Saturday, July 30, 2011

Life Is Sweet

Lately there is a lot of stuff going on in the world that has been weighing down my heart. I don't know about you, but I'm in need of a reminder of the good stuff.

The only reason we get sad when people leave this world early, is because there is so, so much beauty and love in it too. The simplest moments are miracles. I am so grateful that River has given me new eyes to see and new ears to hear these miracles. I am so thankful I have Bear to share each moment with. God is great and I could not love my life more.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rise and Shine

Mornings are not my favorite, but this little guy helps turn my morning frown upside down.

Usually I don't blast him with the lights, but his room is too dark to record in otherwise. As the child of two actors, I'm sure he'll get used to suffering for a good take.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


They say bad news comes in threes and this time it did. My friend unexpectedly lost her young brother, a boy scout from my old ward where I taught primary was killed in a freak lightening storm while at camp and a lady in my current ward delivered her full term baby stillborn. That was a lot of tragedies to hear about in one week and these were on top of what seemed like an excessive amount of tragedies in the news. Though I have a strong testimony of eternal families, I still struggled with wondering how these people were going to cope with the pain they had to endure. If something happened to River, I would die of a broken heart. It wouldn't be a long, drawn out experience either. It would break and I would die. But what about people who have other children, how do they keep going, despite the pain?

My friend Suzanne, Big Matt's mom, shared a talk she heard that has helped her somewhat understand her pain. People would always tell her, it will get easier with time, but she didn't understand how, since it would just be even longer since she had seen Matt. This talk helped her and since none of us get through this life unscathed by loss, I wanted to share it here, with the hopes that the right person will get to see it.

STEVEN KALAS: When you lose a child, grieving is a lifelong experience

When our first child is born, a loud voice says, "Runners, take your marks!" We hear the starting gun and the race begins. It's a race we must win at all cost. We have to win. The competition is called "I'll race you to the grave." I'm currently racing three sons. ...I really want to win.

Not everyone wins.

I'm here at the national meeting of Compassionate Friends, an organization offering support and resources for parents who lose the race. I'm wandering the halls during the "break-out" sessions. In this room are parents whose children died in car accidents. Over there is a room full of parents of murdered children. Parents of cancer victims are at the end of the hall. Miscarriages and stillbirths are grouped together, as are parents who have survived a child's suicide. And so it goes.

In a few minutes, I'm going to address Compassionate Friends. This is the toughest audience of my life. I mix with the gathering crowd, and a woman from Delaware glances at my name tag. Her name tag has a photo of her deceased son. My name tag is absent photos.

"So ... you haven't ... lost anyone," she says cautiously.

"My three sons are yet alive, if that's what you're asking me," I say gently.

She tries to nod politely, but I can see that I've lost credibility in her eyes. She's wondering who invited this speaker, and what on earth he could ever have to say to her.

My address is titled "The Myth of Getting Over It." It's my attempt to answer the driving questions of grieving parents: When will I get over this? How do I get over this?

You don't get over it. Getting over it is an inappropriate goal. An unreasonable hope. The loss of a child changes you. It changes your marriage. It changes the way birds sing. It changes the way the sun rises and sets. You are forever different.

You don't want to get over it. Don't act surprised. As awful a burden as grief is, you know intuitively that it matters, that it is profoundly important to be grieving. Your grief plays a crucial part in staying connected to your child's life. To give up your grief would mean losing your child yet again. If I had the power to take your grief away, you'd fight me to keep it. Your grief is awful, but it is also holy. And somewhere inside you, you know that.

The goal is not to get over it. The goal is to get on with it.

Profound grief is like being in a stage play wherein suddenly the stagehands push a huge grand piano into the middle of the set. The piano paralyzes the play. It dominates the stage. No matter where you move, it impedes your sight lines, your blocking, your ability to interact with the other players. You keep banging into it, surprised each time that it's still there. It takes all your concentration to work around it, this at a time when you have little ability or desire to concentrate on anything.

The piano changes everything. The entire play must be rewritten around it.

But over time the piano is pushed to stage left. Then to upper stage left. You are the playwright, and slowly, surely, you begin to find the impetus and wherewithal to stop reacting to the intrusive piano. Instead, you engage it. Instead of writing every scene around the piano, you begin to write the piano into each scene, into the story of your life.

You learn to play that piano. You're surprised to find that you want to play, that it's meaningful, even peaceful to play it. At first your songs are filled with pain, bitterness, even despair. But later you find your songs contain beauty, peace, a greater capacity for love and compassion. You and grief -- together -- begin to compose hope. Who'da thought?

Your grief becomes an intimate treasure, though the spaces between the grief lengthen. You no longer need to play the piano every day, or even every month. But later, when you're 84, staring out your kitchen window on a random Tuesday morning, you welcome the sigh, the tears, the wistful pain that moves through your heart and reminds you that your child's life mattered.

You wipe the dust off the piano and sit down to play.

Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Clear View Counseling and Wellness Center in Las Vegas. Contact him at skalas@review

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Mama

This post is coming a little late in the day, but I couldn't let the 23rd of July pass without celebrating the best mom on the planet. She's been on Earth for 60 years and I've been lucky enough to share 32 and 1/2 with her... plus 9 months of getting to know her voice in the womb. You moms out there know how your baby recognizes your voice and amidst all the chaos of labor and delivery, they turn and find you when you speak. How lucky I am that she is that person for me. I love her and I love her more now that I am a mom too.

Here she is pregnant with me and if you look real close, her shirt says, "I am having a boy." Oops! Sorry to disappoint. I just looked like a boy instead.

How cool is it that my mom was a zookeeper. All the animals loved her as much as us. A hippo even saved her life. You can't make this stuff up.

She was born Iris Lillie, but I call her mom and now she goes by Nomee... which I think is the sweetest name of all. She picked it, because she really wanted her grandchildren to "know me". Don't worry mom. They will and they will be better because of it. I love you. Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thank Goodness For Video Cameras

Because sometimes you just need proof that your wild man was once a little one.

Watching River run around and laugh so hard today, I was making him take breaks just to catch his breath, I looked up at his newborn photo on the wall and thought... This cannot possibly be the same being.
My favorite things about having an 18 month old are the simple schedule (sleep 8pm-8am and one nap at 1), the increased communication (over 25 signs and about 15 words used on a regular basis), seeing him try to put his clothes on himself (even when he gets frustrated, he keeps trying), the affection (kisses, hugs and just grabbing on to my leg to lean on and suck his thumb for a second) and watching him become more and more his own person.
My least favorite things about having an 18 month old are sitting and talking with friends is nearly impossible, I have to see him fall down A LOT, he somehow learned to whine really well when saying the word no (it's a one syllable word and he can make it three), he is in a big separation anxiety phase and won't let me leave him in nursery by himself anymore and finally... it's going by too quickly. I blinked and he went from my 8 lb angelic newborn to a 26 lb dashing, crashing, sassing tot. I'm sleeping with my eyes open tonight, because I am scared to blink again and have him be 13 tomorrow.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Best Shot

If you are friends with me on facebook, be prepared for a daily (maybe twice daily) request to vote for River in the Gerber contest. I know that it is a long shot and there is most likely some gigantic Italian family out there, with every second or third cousin voting daily, but you miss every shot you don't take, so I really want to give this my best shot.
You all know River is beautiful, but he will also one day lead this nation, so you can consider this vote an investment in your future. When he is President, you can say.... I helped send that man to college. I will share credit with you, after all, it really does take a village.
I've been getting a few critiques on the picture I chose to submit. First, I want to say I really like this picture. Second, the rules are it had to be taken by me (aka not the best photographer armed with only a tiny point and shoot camera)and it had to be taken recently (you try and get an 18 month old to smile directly at the camera. If you are okay with the photo and want to do me the kindness of voting, click HERE. Thank you and I promise not to do anymore of these for a long, long time.

Friday, July 1, 2011

June 31st!

That's right.. River gets a half birthday after all. Please tune into our reality show A Day In The Life Of An 18 Month Old Sensation!
7:00 am The cat wakes me up, because he wants to eat. This was cute pre-baby... not so much anymore.
7:50 am Finally dozing back to sleep after the cat wake up. I know most people would get up and get a head start on breakfast, but I relish every ounce of sleep like a drowning person relishes oxygen.
8:13 am I hear River saying Boo over the monitor. I decide to keep my eyes shut for one more minute, since he is happy and giggling. During that minute, I say a little prayer of gratitude that ever since he started taking only one nap back in February, he sleeps in longer in the morning. I take a deep breath and greet my little man for the day.

9:00 am River is finally eating breakfast. I sneak away for a second and get dressed in my workout clothes.

9:30 am River is dressed and we are heading out of the door for our morning walk, when I smell something funny. That diaper sure didn't last long.

9:45 am We make it out for our morning walk. It takes ten times longer now that he knows the signs for stop and go. Every time he signs stop, I stop the stroller and every time he signs go, we go. I wonder if I look schizophrenic, since most people probably don't understand I am taking silent commands from my child. As I pass my Bishop's and Stake President's house, I wonder if walking your kids constitutes wearing workout clothes... then I decide I'm too hot to care and at least my run sensor makes me seem more legit.
10:30 am We make it back to the apartment, but now we must run laps around the car. I rethink my decision of stopping my run sensor, as I know I've at least added another half mile in circles. I also contemplate whether the half days worth of shade the tree gives my car is worth the sap and bird poop covering my car. I also decide to think of the bird poop as remains of an oreo cookie fight, because not only will I be less grossed out by my car, but I'll probably eat less oreo cookies as well.
10:50 am After a head bonk on the driveway, from an escape attempt, we make it back into the apartment... almost.

11:00 am I am already wiped out by the heat and it's not even the hottest part of the day yet. River, however, is ready for some playtime and is loving the big red bucket I won yesterday. What I thought was going to be a fun container for ice cold beverages, has become a pretend washing machine and a basketball goal for fruit snacks.

11:30 am It's time for the free lunch program in the park. We head back out in the heat and I realize halfway to the park, I am still wearing my workout clothes from this morning. Oh well... being at the park with an 18 month old is a workout! On the menu today is the oh so healthy American staple of... nachos?

11:32 am Now we are onto our current favorite park activities... walking backwards and throwing sticks in the stream... thankfully not at the same time. I think I got him to sit still and eat for a total of 1 minute and 38 seconds. Since the food isn't so healthy today, I decide not to worry too much about it and just feed him a banana later.

12:45 pm Back inside my apartment and so pooped. Thank goodness it's time to wake up Bear. I hand River off and finally go to the bathroom.
1:00 pm I realize I am zoning and magically pop back into reality right at nap time. We put River down, despite his urgent pleas to stay up. He cries heartily for 15 seconds and then all is calm.
1:15 pm Ignoring many other items on my to do list, I finally get my behind to the gym. I am still in my workout clothes, so might as well. I realize I forgot my running sensor, so I lift weights instead. This girl don't run, unless the miles get added.
2:10 pm Back from the gym... I almost made it an hour (good enough) and I switch off with Bear. We sound really athletic right now. I decide to get stuff done, but check my email first and 45 minutes go by.
3:00 pm Computer stuff makes me tired and since River is still sleeping, I decide to see if I can sneak in a nap.
3:10 pm I hear River say Eeee Ohhh on the monitor. Dang!

The rest of the day.... I lose steam in the video department. Somehow, I get dinner on the table at five. I'm pretty sure Signing Time was involved. I force two bites down River's throat and we change into swimming suits and head off to Liberty Park to splash in the Seven Canyons fountain and escape our hot apartment.

7:30 pm We head back home and throw River in the tub. We give him his teething homeopathics and gel. We brush his teeth. We run around the house chasing his naked body, trying to put on lotion and get his diaper on before he pees. We don't get his diaper on before he pees. Bear pulls out the trusty carpet spray and I tackle River and finally get him diapered. Did I mention, my apartment is really hot and I've worked up a nice sweat... good thing I went from workout clothes to a swimsuit. My goal for tomorrow is to wear a bra, but only if it is under 90 degrees.

8:00 pm Pajamas, storytime and eventually.... hopefully by 8:15, but most likely 8:30... bedtime. Usually we read to River, but lately he's been reading to us.

The End!