Sunday, April 13, 2014

FAMILY LETTER 04.13.14

Dear Loved Ones,        

I’m feeling pretty proud of how this week went—starting a garden, hosting dinner, attending Relief Society meeting, throwing a birthday party, surviving 26 hours without Rich, leading choir and teaching Primary-- especially the part where I spent Friday evening and night having contractions yet I did not (a) freak out (b)run to Labor & Delivery triage (c) have a premature baby. More about that later.

Monday was a little cold and rainy in the morning, but Niles and I went ahead and planted seeds for our garden. Niles was ADORABLE putting the seeds in the starter tray and gently covering them up, saying, “Night-night, seeds!” or “Come out and see the sun soon!” (He’s been watching a lot of Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger where they are doing springy things like planting seeds). We had a nap after lunch and woke up to a sunny afternoon. We had Family Night from the Friend magazine and talked about being good neighbors, being forgiving, and the idea of “kill them with kindness.” I posted this on facebook: “Pregnancy Factoid: As I'm running my bath early tonight due to ridiculous hip and pelvis pain, I noticed I have used up almost 36 pounds of Epsom salts soaking almost nightly this pregnancy. I use those generic 6lb bags from the drug store. But I also love Dr. Teal’s Lavender Epsom salts.” And if you count the Dr. Teal’s that’s another 15 lbs of salt. I should start taking buckets of bath water out to the garden.

Tuesday we played with Maren and made a big Hawaiian dinner for the missionaries. Rich had a meeting in Bozeman and got home late, so we rushed dinner between 6:15 and 6:50 when Addie and I had to leave for Relief Society meeting. We made Kahlua pork that turned out great with a little Soy Vey teriyaki added to the shred, plus jasmine rice cooked in coconut milk, fresh veggies and fruits, potato salad (leftover from Sunday), and of course, panipopo and juice. The elders loved it. I took Addie up to the church to help with the nursery while I went to a “Price is Right—Food Storage edition” game show night. It was just like the TV show, but contestants had to price out food storage items and/or guess their shelf life or best storage method or how much we should store per person per year. It was pretty fun.

Wednesday we watched Maren again and sent Daddy off to scouts and Addie off to a Personal Progress night at Young Women. The other kids and I watched an episode of Nature about animal prosthetics, where a vet gave a wild swan a new beak so it could preen and fish better.

Thursday was a busy day getting ready for Heidi’s birthday party. We had to shuffle it around the calendar because of Spring Break, and then we had to shave off a half hour (4:30-6 rather than 6:30) from what we put on the invitations because the kids had their “Arts in April” art show from 6-7 that night. But it worked out perfectly. Eight friends came over after school and Addie helped me organize them into teams for a few “Minute to Win It” games (Cookie Face, Skittle Sorting, and Sticky Nose-moving cotton balls from one bowl to another using your vaselined-nose). Then we ate a taco/salad dinner and had cupcakes and ice cream and presents, then headed over to the school to see the art projects. Most of the party attendants had stuff in the show, so that was fun. I discovered a great fast/non-messy way to do cake and ice cream, too. Albertsons had single-serve ice cream cups (called “Birthday Cake” flavor with confetti candies in it) on sale, a bag of 8 cups for $1.19. I bought three bags, then made cupcakes, so I could just hand the girls their cups and cakes—SO EASY and cheap. I hope I can find a deal like that every birthday! Heidi signed up for a recycled architecture art class during art week last week. At the art show, her class created a street with their architecture projects lining the street. You could walk down and admire all their buildings made from found objects. They had imaginary clients (they made them up) who came to them and asked for certain things. Heidi had Morgan Freeman come and ask her to design a French Sushi restaurant. Wrap your brain around that. The result was an awesome Eiffel tower shaped building with a huge pool of fish where they catch your dinner for ya, fresh! She’s somethin’ else.

Thursday was somewhat of a recovery day. I washed and dried all the laundry but didn’t fold it til Friday night. I took a good walk and a nap with Niles, and also had a good soak and finished watching the conference talks that I missed (I love having the iPad to stream shows while I soak in the tub—to me, it’s the ultimate luxury). I braced myself for Friday-Saturday when Rich would be gone to Scout Training camp.

Friday Niles and I went to Costco in the morning to buy what we hope is his last box of diapers, as well as one for the baby. We also got some training pants for him to lounge in next week. I read some tips from a pediatrician who says training pants are her secret potty training weapon, so we will give those a try. Pray for us! ;) All that walking around at Costco I thought would be good for my sore hips, but it actually made me start contracting. I laid down with Niles around 2pm and they never stopped til I fell asleep around midnight. They were only about 10-15 minutes apart and not painful, but by the end of the night all the pressure made it so I could hardly walk and was running to the bathroom every 20 minutes. I was a little scared the first 2 hours, but when they didn’t get worse, I just told Rich to go on his training trip and I would survive. And I did.

Saturday morning was glorious and the kids were so excited about the first day of Spring Break. I saw on the news that it was going to rain and get cold in the afternoon, so I told them we would do our fun outdoor things in the morning. Addie popped two huge bags of popcorn in the air popper and we went to feed the ducks and take a walk at Sacajawea Park. I ended up driving the car and following the kids to the lagoon since I was not in the best walking shape from the previous night. We had a good time, came home for lunch, and as we finished up, it started to rain. I told the kids they could play Xbox while Niles and I took a nap and that worked out perfectly. Later we made dinner and Rich got home around 6:30 to finish up with us and we settled in and got ready for Sunday. I was so glad to see him!!!

Sunday morning we had choir practice, then Fast & Testimony meeting, then Rich & I subbed Heidi’s primary class and talked about Jacob and Esau. I gave them this quote: “Your most important friendships should be with your own brothers and sisters and with your father and mother. Love your family. Be loyal to them. Have a genuine concern for your brothers and sisters. Help carry their load.” –Ezra Taft Benson, 1986. I love that quote and believe it. Except for a handful of friends who are like family, no one is ever as close or significant as family and those relationships deserve maintenance and devotion.

So here we are! Birthdays galore this week—Heidi, Sariah, Kaylee—and EASTER! We are celebrating Holy Week with an 8 Day Walk with Christ. Message me if you want the Word Document and you can join us. We love you all and are so grateful for Our Savior and His atonement which gives us the gift of repentance, forgiveness, forever families, and resurrection. The hope and glory of it is “wonderful to me.” Have a great week!

Love, Rich and Jamie and Family

Heidi's Birthday Party 04.10-sorting skittles


Happy Birthday, Lynners!


Niles and James at the lagoon

James and swans

James and Niles

Addie feeding swans

Heidi and James

Heidi feeding ducks Saturday 04.12

Niles and James got haircuts 04.12

Sad Spring Break Forecast

How our seeds have grown in 6 days!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

FAMILY LETTER 04.06.14

Dear Loved Ones,

Well, last week was one of our busiest in quite a while. We survived, and we’re ready for another busy week—tis the season! I already wrote about last Monday with the letters to Grandparents and the watching “The Other Side of Heaven” for FHE. That was a nice recovery day and FHE.

Tuesday Niles had an ENT checkup early in the morning. His ear tubes are mostly out—the right one is gone and the left one is almost out. He hasn’t had any infections this cold season, so we are very grateful we chose to do the surgery last year. While we were in Bozeman, we did some heavy duty grocery shopping. I haven’t really done that in a long time—no menus or planning because I got used to feeling too yucky to cook and Rich coming up with something on the fly. So we got that done, as well as some Easter and birthday shopping, then home to recuperate!

Wednesday was a day at home getting stuff ready for conference weekend, Heidi’s birthday party, and Easter. We had to change Heidi’s party from Saturday the 12th to Thursday the 10th because everyone (except us) is leaving town on Friday for Spring Break. This also totally messed up my plans for Easter music on Easter Sunday since half the choir and the Primary kids will be gone then, too. So I re-made Heidi’s invitations for Thursday the 10th, HOLY COW, it’s a busy season! That night was Scouts, Activity Days and Young Women. Heidi’s group updated their memory binders and made conference packets while the YW did an Individual Worth photo booth. Looks like they had a ton of fun.

Thursday Rich had to go to Helena to take pictures of some businesses, so he set up a lunch date with Mike and they had a good time. We was able to drop off all the birthday gifts for Matt’s family that got snowed in at my house the past month, and it was Amie’s birthday Thursday— perfect timing! Meanwhile at home, I had Maren for an extra day and it was beautiful outside, so I took the kids out for a while. Our sod is greening up—I suppose on advantage to a crazy wet winter is that we didn’t lose that investment. I also finished up the kids’ conference activity books and little prize basket. It’s nice that they are old enough to listen to at least half of it and be quiet the other half. Rich was gone til 9:30 pm Thursday night because he went straight from Helena to his Stake meetings in Bozeman, but it was a nice quiet night with the kids (except the part where I thought they were all tucked in and I got in the bath tub and when Rich got home Niles, Ad, and James were goofing around in my bed!).

Friday morning Niles played with Kenny again, then we went to a prenatal checkup. Here’s my facebook report: I'm 33 weeks today, measuring right on, I've gained 8 pounds but it feels like 50 cuz I've lost so much muscle laying around. My A1c level was 5.4 which means Glyburide is working, and my Bp was 129/80...which is pretty low for me at this point in pregnancy, so yippeeee. Totally boring...no news is good news in the prenatal world;) –So there you have it. Didn’t miss much by skipping 2 appointments! We picked up Addie for lunch after my appointment and let her have a half day since it was 6th grade ski day and she missed the sign ups and there were only 6 kids at school. We stopped by the Shane Center to get tickets for Friday Night’s Les Mis performance and were sad to learn the whole closing weekend was sold out with a long waiting list. Boo! I learned my lesson! So we didn’t get to see Les Mis Friday night, but it’s just as well since the Spring Carnival wore us out. I took a little nap at 2, then went to Winans to pick up our Butter Braid order and James, then came home and got some treats ready for the Carnival snack shack, then went and worked at the Snack Shack from 5-6:30pm. From 6:30- 7:30 I helped Rich wrangle the kids. Trying to help Niles understand the concept of waiting in line for a turn on the jumping castles and slides was quite the adventure. It was nice to see so many youth there doing community service. One boy helping me in the Snack Shack was only in 8th grade—he didn’t get any “credit” for community service, but he just wanted to help out his little 2nd grade brother. I love nice teenagers. We saw a silly moose on the way home from carnival…nice ending to a crazy day.

Saturday we were SO EXCITED for conference. The kids got up early and set up the craft table downstairs with coloring stuff, bingo markers, scissors, glue sticks, and their conference books, then played games until the broadcast started at 10am. Our basement family room is the ideal conference watching venue, we really enjoyed it! We were shocked that Elder Holland got to speak first--we are used to having him WAKE US UP on Sundays, lol—loved his powerful (as usual) testimony, and his topic seemed to be one of the themes of the conference, to stand firm and defend truth in these crazy days. We had yummy taco salad for lunch, and then Addie and I made treats for dinner and dessert during the first half of second session. Rich framed up the shed walls and dug some fence post holes—FINALLY, after waiting a month for a sunny Saturday! Uncle Mike came by and ate dinner with us, and that was so fun! We had some friends over for a girls’ night during priesthood meeting—girls plus Uncle Mike ;) We had a good visit, the girls played Just Dance, and we had dessert after priesthood meeting.

Sunday was another beautiful spring day. We settled in and watched morning session, then had left over salad and sandwiches for lunch. I lay by Niles thinking I would get him to sleep and have a quiet afternoon session, but I ended up sleeping until 4! I got up and took a walk with the boys to help my hips feel better. We had a nice quiet evening and I folded clothes and watched the conference talks I missed after the kids went to bed (which is why I am writing our letter on Monday). I loved the general gentle, patient, but strong tone of all the messages, especially Elder Uchtdorf’s and Elder Anderson’s, and I wanted to hug Elder Oaks after his priesthood message—strong, kind, doctrinal, straight up! I was touched by Elder Walker’s simple and direct message about family history. It made me excited to finish our “ancestor wall” in the living room and tell more stories to the kids. I would really like to share Grandma Moore’s conversion story with them—I think that’s the one branch of the family’s conversion stories they don’t know. This quote might end up on that wall, too: "The more connected we feel to our RIGHTEOUS FOREFATHERS, the more likely we are to make wise and righteous choices." --Elder William R. Walker.

ANYWAY…life is good, we are refreshed and ready to face the next six months, come what may and love it. Baby will be here within six weeks—Nana Drews plans to be here for the birth and Great Grandma Lyn will come to stay the first 2 weeks of June, then we will head east and retrace some Pioneer trails and see Grandpa and Grandma Melin. It’s hard to believe it’s time to do all this stuff already, but we are so looking forward to an exciting next three months!

We love you all so much! We hope all is well with all your families.

Love Rich and Jamie and Family
 Art in the Living Room FINALLY
 
YW 04.02.14

Ready for General Conference!

Refreshments

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

FAMILY LETTER 03.31.14

Dear Loved Ones

I’m so behind, this month feels like a hurricane, and April is even busier! Time’s flying! I have been sick the past two days—like all day morning sickness again—but I am feeling much better tonight. Let’s hope for a barf-free week from now on. Here’s a sketchy review of the past week.

Monday we had a great steak dinner for family night followed by a nice lesson prepared by Heidi from the April Ensign about finding lasting happiness. We followed up with yummy ice cream for dessert.

Tuesday Heidi and Dad enjoyed another ski day at Bridger Bowl. It was warmer and sunnier and they had a great time. Niles had a playdate with Kenny Howell in the morning and they played trains almost the whole time!

Wednesday night we had a delicious stir fry dinner that took only 13 minutes to make (not counting the jasmine rice in coconut milk in the cooker, which took 40 minutes). It was epic. Rich went to Scouts early to plan their big Camporee at the ranch this weekend. Addie went to a combined YM-YW Activity, which was practicing their jitterbugging (planned by the Teachers’ quorum—I was surprised the boys wanted to dance again!). I stayed home with the other kids and watched “Cosmos.” The boys fell asleep, so I took a nice magnesium bath and slept well, too.

Thursday I didn’t babysit Maren, so I decided to finally take my road test and get my real driver’s license (I’ve had a permit since last week’s debacle, lol). I made a 1pm appointment, by which time there was seriously a white-out blizzard blowing through town. I left Niles at the office with Rich and drove over to the MVD. The storm let up by the time I did my test and I passed with flying colors (I’m so glad he had me do an easy parallel park). So Mama is street legal once again. The day actually turned out nice, it was sunny and nearly dry when the kids came home. They played basketball out front (thanks for the equipment, Jellis! We love it!) with Niles. I, of course, watched NCAA basketball.

Friday Rich headed out early to set up camp at the ranch for our scout troop. The scouts had worked hard planning meals and activities, and Chad Mickelson planned lots of merit badge and skill tests for Saturday. Sounds like it was a huge success. Bren Lowe is a new scout leader and he brought his 8yo son, Kinnick, to the camp out so Rich called me and had me bring James out to camp with Kinnick. They had a blast. At home, the girls played games and watched a movie, during which Addie made the cutest sock bunnies out of knee socks. They turned out so cute, I let her buy a few more pairs of socks at Shopko to make more. I was riveted to the basketball games this weekend—every single one was so exciting! I have one team left in the tournament (Florida)—I lost six from my brackets this weekend, but they were good fights, one or two point losses. SO FUN!

Saturday morning we did chores, then I left the girls home to watch Niles and went to Melinda Lowe’s baby shower at Naomi Johnson’s house. She is expecting twin girls mid-May. It was a nice brunch, followed by a diaper shower, but she got tons of cute gifts besides a lot of diapers. Instead of regular shower games, we played some get to know you games, which was nice because she is new to our area. We lingered there for 3 whole hours, it was fun and it flew by. I hurried home and Rich was still not back from camp. The girls had done such a nice job cleaning up and entertaining Niles. Later that afternoon, we let some balloons go in honor of Papa Bill’s 89th Birthday, then the girls and I went out to dinner and watched the Women’s Broadcast with The Speas girls (mom Bonnie and YW daughters Haylee and Lexi). We loved being together for the broadcast, and we stayed and visited for a while and watched Arizona lose their game against Wisconsin. Painful, but fun to be with new friends.

Sunday was our 5th Sunday and Fast Sunday. Testimony meeting was so nice. One testimony that was especially touching came from Melissa (I don’t remember her last name) Sister Evans’ daughter. She has returned to church after a few decades of inactivity, and she thanked her visiting teacher (Sis. Cotant, who was the best VT I ever had, too) and home teacher (Bro. Rang) for encouraging her to return, even when she felt it had been way too long and she had made too many mistakes. It reminded me of Elder Holland’s talk about the Vineyard, and how it’s never too late to show up—you will still receive the full reward. Really beautiful, gave me lots of hope, and reminded me of the power of HT and VT and doing what Christ asked us to do: feed my sheep.

I got sick during church and didn’t feel better until Monday night. Something is shifting in my gut—perhaps a baby dropping—but I had heartburn and a backache that grew into a headache, then morning sickness all day Monday. Boo hoo. So I am a little late in getting this letter out. For FHE tonight (3/31), the kids wrote letters to Grandpa and Grandma, so look for those. We also watched “The Other Side of Heaven”—inspired by the beautiful stories coming from our friends, The Lewises, finishing up their senior mission in New Zealand. They told us that the congregation sang “How Great Thou Art” in Maori for them on Sunday…gives me chills just thinking about it!

Mom and Dad Melin, we are so grateful that dad is getting such good care from the VA there! We were glad to read your letter and hope that dad’s mole removal takes care of any and all cancerous cells. We wish Cousin Samantha and Aunt Amie and Great Uncle Matt happy birthdays this week. We love and miss you all.

Love, Rich, Jamie and Family

Mint Chocolate Chip Cones for FHE treats 03.24
Heidi and her friend Alison skiing Sunnyside 03.25.

Alison and Heidi

Heidi and Dad at Bridger Bowl



Niles and Maren 03.26



Niles after letting his balloon go 03.29.


James and Niles watching for the girls to get home from the bus 03.31.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

FAMILY LETTER 03.23.14

Dear Loved Ones,

I can’t get over how fast this month is flying and time in general. I find it surprising because usually when you are waiting for something (like a baby) and feeling not-so-awesome, time drags. I suppose I should just count it as a tender mercy and be glad that in 7-8 weeks, this pregnancy will be behind us! I am just sorry for all the things I keep forgetting or that sneak up on me! My poor kids!

So, the week in review… Monday was St. Paddy’s and all I did to help celebrate was give the kids pins and necklaces to wear to school. It’s all I could muster. Rich and Heidi went on the 4th grade ski trip to Bridger Bowl (not Big Sky like I said last week) and they had a great time. The weather turned grey and snowy on them, and Heidi got off to a rough start, but by the end of the day she was feeling so proud of herself and her progress. They get to go again on Tuesday to make sure all the skills have sunk in. I did take the kids to get Shamrock shakes after school, but then we had Thai Peanut Stir Fry for dinner and postponed family night until Tuesday so we could have a “Frozen” party.

On Tuesday, I was still a little under the weather and I was happy that Niles had a playdate with Kenny. Maren came and fell right asleep for her morning nap and I was happy to join her! It was a beautiful day, so the kids and I actually sat out back in the sun for a little while, it felt wonderful! That night we had a “Frozen” party—our Blu-Ray copy of the movie came in the mail so we made some cookies after school, ate a quick dinner, and headed downstairs to watch the movie for our Family Night. I hadn’t seen it before, I thought it was a cute story, especially that the true love was sibling love, and all the Scandinavian cultural references.

Wednesday we continued with some of our spring cleaning projects. We got our some Easter/Spring decorations and while Maren napped, Niles and I made some tissue poof balls in bright colors to hang around the great room. We figured we’d be ready to welcome spring on Thursday whether it showed up or not. After school we invited all the Denniston kids over to watch “Frozen” AGAIN, and they had a pasta dinner with us. That night we had to take everybody up to the church again so I could go to a meeting with Addie about Girls’ Camp and Rich could do scouts. Niles missed his nap and crashed about 5 minutes after we came home at 8pm.

Thursday morning I decided to be really brave and finally go renew my expired Driver’s License. I arranged for Niles to have a play date with Porter Tyner and headed over to the MVD. I will copy and paste the tale of my adventure as posted on facebook…suffice it to say, I still do not have a DL. Thursday was the first round of MARCH MADNESS, so I did a mountain of laundry and watched basketball for four hours by the fire. It was one of the most fun evenings I’ve had in a while (that sounds really sad, now that I type it, but it’s true).

So let me tell you a story called Me and My Expired License:
On Thursday I gathered all my documents and headed to the MVD with my shamefully expired drivers license. Our MVD office is run by ONE PERSON so when I got there at 10:30am, there were 3 people sitting in the hallway outside of the office because the ONE PERSON had to take someone out on a road test. Thirty minutes and three customers later, I was at his desk where he looked over all my stuff and said, "Okay, you've got everything, but I have three people testing today so you'll have to come back another day. Wanna make an appointment?" [ummm, yes, I have been calling since September trying to make an appointment, thanks for asking!] So I made an appointment for 8am Friday.....
I got up all early Friday so I would look awake and alert in my DL photo and went to take my tests. One person had already beat me to the desk, and once he was done, I sat down, paid my fee, had my new pic taken, then took the stupid written test. Then we got ready for the road test. The ONE PERSON at the desk went to print out my test form and he got a notice from the Social Security Administration that said the name on my DL AND Passport doesn't match the name on my SS Card so I have to get a new SS card before I can get a license. [I never changed my card from my maiden name because I spent about a month of lunch hours in the SS office in Utah County after we got married and never got my number called, so I gave up. Meanwhile, I have had 3 different drivers licenses AND a passport issued to me in my married name since then with no problem]. I just start laughing because it's such a FREAKING JOKE. He prints out an SSA info page and makes ANOTHER appt for me to come for my road test Monday afternoon....
So I pick up Niles from Rich's office (it's 8:45 am) and pick up our marriage certificate and drive TO BOZEMAN to the SS office. I take a number and sit in the lobby from 10:03 til 11:27am with a hungry almost-three-year-old. They finally call my number, I go to the window and say, I need to do a name change and get a new card. I hand them my expired DL, my passport, and my marriage certificate. They type something up for about a minute, scan my marriage certificate, and hand me a paper that says my new card is on the way--LESS THAN THREE MINUTES--and we are out the door. We didn't want to waste a trip to BOZO so we got gas at Costco and shopped at Walmart. When I got in the car to drive home I heard on the news that Mercer beat Duke...frickity frick, I would have loved to watch that game.
I'm telling you, if the government ever has anything to do with my healthcare, I will DIE FIRST. I would rather die at home in my bed than in a lobby waiting to process the bureaucracy. Inefficiency at its finest! Now for some basketball!!!!!

Friday was the continuation of the License Saga, which really wiped me out. I took a nap, made dinner, then snuggled my Family and watched basketball all night. Saturday we continued our spring projects. It was too wet and cold AGAIN for fence-building, but Rich continued prepping the garage fro another project while I continued organizing in the house.

Saturday morning was the great rotation of Niles’ wardrobe—I cleaned out all his drawers of what is too small or unseasonal, packed it away for the baby’s “grow-into” box, then brought in the 3T-4T Grow-Into boxes (full of clothes handed down from James and Jason Strupp). Turns out we had SIX size 4T white church shirts, so we are sending some to Cousin Cooper! Heidi went to a birthday party in the afternoon, James had a play date with Curtis Denniston, and so Rich and I took a nap with Niles while it was quiet. Later we had a make-your-own-pizza dinner with the missionaries. Turns out our ward Elders were on “exchanges” and Elder Brock’s older brother got permission to visit and be his companion this weekend. It was fun to see two brothers working together, a special experience for Elder Brock for sure. We had a really fun visit with them.

I’ve had a terrible time sleeping the past week, and it really caught up with me Saturday night. I was just too achy and tired for church today and was sad to miss high council Sunday. We had a quiet afternoon, then a yummy dinner and some more basketball by the fire. This has been a crazy exciting tournament so far with so many upsets! My North Carolina teams are out, but Arizona is playing as I type and I think they are headed to the sweet 16 next week.

I’m a little foggy and can’t think of anything interesting or insightful to say. We are just grateful for a happy, peaceful life, grateful for the blessings our loved ones have received, as well. We love you all and wish you another great week!

Love, Jamie and Rich and Family
Heidi and Rich at Bridger Bowl 03.17




My cutie Heidi eating lunch at Bridger Bowl


Heidi hanging out in her "Elsa Cape" Sunday Night

Addie hangin' by the fire Sunday night
 

Addie, Heidi, Elders Brock, and James after dinner Saturday night.

I saw this on facebook and it made me laugh...luckily Rich provides me with these luxuries regularly, except the No Audience...I think the kids see me sit down and it means I am THEIR captive audience...I haven't had a peaceful bathroom break in a decade!
 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

FAMILY LETTER 03.16.14

Dear Loved Ones,   

Spring is creeping in here, but we got a load of snow on Tuesday just to remind us that it’s still winter. Today was overcast and windy (of course) but warm enough to wear slides to church. Rich was so bummed about the snow because he was looking forward to starting our little woodshed and that third side of our fence to enclose our yard. This has moved to the top of our to-do list as our neighbor kids still treat our yard like a boulevard and we find them playing on our grass or peering in our windows quite often since the weather has improved (sigh—we thought moving would change our neighbor situation, but alas).

Last Monday we had a nice back-to-the-grindstone day. I am only babysitting Maren on Tuesdays and Wednesdays now because her mom is telecommuting the rest of the week. So Niles and I did some cleaning up and played some games. We watched “Ephraim’s Rescue” for family night. We really liked it and we pondered how we can listen for Heavenly Father’s direction so we can always be ready to be his hands. It was a great message for Preparedness month.

Tuesday began a spring cleaning project of organizing the linen closet and the guest room closet. Those two areas have kind of served as catch-alls as we’ve unpacked, so I tackled the linen closet Tuesday. The bottom shelf is the kids’ craft stuff, so I went through and trashed all the dead markers and glue sticks and mostly-full coloring books. Taking a cue from Jess and Kelli, I threw out all the crayons I could find then replaced everything with WASHABLE version. The kids were so excited when they got home, they all painted pictures. We had a great Hawaiian dinner of Kahlua pork, veggies, and pani-popo for dessert.

Wednesday night Rich had scouts and Addie had Young Women. Addie’s class planned a Mormon Message-style ad that they are going to film next week. James, Niles, and Heidi stayed home with me and instead of watching Nature and Nova, we watched the first episode of Cosmos with Neil DeGrasse Tyson. It was beautiful. We look forward to watching the series on Hulu.

Thursday was a busy day. Niles and I made a Hummingbird Cake with our brown bananas that morning (I’m including the recipe cuz it was great!). Heidi’s school had a literacy night at the same time as the middle school spring concerts. Addie sang in the sixth grade choir and they did some pretty complex arrangements. It’s cool to see how much they have learned and progressed over the school year—the fall concert was all in unison. We got another tour of Heidi’s class room and her art work then went to the gym for a book walk, pizza, and Dr. Seuss pictures. We came home and I bathed the boys while Rich went on a walk with the girls to the Beaver Pond. As much as I loathe daylight savings come summer, it sure is nice to have a little post-dinner sunshine in the spring.

Friday morning Niles and I went to play at Sacajawea Park where he chased ducks and played on the playground. It was still cold, but sunny and nice to be outside. We came home and painted a big picture for Grandpa and Grandma Melin. We had clean-out-the-fridge left over night, then all the kids watched the “Free Bird” movie and Rich got them ice cream (I took a nice hot soak during the movie, and no ice cream for me!). It was nice to have all the big kids home together and getting along so well.

Saturday we did our regular chores and Rich got the garage prepared for fence- and shed-building over the next few weeks. After lunch, Rich took the big kids to see “Peabody and Sherman” while Niles and I napped. Saturday night was a huge milestone as we left all four kids home with Addie while we went on a dinner date. We had an Olive Garden gift card from the Westenskows, so we went over to Bozeman and enjoyed a really delicious dinner. We were happy to come home to a clean, quiet house. Niles was asleep, so we watched “Catching Fire” with the big kids and hit the hay around 10pm. Hooray for built-in babysitters!

Church today was nice, continuing the Preparedness theme in sacrament. Rich and I substituted in James’ class and it actually went really well. I can’t believe how big those kids are getting! Seven of them will be baptized this year, starting with Curt Denniston last month and Madysen Gonzales who turned 8 yesterday (poor James is second-to-last in September). We’ve enjoyed a quiet day—Rich and Heidi are getting ready for the fourth grade ski trip at Big Sky tomorrow. It’s supposed to be warm, so I think it will be a good day for them. I am glad Rich can go with the kids—they make great memories.

We wish you all a great week and HAPPY ST. PADDY'S AND BIRTHDAYS this week to Uncle Mark and Lexi-Lou Melin!

Love, Rich, Jamie, and Family

*********

HUMMINGBIRD CAKE
Ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 eggs- lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup oil
¾ cup applesauce [or delete applesauce and use 1.5 cups oil]
1 -8 ounce can crushed pineapple -do not drain
2 cups bananas, mashed or about 3 – 4 large bananas
1 cup pecans or walnuts chopped

Instructions
Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon. Mix together with whisk.
Add eggs, vanilla extract, oil, pineapple, bananas and nuts and mix until all ingredients are moistened
Spray 3 (9 inch) round cake pans or one 9 x 13 inch pan.
Cook in preheated 350 degree oven 30 to 35 minutes until cake is done in center.
Cool then Frost with cream cheese frosting or any favorite frosting you may have
(I used coconut flavored buttercream and sprinkled toasted coconut on top).
 
 
Niles chasing ducks at the park on Friday

 
Sliding at the park on Friday
 
 
On Wednesday, Rich encountered a Montana Traffic Jam near Gardiner

 
 
Niles tasting frosting on Thursday morning
 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Weakness, Strength, and Grace: Some Things I’ve Learned Lately


Last summer as we were getting ready to move, I was reading the September Ensign and began to read an article by Brad Wilcox about the Atonement. He told of meeting with a BYU student who had questions about the atonement. As I read his response, I remember getting angry and putting the magazine down. His response to his student was exactly the testimony I have now, but it wasn’t what I was taught growing up in the church or in my family. I was angry because I had to work so hard to gain the testimony and understanding I have now, and I hate thinking about how my previous understanding made so many things in life harder.

I first noticed this discrepancy when Elizabeth Smart spoke last Spring (2013) about how she was so paralyzed by fear and self-loathing during her kidnapping because of what she had been taught in Young Women about virtue and worth. It’s the same message I, and many girls my age received. It may not have been the intended message, but it’s what we heard and internalized.

I think the whole issue is best illustrated by an old Young Women’s object lesson. I have heard of many versions of this, but the one I remember was with a rose. A beautiful budding rose is passed around the room. Everyone is encouraged to touch it and smell it and enjoy it. By the time 10 or 15 hands have toughed the rose, it is wilting, browning, and not so beautiful anymore. The teacher holds up a fresh, untouched rose next to the one that has been passed around and asks which one we would prefer. Of course nobody wants the roughed-up rose, which is then likened to a girl who has not been chaste and virtuous. The message received (though perhaps not intended) was you lose your value when you lose your virtue—no matter how, when, why (we didn’t discuss details very often)— you’re not worthy and nobody wants you anymore. Of course the next part of the lesson should be that through the atonement of Christ, we are all made fresh and clean like the desirable rose, and that our value was never lost in the first place, but somehow what really sunk in is the “you’re worthless” part.

A modern version of a similar object lesson uses a crisp twenty dollar bill. Its value is discussed, then it’s passed around, crumpled, stomped on, whatever—the girls can do anything but tear it— and then the teacher holds it up again. Does anybody still want it? Of course. Even though it’s now crumpled and worn? Sure—because no matter what it looks like or what happens to it, it retains its worth. Get it?

The contrast between these two lessons strikes the same chord with me as Elizabeth Smart’s statements and Brother Wilcox’s article. I am grateful that the Spirit has continued to strive with me and help me to understand the gospel better—or more specifically, to understand and feel The Love of God better. But I have been in serious mourning for the girls who never got past that. For all the girls who feel like wilted roses, tossed in a trash can, who feel like their value was inextricably tied to their virtue and are therefore not worth The Savior’s—or anyone’s— time or effort or love anymore. By grace I was led to religion classes and family nights and devotionals, and then on a mission, and then into more classes and relationships and personal study where I was shown that the gospel, and God’s grace, and the Atonement of Christ are much bigger and far-reaching than I was taught or I had perceived. By grace I was protected from making the kind of mistakes that would have made me wilt. But what about the other girls (and boys, too) I grew up with who did wilt and then gave up? How will we undo the lesson and show them the good part, the part where they never lost their worth and that Christ’s arms are stretched out still, no matter what any person in His church has to say? I pray to know and to help fix it in any way I can.

The effect this train of thought had on me was a little different but just as damaging and wrong. If it’s by grace we are saved after all we can do, my mind just skipped the grace part because I had no control over it. I went right to “all I can do” and like any good late-20th century Mormon began working hard to achieve perfection, even as my Father in Heaven is perfect and would have nothing to do with something unclean. As young as 8 years old this idea had taken root and I know this because after my baptism I was overly concerned—no, terrified—of being unclean again. I kept lists of my mistakes in the journal I’d received at my baptism and prayed for forgiveness nightly. I began to get frustrated with my recidivism and my inability to keep track of my weaknesses. I kind of gave up by the end of middle school (which I think is a breaking point for SO MANY youth). Luckily, something gave me hope. I didn’t understand grace and mercy at all yet, but I knew that if I kept doing blanket repentance and taking the sacrament each Sunday, God might give me a chance--as long as I didn’t break any huge commandments. So that’s the way I walked through my teenage years, obeying much more out of fear, out of my people-pleasing mentality, than out of love, faith, or understanding.

Fast-forward 7 years and I was preparing to serve a mission. My testimony had grown, but I still experienced very little grace or mercy in my church or family life. When I went to the temple for my initiatory and endowment ordinances, I was absolutely overcome by the blessings pronounced upon my head. Especially the miraculous blessing of being pronounced clean. In fact, the beautiful woman pronouncing these blessings had to stop and hand me a tissue because I had burst into tears. For some reason, I had never let those words sink in until they were spoken out loud in God’s House. The next morning, I got up early and talked to my grandpa about the previous day. I told him that blessing was my favorite part and that I never wanted to leave the temple because I wanted to feel that way (clean and worthy) all the time. He did his serious face and said, “Honey, you have that opportunity every Sunday. You’ve had it all your life. Every time you take the sacrament worthily, you are pronounced clean. Every single week.” I nodded, because I knew that—but I didn’t know that. I hadn’t accepted it and used it in my life.

Even after all the experiences that have taught me to feel God’s love and forgiveness, I still forget. In Joseph Smith’s words, I somehow pull a pavilion over my head and block it out. I live way below His expectations and my abilities. But I know now, especially through the experiences of parenthood, that our Heavenly Father is loving, merciful, kind and just. I know that he yearns to see just the smallest effort on my part and rejoices when I let Him bless me. I know my Savior feels the same way. I know that He is focused on every step I take in the right direction, cheering me on, forgiving what I used to be or what I did before. This is how I feel as an imperfect mom—I absolutely rejoice in the joys and successes—spiritual successes— of my children, and those moments erase the “less-than” moments. I imagine our perfect Father feels the same way, times a million. That brings me hope and peace every time I think of it.

So I’ve had to remove all these crazy ways of thinking that had grown into my muscle memory about what is right and good and worthy, and about whether it’s my business to judge myself—or anyone else—so harshly (all justice, no mercy; all works, no faith; lots of appearance, very little heart). One of the most revolutionary thoughts that has stuck with me is this from Hugh Nibley: “Who is righteous? Anyone who is repenting. The man at the top of the stairs looking down is much worse off that the man on the bottom step who is facing up. The direction we are facing—that makes all the difference.” And we really can’t know who is repenting except for ourselves. We can’t see inside the hearts of others—only God can—so we don’t have to worry about that. We just have to worry about what’s going on in our own hearts and be sure they are facing up. When the Savior was here, he made our responsibilities clear: love God, love your neighbor, love yourself. Love. That’s the sum of what he expects of me. After the insane list of Good Mormon Woman To-Do’s I’ve been carrying around all my life, this sounds SO MUCH BETTER! I tore up that stupid checklist and made a new one. Every day I need to make time to love God and feel His love. I need to show my love to my neighbors—including (especially) the ones I live with—and feel their love. And I need to show myself some love, too. Check, check, check. Somehow everything works better doing it Jesus’ way.

Part of loving myself is being aware of my weaknesses but not hating them—just inviting God to help me with them. I recently heard a devotional by Elder Causse that put perfect words to what the Spirit has been teaching me lately about weaknesses and strengths. I know that through both our weaknesses and our strengths, the hand of God is made manifest. We can bless others with our strengths, and God can bless us and show us his power though our weaknesses. If we were good at everything, we might be tempted to give ourselves credit for being awesome, but luckily God loves us enough to keep us humble and make up for what we lack if we let him. And that smallness we feel in our weakness is meekness. Meekness is really looked down on in our culture, but I have found that it’s something that makes us more like Jesus. He wasn’t kidding about the broken heart and contrite spirit. If we are going to be like him, sure--we will be strong, but we will also be meek. We will weep, our hearts will ache and groan within us. Because even if we achieve relative peace and joy in our own lives, we are still connected to a world of brothers and sisters, many of whom—no— most of whom are hurting in some way. So we take our full cups to them and pour some of God’s love out to share. And then He gives us free refills and we work together to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.


Okay, so many rambling thoughts. I hope they have come together in some way that makes sense. This is a summary of what the Spirit has been striving with me about over the past year. In closing, I will attach some of the main points and quotes from Elder Causse and Brother Wilcox that made their talks so meaningful to me. I hope you get something out of them, too.

Brad Wilcox

“Christ asks us to show faith in Him, repent, make and keep covenants, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. By complying, we are not paying the demands of justice—not even the smallest part. Instead, we are showing appreciation for what Jesus Christ did by using it to live a life like His…He can forgive what justice never could…”

“The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can live after we die but that we can live more abundantly. The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can be cleansed and consoled but that we can be transformed. Scriptures make it clear that no unclean thing can dwell with God, but no unchanged thing will even want to. The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can go home but that—miraculously—we can feel at home there.”

“[Grace] is not the light at the end of the tunnel but the light that moves us through the tunnel.”

“Don’t search for someone to blame. Search for someone to help you. Seek Christ, and, as you do, you will feel the enabling power and divine help we call His amazing grace.”

Gerald Causee

“What is so beautiful and powerful in having a missionary force essentially composed of young men and young women without much experience? The scriptures are filled with stories of young and modest people who, having great faith and being magnified by the power of God, accomplished exceptional things…These great young people had pure and humble hearts. Yet the Lord made them powerful in words and deeds to accomplish His designs.

I) With a humble and honest heart, seek to identify, develop, and apply for good those gifts that the Lord has given you.

II) In order to become strong in the Lord, we need to recognize our personal limitations….One reason we may not want to acknowledge our personal limitations is that weakness is perceived by society as a fault or a failure. The world values the cult of the invincible…God is not the God of superheroes, nor of people without weaknesses. Such beings do not exist! God helps people like you and me, those who recognize their limits and the weakness of their condition and seek His help and guidance. Failing to recognize our limitations will block our progression. On the other hand, accepting them humbly lays the foundation for eternal progression.

III) Recognizing our personal limitations does not mean that we should put ourselves down and wallow in our weaknesses. Accepting our limitations is not an excuse to limit ourselves. On the contrary, as disciples of Jesus Christ we aspire to that which is better and more elevated. The goal of our existence is to be raised to a level of perfection that will allow us to return to live in the presence of our Heavenly Father. We firmly believe that each son and each daughter of God possesses in himself or herself the potential to inherit all that God has and to become such as He is… The Lord often places His servants in situations with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. In this manner He pushes us to humble ourselves and to rely solely on His strength. He makes us instruments of His miracles and the manifestations of His power and compassion. That is perhaps the reason why missionary work is performed by missionaries who are, for the most part, young and inexperienced. It is also, perhaps, the reason why so many members receive callings and responsibilities that often appear to them to be beyond their strength and abilities.

“I firmly believe that there is much more joy and satisfaction in saying, 'It is the Lord who did it through me,' rather than in saying, ‘I did it all by myself.’

IV) The power that allows us to raise ourselves above our mortal condition and our human abilities is called the grace of the Savior…'And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.'

"I testify that this power of grace is of divine origin and is real and tangible… When the Spirit accompanies us, we become aware of a powerful transformation taking place within us as our weaknesses are transformed into strengths and our natural abilities are magnified and enhanced beyond even what we believe is possible.”

***

PS: A Recent Addition to my favorite scripture insights:
Put Down The Stone by Glennon

Sunday, March 09, 2014

FAMILY LETTER 03.09.14

Dear Loved Ones,        

Our song for this week is: “Oh the snow melted down and the floods came up, but our house on the hill stood still!” Livingston declared a state of emergency with massive snow melt this week. It started up in our old neighborhood, then when they got all that water diverted to the canal and Fleshman Creek, the canal and creek began to over flow downstream. So Branding Iron Ridge and some nearby streets were evacuated, then all the apartments in N street down the canal, and all the south/east part of town near Fleshman Creek and the Yellowstone River had to be sand bagged, about 100 homes evacuated. Ninth street had white water as it flowed toward the river. The Eastside School field is a huge lake since the creek was diverted near there for the restoration project. CRAZY DAYS!

Last Monday was when the weather started to warm up. It was kind of a bummer day…I remember feeling down about Russia in Ukraine, my aching hip, and my stir-crazy kids. We tried to have FHE but the attitudes were so bad, we had a prayer and sent everyone to bed early, praying for a do-over on Tuesday.

Tuesday was MARCH 4th—MARCH FORTH! My personal holiday! I was happy to get an email from Jordyn. She reported to the Arizona Tucson Mission on Monday and on Tuesday was assigned to labor in the Pima Ward which is mostly made up of the ward I grew up in! It’s also where Elder Haymore (the Elder who taught/baptized her) grew up! He and I were SO excited by the news. Can’t wait to hear about her first adventures in the field. I took Niles and Maren shopping in Bozeman Tuesday morning, then put together a few little March Forth gifts (easy dinners)for some friends who are needing some cheering on. The girls helped me deliver the dinners and wish everyone a Happy March Forth…Onward, ever onward.

Speaking of Marching Forth, my sisterfriend Erin had her first round of Chemo on Wednesday. She had a reaction and got really sick, but they seem to know how to avoid that reaction next time. We can hope. Wednesday night was another family night up at the church. The boys went with Rich to scouts while Addie went to her Beehive Presidency meeting, then a temple prep activity. She also got another temple recommend to go do baptisms with the ward and her dad on Saturday March 8th. I visited Activity Days with Heidi and her friends and we talked about the many benefits of record keeping, from the Personal history level all the way through the scriptures. We watched some video clips (especially Elder Eyring’s “O Remember, Remember” Mormon Message). We looked at my 1980-82 journal (and laughed and laughed) and some other neat autobiographies as well as our favorite scripture stories. I challenged the girls to record the Lord’s Hand in their lives more often this year and to submit at least one story to the Annual Ward History for 2014. I gave them journal jars to take home. It was a pretty fun night.

Thursday was like a Friday here because the kids didn’t have school on Friday. In the morning we had a playgroup with the Jeffrey girls, the Johnson boys, Jessi and Porter Tyner, and Christina and Kenny Howell. It was a rainy day, and it was probably the peak of the flood evacuations. Rich had stake meetings that night, so the kids and I got a pizza and watched a movie. Niles and I headed to bed at 9 while the bigger kids stayed up a while playing Xbox games.

Friday all the kids were home but the weather was still wet and cold. We didn’t do anything exciting. The girls had friends over and the boys had fun playing together (they even went outside in our slushy yard for a little while in the 46-degree warmth!). We had our missionaries over for dinner Friday night. We pretended it was summer and had a burger BBQ with salads, root beer, and ice cream cones for dessert. It was pretty fun. This is the first time we have had the “new” elders over since the old ones left in January. They have been spending a lot of time in Big Timber because they are teaching a family there. Addie hung out with Izzi Friday for the first time in a long time, too—Izzi has been very busy rehearsing for Les Miserables at The Shane Center opening next week. She plays Young Eponine (I wish BOTH moms—Melin & Drews— were here to go with me!). There are five ward members in the cast! Heidi went to see Peabody and Sherman with her friend Allison, and the boys stayed home and went to bed early with Rich and me, since Rich and Addie had to get up at 5:15am for the temple trip.

Saturday morning Rich and Addie went to the temple and got home around 2pm. The other kids and I did some errands (like washing the car on a SUNNY MORNING!) then came home and cleaned up a little. Heidi and James worked on art, then the boys had some nerf gun fights. We had quiet time and naps when Rich got home, then had a yummy pasta dinner and a quiet night at home getting ready for Sunday (and losing an hour—I hate springing forward!). We were so happy to attend our own ward after 3 weeks away. This month’s sacrament meeting theme is Preparedness, so today Erin Bowden (our ward preparedness specialist) and Rich (our stake preparedness leader) spoke in sacrament meeting. Rich had to shorten his talk significantly but it was a powerful message about being spiritually and emotionally prepared, not just temporally. If we have a year’s supply of food and the finest 72-hours kits in the world, they won’t do us any good if we are not in tune with Spirit and following its promptings, as well as practicing obedience and humility in our daily lives. It was a very good meeting. After church and rest time, we went over to The Johnson’s home for dinner with the missionaries (again). Sister Johnson made a delicious Italian dinner and we brought ├ęclairs for dessert. It was good to spend a little more time with the Elders, to discuss their work and share mission experiences and testimonies. Brother Johnson served his mission in The West Indies and had such a different experience working on the islands and in Suriname and French Guiana. The Elders also gave a great message to the kids using Elder Uchtdorf’s Mormon Message about Living Up to Your Privileges. It was fun to see the parable sink in with the older kids and hear their thoughts. We are so grateful for our friendship with the Johnsons and that our kids have such good friends to grow up with, too.

So, the warm weather also brought back the howling wind. We are enjoying the clear dry roads and our crazy Livingston hairdos. We are hoping and praying the spring melt off will be gradual enough that the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers don’t kill anyone this spring. It’s a lot to ask, but we hope. There is still tons of snow in the mountains. We love and miss you all! We hope nephew Cooper had a happy birthday today, and Jared Lehman tomorrow! It’s a crazy birthweek—Aunt Dana, Aunt Kristen, and Uncle Mark, too! And then I think we are in birthday season between our two families with birthdays every week for months. We sure are grateful all of you were born and hope you enjoy a year of blessings and happiness.

Until next week, all our love… Rich, Jamie, and Family

Jordyn in her missionary apartment in Tucson
Erin heading to chemo
Ninth Street White Water

Parks Street near Town & Country


The Canal behind N Street