Of this be sure: You do not find the happy life…you make it.

Dear Jessica,

You’ve now been a mama for more than twelve years.

That seems impossible, but it’s the truth.

You’ve been pregnant eight times, and all of those times didn’t work out the way you’d hoped, and the last two are bonus babies, so the age spread is getting toward vast. But, having kids who are twelve, ten, six, two, and newborn, respectively, gives you this whole other perspective on motherhood and childhood.

The last twelve plus years you’ve spent documenting all of the “firsts” that make life beautiful.

First born, first breaths, first days of life, first times eating solids, first times crawling, walking, talking, running, going new places, doing new things, meeting new siblings. All of these moments in life that without thinking about it or being told you know are special and memorable. You’ve been told how to document, and what to look for, and around what age they should hit certain milestones.

You’re still getting to have those experiences and you’re taking it all in, with more joy than ever before.

Every blessed minute.

But, there is another side of parenting that we never think about, and often passes us by before we realize that it even happened.

As your babies are getting older… they are having their “lasts”. Maybe it’s just you, but when you hear someone talking about the last time they did something with someone you always assume it was because the other person died, or someone moved away and it’s sad and dramatic.

But it doesn’t always work that way. For instance, when Konnor turned twelve this last year he had already gone to primary for the last time.

You didn’t take a picture to mark it, like you did with his first Sunday, because when you realized it, it was already the Sunday after and you were busy documenting him being your first to age up and get the priesthood.

Mckenzie has been obsessing for a while now about showers rather than baths and so she takes her showers now and washes her own hair, and you don’t remember when the last time was that you helped her wash her hair. It isn’t like when you and Aarik gave her her first bath in your first little apartment a few days after she was born. Just like that, the last time you washed her hair came and went without you knowing.

And, what’s worse, the little boys want to do all of the things the big kids do! So now they are taking showers. Cooper Gray is only two!! Did you miss his last bath, too???

There was a last time that Parker went sans pants when you had guests. He had done that his whole life! One day you might not remember how people reacted to seeing a thick, rough and tumble little Parkey in his t shirt and undies every time they came over.

Right now, Graham is smiley and soft and wants to be in the sling, close to your heart, all day long. It hurts your back, but you love it and realize this stage will pass, all too quickly.

You’ve left behind the last year some of our kids believed in Santa, which is kind of sad. No one was around to tell you that the next Christmas you’d have one less believer. Nobody writes books about What to Expect when these years hit. You don’t get the month to month playbooks.

Maybe it’s just too heart breaking to write about.

At the park the other day, when you and the kids went for your walk to get a break from school, Konnor didn’t run through the open field with the others. He stayed back and walked along beside you and talked. You love his company and always want him beside you, but, this one hurt a lot because just a few days before he had been running right along with them. What if that was the last time?

Time is such a sneaky thief, and you are always so busy with the things that we’re required to do. Working, laundry, cleaning dishes, paying bills; these things that we have to do, but that deplete your time and energy resources. You’re wondering what other moments you’ve missed and don’t even know it yet.

With that in mind you decided that you need to be better at blogging, rather than random pictures or posts on social media. As a form of record keeping and memory preservation. If that’s what you’re doing, then you need a blog worthy of being used for that. SO… new blog, new name, and rarely, if ever, will you post the link since most things you’re posting will be stuff most people don’t care about. You’re starting an Instagram account specifically for keeping up with the pictures that you’ll attach to the blog (chatbooks!!)

You only potentially have six years left to have all of our babies under one roof.

You’ve had this post all written up for months, waiting for the moment that you would get a nicer camera and set the blog up to be beautiful to look at, but then President Monson passed away. He was a man that you had grown to love so deeply, and your heart has felt a longing to hear him speak one last time, and again you thought about this blog that he named without knowing. Sitting and waiting to document this life that you’ve been blessed with. The things you were missing out on writing about, waiting for things to look a certain way.

The name of this blog came from a talk he gave in September of 1977, called Faces and Attitudes. Everything about that speech struck a chord with you. Your life has never gone the way you wanted or planned, and you have often found yourself wallowing in disappointment and discouragement because of it. You laugh, often, at how you’ve become almost everything you swore you never would. There have been times that it has bothered you, and other times that you rejoice in the blessings you didn’t realize you wanted until you had them. A few things he said then really stand out now.

First, because motherhood was the last thing you wanted out of life until you became a mom, and then you realized that it is actually your life calling, there’s this one:

Now I ask you, what does it mean to magnify a calling? It means to build it up in dignity and importance, to make it honorable and commendable in the eyes of all men, to enlarge and strengthen it, to let the light of heaven shine through it to the view of other men. And how does one magnify a calling? Simply by performing the service that pertains to it.

It’s your goal to perform the service pertaining to your calling, in an effort to magnify what you previously felt was a menial, obligatory work. You realize now just how grand and important motherhood truly is, and you want to help others see it, too. What could be more important than rearing and teaching the future generations?

And, because you want to have a happy life, but have often been frustrated that it appears to fall into the laps of so many, and be just out of the reach of others, this:

The happy life is not ushered in at any age to the sound of drums and trumpets. It grows upon us year by year, little by little, until at last we realize that we have it. It is achieved in individuals not by flights to the moon or Mars, but by a body of work done so well that we can lift our heads with assurance and look the world in the eye. Of this be sure: You do not find the happy life … you make it.”

With the people you have been given to love, the love they give you in return, and the blessing y’all have to know the gospel of Christ, you can MAKE a happy life.

You want to use this blog to document all of the little works that are helping you to do that. They will be things that no one else will likely appreciate. Not flights to the moon or Mars, but, to you, they are the important things. The things that you won’t want to forget, but may not always remember.

Like, how Graham looks, all snuggled up in his sling

How Parker is so into his cowboy boots and wearing a suit, right now

How library trips are life

How any time the little boys are beside each other, Graham has to touch Cooper Gray. It’s like he remembers Coop and loves him so much and is so excited to be with him again.

And how Coop hates everything, and almost everyone, but totally reciprocates with G Byrd.

How Konnor is insanely handsome, but just can’t quite handle posing for a picture (totally the awkward 12 year old stage)

How Mckenzie is the sweetest, most thoughtful, helpful, artistic little free spirited fashionista. But not in a basic fashion girl way. Always the unexpected

And, how you’re so overwhelmed, but so much happier in the midst of your chaos than you ever thought possible

Making A Happy Life

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