Monday, August 31, 2015


Dear Loved Ones,
We survived! Summer and back to school are done! Now if we can just make it through these wildfires without lung cancer and/or sinus damage!
I blogged a bunch of photos earlier, so you can check out how the second half of August went IN PICTURES! Since our last letter, we spent a week getting all registered for school and organizing our school supplies. We enjoyed some park time, some harvesting from the garden (a week of salads we grew ourselves!), and on the 18th James advanced to a Wolf Scout. He is very excited about his 9th birthday next week since he’s always the last guy in his troop to have a birthday. The rest of that week we cleaned and packed and cooked in preparation for our first ever Layton Family reunion, a 3-night camp out at Mack’s Inn in Island Park Idaho with all of Dad Layton’s offspring.
 On Thursday (8.20) we arrived at camp a day earlier than most of our group, but my sisters Erin and Rhonda were already there and our first night with just our three families was memorable. It was seriously heartwarming to see all the cousins get together and play as if they’ve been pals since birth. We had a great time around the fire visiting and joking and making s’mores. The girls had their own tent and invited Cousin Kennady to sleep over with them.  Rich did an amazing job setting up camp and trying out all his latest devices and improvements. It was cool to see how well he got a long with all the brothers in law, especially that first day with Clinton and Josh—SO FUN.
Friday morning we got up and puttered around camp. We had pancakes with berries and bacon that morning, then we started roasting the meat for pulled pork sandwiches that night. We took the kids to the playground and then decided to visit Big Springs and John Sacks’ cabin. Rich stayed behind to let Ammon nap and met up with us as we came down from the cabin and explored the springs. We came back to camp around 2pm and made sandwiches for lunch. Willy’s family, Sam’s family, and Dad and Becky had arrived. Laura and Lisa soon followed. The forecast for Saturday was windy and colder, so we decided to try a “short” river float Friday evening. We figured it was a 1-2 hour float, and then we’d be ready to start gathering for dinner. Rhonda and I stayed at camp with our babies, and Erin’s family was in Yellowstone.  So Sam’s family, Will’s family, my family (minus Ammon and me), plus Rhonda’s two eldest girls (Aubrey and Ellie) got in the freezing cold river just below the Big Springs launch and headed out. About an hour later Rich called and told me that Heidi had flipped over and wanted to get out so he had walked her back up to our parking spot and wanted me to come get them. We waited another hour and I started getting concerned. After 2-1/2 hours it was almost 6pm and everyone who didn’t float was gathering for dinner. I knew my kids were hungry and cold, so I asked Rich to look for them. He drove up and down the banks of the river and didn’t see them. I started freaking out. The sun was going down and I sat at the dock with my car heated to 80 degrees watching for them. An hour later—3-1/2 hours after they left—Sam pulled up behind me. They had gotten out a few docks down and gone into their cabins, and he had driven my kids to our campsite. I was so sad for them! We gave them hot showers and settled in for a late (8pm) dinner and a good laugh about it all. Owen (age 6) said he wants a T-shirt that says, “I survived the River Disaster of 2015!”
Saturday morning we ate Mountain Man breakfast at camp and took the kids over to the playground to play. Dad had already taken off with Becky to West Yellowstone so we didn’t actually spend any time with him except the two dinners. We were expecting cold weather so we decided to go to West Yellowstone and shop around, picnic at the park, and maybe duck into a movie or museum of the weather got bad. The weather was chilly, but it was a beautiful day. We had a fun walk around town and played at the park, and topped it all off with candy and fudge from the cute candy store there. We came back to camp to take a rest, everybody kinda went their separate ways, a couple of brothers went fishing, Will’s family was out 4-wheelin’, and Rich was cooking up his dutch oven classics—deep dish pizzas and a cheesecake. I had premade two pans of chicken enchiladas and cilantro lime rice, and everybody added to the potluck. Josh and Clinton made amazing Hawaiian chicken; there were delicious salads and desserts, and so many kids and good company. After everyone was good and grubby and the sun began to set, we took a bunch of group portraits. Then we cleaned up dinner and gathered around the fire. Little kids got bathed and put to sleep, big kids and grown-ups stayed up late by the fire quoting favorite movies, singing songs, sharing memories.
Sunday morning some of us went to church—there is a full-size LDS chapel within walking distance of our camp there in the woods. We didn’t have good Sunday clothes, but we wore our cleanest camp clothes and enjoyed a lovely sacrament meeting. Then we went and broke camp. I took all the dirty laundry and leftover food in my van with all the kids except James. He stayed behind to help dad pack up the tent trailer and gear. They went home through Yellowstone so they could put stuff away at the ranch. I came home through Ennis and got home in time to do two loads of wash, bathe the kids, clean and vacuum the car, and take a desperately- needed 3-hour nap. It was so good to reflect on the weekend and all the blessings and healing the gospel can bring to our families, even if we come to it from less than ideal circumstances. I am so thankful for and proud of my siblings who have pulled it together and are creating a nurturing and happy place for their children to grow up. I testify that there is no better or more worthy way to spend your energy and resources, and you are giving the world a gift in your children!
So last Monday (8.24) we got up and got our ducks in a row for school—no rest for the weary! So much laundry! We had grandpa and grandma Melin over for dinner and family night and they brought us yummy treats—lime slushes made with margarita mix—yum! Tuesday we continued getting organized for school and the kids had some last hurrah playdates. I was beat, so Rich took us out for back to school dinner at Rib and Chop House, then we came home and he gave each of the children a Father’s blessing for the school year. They went to bed a little late, but very full and happy. Wednesday was the first day of school for Heidi, starting 6th grade and middle school, and James, starting 4th grade at Eastside with awesome Mrs. Petersen.  All of the cub scouts are in the same class, if you can believe that! I love it. Thursday Addie started 8th grade. I thought she would be excited to rule the school this year, but she’s not so much. She has the same social anxieties I had and watching her peers start doing dumb teenager stuff is getting to her, but she was happy to find some friends in her classes and hopes for a good year. Thursday night we had the missionaries over late to say good bye to Elder Brock who finished his mission and went home to Mesa on Saturday. Friday was busy getting Rich and the scouts ready for their last summer hurrah—a river float and camp out on the Yellowstone River. My brother Matt and his kids came to stay the weekend with us, so it was me and Matt and 8 kids at home—party! Matt stayed home with the 3 littles while I took the 5 bigs to watch “The Princess Bride” screened on the lawn at the church—so fun!
 Friday night the scouts floated from the ranch down to Mallard’s Rest where they ate dinner camped for the night. In the morning they floated from Mallard’s to Carter’s Bridge.  I picked up Rich and Aaron Roberts and shuttled them back to the ranch and Mallard’s to get all their stuff and left Addie and Izzzi to swim beneath the bridge. I went back to Carter’s bridge, picked up the girls, took Brother Jones home and took Izzi home and went back to my house (3 hour round trip) where Matt was just leaving with his kids and James to go to Chico Hot Springs (around 4pm).  Rich and I unpacked a little and rested a little, and then it was time to feed the missionaries some dinner. We’ve been making breakfast for dinner lately, so we fed them Mountain Man dutch oven (eggs, potatoes, bacon, sausage, peppers, mushrooms and mixed together and baked) left over from the camp out. We had a good visit and they left at 7pm, just as Matt was coming home with the gang. I was completely and totally exhausted and so thankful I had ironed everybody’s clothes earlier in the week and the kids were all bathed and ready for Sunday. We basically crashed after we got the little boys to sleep, though we got up a few times to make the other kids go to bed. I led choir practice at church at 9am Sunday morning, then sacrament meeting, then I brought Ammon home to nap and I cooked some lunch(which I rarely do these days—Sunday is Cup O Noodles Day! Hooray!)  because Matt and his kids were still hanging out at our house. Chicken Stir Fry was a hit, and we had a great nap. Matty left around 4:30. We baked zucchini bread after naps, home teachers came at 5:30, and we uploaded pictures and watched some TV and put people to bed around 8pm. Ready for our first full week of school, woo hoo! Niles teachers will visit us this week, then he will start the Pre-K program on September 8th. Then it’s Ammon and Mom time J
We hope nephews Simon Melin (4) and Brady Hamlin (11), Audrey Post,  and Papa Mark had great birthdays last week! James and Uncle Anthony Stagner are coming up this coming Saturday and Monday—have a great Labor Day birthday, Anthony! We look forward to celebrating Uncle Matt’s new house, James’ 9th birthday, and Rich’s Cousin Rachel’s wedding in Helena Saturday. Can’t wait to hear about YOUR Labor Day weekend-- post pictures!
 We love you!
Love, Rich and Jamie and Family
Tuesday 8/18 morning snuggles before registering the girls for middle school.

Tuesday night 8/18 was Pack Meeting and James advanced to Wolf Scout. He worked hard over the summer completing his requirements.

I got to paint his face!

Mom and he Wolf cub and crazy daddy photobomb.

Addie grew these flowers from a little seed in science class last school year. She brought home the shoots in a cool 2-liter bottle hanging planter thing and now look at them! Ammon loves them because they are his height.

Too bad the tomatoes didn't grow as well as the flowers. Next year we will have a MUCH better drip system for watering.
* August 20-23 we camped at Mack's Inn in Island Park, Idaho for the first ever Layton Family Reunion. We made the reunion its own was great!*
Mommy was so exhausted after the reunion and back to school dinner and family night with the Grandparents, Daddy treated us to back to school dinner at Rib and Chop House. We were SO excited that mushroom stuffing is back on the menu! Ammon loved it! After dinner we had baths and Rich gave each of the children a Father's Blessing to begin the school year.

Wednesday 8.26 was the first day of school for all elementary grades, plus 6th and 9th grades (they give the new kids at the middle and high schools a day to get familiar with the school and their schedules without the upperclassmen distracting them). So Heidi and James started school on Wednesday--6th and 4th grades.

Thursday 8.27 was the first day of the 8th grade for Adeline. She was not excited, but I think she was happy to see her friends.

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That night we were so tired, but we stayed up to say good bye to Elder Brock. He's been a very good missionary serving in our ward for a total of 11 months, and he went home to Mesa AZ on the 29th. We are really happy for him and his family!

On Friday 8.28, Ammon was in a SILLY mood so we took lots of pictures.
Uncle Matt Post and his kids came to spend the weekend with us from Helena. They got there Friday night. Uncle Matt stayed at the house with Emily, Niles, and Ammon while I took the big kids to an activity at the church--"Princess Bride" screening on the lawn under the stars on a PERFECT NIGHT!
Addie and Jeanette getting snacks in the gym.




Rich was camping with the scouts at Mallard's Rest. They floated from the ranch to Mallard's Rest, then ate dinner and camped. In the morning they had a big breakfast and floated from Mallard's to Carter's Bridge. I was hanging out doing Saturday stuff with Matt and all our kids.
Floating into camp Friday night.

Dutch Oven cheesecake dessert!

Dreamy night on the Yellowstone!
I will post the float pix in a separate post--it looked so fun!

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Dear Loved Ones,                                                                                                                          ...