freezing temperatures are right around the corner.

That is, until this year.

I decided instead of loathing an absolutely beautiful time of year I was going to breathe it in. Literally. So I started leaving my house for a brisk morning walk every day before my children left for school. And I made sure I took deep breaths, lots of them, just to really appreciate all that surrounded me. The results have been magnificent! Not only does it feel great to begin the day with a little exercise, but more importantly, it is wonderful to breathe the fresh crisp fall air and take in the beauty that surrounds me right here in Kaysville, Utah. 

Here is what it looked like yesterday morning as I rounded the corner near the elementary school.

So, maybe you aren't so in love with mountains and skies as I am, but seriously, aren't those clouds on top of the mountains beautiful? I absolutely love the mountains around here. They make me feel happy and safe and fulfilled every time I look at them. They are like therapy.

And this isn't actually the best picture of the amazing trees around here, but I love this row of them anyway. Very soon they will all be red and orange and flaming gold, and it will be stunning.

 This is the view I found when I rounded the corner just yesterday. Can you see the blanket of puffy cotton clouds resting on top of the mountains? It's so cool!

Here is another look just a ways down the street. The sun is just getting ready to make its debut and that blanket of fluffiness is sleeping on the tops of the mountains like a dream. Seriously! So stunning!

I haven't even shared all the amazing sunsets around here. God's masterpiece is truly splendid, and I am incredibly grateful for it! To be able to walk out my door and see such refreshing beauty all around me is a blessing I don't ever want to take for granted.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Interview

I always have this wonderful intention of interviewing each of my children on their perspective birthdays and recording it. We have copies of a few interviews my husband's mother gave to him as a child, and they are so fun to watch! It's absolutely incredible to see the growth, both physically and emotionally, from one interview to the next. Favorites, mottos, goals, and perspectives change so much as these children grow! I love it!

Unfortunately, I have not remembered to do this regularly (it's a major goal I have this go-around of birthdays). It is absolutely mind-boggling to see and hear my children's responses to questions and to see their individual personalities throughout the interview! It's one of those things that makes me smile clear to my toes and then thank God once again for these children of mine! Here is an example of what I'm talking about.

My dear, sweet, on-the-ball mother-in-law decided to interview each of her 20 grandchildren (ok, so a few are babies and cannot speak for themselves, but you get the point:) and record their answers. I'm honestly not sure how this woman makes so many wonderful things happen in her family, but I think it probably has something to do with her desire to raise a righteous posterity who knows she loves them, and I sure appreciate that in her. Anyway, she recently interviewed my children (not Berkley yet, but the oldest four). Here are a few of my favorite responses:

HALLEE: (ok, I must mention that Hallee is this amazing girl who DOES NOT like attention. She is happy to stand in the background and let others have the spotlight. Also, she is very goal-driven and works hard in school and volleyball. I do not have to tell her to do these things--she is self-motivated. You will see these traits come out in this interview--and I just have to smile).

Q: What would you do if you knew you could not fail and you could do anything you want?
A: Play college volleyball at Utah State University, go on a mission--not foreign.

Q: Regarding your responsibilities at home, what are you favorite and least favorite?
A: Prefer vacuuming, do not like cleaning bathrooms (What???? I have her clean bathrooms all the time, poor girl! Ha!)

Q: What is the most fun thing you have ever done?
A: Disney Cruise (She was 7 at the time--was the most fun she's ever had really 9 years ago? We've got to have some more fun around here!:)

Q: What took courage on your part? What made you stretch?
A: Talking in church--2 times! (This is where I wonder if this child is really mine. It was so incredibly hard for her to give a 4 minute talk in Sacrament Meeting, and yet I speak in front of hundreds all the time. Isn't it wonderful to notice traits your children did not get from you?)

Q: What do you look for in a guy?
A: How they treat their family (Love this! Let me note that she treats our family so sweetly almost always)

Q: What worries you the most?
A: Speaking in front of people (Ha! Again, she mentions this!)

Q: What is the best advice you've ever had?
A: Dead last is greater than "Did not Finish," which trumps "Did not start." (I'd like to say she got that golden nugget of inspiration from her mother, but I think she found it on the internet. Ha! At least it's comforting to know the internet really can provide positive info!)

NATE: (Ok, so now I must add a small explanation of personalities for all of my children:). Nate has a fabulous sense of humor. He also loves sports and works hard at being good at them. School work is not high on his list of priorities, although he gets good grades).

Q: What would you do if you knew you could not fail and could do anything you want?
A: Play sports in college, develop my own job in business or coaching, have a family

Q: What is your favorite subject in school?
A: History. But I hate school.

Q: Who is your best friend/s?
A: Dallen Burningham, Landon Brandt, My sister Hallee (Yep! I cried when I read this one, mostly because it is true and I love seeing my kids love each other!)

Q: What is the most fun thing you have ever done?
A: Disney Cruise (Ok, seriously, the kid was 5 years old! I'm getting the strong impression we need to go on another Disney Cruise!:)

Q: What are you looking forward to?
A: The end of the school year. I hate school. (Apparently, Nate hates school.:)

Q: What do you look for in a girl?
A: A girl who loves God more than me, is nice, attends church, wants 3 children.
Follow Up Question: What if she wants more children? Answer: We'll do rock, paper, scissors.
(I love it! I cried when he mentioned a girl who loves God more than him and I laughed out loud when he suggests rock, paper, scissors as a way to make important family decisions!)

Q: How old would you be if you could be any age?
A: 18--I could go on a mission--I'd like to go state-side, I'd be done with high school. (What is it with my kids that none of them want to go out of the country? )

Q: What inspires you?
A: My dad because he's a good example (Yep, tears again)

Q: What is the best advice you've ever had?
A: Never give up.

Q: What is your greatest joy in life?
A: Watching coaches work for something out of teams. In football, it's like 1-Don't stop until you've met the goal line, and 2- Life isn't easy--there is opposition.

REGYN: (This girl is so fun-loving! She loves the spotlight and loves to talk incessantly. She is sweet and kind and is still trying to figure out what she really wants to do, although she does love to act and sing)

Q: What would you choose to do in your free time (if you were alone)?
A: Make up a dance

Q: What is the best advice you've ever gotten?
A: Oh my! For acting I was told, "Do it in a dorky way so you won't be nervous." Also I'm told, "Don't police." (Ok, I love this! She is so honest!)

Q: What makes you happy?
A: When my mom says things like, "You are the best kid ever because you are always willing to help me." (A full range of emotions shot up when I read this, and it makes me realize all over again how important positive feedback is for kids)

Q: What are you goals for this year?
A: Stop policing. (Isn't this wonderful? It makes me smile clear to my toes. She was told she had a policing problem, so her goal is to stop it. Love it!) Also, have a better attitude, stop whining, learn my 12 times tables, say my prayers every morning, and close my eyes during the prayer. (Wow! This tells so much about this sweet girl's desire to be good)

Q: What is your worst job?
A: Cleaning bathrooms (What? None of my girls like to clean bathrooms apparently. I'm going to have to come up with a way to spice up this undesirable chore, I guess)

Q: What is your biggest worry?
A" My dad will lose his job (This shocked me. I had no idea. It makes me realize our children have concerns we absolutely don't know about)

Q: What makes you happy?
A: Having my mom tuck me in each night. I feel save when she is there, and also, going to church. (Feeling safe is so important for kids)

Q: Do you think you have felt the Spirit of the Holy Ghost? If so, when?
A: When Berkley was sealed to us in the temple. (That was such a special day! It's amazing to me how sensitive to the spirit our children really are. I love that she remembers feeling the Holy Ghost that day--she was only 7 years old).

BOSTON: (This kid constantly surprises me. I wonder sometimes if he is really "getting it" but then he will show remarkable maturity at times and I am humbled.)

Q: What super power would you want?
A: To fly--no, to see Jesus (What can I say? That answer is simply amazing to me)

Q: What is your favorite job?
A: That's hard--I don't like any. Probably dust. (This is so funny to me. Nate said he liked to dust best too and when I asked him why, he told me it's because he never really does it and I never seem to notice. Ha!)

Q: Who is your best friend?
A: Jesus (Again with the tears. I am so grateful for what Boston is teaching me)

Q: What is the most fun thing you've ever done?
A: Family reunion at Bear Lake (Keep in mind, he didn't go on the Disney Cruise:), but I think it is so telling that every child mentioned their funnest memory was something we've done as a family--not with friends).

Q: Do you want to go on a mission?
A: Yes--to Utah (Ha! I laughed out loud at this answer! My kids need to get out and see the world! I don't dare break it to Boston that he probably won't get called to serve in Utah since we live here)

Q: If you could do anything, what would it be?
A: Anything except die. (Ha! Who thinks of that? I love it!)

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: A ninja (What???!! I have no idea where this comes from, but it definitely seems like an answer an 8-year-old boy would give)

So, I'm sure these little interviews didn't mean as much to you as they did to me, but I'm telling you, my children's answers made me laugh and they made me cry, and most of all, they made me love my children even more deeply, which I didn't even think was possible. I just love how different each one of them is, and I love their honesty, and I love their perspectives! Sometimes I long to go back to a time in my life when I saw the world through the eyes and heart and mind of a child. I'm truly grateful I can still do that in a small way when I try to see things from my children's perspectives. I love these darn kids with all my heart!

And I can't wait for the next interviews!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Cancers of the Blood

Oh my goodness, has it really been so long since I have written?? Yikes! I have wished to be at my computer so many times, recording our lives and my feelings about all that is taking place in our family, and yet I have not made it. Ugh! Well, today is a new day, and I am hoping to get back on track here. I have no idea how many, if any, read this blog, but it doesn't change my purpose in writing. I write for my children, and I can't wait to share it all with them some day (because I know they are going to appreciate it like nothing else! ha!).

As much as I'm dying to start recording the goings on around here, I'm actually going to take a few minutes today to write about something totally random--random, that is, if you have not been affected by it. If you have, this topic suddenly becomes very personal and even difficult to think about it. I'm talking about the blood cancers leukemia and lymphoma. September is Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month, and as it seems like these terrible diseases are affecting more and more people, I think it is important to raise awareness and work together to find cures.

Although I have been fortunate enough to have escaped the horror of watching a family member suffer from blood cancer of any form, I know others who have not been so lucky. I have seen children who are fighting this disease so they can live to fulfill their dreams, and I know adults who have suffered as well.

One person who was dear to me as I grew up was my high school volleyball coach's wife, Kris. She was such a great example of kindness and goodness and unselfishness. One time when I was going through a particularly difficult struggle, she was there to comfort me and reassure me, as my own mother would have had she been there. Kris was one of those people everyone loved because she was genuine and good to the core. Maybe it was in part due to the fact that she suffered from Hodgkin's Disease as a teenager, and at a young age had to face the battle of fighting a very serious blood cancer. She won the battle for many years and was able to graduate, marry and experience motherhood. But in the end, effects from the cancer caused multiple health issues that eventually took her life as a young mother. This was a devastating experience for her family and those who knew and loved her.

Hodgkin's disease is a type of lymphoma, a cancer that starts in white blood cells. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 8,500 people are diagnosed with lymphoma each year, most of them being between the ages of 16 and 34 years old. That is during the prime of their lives!

I am sure there are avenues where we all can help, but one I know if is the Holland C Gregg IV Research Fund. Patience Brewster , an artist and designer of handcrafted gifts and ornaments who lost her son to Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2002, designs a special Christmas ornament every year to raise research funding toward a cure for these type of cancers. This seems like a great way to contribute to finding a cure! I hope that nobody who read this post today has ever been affected by lymphoma or any other type of cancer, but either way, there's so much good a few of us can do by just helping a little.

Until next time (which should be soon!) . . .

Sunday, February 22, 2015


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:


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!


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?


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!