I have the worst memory known to man, which sometimes leads me to wish I had more pictures with my Mother growing up (this really is my last tangent on Motherhood pictures). She is one of my greatest heroes and I know her only as a teenage-to-present mother since I can’t remember the rest (the part I remember is pretty darn good though).

And so, you can imagine how excited I was when I received a prize Christmas gift this year: all our growing-up family slides made digital and put on a CD. Boy oh boy was I excited.

Within that treasure trove of pictures there are some that tell the story of my Mother when we were all young. And I am drawn to them.

But instead of leaving me satisfied, these pictures leave me wanting more. I want to know what my Mom was thinking in these pictures. I want more details of what she was like as a young mother. Sure, she wrote things about ME in a special book she gave me when I got married. She wrote books about Mothering filled with thoughts and ideas she had. But I don’t know what she liked, or what she worried about, or how she felt inside, and I wish I did. I am left to wonder how she mothered us day-to-day…the funny things she did, how she talked to us, the stories she told, etc.

Was she kind of quiet and reserved as she seems in these pictures, or was she a spitfire?(In the above picture I personally think she was thinking: “wow, that Shawni could sure use a hair-wash…”)

Had she dreamed of going to Egypt all her life before this next picture (pregnant with her seventh(??) child)? Did she crave traveling the world like I do?

How did it feel to be a Mother of such young children and to be a mission president’s wife at such a young age (29). What did she do to mother us day-to-day when she was encumbered with 200 young missionaries as well as a young family?

How did she like traipsing around the world with seven (or more) kids in tow? Did she get frustrated? Did she just roll with the punches and enjoy the ride? Did it give her a rush like I know it would for me?
Did my little brother Noah like wearing that small red velour sailor suit??

How did she feel inside when she had her ninth baby? Did she put us all to work helping out or did she have a tough time prying that baby away from all of her adoring siblings? How did she wait up late at nights waiting for us teenagers to come home and then wake up with a newborn multiple times in the night?

Did she look forward to having babies as much as I did (it looks like she sure as heck did if she was adamant enough to pose for a picture with a fake doll as a baby…and get my Dad to pose with her).

Did she love her fake hairpiece as much as I do?

Sure, I could ask her all these questions and more, but chances are most of the details have faded into the outskirts of her memory by now.

So for my future kids I thought I would steal a great idea from my cyber-friend Julie (who is an amazing writer by the way, and who I think stole this idea from another cyber-friend), and write about things I do as mother, right now.

So, here you go, future versions of my children, in case you ever wonder:

I have taught you how to make cookies to a “t”…and you are all becoming quite good little bakers. I secretly hope you will make cookies and surprise me when I’m gone because I love them so much. (And often you do.)

I have a handful of “hiding places” where I keep a few cookies after we’ve made a batch so I can have some the next day. You have deftly found all my hiding places.

I’m trying to be better at teaching you to cook real food. Sometimes we make it into a game where we are the chefs on a cooking show and we are showing the audience how to chop vegetables and bring sauces to a boil just so. We make up our imaginary characters and tell about our imaginary families as we cook.

I check on you slumbering sweetly in your beds every single night before I go to bed. I can’t resist having a look at your slumbering beauty and making sure you are breathing steadily before I can sleep.

I tell you how much I love your Dad to the point you get annoyed. But it’s true. As much as I adore you guys, I try to always put your Dad first, and I think you like seeing that.

I love to read with you at night. It gets tougher and tougher each year because everyone is on such different levels, but I love it as much as you do…and you’ve realized that I’ll read for longer if you play with my hair as we read.

I have a goal to play hymns on the piano each night after we tuck you in bed. Sometimes I’m good at it and sometimes I’m not but I loved it when my Mom did that when I was growing up. From your frequent requests I know you do too.

I hang maps all over the place in hopes that you will please love traveling and adventure as much as I do. I want us to travel the world together. (To understand why in the world I’m so adamant about this click here. I came from the blood of these two travel-aholics for crying out loud.)

I keep trying to get you to love Thai food as much as I do so I make it often. Even though you still turn your noses up at it I’m convinced that if I keep trying some day you’ll fall in love.

Not much makes me happier than walking into your room and finding you kneeling in prayer or reading your scriptures…unasked.

I try to somehow weave my testimony into all that I tell you. I want you to know, more than anything else, that I love my Savior and that I’m trying to be like Him.

You never tire of begging for a dog, and I secretly wish we had one too. I’m just too tired to talk your Dad into it…yet.

I get very huffy when I’m mad. And I slam doors.

I always tell you I’m sorry when I cool down after getting mad. And I really am.

I cut our family’s hair…sometimes for better…sometimes for worse. I even cut my own hair when I get sick enough of it.

I love beauty. I point it out every chance I get. I hope some day you will love it as much as I do.

Sometimes I’ll dance to music with you (especially when we’re trying to clean up dinner or do jobs on Saturdays) and you love it. I would never dance in front of anyone else but you…I’m a horrible dancer, and even if you have figured that out by now, you don’t tell me so. (Thank you.)

I steal you away from school whenever I can and take you, individually, to lunch.

I have no problem pulling you out of school for a trip, or lunch, or family stuff…I love the motto my parents came up with when we traveled a bunch growing up: “Don’t ever let schooling interfere with your education.”

Having said that, your Dad and I totally stress doing your very best at school. I always talk to you about “Some day when you’re at Wellesley College” (or Columbia or Stanford) and I have hung a Harvard flag prominently in your bedroom, Max. So far the brainwashing isn’t seeping in and you’re all claiming you’ll go to BYU, which I certainly can’t complain about. I love BYU. I just want you to know there are other options too.

I have “Fasting Club” with you on Fast Sundays before dinner to try to get you more excited about Fast Sunday and I love to hear what spiritual things you’ve learned or noticed in the last month.

I come to each of your classes and teach art masterpiece every month. I love art…and I love to be in your classrooms with you.

I used to have a goal to always come in and say prayers with each of you every single night. And I was good at it. But lately I’ve pulled back a little bit (at least on you older kids) because I want you to make it a habit on your own. It’s sad for me but I know it’s good for you. When we do say prayers together, though, we always link our arms together. I love hearing your prayers.

I don’t get enough sleep. And sometimes you suffer because of it when it makes me grumpy. I’m sorry.

I wish you didn’t have to go to school and that we could just hang out all day. Just me and you and Dad. Really. But I’m sure you wouldn’t love it since when we ever have a day like that I make you clean out a cabinet or closet or two.

But, most importantly, I love you so much that sometimes my heart feels like it just may burst outside of me when I look at you….even when you have messy faces and sassy attitudes. (Although the attitude thing and things like dumping sand out of your shoes on the freshly mopped kitchen floor sure throw me for a loop … but I always forgive you.)

Love, Mom

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  1. Goodness I love this to peices. I know exactly how you feel. Being a mother, a wife, and a King's daughter is the most amazing feeling ever! Oh and the pictures are just beautiful!

  2. this is beautiful and WOW shawni, you look EXACTLY like your beautiful mother! and Elle looks like you, I can see that now from seeing you as a child! 9 kids is aLOT!!! we have 7 in my family ( I am the youngest). I always dreamed of having 5 of my own, but God only gave me two, I love seeing big families!
    and I totally want to steal this idea! HOwever, i do keep a journal for each of my girls and write in them often, so I do feel like they really will know me from those. I am on Savannah's 4th journal and Ava's 3rd one! I love doing them!

  3. i LOVED this post and i LOVED when julie did hers too. i want to do this then but this has reminded me that i NEED to do this. my things would sound very different than both of yours though. i am learning that i am a very UNIQUE mother…not sure yet if that's gonna work out for me but i sure hope so.

    i love all of those sweet pictures! i think eli and tal look most like your dad…mostly eli. such a beautiful family and such a love of the gosple. i loved charitys post and i'm so glad that you shared that with us. it made me so happy! BTW, my brother in law laid the hardwood floor in that house. 🙂

  4. Shawni this post brought me to tears. I just love your insights and your reflection on your own mother. I often have those same thoughts about the reality of my own mother's day to day and how it impacted her.
    You continue to inspire me to be a more engaged and conscious mother!

  5. You and your family are simply amazing, Shawni! Thanks so much for being such an inspiration and sharing your life, soul, and testimony with so many of us!

  6. oh man do i know how you feel about wanting to know what what going on inside your mothers head.

    i adore all the pictures. has anyone ever told your mom she looks like maria shriver? i love her.

    some day i'm going to get back to regular blogging. thanks for reminding me how important it can be.

  7. This is such a great post! I read your blog everyday but I don't comment much… I love your writing and I love the way you love being a mother. Thanks for making me smile everyday!

  8. When I did this a few months ago on my birthday, I vowed to do it every year from now on. I said the exact same thing, I want my kids to remember the "me" I know they won't. The "me" when I was a young mom and the mom they're sure to forget. I can't wait for me and them to see "my mom" list year after year and enjoy the memories they bring to the surface. I wish I had an insight to my mom from my childhood. At least we have pictures though…yours are sure great. I got a bunch of slides from my father-in-law as a child put on CD's a few years ago. Isn't it amazing to have COLORED pictures of some one born before color photography was really around? Hopefully I'll read another list of yours in a year-it was a lovely list!

  9. Such a beautiful post. I think kids these days will have more day-to-day record of who their mothers were thanks to blogging and the many mom's who do so. The pictures of your Mother are so sweet. Such good questions you have about her life then. Makes me see I need more pictures of my Mom during my childhood.

    I stumbled across your blog and the posts I've been able to read – really move me. I love your style of expression.

  10. I absolutely adore this idea. How I wish my mom had done this too. I think when I was little I didn't even realize my mom was an actual person with thoughts, and feelings and dreams. She was just THERE all the time. I think this is so important and will have to do this for my children.
    Can you be more inspirational?
    I don't think so.
    And also…the photo of your family with the new baby…on the left I am assuming it's your brother? He looks exactly like your son!

  11. Perfect. A perfect post. You are such a balanced and passionate mother. You can tell you truly enjoy it. I think about how my mom did it too and wish she had documented her thoughts…and I think blogging helps share some of that. Your blog inspires. Thanks.

    I also don't comment often…trying to do better.

  12. the velour sailor suit…laughing out loud. Loved all the pictures and the way you mother. even though your plate is so full you find ways to make things special…I envy that. I love how you express what being a mother means to you. I feel the same way but can never get it down the wya you can.

  13. wow! I just want to say something completely shallow… Your mom is absolutely beautiful and timeless. Her clothes and sense of style, perfection! Shallow, huh? I am so inspired by your family in every way. Thanks for sharing.

  14. I just found your blog recently and love your insight into motherhood…this was a beautiful post, thank you! I need to be better about journaling and having fun traditions with my children.

  15. your folks were so cute!! I've got a few photos of them at Utah State when they were single…CUTE & THEY STILL ARE!! I'm loving following their travels…their experiences in India with your brother and his wife…AMAZING!!

  16. Thank you for this post. I am a young mother of an almost 2 year old daughter with blond bouncing curls. I often feel so inadequate in being trusted to be her mother. I love looking to other more experienced mothers for guidance as I "become" a mother. Your home is what I hope to make mine. Thank you for your inspiration.

  17. I think my mom had those same pants too! What a great post this is…loved what you wrote and all the pictures. I too wish that I knew more about my mom while she was mothering (only 4 kids to your moms 9!)What were her day to day struggles, did she have a close group of girlfriends to lean on. I gave both of my parents a book for Christmas called Legacy. It basically is writing the story of your life…someday when they are done it'll be a great read for me and my children!

  18. Great post! Are you taking some magic pill that helps you stay up late to get everything done? If so, I want in! I can't seem to write or get things done like you! Great idea though to document how you are as a mother. Did you decide on your camera?

  19. What a lovely post. What a lovely legacy to leave to your children. On a side note, I realised I need to make more of an effort to have photos with my children….because I can see how much joy you get from seeing photos of your mother all you kids.


  20. A few years ago, My mom filled out journals for my sister and I, filled with all sorts of questions about her and her life before us. It is one of my most treasured items.

    I am inspired by your post…We assume our kids know all of these things about us – they're are our shadows and all! But it's so true that I don't remember those little things from my youth.

    Thanks for sharing such sweetness!

  21. Love this idea. And I love this
    "Don't ever let schooling interfere with your education."

    Because I too will pull my kids out for whatever reason.

    I also cut our hair- I have no idea why.

    Thanks for the reminder to get it all down.

  22. Loving your blog. I read "A Mothers Book of Secrets" while waiting in line to pick up my kiddos from school one week and absolutely fell in love with the photography as well as the sentiment and thoughts. I put little sticky notes on pages so that I would remember to give "this and that" a try in my own family. I have bought that books a least 20 times over (seriously) and given it along with my baby shower gifts (Deseret Book loves me). Just curious, what kind of camera do you use or recommend? Thanks for sharing your thoughts and photos.

  23. I read this way back when, and came back to it through another post today. This description of your mothering style is so real and so beautiful. I want to do this… And I want to be a mom like you.

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