Reincarnated As A Mother

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Cannibal King and His Cast of Characters

One of our favorite days we spent in Fiji was the day we took a day trip up the Navua River. 
 We went with Byron's cousins, Ken and Jan Klingler.
Byron lived with the Klinglers when he was younger and they are like a second set of parents to us--
we adore them.
Ken also happens to be serving as the president of the Fiji mission for our church.
So it was pretty cool to get to see them in their element and to have them be able to take time away
to play with us!
We all climbed aboard a "long boat"... a long, skinny boat that seated about 8 people
with a captain running a small motor.
 The Navua River is gorgeous. 
On our journey, we passed 14, yep, 14 waterfalls.
All along the shores are little villages.
Much of Fiji- outside of the big cities are villages-- each with their own chief.
As part of our day, our group stopped off at the Raiwaqa Village for a few hours.
Notice the tribal member under the grass roof on the left.
He's pounding on a giant wooden "lali".. a Fijian drum of sorts that signals all
the members of the tribe to come.
 And come they did... the little kids, the grandmas... everyone.
Once inside their meeting house, they put on their traditional welcoming ceremony...
complete with dancing, chanting and singing.
 We even got video of Byron up and dancing with some of the village women--
if you are ever at the house, remind me.
By the way it was hot.  Really hot and sticky.
It poured rain while we were inside
but stopped when we went outdoors.
We must be living right!
They took us to another large hut in the village where they showed us how they cook their food--
under rocks, banana leaves and palm fronds.
 While some of the villagers prepared our meal, we toured the rest of their compound.
This is the area where many of the women make traditional crafts.
They showed us how they strip local plants, boil the leaves and make mats and wall hangings.
They showed us how they make dye, weave mats and carve wood.
 We also watched in awe as the locals demonstrated how they
crack open coconuts with their bare hands.
Yum... but won't be trying that at home.
 They also took us over to the children's school where the little kids
came out, welcomed us and sang a couple of songs.
Loved that part so much.
We then went back to the main meeting house where we were treated
to a traditional Fijian feast.
 It may not look that appetizing but it was really quite good.
Lots of it was cooked in coconut milk-- and trust me, you can't go wrong with that.
 We also got a history lesson on the country's cannibalism beginnings.
Actually, the last recorded account of cannibalism was in the 1950's.
Crazy stuff!
We had to take a picture of this guy.
He was this village's former chief and a notorious cannibal back in the 1800's.
They told us the story of a time when he got into an argument
with another tribal chief.  Clearly, he didn't like what was being said,
so grabbed his knife, hacked off the other chief's arm and proceeded
to eat it in front of him.
Not someone you'd want to take home to meet mom and dad (or have over for dinner).
 Today's tribal members are warm, friendly and thankfully, not flesh eaters.
They also put on quite a show.
 We particularly fell in love with that little grandma in the full turquoise dress in the middle right.
She had to be in her late 80's or early 90's.
 After lots of dancing, singing and the showing and selling of their handicrafts,
we got back on our boats and headed further up river.
 Out of four boats, ours, I think, was the only one not leaking.
As we laughed at one of the other boat captains steering and bailing, steering and bailing,
our captain told us if your boat isn't leaking, it isn't a boat.
It was quite a ride... they somehow maneuvered those rickety boats
through several rapids and we all made it to dry land.
Well, kinda dry land.  We were in a rain forest.
We took about a fifteen minute hike-- through lush, breathtaking scenery.
We hiked to a 150 foot waterfall... where
Byron and I jumped in the chilly water.
It was one of those moments where we really felt like we had gotten far, far away from our crazy life.
After the swimming and waterfall, we got back on our boats and
headed down river a ways.  They then had us get on a bamboo raft.
Many of the villagers up river float all their goods down to market on these big
bamboo rafts.  So it was quite cool to get a taste of that.
We loved this day and everything about it.
It was just one of many great ones we had on our trip.
Tomorrow we will be slapped back hard into reality.
Byron heads back to work and Kean and I head to the hospital
for a heavy day of Chemo.
Here's hoping all the stress doesn't come pouring back in just one day.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Farewell Fiji. Hello Home!

We are home.
The lights are back on at the Barker's and I am ready to once again get back
into what we so fondly call life.
Byron and I took off and spent a week in heaven.  Ooops, I mean Fiji.

 We took almost a gazillion photos but haven't had the gumption to load them yet onto a computer.
So for now, you'll have to do with these snaps from the little camera-- mostly taken
from the car as we drove half the island.
 We had an incredible week-- filled with the kindest people, breathtaking scenery,
yummy food, exploring, relaxation and a little cannibal history thrown in.
Over the next several days-- I'll try and share a bit of our trip.
The country is fascinating-- and it didn't hurt that we had the best hosts in the world.
I can't wait to take you along on a few adventures and let you learn a bit about this part
of the world-- don't you just love the picture below-- a family cemetery squeezed in between the road and the beach?
But for now, I'm still trying to get my "land legs".
Getting there wasn't too bad at all.
 But getting home was a trial of faith (and patience)..
Here we are leaving Fiji.
It took us 3 1/2 hours on a very bumpy road filled with insane drivers just to get to the airport.
(Thanks Ken for the excellent driving-- even if it was on the wrong side of the road for us).
 Once we left Nadi (pronounced Nan-dee), we flew two hours over to Samoa, had to get off
and hang out for an hour.
Then it was another five hours in the air to Honolulu.
We figured that was the best place to spend an overnight layover---
Hawaii vs. LAX?  Clear choice right?
Once we got through customs, we found ourselves outside the airport--
yep, outside with nowhere to go for four hours in the middle of the night.
 So we joined several others from our flight and a group of Hawaii's
favorite homeless... trying to get comfortable on concrete benches outside
the airport.  Not fun.
We left early the next morning-- quite stiff and very tired.
From there we flew to Seattle and then home to Boise.
From the time we got up to the time we got home--
just 39 hours.
Bless my parents for keeping the kids last night so we could get
uninterrupted sleep when we got home.
Uninterrupted, if you don't count one of Greer's friends calling
at what seemed like the crack of dawn for a play date!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Going Dark

I'm, as they say, going off the grid for a while.
Byron and I are taking some much needed "us" time
while my saintly parents are holding down the fort and trying to
corral the animals  children.
For my parting post, I'd like to share with you a letter I wrote to a friend from my past.
I got an email from a guy I grew up with-- he and his wife find themselves in all too familiar shoes.  She is in her late forties and surprise, surprise is expecting.  They just found out they are having a little girl with Down syndrome.
I sat down and wrote this then hit send.
Of course, after I went to bed, I thought of a million other things I should've put into the letter.
So for now, this will be letter one:
Dear ________-
   I remember all too clearly the boiling, rumbling pot of emotions that you and your wife must have inside of you.
Part of me thinks it is a good thing to know ahead of time that you are expecting a child with Down’s.
We had no idea and when the news came 45 minutes after Kean’s birth, we were launched unwillingly into a period of shock, depression and disappointment.
I’m guessing you are going through a version of that now instead of at your baby’s birth.
I think it was necessary to mourn, to say goodbye to our expectations and what we thought our lives were “supposed” to be like.
I look back on those “wet pillow” days and shake my head.  If only the me back then could have known what was ahead and the sheer joy this child would bring to our lives.
I’m certain by now; someone has shared with you the story/analogy of planning for the trip of a lifetime to go to Italy.  You have your itinerary, you’ve researched the castles, cathedrals, the food, the sights and sounds of Italy and you can’t wait to begin your adventure.  And yet, somehow, when you disembark the plane, you find you are not in Italy but instead Holland.  It is quite a shock to your system—the language is different.  The views and vistas are not anywhere near what you expected.  But soon you realize there are amazing things to do, see and taste in this country as well. It is not what you had planned but an incredible, fulfilling experience all the same.
It is the same with this new adventure into Down’s territory.  You are still going to have a sweet, scrumptious baby.  You’ll find a new world of experiences and precious, tender moments – he will be so different from your other children and yet so alike.
In fact, one of the nurses who took care of Kean in the NICU gave me the best advice—he told us to treat him like all of our other children.  If we treat him like he has Down’s, he will act more and more like he has Down’s. 
Prepare yourself for your baby to look like your other children.  I remember when Kean was born and they told us he had Trisomy 21.  Byron’s reaction was “well you’d better check the rest of our kids for Down’s because he looks just like the rest of them”!  You will spend more minutes than there are in an hour and more hours than there are in the day staring at this child trying to decide if he looks like he has Down’s or if he doesn’t. 
   Be careful and prayerful about what you read in preparation for this baby.  In my case, since I was on bed rest in the hospital for 75 days, I think it was a blessing not to know in advance.  We had so many other issues we were worried about.  In your case, it will be a blessing and a curse.  You can prepare and should prepare - but don’t let yourself get caught up in all that “could” be wrong.  In the hospital, they gave me a book:  “The Parents Guide To Raising A Child with Down syndrome” or something along those lines.  I was already an emotional and hormonal train wreck and this book had chapter after chapter of all the health problems Down’s children are more likely to have in their lifetime.  Just imagine if the hospital gave you a book when your first child was born that detailed every possible bad thing that could ever happen to your child in the years to come.  You’d be freaked out of your mind.
   You need to know that heart problems are a distinct possibility.  Many Trisomy 21 babies are born with heart issues and face early surgery.  But I know many of those children who are thriving to this day.  And I know many children who are born with healthy hearts.  Kean had an open flap.  We had to visit the Cardiologist regularly but it closed on its own and we did not face any procedures.
   I guess what I am trying to say, is don’t get caught up in all the scary what if’s.  I had to put that book away for a while.  My sister-in-law gave me a book called “Gifts” and that is the book I think every hospital should pass out with these special births.  It is a compilation of essays written under the categories of  “the Gift of Patience”, “the Gift of Love” etc.  It is written by parents of Down syndrome babies and it is a beautiful, spiritual book.  As I read this book, I felt over and over again that my feelings and emotions had been given a voice. 
We also received a book called “We’ll Paint the Octopus Red”.  I know your other children are mostly grown but this is a wonderful book that calms the fears and explains the unknowns to siblings.  The bottom line is that your child will be able to do most everything all children do; it will just take longer for them to learn.
   While I am on the subject of siblings; someday you will realize that this child is one of the greatest gifts your other children will receive.  My three girls are much more kind, charitable and giving than they would ever have been without Kean in their lives.  I remember the first year of his life; both of my older girls were awarded special certificates at an assembly at their school for being the most compassionate girls in their grades.  What was interesting, is the two boys who won the awards for their same grades each have a brother with Down’s.  You can’t call that just a coincidence. 
   We are all much better for having Kean in our lives.  I can’t begin to find the words that will convey what a joy he is and what he has brought to our home. He inspires us on a daily basis.  He works so hard to accomplish what comes so easily to others.  He is almost always happy—he is sheer joy. Pure love.   I can honestly say, without hesitation that if given the chance, I would NOT take away his Trisomy 21.  I love and adore how he is, who he is and the giant spirit that resides inside his little body.  I would, however, take away his cancer.  That’s a given.  In fact, now that he has cancer and it has been so difficult,  I look back at what seemed like such huge challenges and hurdles associated with him having Down’s and it really was nothing.  Once again, if only I had known then what I know now.
   I recently saw a headline that touted how researchers have found a way to turn off the extra chromosome and will eventually take away Down’s altogether.  It made me terribly sad.  Did you know that Down syndrome children are called the “Eight Percenters”?  That’s because 92 percent of the women who find out in advance they are pregnant with a Down’s baby go ahead and abort.  A world without Down’s would not be a better place
   If only they knew what I know.  Oh, if only every family could be so lucky to have one of these special spirits in their homes.   
   Kean has made each of us in our family want to be better— there is something very special about this child.  He touches all those who meet him.  I am so excited for you.  For your family. For your friends and all those in your circle of influence.  I promise you, someday very soon you will understand that this new little life will change everything—everything for the better.
Much love,

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Super Stars

We had our final wrap up meeting today to go over Baldapalooza...
the highs, the lows and what we need to fix if we do this again.
Probably the best comment I heard was from "Security Mike"... he's a former
career police officer who now runs security for a huge company based in Boise.
He and his team of 15 former officers volunteered their expertise to be our security for Balda.
Anyway, Mike said he's done countless events-- and while many of them were for
great causes, he has never experienced an event like ours.
The difference he said was everyone who was involved was giving straight from the heart--
and that showed.
I agree Mike, I agree.
A few of our folks had to leave early or couldn't come-- but here's a snap of
some of our main committee members.
All of our volunteers are incredible people!
We're all wearing our "Super Star" sunglasses.

It is looking like we will make somewhere close to 15 grand.
Not huge, but not bad for a first year event and for an evening
shut down by a wicked storm.
That does not include our on-line auction which is still going on.
So take a peak and see if there's something you'd love or something
that someone you love would love.
You know Christmas will be here before you know it.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Post Mortem

It has been kinda strange today... getting back into the swing of things
without Baldapalooza looming large.
We figure we had about 700 attendees-- less than we wanted
but I guess not so bad considering it was our first year and we were completely
shut down by a storm for a good hour.
Friends have sent over a few pictures I wanted to share.
Especially this one. I don't know who's more thrilled to be off house arrest--
Kean or Byron and I!
My friend Pam sent this over.  I loved that she titled the email:
"Your mom looks 30"!
Here's a shot of most of our headliners singing that powerful closing number.
Look carefully, don't you just love how many of them are looking up in the sky with wonder?
They were looking at these huge paper lanterns some of our cancer families lit.
Jennifer--one of our volunteers who is only months out of having a bone marrow transplant
is lighting this one.
And Byron helped our three girls light lanterns to represent Kean
(who by this time was home and in bed).
Perhaps we should've sent Reesey with him.
She ran plum out of gas right after the singing ended.
In case you'd like to hear and see... here's a link
to the final song;  Hallelujah.
Just remember, this doesn't do it justice.
We all had chills and/or tears.

Rockin' and Rollin' With the Flow...

I'm certain I won't be able to do yesterday - Baldapalooza day - justice.
So many incredible moments and emotions... but I'll give it the ol' college try.
The stay started early.
I picked up The Voice artists Amy Whitcomb and Ryan Innes early
for their appearance on our local NBC affil.
The station didn't have the proper equipment to have them play live
(hey, we're not in LA and it was a Saturday)...
so we winged that and they ended up doing a great interview.
We all went out for a well deserved breakfast.
That's Levi Maliwauki on the right.  He came with us and brought
his weighted keyboard-- the one we didn't end up using.
Baldapalooza started around four with several great acts.
About the time one of our bigger acts-- recently voted Idaho's Best Band--
Waking Jordan took the stage (and they were phenomenal)... the skies
started looking pretty ominous to the east.
It was during their last song (my kid's favorite) that things got pretty dicey.
Our on site police officers and city officials asked us to have everyone get to shelter or their cars for safety--
there was lighting just a little too close.
Oh, and did I mention that our darling, local weather anchor who was to serve as our emcee'
showed up at the event sicker than a dog (vomiting).
She was sent home and I took over.
I just never thought my announcing would include clearing the place out.
I gave everyone the option of preferably getting to their cars
or, if needed, squeezing into our VIP pavilion.
The city officials thought the storm would last 15 to 20... unfortunately, it was an hour
before we got back up again.
But... and this is a big but.... once the lightning, winds and heavy rain turned into a drizzle,
our fabulous, down-to-earth musicians offered to leave their cushy RVs and walk over
in the rain to the pavilion to see if they couldn't entertain those who had stayed.

With no mics and not the best acoustics, these guys belted it out.
And can I tell you-- it was pure magic.
Everyone who was there really got a treat... an intimate, spontaneous
full of heart fun time!
Here's the Midas Whale guys (who are hilarious) bookending Amy Whitcomb and Ryan Innes.
When the rain finally cleared up, we were given some more bad news--
but the kind you can make lemonade out of.
The expensive stage we paid so much to rent was water logged, well
some of the equipment was anyway-- enough that it wasn't safe to plug back in for a while.
So our team of artists and techs went to work and figured out how to make do and make a stage
over in the wings of the VIP pavilion.
Everyone -- who was left -- just smashed in tight and gathered around.
And really, for the size of crowd we had-- it was much better than being back on the big, raised stage.
Amy Whitcomb dazzled...
 As did JRyan.
He's the 14 year old from San Antonio who will be on this season's X Factor.
Man this kid can sing and charm.
He's like a mini version of Bruno Mars.
(You should've seen the gaggle of girls following him around all evening-- including
Holland and Greer).
We had some particularly sweet moments.
The little boy in the wheel chair is 11 year old Gage Driskoll.
He has terminal brain cancer (thousands of tumors are up his spine and in his brain).
He's been given 2 to 3 months to live.
We had Fictionist (so adore these guys) pull him up on our make-shift stage) introduce
him and tell why he is such a brave hero.
And then they dedicated their next song to him.
I'm sure I was joined by many others in tears.
You have to know our emcee, Bri Eggers showed up after the storm
and wanted to do her part even though she wasn't feeling great.
Here she is with 12 year old Brenna.
We had Brenna and another boy, Zach take a minute to tell their
story of fighting cancer and then help introduce a main act.
They were wonderful and a perfect reminder as to what the evening was all about. 
It was our family's turn to introduce the main act, Ryan Innes.
We decided Kean needed to be there and be a part of the evening he inspired.
My parents  brought him down (and then whisked him away for bed)...
(Thanks to Cindy Maliwauki and my friend Fabiana who was our professional photographer
 for the evening and took several of these pictures).
Okay, I was a total dork and got a bit emotional but I kept it short and got through it.
I also introduced our main team of founders who were crazy enough to attempt such a huge event.
 But you know, it was worth every stressful second.
All of the artists amazed.
Ryan Innes - I think converted everyone there to his gospel of music.
He has a voice like you can't believe.
I keep thinking, how blessed and fortunate we were to have this caliber of artists
and this caliber of humans.  There were no egos-- they just wanted to help us
make the event successful and memorable.
For the final number, Ryan got personal and told how his own nephew was recently
diagnosed with cancer.
He then asked the audience to send up to the heavens-- prayers, wishes or thoughts
for anyone fighting cancer.
(He said something along those lines-- I was busy getting our cancer kids ready).
Amy Whitcomb, Midas Whale, Fictionist and JRyan all joined Ryan Innes on stage
to sing Rufus Wainwright's cover of Hallelujah (remember from Shrek?).
While they were singing... we had cancer survivors and some of their families
around the audience light those huge three foot paper lanterns and then release them into the sky.
It was incredibly touching and beautiful.
That dang storm may have scared away a lot of attendees... but it ended up being perfect.  Just perfect.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Baldapalooza Blues

It is over.
We survived after a very wild ride.  Details to come.
For now....
please enjoy this little tease.
(Brought to you by Push 2 Play featuring Dustin Simpson one of our founders)
p.s.  listen for the part about Kean!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pinch Me!

I can't believe 9 months of planning, sweating, stressing and working have come to this.
I feel like I'm about to give birth to a bouncing baby Baldapalooza.
Well, me and a whole lot of other people who worked to make this happen.
Today was another crazy day.
But crazy good.
In between 3000.6 phone calls, emails and small crises, the main board
headed over to the home of Waking Jordan.
All four members of the band live together and
when we got there the entire house was shaking with music.
It was loud and fabulous to hear them play.
Plus, we had a great lunch with them-- and two of our headliners-
Ryan Innes and Amy Whitcomb.
 They truly are down to earth, fun to talk with, great to know kinda people.
From left is Sam Schultz (their manager), me, Lori Swanson (our event chair), Ryan Innes, Amy Whitcomb and Dustin Simpson (our music coordinator).
 I had to leave to run a bunch or errands for the event, then get back and pick up Amy at 4 to take her to Mimi Marie's
Boutique for an outfit to wear tomorrow night.
She is wonderful.
Finally tonight, Byron, the girls, and I met up with a few of our key sponsors, many of our volunteers
for a dinner and "thank you" concert.
Ryan, Amy and a few other artists put on an intimate evening and the music was incredible.
We all felt pretty lucky for the experience.
Tomorrow night is going to be unbelievable.
It starts early.
I'm picking up Ryan and Amy to be on Channel 7's morning show.
Tune in from 8 to 10 a.m.
See you at Baldapalooza.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Whatever Kean experienced yesterday-- a UFO-- an unidentified freakish occurrence-- he is just fine today.
A big sluggish... like he had a huge day yesterday-- and boy, did he.
The countdown is on for Baldapalooza.
Many of the artists are arriving in town tonight
so I guess this is really going to happen.
Thanks to everyone who has bought tickets so far.
Those of you who haven't-- get moving!
I have them or see our website for other options:
 Warning: shameless plug coming up:
Do it for Kean!