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

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Dear Loved Ones ,                                                                                We've enjoyed a great first week o...