To my nine:
Recently we celebrated the 15th anniversary of the beginning of our family. On that evening we made a nice dinner and spent time together as a family. Throughout that day, I reflected on the day I married your mom and the events surrounding that occasion. There are some things about that day I want you to know.
We began our life together as a family at the Portland Oregon LDS Temple. I remember sitting in the airport with your mom the day before, nervously waiting for the flight to arrive. We checked all of our bags except one, a carry on that had your mom’s wedding dress crammed inside. As we sat at the terminal waiting for the flight, we talked about our future family and what we wanted our life to be like. At some point in the conversation your mom turned to me and asked if I had ever thought of a specific number of children I wanted. The truth is, up to that point neither of us had thought of a specific number. We both agreed we wanted a large family, but we had never defined “large”. But in that instant when she posed the question, something happened. A number immediately came into my mind.
I told your mom that I had never thought of a specific number until now. At that moment I had a strong impression – but it was crazy. She smiled and said the exact same thing. She had never had a number but one came to mind in that moment. I’m pretty sure she made me share my number first and I said, nine. She smiled and said that’s exactly what she felt at that moment. We spent the next while talking about how nine was the wrong number. I only remember two of the reasons we didn’t like it now. It was a big number and it was odd. Despite our initial reactions, we shared our excitement about our future family and desire to do whatever the Lord would ask of us. If that meant nine children, then we would gladly welcome each one.
It wasn’t easy. Even though mommy always wanted twins, it never happened. She bore all nine children one at a time. We had the first six in six years. There was a break in between the “six-pack” and the last three, but only because mommy developed kidney stones and struggled with a different kind of pain for several years. Courageously she had the last three to complete our nine. Along the way we prayed a lot, talked a lot and doubted whether we could do it, but that number, and that moment in the airport, came rushing to our minds whenever we struggled. After every child we knew there was another waiting. We also knew when another one was ready to come.
Living in a big family can be tough. We have to make a lot of hard choices and do things differently with our time and resources. You have learned what it’s like to be part of a family that works together, struggles together, sacrifices together, and rejoices together in the greatest blessings God gives us. I hope this serves as a witness to you that even before you were born, you were known. Your family was prepared. Your parents were prepared. Even though we are far from perfect, and struggle daily to make this work, it’s worth every worry, every prayer for help, and every moment of joy and laughter. I am grateful for each one of you and hope that you always remember how loved you are and how this family was prepared for you.