Monday, November 12, 2018


Dear Loved Ones,                                                                                                 

Things slowed down a little bit this week at Casa Melin Ranch for Free-Range Children. But I know it won’t last long as the holidays approach and the calendar fills up with concerts and parties and my brain is planning awesomeness 24/7. I was just getting  my bearings a little this week and got more organized and even MADE things. I blame it on the snow this week—it makes me nesty.

On Monday 11/5, I went full-force on the housekeeping and got laundry done and some nagging nooks and crannies cleaned up. I also put up our Thankful Tree and helped Rich cobble together a Family Home Evening. Grandpa and Grandma Melin joined us and we had a lovely evening. On Tuesday 11/6, it was all snowy and blustery and we had our first real snowfall that stuck—just in time for ELECTION DAY! I love voting in person in Park County. I used to be a mail-in ballot type of girl, but I find the polls down at the fairgrounds so charming and there is a very special spirit in a place where we a free to exercise our agency to govern ourselves as God intended us to do, and where members of the community volunteer service so cheerfully to make all that happen. This year I reverse trick-or-treated and took a bag of the kids’ best candy to share with all the volunteers because they are awesome. In the afternoon as I was picking up kids, we got word that our dear neighbor and friend and former bishop’s wife, Wendy Tyner,  passed away. She had been fighting liver cancer. That night we had an election night dinner party (Cranberry Sprite and eclairs for dessert made it special) and James attended the Democrats’ watch party at The Attic downtown. I went to pick him up around 8:30pm after the polls closed, hoping to have some kind of results, but we finally gave up and came home for bed (James is such a night owl—I swear he gets the least sleep of any middle schooler I know; Seminary is going to kick his tail 20 months from now!). Our friend Dan lost the state house election, darn it, but he ran a good fair race and he still hosted an awesome hunting party this weekend. Wednesday 11/7 I did some more house work and worked on some holiday sewing. That night the kids had youth activities and I had the little boys asleep at 6:54pm! Thanks, daylilght saving time! On Thursday 11/8, I continued with my nestiness and made new pillow shams for our living room chairs and got some embroidery projects done. I heard on the news that a terrible fire had burned up whole towns in central California; one of the missionaries I served with in NC and his family of 9 lost their home, church building, and the school where he is principal—heartwrenching! That night, Heidi and Kristina babysat the boys while Rich and I took Addie out to dinner (actually, she took us—she drove her car and we sat in back, lol) and to her National Honor Society Induction ceremony. Now she gets a fancy cord at graduation and gets to peer tutor. She also started doing Lunch Buddies with BBBS (as a Big Sister) this week. She’s a busy little bee and we are proud of her hard work. On Friday 11/9, Addie brought home a robot baby for her child development class. She named him Chandler and he is a fussy little dude, but Addie is managing. She gets to give him back tomorrow afternoon and she will be so glad (just as I typed that, I heard him start crying! It’s 11:15 and she is so tired! Pretty realistic). Friday night I also sent Richard and James off to Greycliff to go hunting with the Vermillions and Alkires. James had a great time—he was in heaven hunting with his buddies! Aiden shot a deer, and they all had a blast. They got home just in time for church this morning. Saturday 11/10 was a quiet day at home. We slept in a bit and did some morning chores. It was still snowy and grey outside. It was the day of Winter Formal, but my kids and their friends didn’t go—which was kind of a relief. I took them to the store to buy “Incredibles 2” and some movie snacks, and I dropped Heidi off to help Sophia with her make up (yes—Sophie went to formal and she looked adorable), then I went to see “Bohemian Rhapsody” by myself. It was really good. Freddy was a character. I picked up some Chinese take-out and went back home. Some of the seminary kids were gathering for an “anti-formal” traditional bowling night. Robyn Jones picked them all up and took them for pizza at Gil’s, then to the bowling alley. I picked them up around 10 for a late movie at our house, though I had taken a melatonin and had fallen asleep around 9:30 already! I was out if it! Sunday 11/11 was our Fast Sunday and lots of words about Sister Tyner were shared. Her husband shared in his regular, beloved Wilford Brimley voice, “I’ve lost my rudder…but I’ll get my feet back up under me soon enough.” SO SWEET. We love him and are so sad for his loss. We had a quiet afternoon at home and watched a movie together by the fire- “Julie and Julia.” It was fun and made more motivated to cook good things for Thanksgiving! Before bed, we practiced some songs and the boys’ parts for the Primary Program next week.

 “Life is sweet, bittersweet, and the days keep rollin’ along,” as the Maria McKee songs goes. Tomorrow Addie and I sing “In the Garden” at Wendy’s funeral, as she asked us to a year ago. Wishing you all another great week—we love and miss you!

Love, Jamie and Rich and Family

Election Day Snow Fall 11/6

High School Volunteers at the polls (Gabe Knohl) 11/6

Obligatory Sticker shot 11/6
Niles at school pick ups 11/6

Montana's Birthday 11/8

Thankful Tree!
Charlie Vermillion, James, and Silas Hjortsberg at the Election Night returns party 11/6

Addie at National Honor Society Induction 11/8

NHS sign-in 11/8
Addie and Brianna at NHS Induction 11/8

Boys asleep before 7pm

Addie and my robot grandson, Chandler 11/9
James and Aiden Alkire hunting with Vermillions 11/10

James and Josh Alkire 11/10

Rich and James

Silas, Charlie, Aiden, and James with Aiden's deer  11/10

James under the Big Sky 11/10

Sunday, November 04, 2018


Dear Loved Ones,  

Today was another kind of favorite fall day, when it is windy and cold and a little bit rainy, but I can be inside at church or by the fire enjoying the blustery day from inside my happy place, with my people, enjoying veggie beef stew and fresh bread maker bread and pumpkin cookies and count all the blessings October brought us.

Many exciting things have happened in the three weeks since I last documented our family life. The very next day after my last letter (10/15), All three girls performed in the Fall-Halloween Choir Concert at PHS. In costume! Kristina was The Living Dead, Addie was a cute witch, and Heidi was a Holy Cow. The choirs sounded great! The Concert Choir (which Heidi and Kristina are in) sang a beautiful rendition of “Beauty and the Beast” that got me all pumped for their spring show at the Shane Center. The Chamber Choir (Addie’s choir) sang some moving numbers, but we really loved the “Footloose” finale. Very cute. I can’t remember what we did on Tuesday, but on Wednesday 10/17 we had a Court of Honor for Rich’s scouts, then had all the youth over to our house for donuts and cider and snacks and watching “Hocus Pocus.” I love having those kids in my house. Thursday through Sunday was “Fall Break” so we were all home together for a few days. The girls all had plans with friends Thursday 10/18, but the boys and I did chores and put up Halloween decorations and went bowling. Friday 10/19 was a special family temple trip with all the teenaged kids doing baptisms for family names. Kristina watched Niles, Ammon, Simon, and Lexi at the travel center.  TJay baptized his sister, brother, and cousins. The dads did confirmations.  It was Grandpa’s and Grandma’s last week serving in the temple presidency and it was bitter sweet! We all went to a Bavarian restaurant called Oktoberfest after the temple. The food was yummy and the live accordion player was talented. Kristina just laughed and laughed because she is not Bavarian, but Bavarian culture is what most Americans see as “German.” As for us, we love Germany’s hillbillies!

Rich took the kids home that night, but I stayed over in Billings with Gram and Gramp Melin so I could attend a regional public affairs training Saturday afternoon. I went to a 10am endowment session, then grabbed a sandwich and headed to the meeting. I learned a lot and felt very inspired, especially by plans for JustServe and Light the World. I hope and can keep that fire burning and share the enthusiasm and get some things going in our area! Sunday 10/21 was Lexi Speas’ missionary farewell. TJay Melin was the youth speaker, then Lexi and her mother gave STELLAR talks which called down the Spirit mightily. Haylee Speas played a beautiful intermediate hymn, “A POrr Wayfaring Man,” on her violin. This was especially moving to me as I had finished reading “Saints” the night before and read the account of the martyrdom and Willard Richards’ beautiful words. I can remember reading Section 135 out loud in companionship study on my mission with Sister Black and both of us being surprised by our emotion as we choked out the words through sobs. We had read the section many times before, but it held new power for us as we put our own lives on the line for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and were beginning to feel the magnitude of what our dear prophet was trying to accomplish and the magnitude and grief of the loss of him to the early saints, God bless them all! I’m happy to think of Lexi and Eden and Maggie having those same kind of powerful witnesses as they serve. Hurrah for Israel! Sunday night we had a family game night. We played Apples to Apples and Tabu. These were especially fun with Kristina! Many laughs were had!

Monday 10/22 I spent the day packing and cleaning, getting ready to fly to Arizona with Niles to surprise Great-Grandma Lyn. I was wracked with anxiety about leaving my family, to the point of physical illness and dread. But I pushed through it and we had a nice flight and an absolutely wonderful trip. My sister Lisa picked us up at the airport with my nephew Cody and we had such a nice visit at her new house in Mesa. Niles was in hog heaven hanging out with the dudes and their drum set and Lisa’s cool dog. We woke up early in the morning 10/23 and headed down to Sierra Vista (about 180 miles), trying to surprise Grandma by 11am so Marti could go to the dentist. We made it and it was the sweetest surprise! Totally worth the whole trip. Cousin Steven and his wife Candice had just moved in to the basement while Steven applies to medical school, so we got to spend some quality time with them. They were so much fun! Niles really loved tagging along with Steven and Uncle Ralph, feeding the animals every morning and burning documents in the pasture (Fire! Yay!). My rooster boy really was made for ranch life. On Wednesday, we ran to Target with Aunt Marti and got some bday cards for all our October people, and some souvenirs. We went home and hung out with Gram. I painted her toenails and watched a movie with her and Niles. On Thursday morning I took Niles to the park to get his wiggles out, then came home and stayed with Gram while Ralph and Marti went to serve in the Tucson Temple over the afternoon/evening shift. I made a yummy Italian chicken and vegetable dinner and watched Hallmark Christmas movies with Grammy. Niles was sick with a cough, and had been up much of Wednesday night. I’d bought him some medicine while we were out and it helped him sleep better Thursday night. Candice was so thoughtful and brought up her humidifier and oil diffuser, so we slept much better Thursday, Friday and Saturday with all those remedies. Meanwhile at home, James had his first 7th grade band concert on Thursday 10/25. I was sad to have missed it but enjoyed all the videos people sent to me. He is really loving music and exploring playing by ear and other instruments, which always make my mama heart happy.

On Friday 10/26, my cousins Maren and Lacy came over to visit with their kids. Niles had a blast with all the Allred kids and Naomi Mayberry. I had to run to the store to finish up a birthday package, then run to the post office, which cut into my Lacey time, but I had a great visit with Maren and her kiddos. They just moved back to Willcox, AZ from Texas, and Maren was just called as the YW President. She will be awesome for those girls! We had a nice Potato Soup dinner and a quiet evening at home, but here in Montana, Rich was wrangling kids at the ward Trunk or Treat. By the looks of the photos and all accounts, everyone had a blast. On Saturday morning 10/27, I took Grandma to Tucson to attend the funeral services for Ethel Goodman, who had turned 100 this summer, and who-along with her twin sister, Eathel Busby- produced a large percentage of the Tucson Mormons my parents’ generation, and then mine, grew up with. The service was wonderful and inspiring, as expected, and we saw so many dear friends. It was a wonderful experience to see all these people who were the movers and shakers when I was a little girl, walking with canes and walkers, heading into their 90s, but happy and stalwart as ever! I’m so glad relationships are eternal! And I am so grateful for Latter-Day Saints’ funerals. They are always so bittersweet and joyful and I learn so much from the examples of the deceased. Gram and I went to lunch at Panera and then up to the Tucson Temple. Grammy was tired and wanted to wait in the car while I went inside to do some initiatory work, but as I got inside and hugged some familiar faces, I realized, I had better just take some photos outside and take Grammy home. I found my amiga Miki Ogao working as a sealings coordinator and hugged her hard, then took Gram home (AFTER getting an Eegees, of course). We got home around 5:30pm, just in time to pick up Niles and take him to Uncle Ralph’s office after hours to get some warts removed from his thumb. Uncle Ralph had been at the office for several hours studying for his board exams, bless his heart. He zapped Niles’ warts and we all headed home for some dinner. Ralph and Marti headed to St. David early Sunday morning to hear Ralph’s brother, Carter and his wife, Faye, give their report of serving a mission on Ecuador. They came back and joined us for third hour in their ward in Sierra Vista. Grammy only wanted to attend Sacrament Meeting, so I took her home afterward and let Niles watch her while I went to RS with Marti. After church, we ate lunch and played cards and talked into the afternoon. Then we had a rest and ate dinner, then had some eegees from our party pack and watched “Coco” with Grammy. Gram and Marti went to bed and I had a chat with Candice late into the night. Niles fell asleep on the floor next to us.

Monday morning (10/29) we left for the airport at 9am. Grammy wanted to come, so she and Marti drive me and Niles to Mesa. We made a pit stop at Picacho Peak and got a Dia Muertos bag and filled it with treats for the kids, and Niles proudly carried it onto the plane. We had a Mongolian grill lunch with Marti and Gram between 1-2pm, then Niles and I checked in to our 3:45 flight and landed in Bozeman at 6:30 pm. It was very sleety outside and Rich was a little late, but we met him and all the kids at the curb, got some Jimmy Johns for dinner, and headed home through the slick mountain pass. It was wonderful to be with my kids and hubs again, even though AZ was wonderful too. Tuesday 10/30 I worked hard to get laundry done and get us unpacked and get the pumpkins ready to carve for Halloween and get dinner on the table. Addie had a Cross Country Awards Dinner that night, so I went with her and left poor Rich home again. The dinner was like 3 hours long and I was sad to be away from my family again, but I was happy for Addie and loved seeing all the great things the XC kids did. It really is an awesome sport.

Wednesday 10/31 was Halloween, of course. We had a really fun and low-key evening. In the past I have run home and got the kids into their costumes, then run them around town to Trick or Treat at businesses between 4-5pm, then run home and make them eat some dinner before they go our trick or treating from 6-7pm. This time we skipped Trick or Treating businesses. I just made some soup and fruit and veg appetizers and lit up the house with spooky lights and candles and music and let them come and go as they pleased. The cousins came in from the ranch for a second round of Trick or Treating our neighborhood at 6pm, and they brought yummy pizza. When friends came to the door, the kids would go out with them for a while. Heidi had some friends over and watched “Hocus Pocus” by the fire. Addie went out with her friends around 7, then went out to Brianna’s house with them until 10pm. It was the best, most chill Halloween I can remember, so that’s one more reason I love having older kids! On Thursday, I took the kids to the dentist in the morning, then we had lunch at Chipotle and went shopping at Target and Costco. Our thoughts turned to Thanksgiving and we started making plans and menus and games for fun with cousins. On Friday 11/2 there was no school, so we slept in (while the priests and laurels had a temple trip 6am-1pm), and then went to a 10am song practice for a musical number at Regional Conference on Sunday. Heidi and I sang in a septet with Dan Smith, Mark Mills, Robyn, Clara, and Jeanette Jones. We sang “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet” a Capella and it was kind of awesome. After practice, Jeanette came home with us and we picked up Sophia and the girls made a yummy sea weed soup. I was super tired and not feeling well, so I folded 3 loads of wash and took a hot soak. Addie came home and helped me get myself together, then we had dinner and Rich took the girls to a 7:30 showing of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I stayed home with the boys and the two littles were asleep by 7:40!

Saturday morning, Niles, Ammon, and I headed to Helena for Cousins Emily’s baptism. It was a really nice service, and so nice to see my sweet Postie and Hamlin nieces and nephews again. We all had lunch at Applebee’s, then I took the boys to see Aunt Laura working at Hobby Lobby. We drove home to Livingston between 2-4pm and had a nice evening at home eating chicken tacos and pumpkin cookies made by Addie and TJay. Sunday we enjoyed turning back the clocks an hour and attending our Regional Conference with our Area Presidency and Elder Holland speaking to us about improving our ministering and home-centered gospel living. Our musical number was spot-on and now I want to go a Capella caroling with all those great singers!!! Elder Holland re-capped President Nelson’s invitations to us to participate in The Gathering. He said there is a “delightful sense of urgency to do the work”, and “The Gathering is your work ‘til the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done’…the work will go on unbroken and unabated how ever many prophets it takes…” He always brings the fire!

So here we go, onward, ever onward. We are preparing ourselves to be better parent-teachers in the coming years and feel so motivated by the trust God has placed in us to do more gospel teaching and living in our home. Such exciting times! We love you all and wish you another happy and productive week. We hope you take time to count your many blessings in this month of Thanksgiving and know that we count you and our relationship one of life’s sweetest blessings!

Love, Jamie and Rich and Family

Kristina Choir Concert 10/15

Addie and Sidney Choir Concert 10/15

Brianna and Addie Choir Concert

Summer and Heidi Choir Concert

Kristina, Ilana, Heidi, and Herbert Choir Concert 10/15

Family Temple Day 10/19 Billings

The Family at Oktoberfest Restaurant in Billings 10/19

Heidi and James 10/21 Game Night

Addie and Kristina

Addie and Kristina

The table during Apples to Apples

10/21 Game Night Cheese Popcorn...Sunday Carbs!

Mom & Niles and the airplane 10/22

Niles during take off 10/22

Niles at Aunt Lisa's House 10/22

Arizona Morning 10/23

Niles with Aunt Lisa's roses

Downtown Tucson

Desert in the rain!

The Dino at the turn off to Sierra Vista


Surprising Great Grandma Lyn 10/23

Niles wearing his magnets as earrings 10/23

Grammy LOVE!

SEESTERS! Jamie & Lisa 10/23

Lisa & Cody heading home from SV:
Cody, Steven, Ralph, me; Lisa, Marti, Niles, and Gram
(and a photobomb from Creepy Clown)

SV mountains in the rain

Everybody Loves Cody...still

and the tooth fairy even found us in AZ!

Sunny morning at the Park 10/25

Glorious Joshua Tree and Desert Sky
"Desert Sky/dream beneath the desert sky/
the rivers run but soon run dry/ we need new dreams tonight"

Sister Goodman's funeral 10/27 in Tucson

Gram and Me

Gram and Joni Preston

Gram, Gale Bell, Joni Preston, and way down at the end of the row is Bernice Merrill

Scott Bell and Bruce Larson

My beloved Sonora (near the temple)

Tucson Temple- my heart! 10/27

Fresh pomegranates for breakfast, no big deal 10/29

Niles and Ace (Steven's dog)

Lunch on the way to the airport 10/29

Goodbye Gram

Niles takes a selfie on the plane

On our way home! 10/29

Niles with our new bag- Glad to be HOME!

XC Awards Dinner 10/30


The front door
(that front right pumpkin is the cutest little thing I've ever seen)

Scarecrow Ammon, Band Major Christian, Witch Addie, Devil Kristina,
FC Bayern Soccer player James, Batman Niles

The Dads are super into it

Simon and Kelli post-trick or treating

Addie, Clara, and Izzi as the Hocus Pocus Sanderson Sisters

Addie and Adele

Olaia, Clara, Brianna, Addie, Jeanette, Kat, Adele, Izzi

James' best bud Charlie's dad is running for State House. They got to do some campaigning
on Friday 11/02 and James met all the (D) state candidates...

Including our Senator John Tester
(who doesn't get my vote because he opposes religious liberties,
but is otherwise a nice fella)

Here's nephew Sam playing the violin

COUSINS! Brady, Kaylee, Emily, Riley, Raef, Ammon
Niles and Cooper

Auntie hugs for Em

Emily and her Aunties

Matt's Family: Jake, Matt, Riley, Ashley, Emily, Ashley's mom, Sam

Best Cousin Pals, Niles & Emily

We LOVE Aunt Laura!
(She had to work so we went to see her at Hobby Lobby)


Dear Loved Ones,                                                                                                  Things slowed down ...