Sunday, August 28, 2016


Dear Loved Ones, 

This has been an exciting week, starting school and seminary, fall cleaning, backpacking...we are exhausted but so happy. Our week began with a busy Monday. I enlisted the troops in a group project deep cleaning the great room and they did a great job. Then we enjoyed Family Night in a fresh, clean living room after a nice BBQ dinner provided by Grandpa and Grandma Melin. We talked about our theme for this year, “By Small and Simple Things are Great Things Brought to Pass.”  This includes the 7 Simple Things prescribed by our stake (Personal Scripture Study, Family Scripture Study, Personal Prayer, Family Prayer, FHE weekly, Church Weekly, Temple Monthly), but also small daily choices to be kind and honest. We read a story in the New Era about the power of words, and then Grandpa and Grandma shared stories from the temple where they are serving as counselor and assistant matron. Grandma shared a story about a brother in our ward who came in to do work for family names he had prepared. He wanted to seal his parents to each other, but had forgotten the paper work. Grandma helped him prepare the papers and asked if he would like to be sealed to his parents as well. He got emotional and said, “yes.” Grandma got to serve as proxy for his mother as his parents were sealed to their parents and he was sealed to them. Then grandpa added what I consider to be the moral of the story: while they were serving their last mission in Missouri, Grandma made a goal to write a weekly letter to this man—he was inactive in church at the time and had been for years. When they got home, they invited him to an activity and he started attending church again. Last Saturday, three generations of his family were sealed together. What a wonderful example of doing a small and simple thing and having a great, miraculous result! After the lesson, Daddy and Grandpa gave the children back to school father’s blessings. It was a lovely night and a great start to the school year.

Tuesday we had dental appointments for all the kids, except Addie. She stayed and worked at the office with Rich. That night after dinner, we took the kids downtown to get gelato at Gil’s Goods. We stopped to visit the Joneses to visit and picked up a copy of Park +Life magazine, fresh off the press. I am so excited to be involved (writing/editing) for this cool Jones brainchild.  I’m hoping and praying the project takes off. It’s a great concept and a quality production.

Wednesday was the first day of school for James and freshman orientation for Adeline. James seems to be loving his fifth grade class with Mrs. Pavlovich (formerly Ms. Gillespie, who taught both Adeline and Heidi in 5th grade). Addie’s schedule is a little bit crazy, with seminary and zero hour choir from 6:15-8, then homeschool, then 3 classes at the high school, but it will be good for her. Thursday, Heidi started 7th grade without a lot of fanfare, just the way she likes it. Niles had his kindergarten assessments and was assigned to Mrs. Livermore’s class. On Friday we went to his Open House and explored his class room and play ground. He is in for a super fun year, I think.

Thursday night we watched part of the National Park Service Centennial held in Gardiner. It was pretty exciting times around here since Yellowstone is such a huge part of our culture and economy. Friday night, Rich took the 4 big kids on a backpacking trip with Uncle Mike. They camped at Arch Falls in Hyalite, south of Bozeman. It is so beautiful up there (there is a spread about it in Park + Life this month ;)) and they had a good time. On the way home, they stopped for burgers and games at Fuddruckers. Meanwhile, Ammon and I stayed home and deep cleaned the kitchen. I cleaned the cupboards while Ammon washed the same 5 dishes and himself for an hour or two. He also “mopped” and wiped down the cupboard doors. It was pretty fun. We also finished all the laundry and took a rest (but not a nap) and he was so happy when the kids and Daddy got home.

So tomorrow is Niles’ first day of kindergarten, and next weekend we will be in Boise for Angie’s wedding. James’ birthday is on Labor Day this year, so we are trying to find a way to make it special in the car ;) Holy moly, it’s already September. 126 days left in 2016! We’ll do our best to make them great. Love to all of you, hope you have a good week!

Love, Rich and Jamie and Family

Clean, bright great room on 8/22, ready for FHE!

Family Theme, 2016-17

Ammon showing off his pedaling skillz 8/22

James and Grandma 8/22

Back to School Gelato 8/23

Hot off the press, Park and Life Magazine, Issue #1,  8/23

Park and Life Writing Cred

First Day 8/24

Addie's first early morning seminary class at 6:15am 8/25

First Day, 8/25

Backpacking Selfies! 8/26

Crazy eyes hitting the trail
Heidi and Uncle Mike Melin 8/26

Happy Campers eating breakfast 8/26

Niles and Uncle Mike, 8/27

Heidi, not amused. 8/27
Awesome Family Memories 8/27

Cute sisters, 8/27

Sunday, August 21, 2016


Dear Loved Ones,              

After a nice long nine-month break, I’m finally resuming our weekly family letter. I can’t put my finger on why I stopped last year. At first it was just a holiday break, but I just felt overwhelmed and didn’t start up again. I did go through a pretty deep depressive episode starting in November, so maybe that contributed. Whatever the reason, it has passed and I want to get back on the horse and record all the things our family is doing.

This week is back-to-school at our house. It has been a full time job the past two weeks getting the kids organized, registered, signed up, applied-for, etc. I still have to organize the mudroom and dresser drawers—these kids have grown like crazy since spring! It’s as if sunlight and water have the same effect on kids as they do on a garden. At any rate, they are going to have to wear clothes that fit and socks and shoes now,  so that’s our project for the next few days.

We had a meeting last Sunday getting Adeline all ready for early morning seminary, which starts Thursday at 6:20am. We had planned to home school 100%  this year, but she has decided, at least for this semester, to do part time at Park High School (German and Choir classes) and part time at home with Montana Digital Academy. This might still be too much public school, but we are going to give it a try. Heidi is more at ease this year starting 7th grade, having got the hang of middle school last year. James is King of the Hill, starting his final year of elementary school—5th grade! He has the same teacher Addie and Heidi had and I think this will be GREAT for him. Cute little Niles starts kindergarten next Monday and he is pretty excited. He’s mostly looking forward to the awesome playground, but hopefully he will find other things he loves there.  So it’s just Ammon and me again at home this year. It will be fun finding things to do together. I am so much less fun at 45 than I was at 30-something with the older kids, poor Ammon.

The girls had a super awesome Young Women’s Retreat this weekend. Each day of this past week they had an envelope to open with a thought and a treat preparing them for their “Love Your Selfie” activity Friday Night. They went to camp out in Clyde Park at 3:30pm on Friday and came home all a-flutter at noon on Saturday. They’d had a fun dinner, a speaker, and watched “Once I Was A Beehive” projected on a barn wall. There was a lot of sleep-walking and singing and laughter and spirituality happening. I am so grateful for their good leaders and friends. I know so much work must have gone into this activity and I love them for doing it!

Richard led a 50-mile bike ride on Saturday with his scouts to help them complete their Biking merit badges. They drove down to Gardiner, at the north gate of Yellowstone at 8:30 am and rode back to Livingston starting around 9:30am. Most of the boys finished around 2pm. Rich and the other YM counselor rounded up the stragglers and made it home by 4:30. Poor Rich took a shower then we drove back down to Gardiner to pick up our van. We made a date of it and had dinner at Rosie’s Bistro, watching the sun set over the north entrance to Yellowstone. It was a beautiful night. We talked to several people affected by the river closure (there has been a massive fish kill due to a parasite in the river so it is closed to all recreation—the lifeblood of our community). We pray the problem will clear up and the waters and fish will be clean and healthy again soon.

So many great things happened this summer, I hope to blog about them more in the coming weeks. One major thing was that our kids participated in the Young Actor’s Workshop at the Shane Center and performed in “Shrek: The Musical” on August 12-13. It was a delightful, creative production and they had a great time in the workshop. Another thing is I spent 2/3 of July saying good bye to my best friend, Erin Lyman Casper, who passed away from metastatic breast cancer (liver failure) on July 19th.  “Big” Heidi and I were able to be with her from July 12-July 17th at her home in MN. We were also blessed to attend her memorial and interment in Utah on July 30th. We spent the preceeding days loving and laughing and crying with her kids. It was a heart-wrenching, soul-strengthening time that changed me forever. I miss her terribly, but I am eternally grateful for her  friendship and that her love lives on in her sweet family. We have grown as close as family through this experience and I am so grateful to have the Caspers in my life!

We loved reuniting with all the Melin siblings the first week of July. Rich’s brother Mark and his family drove out from New Jersey and spent the first week of July with us and it was just the sweetest to be with them again. We are getting ready to be together again for Angie’s wedding and my in-law’s 50th anniversary over Labor Day weekend in Boise Idaho. We also got together with my Utah siblings briefly the night before Erin’s funeral in Lehi. I was so grateful to Jill and Drew for hosting us and feeling buoyed up by the love of family. We also had a mini- Layton reunion the first weekend in August with my two sisters, Erin and Rhonda and their families, as well as Dad Layton and Becky for one night. It rained every night we camped out at the ranch, but the days were beautiful and we had a perfect float on the river with almost everyone. If our experiences this summer taught us anything, it’s that family—God’s family and our own earthly family— is everything. And that building an eternal family is worth every sacrifice—lack of sleep, long drives, fasting, fervent prayer, temple attendance--- it is indeed our life’s work and nothing else really matters. Like, at all.  Our greatest joys and sorrows come from loving deeply and serving relentlessly in the family. What a privilege and blessing to have this knowledge and make the necessary covenants!!!

Well, it’s about time for me to settle my wild little boys down—gotta get back on the school schedule! Rich is in Bozeman at Standards Night with our girls, bless his heart. Life is good and we love and miss you all. We are so happy for Michael and Amber Drews welcoming their third baby, our sweet nephew, Seeley, and for our great-niece Lilith born to nephew Gabriel and Keegan in July (now both my twin sisters and GRANDMAS!). Happy Birthday to  Aunt Audrey, Papa Mark, Cousin Simon, and Cousin Brady this week!


Jamie, Rich, and Family

Jamie and Erin, Valentines 2000, Provo

Jamie and Erin, July 16, 2016 at Casper's home

Heid and Jamie at Erin's Grave, July 30, 2016

Our friends Mark Jarvis, Aaron Harris, and Ryan Hansen came to Erin's memorial service. All three of these men served in the California Sacramento mission; Harris and Hansen were the Elders who taught and baptized Erin, They also lived in our BYU  66th ward in 1994-1995 and we all became great friends. It was so sweet to see them there!

Elder Brandon Casper was weeping after the slideshow about his mom.
He sobbed in my ear, "I just miss her so much. She's my best friend!" Heartbreaking.

Erin's beautiful children: Brittany. Eliza, Tarah, Brandon

Erin's amazing husband, Rhett, saying goodbye at her grave on July 30, 2016
Adeline, Tarah, Brittany, Me, Heidi, Eliza, and Heidi Lynn, after all the services July 30th:
 "I didn't have many girl friends growing up and I didn't witness many strong, sisterly friendships, either. But making temple covenants, serving a mission, and building quality relationships changed all that. This circle of sisterhood is my air, and often, my salvation. My best friends, their daughters, and my daughters♡"

Heidi, James, and Addie after Shrek the Musical August 13th

James as Lord Farquad's guard

After opening night, August 12th

Heidi and Addie as dragons, singing their hearts out, final performance

James at curtain call

Check out Heidi, right in the middle

Rich and his scouts heading out on the 50-mile bike ride on August 20th

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

One Third of a Miracle

I have a RIDICULOUS amount of life to blog. The past 8 months have been truly BRUTIFUL, though I have been paralyzed by a deeply subconscious sense of doom and depression since December, which rendered me not only unable to blog, but unable to even think or reflect on life at all, unable to find joy, just surviving.

But there is something to be said about surviving, right? Enduring. It's a commandment. And I survived long enough to come back to myself and feel joy--which is another commandment, a reason for living.

So, coincidentally or not, this deep funk coincided with the news that my bff Erin Capser was diagnosed with metastatic--terminal--breast cancer, which had aggressively spread into her liver, bones, and lymph system. This did not make for the happiest of holiday seasons, and added to the dread I always feel in January and February. Blessedly, Erin's first treatments helped her tremendously and she didn't get terribly ill (except chemo days). So Heidi Egan and I were able to spend time with her in January and it was pretty much like old times except for the naps and the wigs. Erin even brought her wonderful family to spend Easter with our family this year, and she was doing pretty well. We had a glorious, happy holiday (I will blog all of this with photos later, of course!).

But everything after May was bad news. Treatments didn't work. Cancer spread and killed her liver. Miraculously, she gathered the strength to take a cruise with her family the first week of July. They had a beautiful trip. She was sick the day after they came home (7/10), released from chemo and put on hospice care the next day (7/11), felt better the next day when Heidi and I arrived to help (7/12), and then semi-conscious, medicated, sleepy, child-like, pain-free for a week as her body shut down. She crossed the veil in peace, at her home with her husband, children, father, and brother two days after I went home (7/19). It has been the most bittersweet, spiritual experience of my life aside from creating my own family.

I will continue to record my memories, feelings, testimony, and lessons I have learned, but today I just wanted to share the remarks I prepared for her memorial, held Saturday, July 30th in Lehi, Utah.

The Miracle of The Young Ones

I am one-third of a great miracle.

In August 1994, I had been home from my mission for three months. I returned to Provo determined to  keep up the habits and spirit of mission life. My dear friend Heidi was looking for a roommate and a change of atmosphere, so I moved in with her at Rupper #5. Heidi and I shared one room, and the other room was occupied by an LDS Business College student from Spain, Piedad Fernandez.  We wondered who would share the room with Piedad.

Enter Erin Lyman. One afternoon, we came home to find a black-haired, Doc-Marten-clad Goth girl hanging a Depeche Mode poster over the bed in the other bedroom. Heidi and I exchanged looks that said, “Uh-oh!” Was the New Girl gonna be on board with our plans for a new, more Christ-centered home? It looked like a “Maybe not.”

All our worries disappeared within only a few minutes when Erin began to tell us about herself. We learned that she had been baptized 10 months earlier in California. As she told her conversion story, something in my heart just burst. I believe in karma, and I believe in “do unto others”, so I thought to myself, I am going to treat this sweet girl the way I hope and pray someone treats the new members I left behind in North Carolina. I would try to be the best example I could be, invite the Spirit into our home, discuss scriptures and gospel questions, and most importantly, try to know and love her the way Jesus does.

Over the school year, Heidi, Erin, and I shared more than our fair share of laughs, sacred experiences, freaky dates, and spiritual growth. We didn’t know it then, but that year bound us together with a sacred tie. We prepared each other—or rather The Lord prepared us, together—for all the next big steps we would take in life. It was the spring board of Rupper Five that launched us into the relationships and educational paths that gave us the blessed and beautiful lives and families we have enjoyed the past 20 years.

I could go on and on about the ways Erin has had my back over the years, and maybe someday I will write it all down. We have had the most low-maintenance friendship—we never asked anything of each other. And yet when life threw me curve balls or hard questions, Erin would always emerge as my support, my voice of reason, my courage, and my cheerleader.  And always with sass that made me laugh. But when cancer came, our laughter subsided a bit, and our feelings of sisterhood emerged. Our eternal bond became obvious.

So now I stand here, one third of a miraculous sisterhood. One third is gone for now. Heidi and I will try to follow in Erin’s faithful footsteps.  I stand as one third and I stand all amazed.

Amazed that God saw fit to entrust his precious re-born daughter to me for a school year.

Amazed at the marvelous work and mighty change the Atonement of Jesus Christ wrought in the life of Erin Cathleen.

Amazed at how Erin harnessed the power of the light that came into her life and poured it over her four brilliant, valiant, courageous children and husband.

Amazed at the perfectly faithful and focused way she completed her mission on earth.

I stand all amazed and grateful for the opportunity to follow in her footsteps ‘til we meet at Jesus’ feet.


Dear Loved Ones,               The past two weeks have been a whirlwind for us…and now we are 8! We got a new German daughter, Kristin...