Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Remembering Kliss Ann

I have so much blogging to do, but for now it's time to remember another loss. My cousin pal, Kliss Ann Crosser passed away from complications of Type 1 diabetes on January 10, 2017. I'm publishing the Life Story I presented at her funeral for my family who was unable to attend. I've also included the program and some photos. It was a beautiful service and I am so grateful she is resting in peace.

***
Eulogy for Kliss Ann Crosser
May 29, 1971- January 10, 2017
Funeral and interment held Saturday, January 21, 2017 in Thatcher, Arizona

Kliss Ann Crosser was born May 29, 1971 in Morenci, Arizona. She was the second of four children born to Gwen Layton and Bobby Crosser, and the only child to survive her first weeks of life. From the beginning she was a special miracle.  I was born four months later and even though we were first cousins, we spent our first years like sisters. I have hundreds of photos of Kliss and me doing all our baby stuff together—playing with toys, laying in the play pen, baths (in the bath tub AND in Grandma Layton’s buckets), holidays, birthday parties—we were always together. My brother Willy and our cousin Dougie also made many appearances in the photos, and when we were three, my twin sisters Laura and Lisa, and our cousin Max  Ross joined the gang.  We were often in matching outfits with cute hair-dos and it’s clear our moms were having a blast raising us. All photos point to a happy, nurturing start to our lives.

New jobs, moves, and eventual divorces split up our little gang. We would never be as close as we were as children again, but our mothers and especially Grandma Layton helped us to maintain our relationships with regular visits to Thatcher. Kliss lived in Thatcher with Grandma Layton and her mother Gwen, and later, her little sister Dasha, until she was a young adult. Kliss graduated from Thatcher High School in 1990 and attended Eastern Arizona College on and off through 1997 studying advertising and design.  She had some struggles with her “book learnin’” but she was very smart and a talented artist. She was a technical genius and could beat anybody at her video games. She always rode her bike faster than me and was better at softball. As we shall see in some upcoming stories, Kliss had a great sense of humor and an infectious laugh. She also had a great memory, especially for people and events, which made her very thoughtful and fun to be around.

 After a few years of school and working full time in Thatcher, Kliss ventured out to the big city. She moved to Mesa and worked at the Arizona Grand Resort in IT and technical support for 13 years. As her health deteriorated, working became more difficult. She worked for Deseret Industries in Mesa for a while, and eventually returned to Thatcher in 2015. In Thatcher, she was able to be close to her sister, Dasha, and her nephew and niece, Jaxson and Gwen Curtis, whom she adored. Kliss relished her role as Auntie. As we kept in touch over Facebook, she would always mention how much she loved Jaxson and Gwen and loved being an aunt, and she proudly shared photos of those darling kids. It was a blessing for Kliss to be back home close to family who could love and care for her as her health declined. None of us could foresee that this would be the last year of her life, but Heavenly Father knew, and he blessed her with a year of good memories and lots of love. Aunt Maxine Canaday, Jenene and Walt Maybury, and Dasha and Miles Curtis cared for Kliss and included her in family activities, and were caring for her right up to her unexpected end. Kliss’ family would also like to thank the many friends, doctors, and caregivers who have helped Kliss as her health declined. Every kindness and service you gave to her lightened her load and lit up her life. THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts.  Kliss’ life and relationships are a testament to me that Heavenly Father knows and loves us and provides for us every step of the way. Though neither of us had the ideal nuclear family life, neither of us went without love and nurturing and support thanks to the precious extended families and close friends God blessed us with.

Those good feelings and memories went both ways. Friends and family shared many joyful memories of Kliss this week.

Chyleen Lauritzen, Kliss’ former Relief Society President who is now on a mission wrote that Kliss taught her that she could be happy even if her circumstances were not ideal. Kliss always tried to look on the bright side of things.

Kliss’ friend and visiting teaching companion Katie Jorgensen said this: I have known Kliss since I moved to Thatcher in 5th grade. She lived around the corner from me we were always in the same ward growing up. She was very active in church and there were many activities she participated in. Kliss didn't like large crowds, so many people thought she was shy, but when you really got to know her, Kliss was very funny and had a great sense of humor. She also had a bit of a mischievous streak in her. Kliss was a very kind and thoughtful person and growing up, I never heard her gossip or speak unkindly of anyone. You knew that Kliss was a person you could trust and someone who would not talk behind your back. She was someone who would listen to you and would be your friend, always treating you with kindness.

A few years after Kliss moved back to Thatcher, I was lucky enough to have her as a visiting teaching partner. And though she had health problems and was almost completely blind, she was always willing to go visiting teaching. The sisters who we went to really enjoyed having Kliss come. She would have us all laughing with her humor and funny stories she would tell us. She was a pleasure to have around and always brightened everyone's day. Kliss will be missed by everyone that knew her.

Jenene, Kliss’ cousin and “other mother” said, “I loved her sense of humor. She loved to laugh. Sometimes when she would try to tell a joke or tell a story she thought was funny, she started laughing so hard, it was tough getting to the punch line. She had everyone laughing because of her infectious laugh. Kliss loved babies and they loved her. She was like a baby whisperer. Jake spent a lot of time over at Grandma Layton's. Kliss took care of him. She held him the first day he came to our home and loved him every day after. She taught him a love of electronics and how to hook them up. For years, until Jake got old enough for us to bother, it was Kliss who hooked up the VCR's for the family. She loved photography and often used Jake and Dasha as her mostly willing subjects. She was talented artistically. She loved to draw and paint and took classes. Kliss loved family and her many cousins. She kept up with everyone. If we wanted to know what was going on with someone, somehow, Kliss knew. She remembered birthdays and who did what and when. I was in awe of that. Kliss also loved Star Trek, Star Gate, Star Wars. If it had a "star" in it, she loved it. She also loved Mash, a love she got from her Grandma Layton and Aunt Nettie, who never missed an episode. She had a DVD of Mash in the DVD player when she passed away. I was also impressed at how she never complained about her ailments. Last Wednesday before she passed away, as I picked her up from her doctor appointment, we talked about what she had learned there. She told me again that she had congestive heart failure, and something we had found out on Christmas Eve when Walt took her to the ER. She figured it was inevitable since there were heart problems on both sides of her family. She also said she was told that she had Stage 3 kidney failure and she could only drink 32 ounces of water a day.. She said told the doctor she had finally found a way to get her off Diet Pepsi. She chuckled as she said it. Even then, Kliss didn't complain. She just rolled with it. She was a great example of dealing with her adversity. Kliss loved our Sunday family dinners and visiting with everyone. I think it was often the highlight of her week. She got to see and hold her niece and nephew she loved so much. Her presence will be especially missed at those dinners. Everywhere she went, Kliss talked to people. Much like her grandpa Max, she didn't know a stranger. She always had a big smile ready to share. Kliss was a good person who truly loved life and the people in it. The void will be felt for a very long time.

Jenene’s son Jake told how Kliss used to take him and Dasha in the truck and drive on this road with fun up and downs. One day she took them to the Dairy Queen for ice cream cones and then on the fun road. She must have been going faster than normal because when she hit a bump, Dasha flew up and hit her head on the roof.  She looked down at the cone in her hand and her ice cream was gone-- it was stuck up on the roof of the truck!  He also remembered that one day Kliss made cookies. He wanted some, but before she would give him any, she made him sit on the couch and watch the news for an hour. Kliss actually liked to watch the news and thought Jake might learn something.

Kliss’ sister Dasha has many memories of her sister. Dasha said, “ Kliss loved my kids like her own....she had literally no money but would always give them gifts, and was always the first one to hold or interact with them when she saw them. Jaxson LOVED her cane, and Gwen her glasses. Kliss kept me company during the day when I had some postpartum depression and would scare Jaxson half to death with her snoring. She had such a good heart. Kliss taught me how to catch and throw a softball. We would spend hours playing ‘500’ or she would throw the ball as hard and high up as she could and I would catch it. We lost many balls in the huge tree next to grandma’s house, including a few of her favorites. Kliss loved to scare me. She and mom loved watching ghost/UFO shows at night that the scared the pants off of my young self. I would cry begging them to turn it off and they would laugh and keep watching. While sitting on the couch, Kliss would sneak out open the window behind me; very quietly and suddenly grab me. Many curse words were shared that way! Kliss loved to go out at night and ride her bike for hours; she was always a night owl. She would watch the weather channel for hours saying she wanted to do graphics for television someday. Kliss LOVED her dog CHEWBACCA BOSTON CREAM HARPO MARX CROSSER…such a funny name for a really beloved dog. Kliss and I could always get each other laughing and she would always turn super red and have tears running down her cheeks. I loved when she laughed! When we lived in Phoenix, we got Panda Express each week and would go to her place and just hang out, as well as Sunday dinner watching American funniest home videos. It was always a comfort and made living away less hard. A childhood friend told me the other day she loved coming to our home because it was always happy. It’s true, we (mom, grandma, Kliss and I) were always laughing. We saw humor in things and just had fun. That sums up a lot about Kliss: when she was healthier and happy she laughed A LOT.”

I have lots of childhood memories of Kliss, mostly of her just being with me. We “went swimming” in Grandma Layton’s wash tub in the back yard and had little hide out in the hedges under a tree in the front yard. Another favorite “swimming pool” was Grandpa Layton’s old boat with the red glittery trim. We would fill the boat with water and have a blast. I’m sure Grandpa appreciated that. I also remember chasing Grandma’s dog Pudgy through the leaves in the back yard. We raced tricycles down the fancy new sidewalks that EAC installed right next to Grandma’s house and caught crawdads in the canal and tried to pinch each other with them. We collected soda cans with Grandma on walks, picked cotton from neighboring fields, and drank cold kool aid out of her brightly colored aluminum cups. When we got older, Kliss was obsessed with Star Wars and the sitcom Silver Spoons, especially the star, Ricky Schroeder. I never asked her if she knew Ricky had become a Mormon and how she felt about that. She always drew me cool pictures and did my portrait a few times. I was jealous of her amazing mane of blond hair, even from childhood. I can remember a time we went and got our little bangs trimmed and they stylist curled our hair into matching ringlets. Of course my fine hair didn’t hold the curl, but Kliss Ann had a crown of gorgeous Nellie Olsen ringlets and I just couldn’t bear the injustice. I cried all the way home.

Kliss and I didn’t keep in touch as well after I left for college and went on my mission, but she did send me occasional, newsy letters from Thatcher, and later occasional emails. We stayed in touch better once I started blogging my married life up in Montana. Kliss would send me comments and emails about what we were doing and about how she’d like to know my kids. I regret that I didn’t make that happen.

One of the most important email conversations we had was when Kliss wrote to tell me she had decided to prepare to receive her own endowments. She told me that she hadn’t been very active in church for a while  (which is understandable given her health and her single adult status—sometimes it’s hard to find our place in a family centered culture), but she had realized the importance of keeping her baptismal covenants and wanted to ensure her eternal family relationships. She understood that family is everything. She treasured her relationships and she wanted them to last. I believe her relationship with the Savior was also strengthened as she bore her trials gracefully.

The prophet Joseph Smith said, “All men know that they must die. And it is important that we should understand the reasons and causes of our exposure to the vicissitudes of life and of death, and the designs and purposes of God in our coming into the world…and it is a subject we ought to study more than any other... If we have any claim on our Heavenly Father for anything, it is for knowledge on this important subject.” Joseph Smith was well acquainted with the grief of losing loved ones, and as the Plan of Salvation was revealed to him, he called the principles of death, the spirit world, and the resurrection “principles of consolation.”

And it is a great consolation to know who we are and why we are here and where we go after this life. We are children of a loving Heavenly Father who sent us here to become like Him. He provided a Savior for us so that we could return to our Heavenly home. As well as showing us how we should live and love one another, our savior Jesus Christ overcame death and sin through His atonement. These truths have been revealed to us through prophets, both living and in the scriptures. Prophets have described some wonderful things that await us in the spirit world.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “[Our deceased loved ones] are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pained therewith.” Joseph F. Smith said: “I believe we move and have our being in the presence of heavenly messengers and of heavenly beings. We are not separate from them. . . . We are closely related to our kindred, to our ancestors, to our friends and associates and co-laborers who have preceded us into the spirit world.” Spirits continue to be interested and intimately involved in the Lord’s work on both sides of the veil.

Alma 40:11–14 reads, “Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.… Then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.” It brings me peace to know that Kliss is experiencing this state of rest and reunion with the God who gave her life, as well as her earthly mother, grandmother, and siblings.

Orson Pratt said, “Do not forget to look forward to those joys ahead, if we do, we will become careless, dormant, and sluggish…but if we keep our minds upon the prize that lays ahead—upon the vast fields of knowledge to be poured out upon us, and the glories that are to be revealed, and the heavenly things in the future state, we shall be continually upon the alert; we are beings that are only to live here for a moment, as it were. Let these things sink down in our minds continually, and they will make us joyful, and careful to do unto our neighbors as we would they should do unto us. [I have touched upon these things] to stir up the pure minds of the Saints that we may prepare for the things that are not far ahead, and let all the actions of our lives have a bearing in relation to the future.”

As we remember Kliss and grieve her passing, let’s allow those feelings to remind us of the great things to come. I think that is what Joseph Smith had in mind when he encouraged us to study the plan of salvation and understand more about death. I think that’s what Kliss wants, as well.  If you’ve distanced yourself from God and your covenants, come back. If you have yet to know God and make these covenants, explore that possibility and experience the joy and peace that comes from making and keeping covenants with our Heavenly Father. Let our sadness turn into joy and hope as we consider the peace and rest that awaits each of us. I like to think of death as graduation. Kliss Ann lived with love and endured her trials with patience and humor. She passed the test and graduated early. I am grateful for her and for all that awaits us in the Great Plan of Happiness.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


                                              * right click to download any of these images*









Sunday, November 06, 2016

FAMILY LETTER 11.06.16

Dear Loved Ones,                                                    

Happy November! This past month seems to have crawled along for me, it seems years since I wrote last, but not much has happened up until last week. The weather has been incredibly mild and warm for us. Except for a few mild rain storms and the ridiculous wind, it has been calm with highs in the 60s and even a few days in the 70s. It feels like a real true autumn and it’s been lovely. Ammon has loved going to the park and to the playground for Niles’ recess.  He’s going to be so disappointed when winter sets in and it’s just him and mom hibernating! He especially loves watching the birds, ducks, and geese at Sacajawea Park. We went in the morning last week and the ducks saw him coming and gathered all around, though he had nothing to feed them. It was so cute, and the mallards looked amazing in the morning sun. Their heads shone like emeralds in the low sun, it was just gorgeous.

The older kids are all doing well in school and activities. We are really proud of them. It’s nice that Addie is so self-motivated to get up for seminary at 5:30am, since Rich and I never are! She’s been so responsible! Heidi, too, is learning to manage time and juggle the responsibilities of middle school and church, we’re very proud of them.  They both had choir concerts last week and they were SO good. It’s been awesome to watch the kids and their talents mature and progress the past five years or so. James is still working hard at trombone, though his first concert isn’t until Christmas time. Niles has expressed an interest in piano lessons and tee ball, so we made a deal: if he will focus and read with me (he hates to sit still), then he can do piano lessons—as soon as he learns to read on his own. He loves kindergarten and seems really happy.

The California Melins came to visit us on October 28th (Uncle Jess got to drive all day on his 44th birthday) and got here just in time to change into costumes and go to the ward Trunk or Treat. The night before, Addie had dressed up as a Newsie for her choir concert, but she wore the dress she made this summer and dressed up as Jane Bennett from Pride and Prejudice for the party. Heidi stayed home tired, James was a storm trooper, Niles was Kylo Ren, and Ammon was a monster. Saturday the kids and Rich went out to the ranch to press cider with cousins while I cleaned house and did some writing and editing, and that night the teenagers went to a party at The Johnson’s (TJay and Summer went, too). Heidi threw together a great Napoleon Dynamite costume. Monday  I made a huge bath of soup and rolls and pumpkin cookies. We took cookies to Niles for his Halloween party, then had the family over for dinner and trick or treating. Lots of friends and crazy teenagers were in and out, Grandpa and Grandma and Aunt Kelli stayed home with me and Ammon after an initial round of trick or treat, and my littlest monster crashed at 7pm! It was great fun, I love to see the kids enjoying and loving their cousins as much as I did mine.

Our holiday plans are beginning to take shape. We’ve been waiting to hear when “Uncle” Rhett Casper is getting remarried. The original goal was possibly November 12th, but that has been postponed so we won’t be in Utah next week. We will for sure stay home and enjoy a cozy Thanksgiving, though, and any/all loved ones are welcome to join us. We plan to spend Christmas in Arizona with Grandma Lyn in Sierra Vista. I am planning to drive down December 20-21st, Rich will fly down and join us December 23rd, and we will drive home the 29th-ish. I miss being able to take off for 2 weeks, but these kids have lives now and for some reason they want to spend New Year’s with their friends…punks!

I’ve been really off my game the month of October (changed meds, doing better!), so I apologize for the PLETHORA of birthdays we missed. We’re sure grateful y’all were born, though, and hope you had great celebrations. We are already enjoying this month of gratitude (my favorite holiday!) and hope you all enjoy it, too. Here’s a TG quote I love:

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend." -Melody Beattie

Much Love!

Rich and Jamie and Family

Spooky dinner and family night with The Johnsons

Daddy ate lunch with Niles on chili and cinnamon roll day

Daddy and Boys campout on October 21st

The Teachers came over and cleaned my windows and made my day!

James got a haircut on 10/25

Clara the unicorn and Addie the Newsie after their choir concert

Cowgirl Lexi, Ammon, Clark Kent TJay, Jane Bennett Addie, and
Star Feraldo Summer (Studio C) after Trunk or Treat 10/28

Pretty handmad elinen dress! 10/28

James in his school parade

Big Kids' Trick or Treat Squad 10/31

I didn't get any pix of the kids in their costumes on Halloween!
Here's Niles with his booty

James and Matthew trading candy 10.31

Simon 10.31

Cousin Pals trading candy 10.31

Heidi's Choir Concert 11.03--it was lovely!

Heidi's 7th Grade Choir Concert

Ammon walking in the park 11.04

GOOD LUCK OUT THERE, my fellow Americans!!!

Sunday, October 09, 2016

FAMILY LETTER 10.09.2016

Dear Loved Ones  ,                                                                                                     

We’ve enjoyed a fairly calm, warm, Indian Summer week this week.  We’ve been so lucky to have mild weather so our tomatoes could ripen (for once) and the fall colors could fully develop. This week reminded me of an old Dream Academy song, “Indian Summer”:
It was the time of year just after summer’s gone
When August and September become memories of songs
To be put up with the summer clothes and packed up in the attic for another year.
We had decided to stay on for a few weeks more
Although the season was over, the days were still warm
Seemed reluctant to give up and hand over to winter for another year.
Indian, Indian Summer…
In the distance the city lights flickered in the bay
Any previous existence seemed a world away…

So pretty. Fall is my favorite! I’ve been making soup like a crazy lady, so Wednesday  I invited my new-ish friend, Lisa Orback, over for “Crappy Lunch” (when you gather and visit with no expectations—yoga pants ponytails, PBJ=totally acceptable) and we ate left overs of Corn Chowder and Chicken Noodle soup. It was so nice to visit. She had to leave to pick up her grandma from the airport and I thought we are both so lucky to still have our Grams!

Monday we took some birthday cake and homemade salsa to Brother Jones for his birthday as a Family night activity. The downtown streets were just magical with blowing leaves as the sun set. Daddy got us Dairy Queen and it was a lovely night. Tuesday was a quiet night at home, so we decorated for Halloween. Wednesday was Scouts and Young Women. The girls met very early to go to Bozeman to a climbing gym and they had a blast. Thursday I took Heidi to an appointment in Bozeman and Rich had Scout Round table at the stake center, so Addie babysat at home and did a great job. Heidi and I made a quick stop at Target and she made me laugh so hard in the Halloween section.

Friday I went to Rexburg, ID and met up with my old friend, Lisa Reed to see the J. Kirk Richards art exhibit at BYU-I.  We met up at the hotel and talked for a while, then went to dinner and talked more, then back to the hotel until we giggled ourselves to sleep around 1am. It was so fun catching up. We got in touch online a year ago after not having seen each other since 1989. We were close friends in high school when she came to stay in my ward as a foster child when we were 15. She had a baby boy who was adopted at the end of our sophomore year, and she went back to Mesa to finish high school. We continued to visit each other until I went away to college and she moved to California. The last contact we had was right as I was leaving on my mission and she was married with a sweet baby girl named Bethany—1992!  Now Bethany is all grown up, married in the Mesa temple, with a little baby girl of her own.  Lisa has 4 more sons, and has been in touch with the son she had when we were friends—he’s turning 30 this year. We’ve had the best time reconnecting and have been surprised and grateful that even though we took different paths, life has taught us many of the same lessons and we have so very much in common. We had great taste in friends when we were 15! We had a great visit. Saturday I took her to meet Debbie and Kurt Holm, then we went to the art show, then lunch, then delivered Halloween treats to some of our friends’ kids who are attending BYU-I. That was SO FUN!

The art exhibit totally touched my heart and soul! The scriptures that Richards chose to illustrate were so poetic and full of imagery. I think in pictures, especially as I read scriptures, so it’s like someone was looking into my mind. The most touching painting depicted sentinels in white, with the caption:

“And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”  -2 Kings 6:16

This is one of those scriptures that imprinted on my young brain in seminary and truly shaped my life. Although God hasn’t opened my eyes (yet), He opened my mind and strengthened my faith regularly and I can pinpoint times when I know that the angels who stand as sentinels around me, most likely called down by the faith and prayers of my grandparents, quite obviously scooped me up and out of harm’s way. This scripture has been a comfort to me all of my life, and more so now that I am a mother, knowing I can call down the powers of heaven upon my children. Now I have a painting to remind me exactly who has my back ;)

On the way home Saturday night I had a migraine headache brewing and it was full-blown by Sunday morning, so today I had to sleep it off today. It has been a restful Sabbath, and I am so happy to be home with my sweet kids and my awesome husband who lets me feed my Spirit and nurture my friendships and supports me in my creative pursuits, even the ones he doesn’t love as much as I do (heh, heh). He’s the best.

We love our extended family and are mindful of you all. The Marlenas are especially on our mind this week as Mark deploys for six months. Elena is an amazing mother and will do great with the kids on her own, but we pray that their family with have an extra measure of comfort and protection and love and that Mark will also be protected and comforted and brought home safely to his family next spring (Elena, maybe I will send you a print of those angels who are watching over your family J). Thanks to Ally for the cute videos of Mairi and the Laytons…we miss you all so much! Come back and see us! Have a great week, we love you.


Love, Jamie and Rich and Family


Photo of Gram and Me 9/29, taken by Robyn

Gram and me 9/29

Auntie M and me. 9/29...thanks, Robyn!

Heidi the Horse at Target, 10/6

Crossing the Border, 10/7

Debbie showed us a secret room in her apartment complex, which they are using for a Harry Potter treasure hunt in the month of October...so fun!

JKR- Annunciation...the light and texture on this are incredible!

This one took my breath away. The contrast of the dirt and mud, they clay, the natural man--and that glorious, bright, angel...just, wow.


Here is my favorite.
They that be with us are more than they that be with them!






Lisa and me at the gallery

Reunited sisterfriends


My welcome home Saturday 10/8

Sunday, October 02, 2016

FAMILY LETTER 10.02.16

Dear Loved Ones, 
                                                    
This is literally the first moment I have had to BREATHE since school began! I am so glad to have the chance to sit down and record this marathon month! Rich and I were actually talking about how we have been RUNNING at a break-neck pace since his birthday (June 18th)—like a three-1/2 month marathon from his birthday to mine! But it was all mostly for good things and we have grown TONS from our experiences, so here’s to wearing out your life doing good things!

When I last wrote, the big kids had started school, but Niles didn’t start until the next day. He was so excited and we took the most adorable picture of his first day. He gets worn out each day from all-day kindergarten, but he doesn’t realize it—he just gets a little tantrum-ish, so I trick him into taking a nap a couple of times a week and he is surviving. The weekend after kindergarten began was Labor Day and we headed to Boise on 9/2 for Aunt Angie’s wedding and to celebrate Grandpa and Grandma Melin’s 50th anniversary (9/1/1966).

It was a beautiful weekend in Boise, so much fun with all the Melins (except Elena and kids, sadly) and cousin Cynthia Berry and her baby Emily. When we arrived, we checked in to our hotel, then met up with everybody for dinner at the Pizza Pie CafĂ©. Then we headed downtown to watch the hot air balloons light up at the Spirit of Boise festival. The next morning, all the fellas had a bit of a bachelor party at the Warhawk Museum. Grandpa Melin got to show his grandsons the helicopter he flew in Vietnam and where he flew it. Aunt Kelli and Grandma took the girls and little kids to the Discovery Center while Adeline and I ran to the mall to replace out-grown clothes for the boys for the wedding. Kelli, Gram, and I took the kids to get lunch at Whole Foods, then home to get ready for the wedding festivities. We headed to the wedding venue at 2:30ish and hung out for pictures for an hour or so. The ceremony began at 4 and it was just lovely. You could tell Angie had five years to think of every detail—it was just perfect! We ate good food, played with cousins, danced, visited, took lots of photos, and headed home around 7:30pm with a bunch of tired kids. Sunday we went to church and then had a fun anniversary party lunch at Angie’s house before she and Jex headed off to Kauai the next morning. The Melin kids had anniversary Tshirts made, as well as collecting photos and letters for a sweet memory book. Mom and Dad were delighted, and we loved that special time together as a family. We left the Hunsakers to pack and the rest of us had one last hurrah dinner at Cracker Barrel, then headed home on Monday. Monday was James’ 10th birthday and the poor kid spent it in the car. We tried to make it special, though, and I think he had a pretty awesome weekend with his cousins.

Speaking of James, he had planned to play trumpet in band this year, but they moved him to trombone. He started band on 9/7 and seems to be loving his trombone. The next Saturday, 9/10, Rich and the girls went on a youth trip to The Reef in Billings to celebrate the youth reaching their indexing goals in August. The boys and I cleaned the church for 4 hours. Daddy barely made it home in time for me to leave for Stake Conference and Rich to stay home and host house guests from Prague. Stake Conference was awesome, and we had a nice visit with our Zuzana and her new husband, Mira (Zuzi lived with us in 2007).

A cold front blew in on 9/11 and I spent the first cold fall-ish day at MSU interviewing the brilliant and entertaining Dr. Gary Strobel for Park and Life magazine. I could have listened to him for days. I can’t wait to take James to meet him—I think they are cut from the same cloth. On 9/15, we squeezed in a little after school birthday party for James. He and 8 friends had banana splits and played Legos and jumped on the trampoline for 2 hours. He deserved a better party, but he was satisfied, especially with his gift from us—the Origami Yoda boxed set of books.

On 9/17, our ward had a really cool activity: a Family Temple Day in Billings. The youth left at 4:30am to do baptisms (but we went to Billings the night before, so Rich just took our girls to the temple at 7am), then the ward met up for breakfast and family pictures in front of the temple from 9:30-10:30. Dad Melin came out and spoke to the Primary Children about the temple, and then we took the youth and the children to a church building to hang out while the adults attended the 11:30 endowment session. We picked up the kids and went to lunch at HuHot afterward. It was a really great day. The next day was ward conference and the choir did a lovely job singing all 5 verses of “Nearer, My God to Thee.” We had great messages from our stake leaders.

After church, Grandma Melin came over around 4pm to stay with the kids while Richard and I went to Great Falls for an insurance conference. I spent Monday writing while Rich went to meetings, then we went out to Borries for delicious steak dinners. We rested well and did the same things til noon on Tuesday, then headed home. We brought pizza home for dinner and enjoyed an evening with the kids before our house filled up with guests the next day. My mom and Mark and kids arrived Wednesday night to prepare for my brother Matthew’s wedding on 9/24.  On Thursday afternoon, Aunt Marti, Uncle Ralph, and Grandma Lyn Arrived from AZ. Later, Jill’s family arrived and stayed at a hotel, and Sam’s family arrived while we were sleeping and stayed in Ammon’s room.

Friday 9/23 we hung out and visited with family and got the church gym decorated for Matt’s reception. Matt and Ashley invited his siblings and spouses and the wedding party out to dinner Friday night while Mom and Aunt Marti babysat 7 grandkids.  It was so incredibly nice to be with some of my brothers and sisters, especially to have a night out with Jill and Drew just like old times (we were so busy thinking about wedding stuff, I failed to recognize in the moment what a miracle and a blessing it was to be together again when we had so nearly lost Jill; I had wished and prayed for such a moment many times…hallelujah!).

Saturday 9/24 was my 45th birthday, and Aunt Marti’s 62nd, and Abby’s 17th, and Matt’s wedding day!  I woke up early and put some people to work, then went with Adeline to Target to get some things she needed. We came home and family had begun to arrive for the blessing of our great-niece, Lily (my sister Laura’s granddaughter, nephew Gabriel’s daughter). Aunt Marti and Uncle Ralph provided and nice lunch of sandwiches and chips after the blessing, and then everyone started helping with the wedding preparations. After lots of confusion and worry, the ceremony was held at the ranch at 5pm. It had rained all weekend, but the sun came out for the ceremony. Matthew’s bishop from Helena came to perform a beautiful wedding with lots of great counsel for the couple and their blended family. After some celebrating, we loaded up the chairs and decorations and headed up to the reception at the church gym. It was decorated beautifully and Ashley's family made dinner and everything so nice. But the very best part was the dancing. It was such a blast to see my nieces and nephews—babies to young adults—dancing and lip synching and having a ball. I think the best moment was when “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” came on and there was multi-generational busting of moves. I really think what the world needs now is multi-generational dancing. It’s the key to world peace. My second favorite moment was the highly dramatic lip-synch performance of Bohemian Rhapsody by my daughters, their cousins, and my sisters. It was not to be forgotten. I hope the bride and groom had as much fun as we did!

Sunday 9/25 was the most perfect Sabbath day I have had in a long time. Sacrament meeting was great. Our high council speaker was excellent. Mayberrys, Gram, Uncle Matt Elrey, Mark and Marshall, Sam and Kristen and family all came to church. Laytons and Uncle Matt had to leave afterward, but Aunt Marti went to RS with me. We came home and had sandwiches and naps, then made a yummy lasagna dinner for our remaining guests—Mayberrys, Gram, and Drews.  At 6:30 pm, my friend Tammy and her daughter Amanda came over to watch the Women’s Broadcast with us (it had originally aired during the wedding). My mom wasn’t well, so she didn’t get up on Sunday, but Gram, Marti, my girls, Abby, me, Tammy, Amanda, and Sisters Eifert and Styer watched the broadcast together. Tammy recently lost her husband and I kept feeling prompted to invite her, that something might bring her comfort. Sister Reeves’ talk was made for her, I think, though we all loved every message! Upstairs the men folk got out some ice cream as a treat for us and we had a perfect ending to a perfect day.

Monday morning 9/25, my mom was a little better. She and her family left around 9 or so. Uncle Ralph had left at 4am to get back to work in AZ. So it was just Gram, Marti, me, and Ammon that day. We cleaned up and had a nice Family Night about For the Strength of the Youth Standards, this week was Language. I could tell the girls were feeling the Spirit by all the good ideas they were getting and how enthusiastic and motivated they became. I love when that happens.

On Tuesday 9/26, I needed to go to the post office and mail forgotten shoes to Helena, so we decided to make an adventure of it and Gram and Marti came. We did errands in town, then took a drive out to Clyde Park and took in all the colors of the Shields river valley. Aunt Marti was so excited because she had recently read some books set in the valley along the Crazy Mountains. After our drive, we had lunch at Fiesta en Jalisco and came home for naps. We had the sister missionaries to dinner that night and they shared a good message with us. Around dinner time Gram had noticed her leg swelling up. She had a hot spot on her calf. We kept debating about taking her to Urgent Care. I had to go to Emigrant to pick up Heidi, but Marti said they probably wouldn’t need to get help, so I left. About 20 minutes later, Rich called me from the emergency room. Uncle Ralph had said Grandma needed to go. So I brought Heidi home and switched places with Rich at the hospital. They tested Gram’s electrolytes and they were crazy low, so they admitted her. She couldn’t get her leg checked until the next day anyway. Marti and I got home around midnight and didn’t sleep until 2am.

We went Wednesday morning to check on Gram. I gave the Lexus to Marti to drive so she could do what Gram needed and I could take care of my family with the van. We figured she had a clot and wouldn’t be allowed to fly home, so I planned out conference weekend menu and went shopping, made dinner, and took naps with Ammon. Gram finally got her ultra sound at 4:40pm and there were no clots, so they cleared her to fly home. I was glad she was okay, but sad she wouldn’t be staying an extra week. Thursday we packed up and went to lunch and I dropped them off at the Bozeman airport for a long flight home. I had to turn around and run home to pick up Niles from school, then take all the kids to the Home coming parade between 4-5pm. It was a pretty cute parade—it gets better every year, especially now that we have a marching band. The first year I was here it was, like, a truck with a boom box and 3 four-wheelers with air horns and banners. Way to step it up, Rangers. It was a fun parade, but they lost their game. Bummer.

Friday there was no school, so we did chores and made food for conference weekend, and I took James to the dentist. It was nice to be “back to normal” with the kids, and conference was just what we needed to get our bearings after such a busy month.  I was committed to relaxing, and we totally did. The spirit was wonderful and I am so grateful for the messages given. I felt the theme of the conference was “Be of Good Cheer.”  There is so much wrong and evil in the world today, and it gets all the attention. But there is so much good we aren’t shown, so many “compensatory blessings” for living in the last days, I am glad to be a part of it all and to live in a time of restoration and living prophets. Every little thing’s gonna be alright!

Happy Birthday to Cousin Matthew Melin in the morning! Your card goes in the mail tomorrow, buddy. Happy Double Digits! Also, Happy Birthday to Uncle Sam Layton on Wednesday! We’re so glad you guys were born. Even though it was exhausting, we are glad to have seen almost all of our siblings and extended family this past month—what a whirlwind of fun! We miss you and pray for you all and hope you feel how loved you are!!!


Love, Jamie and Rich and Family

Niles 8/29


Heading to Boise 9/2

Fascinated by the hotel fish pond 9/2

swimming with Uncle Mark 9/2

Spirit of Boise Fest 9/2

Our gang watching the balloons

All the fellas at the Warhawk Museum 9/3

Cousins Danny and TJay, Grandpa and James with Grandpa's helicopter


Learning about Vietnam

Jamie and James at Angie's Wedding 9/3

SEESTERS! 9/3

Silly Family 9/3

Cousin Pals Simon and Niles 9/3

The Hunsaker Family

The Melin Kids

The Melin Family

Selfies on Baby Sister's Wedding Day!

AUNT JUDY!

Catching the bride AND the bouquet.

More Cousin Pals havin' some root beer, waiting for a GREAT burger

HAPPY 50TH ANNIVERSARY!

Back in 1966...

Reading the Anniversary Memory book with mom and dad at Angie's house 9/4

We all went to look at the Meridian Temple 9/4

We stopped in Twin Falls on the way home 9/5

That's one deep canyon!

Friday night lights are back...go, Rangers!

Dinner at Gil's Goods with Mira and Zuzu from Prague, 9/10

Best friends, Clara and Addie 9/10

9/11, early morning good byes with Mira and Zuzu

The Donald wishes Mira and Zuzu and wonderful trip!

Dr. Strobel's books

Dr, Strobel posing for Robyn  9/12

James and his birthday banana split, 9/15

Legos and Ice Cream with friends and sibs--awesome! 9/15

Billings Temple flowers, 9/17

Temple friends- Clara and Addie 9/17

Temple friends, Heidi and Jeanette 9/17

Ammon and Heidi at the temple 9/17

Grandpa Melin teaching the Primary kids about the temple 9/17

Cousins hanging out at Chadz 9/23

My silly brothers 9/23

Jamie and Jill 9/23

4 (out of 19) of my sibs and spouses enjoying dinner 9/23
I loved this night.
(It looks like Ben is sitting in for Kristen as Sam's date ;))

Beautiful Baby Lilith was blessed 9/24

This picture only shows 22 of the 39 people in my house on 9/24

Emily, Owen, and Gavin at the wedding 9/24

Biggest cousins holding littlest cousins:
Ally with Seeley Drews and Addie with Mairi Layton

Boy cousins "helping" load chairs

Triumphant bride and groom!

Addie and Ally 9/24

Putting on lipstick and attacking everyone with kisses
Addie, Isabelle, Liam and Ally

Addie, Isabelle, and Liam
(and Mairi's arm)

Elreys with Matt and Ashley 9/24
only missing Uncle Sam!

Cutest first dance ever 9/24

Me and my Gram, 9/29

Kindergarten Homecoming Float 9/29

Niles and a friend after the parade 9/29

The end of Main Street after the parade

Learning to ride bikes between conference sessions 10/1

Niles just took off on Rich's old bike! 10/1

Taking a cruise after conference on Sunday 10/2
The boys wanted to show me a dead snake they found ;)

The family that rides together stays together, right? 10/2