Making Friends:

Valerie and Julia Mackey of Phoenix, Arizona

Written by Rebecca M. Taylor

Print Share

    On a typical shopping day, you might see Valerie and Julia’s mom in the grocery store, pushing a cart loaded with twenty loaves of bread or fourteen gallons of milk. But she’s not buying food for the next ward party—she’s just doing the usual shopping for her family!

    There are twenty people in the Mackey family. Valerie and Julia (both 9) became sisters nearly five years ago when their parents married in the Arizona Temple. Valerie’s mom, Eileen, had six children, and Julia’s dad, Jim, had nine. Later, the family was blessed with three more boys—Jimmy (3), Adam (1 1/2), and newborn Samuel.

    Needless to say, the Mackey household is a lively one. All the children live at home except Stacy, the oldest, who’s on a mission in Brazil. There’s always someone bringing friends home or running off to athletic practice, a job, or another activity. In spite of the different schedules, the family usually manages to eat dinner together. Every day Julia and Valerie set the long table with eighteen place settings, then clear it when dinner is through.

    The two sisters love to do things together, like jump on one of the two trampolines in their backyard, and race through a field near their home. They also like to swing on their swing set and to ride their bikes. The warm Arizona weather lets them play outside almost all year round.

    They share a room with Shirley (6) and Jimmy (3). Sometimes they curl up on the top bunk and read together. They like reading books from their school library, and they especially like it when Mom reads to them from a book of children’s Bible stories.

    The busiest day of the week at the Mackey house is “Terrible Tuesday.” That’s when Julia and Valerie help fold and bag the newspapers their brothers deliver. It’s also when they take piano lessons, along with Jill (14), Joseph (14), Orrin (12), and Trevor (11). The two girls have been playing for nearly two years, and they like it.

    “They practice every morning and don’t ever complain,” their mom says. Another thing they do each morning is read scriptures at 5:30 with the rest of the family—at least, with all those who can read.

    Julia and Valerie aren’t just sisters—they’re good friends. At home they’re almost always together. “Their personalities blend well,” Mom says. Valerie is the more “motherly” of the two. She’s been changing diapers since she was four years old and likes to help take care of her little brothers. When she grows up, she’d like to take care of other people’s children as well. She also likes to sing, and she even makes up some of her own songs.

    Julia is dramatic and full of energy. She has an excellent memory—Mom says she can hear a song once or twice and have it learned. She loves animals and likes to take care of Belle, the dog that she and Valerie own.

    So what’s the best thing about having such a big family? Julia and Valerie’s sister Mandy (16), says, “You’re never alone.” There’s always someone around to tease, play basketball with, or just talk to. And the worst thing? “You’re never alone,” Mandy says with a laugh. After all, with five kids sharing one bedroom, four in another, four in another, and two in still another (Adam sleeps in Mom and Dad’s room), privacy is hard to find.

    But Valerie and Julia wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Photographed by Rebecca M. Taylor

    1. Valerie and Julia

    2. The Mackey family—all except Stacy, who’s in Brazil, and newborn Samuel

    3. Arizona Temple

    4. Julia and Valerie like to swing!

    5. Julia, Valerie, and Shirley reading stories together

    6. Setting the table

    7. Shirley, Julia, Valerie, and Jacob (10) climbing a tree

    8. Near the Christus inside the visitors’ center