Saturday, September 25, 2010

Makin' It Strong Where You Belong

I've been thinking about my brothers and sisters a lot this week. I found an old mix CD and put it on while driving James to the soda fountain yesterday and I guess my emotions were too close to the surface because this old song just made me sob. Remember how it was our anthem? (Willy, Laura, and Lisa might remember anyway). It definitely stands the test of time. I love each of you so much. I am thankful that we've had eachother to face (and sometimes create) life's challenges with.

Livin' on free food tickets
Water in the milk from the hole in the roof
Where the rain came through
What can you do?
Tears from your little sister
Cryin' 'cause she doesn't have a dress without a patch
For the party to go
But she'll know she'll get by—‘cause she’s

Livin' in the love of the common people
Smiles from the heart of the family man
Daddy's gonna buy you a dream to cling to
Mama's gonna love you just as much as she can, as she can

It's a good thing you don't have a bus fare
It would fall through the hole in your pocket
And you'd lose it in the snow on the ground
Gonna walk into town to find a job
Trying to keep your hands warm
When the hole in your shoe lets the snow come through
And chills you to the bone
So now you better go home where it's warm

Livin’on a dream ain't easy
But the closer the knit
the tighter the fit
and the chills stay away
You take 'em in stride
With family pride
You know that faith is your foundation
With a whole lotta love and a warm conversation
But don't forget to pray
Making it strong where you belong [repeat chorus]
--by John Hurley


I spent my birthday morning catching up on laundry (which I was happy to do)--I had about 4 loads to fold or hang up and I got that done by 9am, did a little yoga, then hopped in the shower. I enjoyed all the facebook messages and phone calls--THANKS!

After my shower, James and I went on a date to Western Drug's soda fountain. He got a circus sundae, I got a vanilla coke. He played trains (they have a play area), I window shopped.

James and his treat

all gone!

The seats at the soda fountain are saddles--giddyup!

After the soda fountain, we came home to get my stuff ready to go to Billings and got phone calls about my mama going to the hospital (dang). I had a wonderful lunch with my dear friend Debbie at her house, then we headed out for the temple.

The first part of our temple visit was totally mortifying to me. First, I wanted to rent a temple dress but forgot to bring a dollar cash. They said people do that all the time and it's no big deal, but still--how lame. Then during the sesssion (in which we served as witnesses), when I opened my freshly -laundered temple bag, little pieces of lint flew EVERYWHERE--I had washed a Kleenex in my bag and hadn't noticed. I just about died of embarrassment. I wished for a dustbuster! But then we went into the celestial room right at sunset--west end of the room is all stained glass windows, so you can imagine the stunning illumination. It reminded us of our morning in Paris exactly 2 years and 2 days ago, when we were the first people to enter Notre Dame just as the sun was rising and we saw it pour through those stunning rose windows. Such a good memory!

Billings Temple Birthday from MelinFamily on Vimeo.

After the sesh, we had a WONDERFUL dinner at Johnny Carino's and stopped by World Market to get some european chocolate. Because my birthday is also the day we discovered Tunnock's Caramel wafers in Edinburgh, Scotland. THAT birthday ROCKED.

But so did this one. The cherry-on-top was when TLC's "No Scrubs" came on the radio and I got to pump it up and do my award-winning karaoke (my love for TLC knows no bounds, may Left-Eye rest in peace). So now I'm 39 (but I wish I were 40, cuz I've felt 40 for about 30 years). Woo-hoo.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ya Say It's Your Birthday?

It's my birthday, too!
Happy, Happy Birthday to
Aunt Marti & Abby!

1972--my first birthday with Auntie M
my 31st birthday and Abby's 3rd


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Monday was a Good Day

James and I cooked all day long...a triple batch of Cookhouse Chili, Corn muffins, cinnamon rolls, and granola (all to freeze or share with ailing friends).
James was my cinnamon man!Go chef James!

Kinda looks like a mad scientist, er, mad chef here!!!

YAY, cinnamon rolls!
Tuesday began with me doing breakfast dishes while listening to NPR and I was so surprised when Joseph Smith and Moroni were on Writer's Almanac [click to read] with Garrison Keillor. Garrison read Joseph Smith's description of Moroni so beautifully. It was a nice start to my day, and the poem of the day was really beautiful, too.

We also made granola and it is YUMMY. Here's the recipe:
Alton Brown's Very Flexible Granola Recipe
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup cashews
[or 2 cups of whatever nuts you have on hand
--we used pecans and walnuts and 3 TBS toasted sesame seeds]
3/4 cup shredded sweet coconut
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
[Maple is not my fave, so we used molasses--mercy, it's GOOD!]
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins [or tiny pieces of any dried fruit]
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, coconut, and brown sugar.

In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color.

Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add raisins and mix until evenly distributed.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I Made "Greek Chili" This Weekend and It Was So Good

2 pounds bone-in chicken breasts, skin removed
2 cans (15.5 ounces each) Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
3 tablespoons Greek seasoning
2 teaspoons paprika
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 zucchinis, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)
1. Combine chicken, beans, tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of the Greek seasoning and 1 teaspoon of the paprika in slow cooker; add broth and 1 cup water. Cover; cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 6 hours.

2. When there is 1 hour cook time remaining, heat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large roasting pan, toss together 2 teaspoons of the Greek seasoning, 1 teaspoon paprika, zucchinis, onion, fennel, garlic and olive oil. Roast at 425 degrees F for 35 minutes, stirring twice. Stir in lemon juice, oregano and zest.

3. Remove chicken; shred into bite-size pieces. Discard bones and stir chicken back into slow cooker. Stir in vegetables, remaining 1 teaspoon Greek seasoning and salt; cook an additional 15 minutes. Sprinkle with feta cheese, if desired.
Also, check out Kimmy-Kim's North Carolina blog HERE.

Friday, September 17, 2010

More Farewells

This is me and my friend, Bridger "BJay" Smith outside the White House in 1996.

This is me and my friend, Jessica Juett, outside the capitol in 1996.
Not long after this, Bridger and Jessica got married and made a happy home in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

This is BJay, Jessica, and their four gorgeous children, Christmas 2009.
Even though we live all the way across the country, Jess and I have been good pen pals and our kids exchange fun packages each year. This year, Hila (far right) even wrote her own valentines to my kids! They are the cutest family.

Last weekend, they took a family vacation to North Myrtle Beach. On Monday morning (as we were driving to Logan, Utah to bury Grandpa Bill), an "unexpectedly strong tide" pulled four of them out to sea. BJay saved Jessica's mom and three children, but lost his own life.
You can read more about him HERE.

Today his little girl, Hila, turned seven. Tomorrow is his funeral. It makes me pretty heartsick, but I know those same blessings that were poured out on my family just two weeks ago are being poured out on my dear friend and her babies today.

After a busy day in Logan, I checked the internet to get details on this story and see what, if anything, had been mentioned on facebook. I found this beautiful sentiment on Jessica's page:

Thank you, everyone for your love and prayers. I feel them. There is a lot of love in the world, it is a powerful thing. It makes you do things you think you can't. And save people who mean more to you than your life. I am thankful for that. I am thankful for my life, for my children and that I married the champion of my heart. Our life together was wonderful.

That is amazing grace, Jessica.

So yet another Saturday at 10:00am, my body will be here, but my heart will be with loved ones at a funeral for a good man--this time in Pinehurst, North Carolina, instead of Tucson.
God bless you, Dear Smiths!

Today I got an email letter from my cutie cousin, Joseph Elrey, who is serving as a missionary in the New York Rochester mission. I hope he won't mind if I publish a sentiment here:
" The times when I am most obedient are the times when I love the mission the most. I think about the influence of our hero and the wonderful ways he has shaped and influenced my life. He is such a part of me. When I do something right I know I did what he would have done and when I receve praise I know I have made him proud. The best part about it is, in looking at everything he has taught me and desired for me, I realized something: He was my best example of being Christlike. When I do something right, I know it's not me acting like grandpa, but it's me being like Him whom I represent and it never was the praise of my grandfather but the praise and satisfaction of my Savior. I love my grandpa! Hey, go get his cowboy hat from off the porch and save it for me--the one he always wore to do yard work in and sit and love the sun in. Boy, it will be nice to sit with him again and instead of admiring the beauties of the earth we can admire the beauty and expanses of the universe. Ha! That will be a treat!" [-Joseph, 09.17.10]
I have felt that way often and said so in Grandpa & Grandma's 50th Anniversary book. Today I wrote back and shared this story with Joseph & Uncle Sam:
I had a dream, a very vivid dream after I came home from visiting Grandpa in April. In the dream there was a monsoon shower, a really fierce one, and everyone was battening down the hatches, so to speak. We were in an unfamiliar house, one with an arched balcony overlooking the desert--like Ballantyne's up on Sunrise or something. Anyway, Grandpa was in a wheelchair and he and I were sitting on the balcony watching the storm roll in and when it got really fierce, Marti and Gram wanted him to come in and kept calling him from inside. He told me to get him a blanket because he wanted to stay out. I brought it to him and tucked him in all cozy. Then he told me to shut the door so nobody would tell him to come in. And the the storm just poured and the thunder crashed and it was BEAUTIFUL (like the night of their anniversary party). He held my hand and said, "I want you to remember this forever."
So on that "farewell" weekend in August for the anniversary party, I was praying all weekend for a full-blown monsoon storm, but it never came--it just hung over us all weekend. UNTIL the party was over and I was driving up to Phoenix to catch my plane. The sky over the desert was literally FULL of lightning, over and over. I was SO HAPPY. Later I realized that it was probably the last storm my Grampy would watch, the very last time we would be together in this life, and I was so thankful.
Quite the legacy. I miss this:
Gram & Gramp with Heidi, James, and Addie on James' blessing day, October 2006.

Grampy last summer in Alaska...livin' the dream.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Last Week in Pictures

I already wrote about how I was sick last Sunday here. What I didn't say was that Addie got herself dressed so cute for church, I had Rich take a picture:She came in and asked me if she could borrow my pearls and I let her wear them...such a little lady!


Later Sunday night, Mom nad Dad Melin invited us over for a soup-and-bread supper to celebrate James' birthday. The 5th is also my FIL's Uncle Dave's birthday, and he was in town, so we invited him and his wife over, too.

Birthday Boys! James=4, Dave=71

Uncle Dave parked his RV out at the ranch the past month, and we were celebrating the completion of the gazebo anyway, so Mom Melin made this fun cake to look like the ranch--gazebo, firepit, Dave's RV, and the boathouse along the river!

On Thursday night, we came home from decorating the church gym and found this adorable cake in our freezer. Our Slovakian "son", Peter, had snuck it in to surprise James. We were so sad to have missed visiting with Peter that night, but we really enjoyed the DQ cake!

"Thanks, Peter!" from Addie, James, and Heidi

Friday Night was our Back-to-School Family Sock Hop up at the church.

We had so much fun planning the playlist, decorating with the Young Women, decorating socks for the funky sock contest, and just being crazy with our ward family!

Melissa & her son Curtis spinning on the dance floor

The Jeffrey boys holding up the wall

Addie and her friend Tyler were inseparable!

Here are Addie & Tyler, with Oliver and his little sister, Gloria, looking on.

Hailey and her little sister Lydia

New kindergartener McKay helping Jared lift up his little sis, Suzy.

The adolescent huddle

Group Shot (Sarah pulling up Addie's socks)

Brother Young cuttin' a rug with his son

Yours truly, enthusiastic activities chairperson!

Lydia and Hailey

Sarah and Carter
(I was so impressed with Carter, age 12--he asked all the girls to dance so politely and made the dance so fun for all the 'tweens, as well as dancing with his siblings. What a ladykiller!)

McKay and Seamus
(I regret that I didn't get Seamus wearing his fedora--he was full-on Michael Jackson!)

Suzy (nearly 2) kind of ruled the dance floor.
She was the Dancing Queen, Young and Sweet...

Addie adn Ty, still bustin' moves...

Lydia, Hailey, and Jenny L.
My darling hubs doing the robot to Beastie Boys "Intergalactic"
[aside: I loved that they used that song in "Diary of a Wimpy Kid!" I also loved that they used a mom who looks just like me to do the dance]

This handsome guy took a break and had a root beer float or two!

Hailey, 9-year-old beauty...

and lastly, Jared, age 7, dancing to the last song of the night.
[I am sad that I missed the "Whip-It" conga lines!]

I think this was a super fun night and I am so grateful for the families who came and shared our family's passion for intergenerational dancing, and to the Relief Society Presidency for serving the sundaes and floats!

Today we had a lot of chores to do to get ready for winter, like harvesting more from both gardens, cutting the lawns really short, winterizing the tent trailer and storing it at the ranch, preserving vegetables, laundry & mending, etc. It was also, however, the 9th anniversary of 9/11 and my grandfather's funeral. Around 11am our time--the time the funeral was going on in Tucson--I snapped these photos of our family (Heidi was at a friends' house playing).
James swinging in the back yard

Rich cleaning up the back yard

Addie helping with the grass clippings.

...and I snapped this picture of myself being a hausfrau.

It was a good day. A good week.

Tender Mercies

Dear Heidi,

Thank you for thinking of me! You know, everything that has happened since I saw Grandpa last has been a reminder of how blessed I am. When we first bought the ranch, right after Little Heidi was born, Gram & Gramp came to visit. We stood in a field at sunset watching the river and the mountains and he put his arm around me and, squeezing, exclaimed, "Look how the Lord has blessed you! This is your home now. This is where you belong. This is your life better love it!" and other things like don't come back to Arizona, be a good wife and mother, etc. Ever since then I have tried to remember that. This is not the life I planned for myself, but it really is SO MUCH BETTER, and almost everyday I think of my Grandpa's words and try to truly love my life. This has been especially true the past month, and being with you and your family were part of that comforting reminder that it is indeed a wonderful life!

I have dreaded Grandpa's passing for as long as I can remember, but the past few years I feel the Lord has prepared me and given me really sweet "goodbye" moments with Grandpa. I really miss him, but it is not nearly as devastating as I thought it would be. In fact, it has been kind of sweet--I can feel myself falling back on my faith and my gratitude for the Savior has grown exponentially in a week. I have never longed for the resurrection like I do now. The Spirit has attended our home this week like the temple. It has been so sacred and touching and I am so thankful. The best way to describe it, at least for me, is that same feeling as when you bring a new baby to the family. The Spirit settles over the house like a blanket--the air is thick with love and the home is a truly Holy Place. That is how the past week hs been for us (really, my only sad times come when I think of my darling Grammy all alone, but she has been so strong and brave. I just cherish her. She is in good hands!). While I wish I were at the funeral that is being held right this minute, I would not trade the comfort and blessings of the past week for ANYTHING.

I wrote to friend earlier this week (a friend who lost her toddler son earlier this summer), "I am also grateful for that wonderful succoring from the Spirit that comes to us in our extremities. One good thing about this kind of grief is that it makes me feel so human, so alive, like I am really living my life, like I am doing what God sent me to do and I can feel Him and the plan and all of that more keenly. I am sure you are all too familiar with all these feelings...I am rambling! So in short, I am surprisingly well. Sad but well." Oh so very well.

I love you, Big Heidi. I will come see you soon. XO, Jamie
One of the tender mercies extended to me this week happened Sunday. I wrote about it on facebook, but I want to remember it here. Even though I was exhausted last Sunday, I was so looking forward to taking the sacrament with my ward family after being away for 2 weeks. I was also prepared to teach James' Sunbeam class (on his 4th birthday, no less) and it was my week to teach Relief Society, a wonderful lesson called "The Church Today." I was pretty sad when I woke up with a migraine, but felt determined to nip it in the bud. I got up aroun 6:30am and took 2 migraine pills with come ice water and returned to bed. Rich rubbed my back and neck to help me feel better, but I just didn't. I finally threw up my pills, but felt a little better, so I resumed getting ready for the day. I had to lay back down soon enough, and I threw up again, so I reluctantly had Rich call the RS counselor to tell her I couldn't teach, and he took over teaching James' class. I went back to bed and fell fast asleep. I was so sad, but I slept deeply until noon.
At noon, I turned on BYUTV and propped up my pillows, eager for a little spiritual nurturing. An address from Education Week (August 16th) was just starting, called "What Is This Thing That Men Call Death: LDS Teachings about the Spirit World," by Brent L. Top. I made myself a bowl of cereal, took two more migraine pills, and settled in to watch the address. It was beautiful. THAT was the message I needed Sunday, as much as I missed my ward family. So I am sharing it with you now.

The Life Story of Arthur William Elrey, Jr.

By Samuel T. Elrey (son)

Arthur William Elrey was born on March 29th 1925, in Los Angeles, CA. to Arthur William Elrey, Sr. and Jayne Adeline Thatcher.

He is survived by his sister Marietta Clark, his wife of 60 years Lyn, and four children, daughter Bilynda, also known as Lyndi, his son Samuel, daughter Martha, and Matthew, 30 grand children and 38 great grandchildren with three on the way.

When Dad and Marietta were still very young their parents divorced and left them with his maternal grandparents, Samuel Baugh Thatcher, and his wife Maude Bowen Thatcher, nicknamed Bam. Grandpa Thatcher, a native of Cache Valley, Utah, was trained as a Dentist, but was selling insurance in the Los Angeles area. He was well known for his charity, kindness and good nature. His nick name was “Good Sam”.

It was this period with Grandpa Thatcher that was most influential in Dad’s life. Grandpa Thatcher taught him the gospel and took him to church. He instilled in Dad the importance of proper dress and grooming that has stayed with him throughout his life. Dad tried his best to pass this along to his children especially us boys and our sons.

Dad seldom saw his parents growing up. Often on a Saturday morning, Dad and Marietta would go down to the streetcar stop and wait for their mother to come. They would sit patiently on the curb for hours watching the people getting off the street cars hoping to see their mom. The owners of the corner drug store saw this and would invite them in for a drink and a rest from sitting in the sun. That small kindness is remembered to this day.

From birth, Dad suffered from allergies, skin irritations, and asthma. Grandpa Thatcher did all he could to ease Dad’s suffering. While a teenager his Grandpa Thatcher moved with him out to Banning, California hoping the dry desert air would ease the difficulty breathing. They lived in a tent, then a small rented house for a summer, then returned to the house in Los Angeles.

Grandpa Thatcher, a veteran of World War I, was a devout patriot. He loved the symbols of freedom and always honored the flag. At the announcement of the attack on Pearl Harbor December 7th 1941, he wept openly knowing the horrors of war. Shortly thereafter his great heart gave out and he died.

Dad completed High School at age 17. He joined the California State Guard, an authorized militia group, and served in the Bay area. Later he went on to college. At Woodbury College he was active in student affairs and a popular leader. While on campus he didn’t like the Greek fraternities and campus rules. Radical that he was, he recruited some friends and founded the Woodbury Gryphons, a community service club. They exist to this day as a social organization.

It was a Gryphon dinner dance that got Dad and the lovely Glenalyn Marshall together. She was serving as the Young women’s secretary and had caught his eye while he served in the ward as the Assistant Explorer Advisor.

It was during this time that his Stake President and friend, Howard W. Hunter called him to be a Stake Missionary.

When the Korean conflict began, Dad joined the National Guard and was assigned as a forward observer to an Artillery company. When his unit was called up, he proposed to Lyn. She said yes and they went to be married in the St. George, Utah Temple on August 22, 1950. They honeymooned in Zion National Park.
His unit was processed en-mass and prepared to ship out while they were away.

One week later on the morning of their wedding reception Dad reported for processing. He failed the final physical (he had a heart murmur from rheumatic fever) and suddenly he had a wife and no job.

During this time he provided for the new family selling fire insurance. Mom was trained as a Dental assistant and was able to contribute.

On August 15, 1951 a daughter was born. They named her Bilynda, combining their two names [She is my mother, Lyndi].

Shortly after this event, Dad found an opportunity selling tools in Phoenix, AZ., and moved the three of them there. His father, Grandpa Art, had settled there with his wife Florene. A short 15 months later, a son was born on November 28, 1952. Dad honored his Grandfather who had done so much throughout his childhood to teach him correct principles. He named his first son Samuel Thatcher Elrey.

The Stake President in Phoenix saw the quality of Dad’s character and offered him a job. Dad went to work for Arizona Hardware Co., a branch of the O.S. Stapley Co. There he found another mentor in President Glenn Jones.

In 1953, the family moved to Tucson where Dad sold hardware and continued to serve in the church. He worked with the young men and was active in scouting. For many years he worked with the Scout council and executives and helped to build the scouting program in the Catalina Council.

At this time the church in Tucson was small. There were 4 wards and an Institute of Religion at the University of Arizona as part of the Southern Arizona Stake. The Stake headquarters were in St. David, Arizona. Dad served with Bishop Richard Martin, and was a popular young men’s advisor in the ward.
While these events were taking place, the growing church began the construction of the chapel on Linden Street. Dad was called to coordinate the labor effort and get the members on the job. This building was built by the church members. Thousands of hours were donated. I remember the men working as the building rose. Mom would take Dad lunch and I would want to climb on everything. One day I saw Brother Morris Holliday ride down from the inside of the steeple in a bucket on a rope and pulley. I wanted to ride that bucket in the worst way. To my little mind it looked like fun. I wasn’t yet three years old--it didn’t happen.

On September 24th, 1954 another daughter was born. Martha was welcomed into the family.
During this time the family lived at 2628 E. Linden street in a little apartment. With the arrival of Marti we needed more room so dad found a house up the street at 2914 E. Linden.

About that time (1955) Dad was called to be the second counselor in the bishopric. Elder Spencer W. Kimball was in Safford for a Stake Conference and Mom and Dad drove over. Dad was ordained a High Priest and set apart to be the Second Counselor in the 2nd ward Bishopric. Dad decided that he was going to dress like the Brethren, talk like them and be like them. He was 28 years old.

With a new building dedicated and a need for some changes to accommodate the growth, Dad was called by President David O. McKay to be the Bishop of the 2nd Ward in 1956.

Dad has always been a self effacing and humble man. Dad has never been one to put on airs or lord over another. In the interview he told Elder Delbert L. Stapley that he thought he could not be the Bishop. This got Elder Stapley’s full attention. He asked, “Why not?”

Dad answered, “I work for you. I only make so much, I can’t afford to be the Bishop.”

As a young counselor to Bishop Martin, Dad had seen him write checks from his personal account to cover budget shortfalls for the ward. Dad thought that it was the way it was done.

Here Elder Stapley had a teaching moment and took time to teach a principle that stayed with dad all his life. When made aware of a need, the members of the church will do the seemingly impossible with a smile. Elder Stapley explained that it is the members’ privilege to earn the blessings through their faith and sacrifice. Dad has taught that principal repeatedly throughout his life.

April 2, 1957, Matthew Thatcher Elrey was born. Again Dad honored his Grandfather, giving Matt the middle name, Thatcher. Dad was 32 years old. As boys growing up we were taught about our Great Grandfather Sam Thatcher and the kind of man he was.

On Labor Day weekend 1958 our family was vacationing in the mountains north of Payson where Dad’s father built a cabin on the East Fork of the Verde River. The Southern Arizona Stake met that weekend in St. David with Elder Stapley presiding. The boundaries of several wards were changed and the 5th ward was created. Dad was called to be the Bishop of the new ward. In his absence, Elder Stapley told the Stake, “I know Bishop Elrey and I know he will accept this call.” He had all those in the new ward stand and sustain their new Bishop in absentia.
There were no telephones in the Washington Park area at that time. Nobody knew how to get in touch with Dad. The Department of Public Safety was alerted to try to find him, but they didn’t. Upon arriving home Monday evening, Mom was collecting the mail from our neighbor Arlene Haymore. She asked if Mom was excited. Mom asked, “Excited about what?”

Arlene said, “You need to call President Brewer right away.”

That’s how Dad learned about his new ward. President Brewer told him he had a ward to staff and to get busy. Dad had to call people to staff a whole ward in one week. He called men from the High Council, Stake officers and anyone else he was inspired to call and staffed his new ward.

Always looking out for the youth, Dad did things that were just above and beyond. Knowing the value of work and the dignity that comes with it he would pay various young men to do yard work at our home, to earn money for Scout trips. The family was already on a very tight budget, but Dad was teaching these young men important values. As little a boy I followed them around and watched them work and chatted with them. I was being taught the value of work even then.

In these years Dad was always mindful of the power of example. When we were camping with the scouts, or on a father and son activity, or just as a family he made sure we always left the area cleaner than we found it. “Police up your trash, men. Don’t leave anything behind, “ he’d say, and lead the clean up. He had us pick up trash that had been left by previous campers as well as our own. He led by example.

As a young Bishop he was called upon to make some difficult and unpopular decisions. The 5th Ward met at the Binghamton Chapel on Fort Lowell & Dodge. For many years this building had been the center for the Binghamton Community. Those saints had built a community pool on the south side of the building. As the Agent Bishop responsible for the upkeep of the facilities, Dad saw the expense of the pool and the high cost to repair it. It was decided to fill in the pool and eliminate the cost. Some were upset with the change. Others saw the wisdom and the savings. There were large trees on the west side of the building that were causing problems and damage to the structures. Their removal also caused some to be upset. For a time Dad was not popular in Binghamton.

Dad was offered a promotion at work. He was transferred to the main office in Phoenix in 1962. We met for a family council and all agreed to move. While in Phoenix Dad served on the High Council in the East Phoenix Stake. It was the custom for the brethren in Phoenix to meet in shirtsleeves because of the heat. Dad never went to church without wearing his suit coat. He felt that the image of a leader was that important. While in Phoenix he volunteered with the Scout Council and sold lots of hardware. In 1965, Dr. Ira Larson, a long time friend and family Dentist, called Dad with an interesting proposition.

The Arizona Children’s Home Association was in need of an executive director. Dr. Larson thought that it was a good fit for Dad. We held another family council, and we elected to return to Tucson.

Dad found a new custom built home at 6222 E. Eastland and we moved in.

Soon after returning to Tucson, Dad was called to be the Executive Secretary to his old friend and mentor Richard Martin, now President of the Tucson Stake. While he was busy learning the new job and serving in the Stake, Dad earned a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School.

With kids entering high school and all the demands on Dad’s time, he took advantage of any minute to spend time with us. We made regular trips to visit Grandpa Art in both Phoenix and up in the mountains. In the mountains, Dad taught us more lessons about work and respect for nature. He often would comment on the beauty in this world and express his love of the outdoors. One Sunday while we were visiting Grandpa Art and Florene with our cousins, the Clarks (Dad’s sister and her family), we walked a short distance into the forest to hold a Sacrament meeting. We found a place to sit. Dad presided and Uncle George and my cousin David blessed the sacrament and our two families then shared our testimonies under the pines in the beauty of nature.

Looking back, we kids were just glad to be there in the mountains and out of the summer heat.
We did chores, played hard and learned to fish. Grandpa Art was a good teacher and had lots of patience. He taught me how to clean the trout we caught. The rule was that you cleaned the fish you caught, and then cleaned up the mess. We didn’t realize then that Dad was getting acquainted with his father who had been absent for most of his life. There soon developed a great bond of love and respect between them.

In February 1969 the Tucson East Stake building [where Grandpa’s funeral was held] was completed and the Tucson Stake was divided. The Stake offices were moved from the Norton building to this one. Dad was called to be the Tucson Stake President by President David O. McKay. He was set apart by Elder Mark E. Petersen. This allowed him to grow and develop as an administrator and spiritual leader.
The new North Stake also was headquartered here for a time. When the North Stake Center was dedicated, President Peterson moved his office to the new North Stake building.

While serving in the Stake, there were great changes and growth both at home and at work. Many general Authorities visited and presided over Stake Conferences. My parents would host them in our home.
Mom was always frantic as we prepared for a General Authority’s visit. This was a wonderful opportunity to meet them and learn from them.

The Children’s Home expanded and developed new programs to help emotionally disturbed children and unwed mothers. There were many other advancements and positive changes that were implemented. Dad refused to go into any detail when asked, saying,“I don’t want to relive all that stuff. It’s not important.”

Even so, around 1971, Dad was searching for a suitable farm plot to create a church farm to support the church welfare program. The Presiding Bishop called and wanted to know what Dad had in mind. After discussing the details, Dad was given the go ahead to sign a note for $750,000.00 for 1,100 acres of farm land with plenty of available water. The Church Farm north of Marana was purchased and remains part of the church welfare system to this day [knowing nothing about my Grandpa’s invovlement, I recorded in my journal, circa 1984, one of my favorite activities when I was in the Young Women’s Program was picking Pecans at the church farm on cool, misty mornings!] .

There were changes in Church administration at this time as well. With the growth of the world wide church Stake presidents were given more authority. In 1971 as I prepared to serve a mission for the church, Stake presidents were given authority to set apart full time missionaries prior to sending them to the Mission Home in Salt Lake City. I was blessed to be set apart as a full-time missionary by my father in January 1972.

Just prior to that event, Dad hosted Elder Theodore M. Burton of the Seventy for Stake Conference. On Saturday evening after the meetings, Elder Burton was relaxing in the living room. I had been asked to speak in my home ward and at the University ward where I had been attending. I asked Elder Burton what he thought I should say. His reply was profound. He opened his scriptures to 3 Nephi 11 and said, “I like this chapter and the message it teaches.”

We discussed it a while and I remember feeling the witness of the Holy Spirit as he shared his testimony of the risen Christ with me as I knelt by his chair. I tell you this because Dad provided us kids countless opportunities like this.

In 1977, Dad was released from the Stake Presidency [this was shortly after I came, along with my pregnant mother, my brother and twin sisters, to live with my grandparents when my parents divorced]. I asked him, “What were some of the advances in the Stake under his leadership?”

He told me that it was not important. “Don’t put that in there. It’s in the Church Almanac, you can look it up.”
He was still truly self effacing, and unwilling to talk about his accomplishments.

In early 1978 Dad had been called to go to Mesa and meet with Elder Hugh Pinnock who was presiding at a Stake Conference. In that interview Dad asked what was up. Elder Pinnock was vague, explaining that they like to keep in touch and just wanted to see how he was doing.

My brother Matt was serving his mission in the Philippines Manila Mission at the time. Mom and Dad went to meet Matt in Hawaii as he made his way home from Manila. Upon arriving at the hotel, they happened to meet the First Presidency and several General authorities in the lobby. They greeted Mom and Dad and wondered what they were doing there. It seemed a little odd.

Shortly after that chance meeting, in March 1978, Elder David B. Haight called the house and asked Dad to be the Stake Patriarch. He went to Salt Lake and was ordained to the office of Patriarch by Bruce R. McConkie [I remember this meeting with Elder McConkie when I was 6 years old. I shook his hand—it was HUGE—and thought he reminded me of Orville Redenbacher]. In that blessing Elder McConkie blessed him to prosper. From that time all his financial worries faded away. Mom and Dad always had enough to meet their needs.

The growing Church required more world wide leadership and the office of Regional Representative was created to expand the influence of the General Authorities and facilitate the training and administrative functions needed throughout the Church. Dad was called to preside over the Mesa and Tempe Regions and was active in the development of the church. Under the direction of various Apostles and members of the Quorum of Seventy, Dad assisted in and presided over the creation of and division of many Stakes. For example, Dad organized the Sierra Vista Stake.

There were times when he would spend all day Saturday and Sunday morning in Stake meetings and interviews, then drive home dead tired and find he had three or four Patriarchal blessings to pronounce that evening. As a testimony to the inspiration and revelation in this process, even though exhausted he would give each candidate a unique and personal blessing. Mom acted as scribe in these days and would type the blessings. She was often moved by the sweet promises pronounced in them. She also noticed the uniqueness and individuality of each blessing.

In one Stake conference in Mesa with Elder McConkie, on Saturday afternoon, after interviews and the administrative chores were done, they were relaxing between meetings. Elder McConkie leaned over and said, “Why don’t you take this next one?”, meaning why don’t you spend the bulk of 90 minutes training the local priesthood leaders? After the meeting started Elder McConkie went down and sat in the congregation.
Can you imagine? Afterward Elder McConkie said, “You did well.”

In 1981 Dad was reassigned to the Safford & Tucson Regions and continued to teach principles of leadership to those Saints. Three and a half years later (1985) he was released as a Regional Representative. He was 60 years old. He continued to serve as a Patriarch in the Tucson East Stake.

Dad has enjoyed meeting the candidates and giving them blessings. He has had many profound spiritual experiences as he served as Patriarch some that he shared with me bear repeating.

When we came as a family for our son Bill’s blessing, we felt that it was special to receive a blessing from his Grandfather. Dad took Bill into the office and spent some time interviewing him in preparation for the blessing. He invited the family in and prepared the tape recorders, tested them to be sure they were recording. He silenced the phone and proceeded to pronounce the blessing. When it was finished, Dad said, “ Let’s see how we did.”

He rewound the tapes and played them back and there was no sound. Without any concern Dad said, “I guess we missed something, let’s do it again.”

He reset the recorders and placed his hands on Bill’s head and pronounced the same blessing almost word for word. The recorders both worked as intended. I can’t recall what was missed. But I know that each Patriarchal blessing is a personal revelation given through the gift and power of God.

After 17 years of service at the Children’s Home, Dad retired and began to work in real estate development with partners. He also developed and sold other businesses.

In 1986 Mom and Dad elected to serve a mission. They put in their papers and were called to serve in the Nigeria, Lagos Mission in West Africa. Mom being a dedicated homebody cried at the thought of going to Africa. Dad was up for the challenge.

They reported to the Provo M.T.C. and were trained to carry the gospel message to Nigeria. Once on the ground in Nigeria they had to confront the widespread corruption and bureaucratic resistance. In Port Harcourt they were questioned and denied entry due to a trumped up visa problem. They were made to report to the jail each morning and stand in a small hallway with no facilities in the tropical heat all day. This went on for over a week until word got to other mission leaders. The local legal council for the church got involved and in less than a day there was no longer a problem with their visas.

Nigeria was wild and tribal. Often the village chief would see an economic advantage by joining the church and order the entire village to also join. He would then begin collecting and keeping tithes and offerings.
Mom and Dad were not assigned to proselyte. They were training the leadership of the districts and branches in Southern Nigeria. This required that they travel long distances through the jungle on unmaintained dirt roads that were dusty in the dry season and swampy deep mud in the rainy season. They would always time their trips so they could be home in Aba before dark. There is no safe haven for a white couple out on the road after dark.

On one trip to an outlying branch a group of heavily armed men stepped out of the bush pointing automatic weapons at the engine and Mom and Dad. Their leader demanded a toll. Dad refused to pay a toll. Even at gun point he was unwilling to violate his principles. Mom was terrified as he faced them down. They made their demands for money and Dad said, “No.”

After several tense moments, a voice was heard to say this is not the right man. The robbers faded back into the bush and Mom and Dad continued on their way. Later it was learned that President Robert Sackley, the Mission President, drove the same color, make and model car and was under death threats by criminals involved in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Inc., which was a counterfeit organization taking money from people that didn’t know any better.

In July of 1987 the Mission was divided and the Aba Nigeria Mission was formed. Dad was called to be the president. Mom and Dad loved the humble people of Nigeria and learned much from them.

One day as they were going to visit an outlying branch with the District President, they were headed for a particular village. As they drew near, the District President became increasingly agitated and nervous. From the back seat Mom asked if he were all right. He replied, “You’re going to __ village,” naming the particular village.

Dad said,”Yes we pass through here every week.”
The district President replied “You must never go there. These people are cannibals, and they prize white meat above all other. Never go there!” He was very afraid as they drove through the village and could hardly sit still.

Now Dad, having been warned, had to take an alternate route to get to the branches in the east. This diversion added hours to the trip, but they were no one’s dinner.

In the normal course of life they had to put up with sudden power and water outages, lawlessness, and the lack of infrastructure. They became very frugal and pragmatic. Mom caught rain water for laundry they used oil lamps for light when the power was off.

In the fall of 1988, Mom began to feel ill. She took her Malaria pills and other vitamins and supplements but slowly got worse. They went to London for training with the Area Presidency in early November. Mom was too sick to attend the meetings and rested in the hotel. Upon returning to Port Harcourt, Mom was too sick to go home. Dad called another missionary couple and they gave Mom a blessing in the airport. They then made arrangements to return to London on the next flight out.

Too weak to walk and burning with fever Mom was assisted up the stairs and seated next to a window. She was in and out of consciousness and very ill. The flight attendants would ask if she was alright and Dad would say it was just the heat, she would be fine. They didn’t want to draw attention to themselves, nor did they want to get kicked off the plane for carrying a tropical disease. [I remember, shortly before my own mission, watching the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona with Grandma. Everytime they showed an aerial view of the Spanish coast or of Barcelona, she would shudder and say, “I remember that view from the window of the plane when I was trying not to die!”] When the pilots were on approach to London’s Heathrow Airport, the controller advised them that the ambulance was standing by. They responded that they had no need for an ambulance. The tower asked if Lyn Elrey was on board and explained that arrangements had been made.

After 10 days in the hospital and another 10 days in a hotel Mom was strong enough to come home.
She had contracted Cerebral Malaria and was slowly being killed by the parasite in her blood. There happened to be a tropical disease specialist visiting the hospital when she arrived. He knew just what to do to save her life. Mom was told that it would be years before she had normal blood values.

From November 1988 to April 1989 Mom rested and got stronger to the point where they were ready to go again. They had not been released and lived the mission rules while Mom got well. Dad was called to preside over the Oklahoma Tulsa Mission and they reported to the M.T.C. in June of 1989 for training [the week of my graduation from high school]. Here is an example of the power of faith to be healed, and the power of the Priesthood.

Dad really got busy in Oklahoma. The Mission covered parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Texas. Here again Dad was leading young men and women. He taught them to be devoted servants of the Lord by his example and the precepts of the gospel. During this time he met a young Stake President named David Bednar serving in Arkansas. They became friends and when passing through Tulsa the Bednar family stayed overnight in the Mission Home. This was a great opportunity for their young sons to sleep in missionary beds. President Bednar was always a gracious guest.

Dad met the challenges presented by trying to lead 200 young people to do the Lord’s work. He never spoke about how many baptisms were done during his presidency. He was always (in every situation) focused on people, not numbers.
While in Tulsa, the mission was divided. Here Dad saw an opportunity to give the new President of the Oklahoma City Mission a leg up. He put many of his best Elders and sisters in the areas that were going to be in the new mission. Everywhere he served there was growth. He has always left things better than he found them.

They returned to Tucson in July 1991 [I was living at Frankenhaus in Provo and went to Salt Lake City to meet them when they were released]. They bought a home and began to act like retired people. Dad told us they were going to stay home now. They even got a dog. [Aw, Daisy Dog! I left on my mission from this house on Jasmine, in the Bonanza Ward—I spent the summer of 1992 having my own little mission training experience, living with President & Sister Elrey. Grandpa made me study the Missionary Guide everyday, which I did happily, excited to have a leg up in the field. Imagine my disappoinment when I learned I would be expected to read a section of that book every single day of my mission! ;)] They were just settled in December 1992, when Elder H. Burke Petersen called to ask what Dad was doing. Remembering the interview with Elder Pinnock years ago Dad knew there was a new opportunity afoot.

Elder Petersen explained that there was an urgent need for a Director at the Nauvoo and Carthage, Illinois Visitor Centers. Normally these changes are done on July 1st. Dad asked, “ How soon?”

Elder Petersen replied, “Yesterday.”

After prayerfully considering the opportunity, they put their new house on the market and held a yard sale.
The house sold in three weeks and they were again in the M.T.C. in February1993.

Dad has said that the call to Nauvoo was the Lord’s way of rewarding them for their efforts in Nigeria. It was a wonderful experience to be there. Dad once again was called upon to make some unpopular decisions. He had to remind some of the couple missionaries that they were serving a mission. That meant no more P-day golf and shopping trips to the surrounding areas
There had been a history of strife and misunderstanding between members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now known as the Community of Christ, and the Church. After Dad and the Patriarch Evangelist Don Albrough got acquainted, they developed a mutual respect and an abiding friendship. This opened the way for the Sesquicentennial Commemoration of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Some of the sites that were owned by the Community of Christ were made available for the General Authorities to visit. Elder Ballard, a descendant of Hyrum Smith placed a wreath at the grave site of Joseph and Hyrum.

Upon returning home in the spring of 1996, Dad was reactivated as the Patriarch of the East Stake. He has served in that capacity until his illness made it impossible. Dad has given 701 patriarchal blessings since returning home and being re-activated. He had done at least that many prior to serving the missions [I was #333 in 1984—such a privilege to receive my blessing from my Grampy]. Over the years Dad has born strong testimony of the reality of revelation as applied to the Patriarchal Blessings, and the roll they play in the gathering of Israel.

Dad shared the following story with me awhile back. There was a young Hispanic teen that presented for his blessing. He was with his cousin. Dad pronounced the blessing and when he was finished, the youth asked if the lineage was correct. Dad had proclaimed the lineage to be Judah. He said, “We’re Mexicans, shouldn’t it be Manasseh?”

Then the cousin said, “Grandma was Jewish, remember?”

To which the youth responded, “Oh yeah, I forgot.” Dad had no way of knowing any of that.

For the last several years Mom and Dad lived quietly and traveled to visit friends and family. On Saturday, March 27th, two days before his 85th birthday, Mom called to say Dad wasn’t well and I should come to the house. I arrived and went in to check on Dad. He was in bed very weak and not coherent. He had not eaten for several days and was dehydrated. Matt arrived and we called the paramedics to assess him. They were able to use their equipment and make a proper determination. Dad was taken to the hospital and admitted.

He had been bleeding internally for about 5 weeks and because it didn’t hurt he thought it was no big deal.
He was stabilized and diagnosed with B-cell Lymphoma in his stomach. After consulting with Mom and the doctors, he elected to have Chemotherapy.

He had progressed to the point that he could do it as an outpatient. When he was released from the hospital, the nursing staff hugged and kissed him and expressed love for him and Mom. You see, even during this ordeal, he was cheerful and kind and looking after the welfare of others.

As the drugs did their work, Dad fought through the effects and was committed to see it through. He was always glad to see us and took time to express his abiding love for the Savior and share his testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. As he went through each dose of Chemo he got weaker. At various times he was hospitalized for complications of the treatment. Ha had 17 blood transfusions throughout this ordeal.

While visiting him in the hospital, he looked me in the eye and confided, “This is hell.” All I could do was offer encouragement, but inside I was praying for him.

As word of his illness spread there were many that came to visit and offer support. Mom kept a list each day of the calls and visits. We as a family express our thanks to all those who have offered prayers and support, visited, called and sent cards and letters.

My sister Marti was able to stay with Dad as he deteriorated and fought the effects of the treatments. She cared for Mom and Dad and took care of her own family at the same time.

On August 21, 2010, Mom and Dad celebrated their 60th wedding Anniversary. A family dinner celebration was held at the Linden Chapel which Dad had helped to build some 55 years ago. This had been a goal Dad set for himself, to make it to their 60th Anniversary.

On Sunday, August 22nd (their actual anniversary), Dad was dressed in a white shirt and tie to receive the Sacrament at home. After the priesthood holders had gone, he told Mom he wanted to go to bed. He took off his tie, but couldn’t undo the buttons on his shirt. Mom helped him to bed and let him sleep. Dad began to decline rapidly and it became clear that time was short.

On Thursday evening September 2nd, Mom was waiting for a visit from the Stake Presidency. Marti wwas gone, so Matt and I were there with her (Marti and Ralph had flown to North Carolina to celebrate their son Kevin’s graduation from the Army Physician Assistant School). As we waited for the Presidency, We chatted and looked in on Dad from time to time. He was sleeping peacefully.

The Stake Presidency arrived about 7:40 and we chatted with them for a while. President Kern offered a sweet prayer of comfort and peace. Mom was leading them back to look in on Dad one last time when she discovered that he had gone to eternity.

We miss our Father, Grandfather, Great-Grandfather, devoted husband, brother, leader, Saint, Friend. Indeed we may say he lived his favorite scripture, Doctrine and Covenants 90:24: “ Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another.” We are comforted by our sweet memories and we rejoice in the testimony he shared all his life. Our Savior lives and loves us, and we will be resurrected—well and whole—and reunited one day.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

James Again

Tonight while saying prayers, Rich was helping James choose his words. He said, "Please bless and comfort Grandma Lyn," so James said that and added, "and don't forget Papa Bill, Dad. Bless we can dig a hole to put him in the ground so Jesus can come and make him alive again and he will feel better..."

Does that not slay you? Can you tell what we have been talking about? Earlier I was looking some things up in Logan on google earth. He asked me why I was looking at "that park," I explained that it was the cemetery where our bodies wait in the ground until Jesus sends our spirits back and we are resurrected. I think his prayer was extracted from that conversation, but I am afraid he is expecting Jesus to show up in Logan on Tuesday (wouldn't THAT be fun!?). We'll have to have another talk tomorrow so his little heart doesn't get broken!

Here is a thought from Brigham Young:
"I can say with regard to parting with our friends, and going ourselves, that I have been near enough to understand eternity so that I have had to exercise a great deal more faith to desire to live than I ever exercised in my whole life to live. The brightness and glory of the next apartment is the relatives and friends of the deceased, dry up your tears, live your religion...and try to fill up the measure of your creation in usefulness."
--Journal of Discourses (click here to read the rest)
[and yes, "usefulness" reminds me of reading Thomas the Train stories to James--"We are Really Useful Engines!"]

Garrison Keillor is my real dad

I found this poem so beautiful tonight. I was cooking dinner, listening to Writer's Almanac on NPR. The kids happened to be listening to Ella Fitzgerald. So timely. I'm kind of into love stories right now. REAL ones, the kind that last forever.

by Allison Townsend

In the story my aunt tells,
this is how they met. It's
September, the war just over,
the air crisp as the creases
in my father's khaki pants,
bright as his Bronze Star,
pungent as the marigold
my mother tucks behind one ear,
the night they both sign
up for dance lessons
"the Arthur Murray way"
at the Statler Hotel
in downtown Philly.

He's there to meet girls, of that
I am certain, and she's there
for romance, though I don't think
that's what she would say,
both of them looking for something
as intangible as the cigarette smoke
that rises in old, deckle-edged photos—
everyone tough, glamorous, vampy.

Perhaps there are dance cards?
Or maybe partners are assigned?
The truth is, no one really knows
about the moment when their glance
catches and snags across the room,
a fishline pulling taut as they
place their feet on Murray's
famous "magic footsteps," and start
the slow luxury of reeling one another in.
Music spills from a scratchy
Victrola as she places her hand
on his shoulder, feels the slight
pressure of his palm against her back,
and they begin to move together,
her hesitant steps following
his over-enthusiastic swings,
until they are both lost in
"The More I See You" or "I Don't
Want to Walk Without You Baby,"
the future stretching out before them
like a polished oak dance floor.

I don't know if they went back
for more lessons, or how they learned
to dip and twirl and slide together,
though I once saw my father spin
my mother completely around—her skirt
flaring out around her like the bell
of a silk lamp shade—just months
before she died. It's their story
after all, the one with a secret
hidden deep inside it like all
love stories—bigger than we
are or will ever be—
music from a Big Band coming up
in the background, playing
"You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To,"
while our parents swoop and glide
in the spotlight, keeping back
just enough of the story to make us wonder.

PS: Just kidding about Garrison-- I just wish he read me bedtime stories cuz I love his voice and sense of humor. In reality my mother wouldn't come within a yard of such a homely liberal...although she is married to a former Lutheran. They could at least laugh at Garrison's Lutheran jokes.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Thursday and Saturday

On Thursday we harvested tons of squash and carrots at the ranch. And by "we" I mean James and I (and his friend Lydia).
We gave the vegetables a bath on the driveway and let them dry on a beach towel.
James was such a good helper, but he kept saying, "Mom, I'm not eating these!"
That grey rubbermaid container was nearly full of carrots, too. I just got them done today.
Speaking of today, Saturday, we had James' 4th Birthday party today. The weather was less than cooperative and I was not quite on the ball. But with the help of my super-hubs and my dear sisterfriends, it all came out well. Jenn will have to send me pictures of the river float, which was the first half of the party, from 3:30-5pm on the Yellowstone River [UPDATE: click HERE to see Jenn's river pix]. I went in a raft with James, Heidi, and my nieces, Rosalie and Hannah. The Strupp family rode in their own raft. Addie rode a tube by herself for the first time with Rich, Debbie Holm, Caleb, Michaela, and Len Claar. When we got back and ready to BBQ, a huge windy thunderstorm passed through Paradise Valley, so we had to hold the dinner inside the boathouse.

Here's James' dino cake

The spread and Rich in the boathouse
(notice the beautiful view out the window)

Guests, eating.

James mixin' & minglin' with his lady friends

Ashley, James, and Cousin Rosalie


Cake with candle!


Haylee helping the kids get some cake after singing Happy Birthday

Happy cake eaters
(clockwise from left: Hannah, Ashley, Hailey, Haylee, Lydia, Jared, James, and Rosalie)


Gift time!
(notice the big girls are dressed up from playing pirates in the tree house)
Chuck Trucks from mom and dad--so exciting!

Daddy also scored some good old fashioned Tonka Trucks second hand.

The Strupps brought James this rad dinosaur that growls (kinda squeakily).
He is sleeping with it right now!
James got so many nice things from his friends, but I think the best thing was just having a fun day at the ranch. Thank you friends and cousins for making it a great birthday!
As we were leaving, Addie found this caterpillar...
We brought it home to be our pet... Heidi's delight!


Dear Loved Ones,                                                                                                                         1...