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