Tuesday, May 31, 2011

good morning world

My husband got up with the kiddos and I was awakened by the laughter of my children 2 hours later. Can’t beat that with a stick. Happiness for all my blessings is the first thought of the morning. I am just itching to open my door and step thru the portal from the quiet peace of my bedroom into the relative chaos that comes with screams of “mommy, mommy” and tons of hugs and kisses. The loss of my peaceful environment doesn’t even bother me, although it may in a few hours. As I yawn and stretch I pray a little prayer of thanksgiving, which admittedly will soon turn to a prayer for patience. But I choose to enjoy this moment for what it is. For we are not promised tomorrow, or even the next hour, or the next minute. So I will cherish each moment as it comes, some enjoyable, some irritating, some overwhelming, some with crying, some with laughing, some exhausting, some painful, some joyful, some with dancing and some with mourning. Can someone remind me that I said all this tomorrow???

Monday, May 30, 2011

how do you like them apples?

Let’s start this conversation out by being completely honest. I have to admit, cleaning house has never been my strong suit. Never was good at it, never will be, but I always gave it a valiant effort. Now, not even physically having the strength to throw a hail mary at it, it has dwindled down into a state of total and complete disarray. 

So, all that to say, my house is D-I-R-T-Y dirty. The floor is actually starting to take on a completely different color as the sticky spots begin to meld into one another and the lovely tumble weeds of human hair mixed with cat hair really add to the desert feel that we are going for. The stairs are coated with a pleasant mixture of dirt, hair and cat puke, the kitchen décor has been updated as the cabinets are splattered with drips and drops, smears and streaks of who knows what. And, best of all, the charm of the bathrooms is just so inviting……well you wives all know what a bathroom looks like when living with kids and a boy…..its covered in…..well, you know what it is covered in. Actually, I think it is starting to take on a new style, a sort of grunge meets suburban chic. It now carries its own panache and flavor. It’s gas station bathroom/Lady Gaga mixed with Martha Stewert and just a touch of feng shui. The foggier my brain gets, the more I am loving it.

Yesterday, as I stepped out of the shower, I glanced down at the toilet and smiled as I discovered a truly wonderful surprise. On the silver lid of the toilet were several tiny little Finley handprints. I couldn’t stop beaming as I remembered the night before when she played around me, eating apple straws as I sat on the floor organizing my makeup and nail polish. I leaned down to examine my D-I-R-T-Y dirty toilet lid, now decorated with handprints and carrying the faint scent of apples and cinnamon, and I laughed to myself at the memory. The hair, the splatters and sticky spots, even the dirty toilet all carry their own memories, and until I have the strength to clean them, I will treasure each one.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing

While my dad was here for the weekend he built a swingset for Robyn and Finn. Now, I know you’re probably picturing the typical 8 foot A-frame, complete with chains and plastic seats. In classic Shepherd fashion, this swingset is on a much grander scale. (Shepherd rule # 47 – all projects must be BIG, really, really BIG.) And, in order to accommodate my husband’s desire not to have anything in the yard to mow around, my amazing father devised a way to build a swingset with no legs – I repeat – no legs.

Now, you must remind yourself that I lived in 2 school buses when I was young. Dad found a way to turn them into a home of sorts, complete with a couch in the “living room,” makeup lights around the rearview mirror, and a rainwater shower on the back porch; literally a shower of cold rainwater, not one of those fancy showerheads that simulate rain. (Shepherd rule # 1 – Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.) Which seemed to be at odds with my mother’s rulebook when she stated the now infamous ultimatum, “ok, I will live in a school bus, but I will not LOOK like I live in a school bus.” Thus the makeup lights.

So, from that extremely condensed version of just a few of dad’s architectural achievements, which also include building 2 gorgeous homes over 5000 sq. ft. each (rabbit trail, I apologize), you can see that it wouldn’t take him long to solve Charles’ dilemma. (Shepherd rule # 32 – NEVER, EVER turn down a challenge.)

I will spare you the general construction details, I will just tell you that it includes two tall trees right beside one another, two 14” bolts, 70 feet of 2” thick rope, a 6’2” man on tiptoes atop a 10’ ladder holding a drill as far above his head as his arms could extend drilling through the middle of each of the two trees, and a 20 foot 4 x 6 wooden beam extending out into thin air. Oops – I guess I didn’t spare you the details – but it is just so ingenious, I couldn’t help myself. (If this sounds incredible, sometime I’ll have to tell you about the 700 foot zip line he constructed in the backyard.)

This may seem bizarre in your world. But in my world of school buses and rain water showers, this is just a normal swing. Maybe even a little scaled back from the swings I had growing up. My two favs were both of the rope and tree variety. The first was on a limb about 20 – 30 feet up a tree, which, if I remember correctly, Jerome Ocker, ascended in a matter of mere seconds in a strangely monkey-like manner. Jerome, if this incorrect, I apologize, but we’re talking about a 7-year-old’s perspective here. This swing was a loop of rope with a wooden seat. Set at the bottom of a hill, I would grab the swing and run up the hill, hop on the seat and go for a ride. Now sitting quickly progressed to standing, flipping, and trapeze style tricks that ended with a trip to the hospital after I landed on my neck and head – just a sprain. It didn’t slow me down for long.

Okay, that one may sound impressive, but this next one is over-the-top. Picture a deep, deep ravine. I don’t know how deep, but in my memory it is over 100 feet deep. Dad must have spotted the perfect branch for a swing, because I got home from school one day and he was standing at the top of the ravine with a weight on the end of a long, thin rope. About 1/3 of the way down the hill was this extraordinarily tall tree. Roughly 60 feet up was a strong, thick branch sticking out straight as an arrow. Dad must have spent an hour or so tossing the weight, trying to get it over that branch. Then he used the thin rope to pull a very thick rope up and over the branch. To take a ride on this enormous pendulum, one had to grab ahold of a rope tied to the bottom of the swing, hike up the hill, and then ascend a 12 foot homemade ladder to a platform at the top. Once you got to the platform, you used the small rope to pull the swing to you, then you would reach up as high as you could, lean out over the abyss, and once you got a good, tight grip you would squeeze your eyes shut and leap out into the atmosphere and quickly straddle the rope, hoping that your little caboose landed on the stop sign shaped piece of wood that made up the seat. Now THAT was a swing! No roller coaster can compare to the stomach drop that I would experience as I sailed out over the ravine, the ground dropping away beneath me, my hair whipping in the wind, screaming and laughing simultaneously. To this day, swinging never fails to make me smile.

So thank you daddy for the great, ingenious swing that meets Charles’ criteria, brings back such fun memories of my childhood, and entertains the kids for hours on end! Does it get any better than that?

Friday, May 20, 2011

what's next?

So, I have this debilitating, life-altering disease, at this point who really cares where I got it, right? The question is what now? I have to be honest, this is a really scary time, there is no cure here and very little information is available. I am moving downhill fast, the wheels are falling off this wagon like nobody’s business and I feel like I’m about to have a major 3 wagon pile-up. For the past few years the progression has been very slow. I won’t bore you with the details, but we are now to a point where my symptoms are multiplying daily, affecting not only my body, but my brain is unraveling as well.

We are seeing a LNB specialist in Washington, DC who is the leading expert in the US and a pioneer in this field, Dr. Joseph Jemsek. We feel that we are exactly where God wants us. I am in what they refer to as the “optimization phase.” Because the treatment is so grueling, my body must be in the best possible place to begin. Treatment consists of 6-18 months of IV infusion antibiotics; with the affects on my body being likened to those of chemo. Long term chances of recovery are good, with the hope being that I will return to 85% to 95% of my previous self. As the disease has no cure, I will be on maintenance treatments for the rest of my life.

The other discouraging news is that Chronic LNB is not recognized by insurance companies and therefore the absolutely staggering cost of treatment is not covered. Our hearts have been overwhelmed by the love of friends and family as God has already begun to provide thru their generous gifts.

We are only beginning to understand the depths of the grace that God has lavishly poured out on our family as we are just so, so, so thankful that there is a treatment for what I have and that this disease is very rarely fatal. I know that there are many of you who have experienced the devastation of watching someone you love lose their battle with a terminal illness. My heart aches for you.   

So, here’s the deal guys. I really truly believe what my daddy says, “Pain is the tool that God uses to carve out a container for joy." The amount of joy I have experienced in little everyday things this year is astounding. Finley’s amazing smile, the little attitude she has recently taken on, her contagious laughter as she swings on Papa’s swing and her curious little expressions and imagination as she plays and talks with her baby dolls, her insistence that she “escort” me to the bathroom – complete with her elbow out for me to hook my arm through. Robyn’s spunky personality, her gift of gymnastics, her silly laugh as we play Go Fish, her complete innocence as she does naked cartwheels on her way to the bathtub, and both of them fill my heart to the breaking point with their unbridled love for life as they unabashedly dance with delight. God is definitely cradling me in the palm of His hand. And I am clinging to His promises and provision every minute of every hour of every day. But for every scary thing that happens, every moment that I feel desperation, there are many, many, many more moments of overwhelming joy. To quote one of my favs, Katy Perry, “after a hurricane comes a rainbow.” And one more beloved place of solace for me that my momma had me memorize as a child, Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear for I am with you, do not anxiously look about you for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

In His arms is where I abide.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

the theories.....

Theory Number One: The Tick Bites. When I was young I lived in 2 school buses parked side-by-side for a little while – have I not mentioned that before? Well, it is one of my absolute favorite memories from my childhood, but that is another story altogether. So these two school buses and subsequent mobile home and subsequent 5000 sq. foot log cabin were plunked down on 2 beautiful acres in the middle of rural PA. There was a long dirt road leading to a gravel driveway winding softly around a massive, deep ravine. The ravine was filled with adventure and excitement for an inquisitive and pioneering 7 year old. Above the buses rose a big hill crested by a grove of pine trees in which we built a tree house and played tag along the very tops of the trees till we moved when I was 12. Ticks were a part of everyday life. Those of you who have lived in regions similar to this know the nightly ritual – strip down and mom checks you head to toe for these tiny vampires. According to my momma, more often than not she would find a few crawling around on me (um, I just threw up a little in my mouth,) and at least once a week there was one of those little stinkers with – as per Wikipedia – “its chelicerae (cutting mandibles) and hypostome (feeding tube) inserted into [my] skin. The hypostome is covered with recurved teeth that serve as an anchor.” Okay, gross, gross, gross! I warned you buckle your seatbelt for this one. Now that you have puked all over your computer, let us continue.

Theory Number Two: The Spider Bites. In October 2006, I lay sound asleep, snuggled deep under the pure white covers in my cozy king size bed in my beautiful suite at the Comfort Inn in Charlotte, NC. (sorry Comfort Inn, but this is a true story) My sweet friend Robin lay on the other side of the bed. There were 5 of us there for a fitness conference. Apparently I called dibs on the wrong bed. Now how this little guy chose me and not Robin, I’m not sure. Maybe my legs looked juicier in the dim light under the covers. Maybe he liked my toenail polish better. (Don't they say that the color red makes people hungry?) Maybe my soap smelled more appetizing than hers…..whatever the case may be, he picked my leg. And as I lay sleeping, peacefully unaware of the meal that was being eaten at my expense, that itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny, yellow polka dot ,…..oh, wait that’s another story…..that little arachnid pulled up a comfy armchair, tied one of those big plastic lobster bibs around his neck, so as not to spill anything succulent down the front of his violin embroidered tuxedo, and dug in. Twice.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

it's official.....

Okay boys and girls, buckle your seatbelts, we’re in the big leagues now. After 6 years of feeling sick and knowing something wasn’t quite right, 16 months of false diagnoses, doctors who thought I was just a junkie trying to get my next fix, friends who thought I was faking, doctors who classified it as psychosomatic, even doctors who chuckled (I know, right?) as I begged them to run more tests, I finally have an official diagnosis. You ready? Lyme Borreliosis  Complex - or LBC for short. Sounds fun, right?
You may be wondering where in the world I picked up a disease with such a long and hard to pronounce name. Well, there are two theories on that. But let’s talk about that tomorrow…..

Sunday, May 15, 2011

ahhh…..the joys of anesthesia

I had an endoscopy last week. I don’t know why I was nervous because I have absolutely no memory of the actual procedure. It was a breeze. A few little hiccups at the beginning as they tried to start my IV (apparently I have very tough skin) but we finally got it. As my good friend, Christy, who was my nurse anesthetist, pushed that first blessed dose of Versed, the world became rosy pink, hearts fluttered all around me and I told Charles that he was my best friend and began to expound on my love for him. Christy rolled me away to the surgery room before I embarrassed myself too much, and things started to get really foggy. I do remember telling Dr. Cornell that he looked “quite dapper” in his suspenders. Really Brooke? Dapper? The last thing I remember is scrunching up my nose as Christy sprayed the back of my throat with banana flavored numbing spray. She leaned in for the second spray and I was gone.
Let’s pause here for one second…..why do they try to cover the taste of gross medicines with fruit flavors? Let’s discuss a few of my current supplements, peach mango liquid iron, cod liver oil with “great lemon taste,” and now banana numbing spray. Seriously, it’s like spraying a flowery air freshener in a poopy bathroom, all it does is mix the individual odors until you end up with a disgusting flower/poop aroma that is more sickening than if you had just done your business and left well enough alone.
Okay, enough of that rabbit trail, back to the endoscopy. The interesting thing about anesthesia is that it’s not like you lie there in blackness for 30 or 45 minutes. It isn’t like sleep where you dream or have a general vague awareness of the passage of time. It is one minute they are spraying banana spray down your throat and the next instant you are gently being shaken awake. As I woke up, I was definitely more than a little confused. The day before my procedure, I had spent about 30 minutes on the phone with a sweet nurse named Karen who calmed all my fears and anxieties. It was Karen who came to wake me up, and as soon as I realized who she was, I reached up and pulled her down for a great big hug. Not too humiliating in and of itself, not if I hadn’t done the same exact thing about 2 minutes prior; of which I have absolutely no recollection. I also asked my dapper doctor precisely the same question about ten times. Charles said that every time he tried to wrap up the conversation and walk out the door, I would ask again. I finally got myself together enough to get dressed, Karen wheeled me to the car, and as I stood up I grabbed her for one more big hug. Apparently, I am quite affectionate when under the affects of anesthesia. When can we schedule another endoscopy? Actually, let’s skip the endoscopy, just give me the Versed!!!!!!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

cat duty

As moms most of us have this sixth sense, we can be awakened from a dead sleep by the slightest noise. If the baby so much as sighs, we are on our feet before our eyes are even open. Coughs, cries, sneezes, itty bitty footsteps; we hear each and every one. While, let’s be honest, most husbands saw logs right through it all and wake up in the morning fresh as a daisy. You could have gotten up with a puking child five times, eventually put her in the bed with you where she immediately pukes all over your bed, changed the sheets right out from under your man, changed his clothes and wiped the puke that had splashed onto his face for that matter, finally gotten your baby back into her own bed, fallen exhausted back into your own bed, and two minutes later your husband will sit up, stretch his arms high above his head, and with a huge yawn, smile at you and obliviously ask, “I slept like a baby….you?”
This is the very reason that when the doctor put me on a cocktail of meds to “knock me out for 8 – 10 hours” at night, I was more than a little concerned. Charles promised that he would turn his sleep dial down so that he would be the one to hear all the cries and coughs, handle all the crises, clean up any puke, etc. Evidently that promise did not extend to cat duty.
Now the cat must have been making quite the racket to wake me from my medically induced coma, not to mention, she was actually on his side of the bed! Half asleep, I realize that what had startled me from my sweet dreams was Lizzie hacking up a hairball. Hmmmm…..and what a lovely sound that is. With my senses only slightly intact I stumble towards the noise, trying to get there before the actual ball o’ hair is delivered to the carpet. Ugh! She completes her retching just as I round the corner of the bed. I scoop her up, lest there be any aftermath on its way up, and half stagger/half run her to the garage. Making my way back into the pitch black bedroom, I feel like I am navigating a minefield as I have to tiptoe through an unknown number of pukey spots, hoping not to feel anything squishing between my bare toes. I turn on the bathroom light to illuminate the area, and as I begin scrubbing the offending spot, Charles squints into the light and asks, “what are you doing?” “Nothing hon, go back to sleep.” And he wonders why I worry he won’t wake up for the kids………

Friday, May 13, 2011

dreams do come true

I find that my dreams these days consist of two of the things I really crave – I mean besides alone time while I pee and a closet full of designer clothes. Two of the things that I crave that are actually attainable – my sweet momma and food full of gluten – I’m talking yeast rolls with Stephen’s honey & cinnamon butter, Olive Garden’s breadsticks slathered in their delicious alfredo sauce, a huge New York style cheese pizza, a pbj on soft white bread, a warm piece of toast with melted butter swirled together with honey. Yummmmm. Cheese on buttery Town House crackers, a great big, fat smore with marshmallow dripping all over my fingers, Charles’ amazing chocolate chip cookies, a ginormous chocolate cake, monkey bread straight from the oven, a Cinnabon cinnamon roll oozing that divine mixture of cinnamon, sugar, butter and icing. Oh my, oh my. And don’t even get me started on pasta. Holy cow – I love pasta! I used to make the most amazing (if I do say so myself) spaghetti with kielbasa, oh and my friend Amanda makes this dish from New York called Chicken Riggies, and my momma’s chicken tetrazzini! Eating one of these amazing dishes, sitting across the table from my momma – this is what I dream about every night.
So, between Charles and the girls taking me to Travinia’s on Mother’s Day for my absolute favorite, gluten free Sausage and Peppers Rustica (delish!) and the fact that my mom and dad are right this second on their way to see me – I guess you could say, all my dreams are coming true!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

to my mommas - Carol and Debbie

My Mother's Day prayer is that I could somehow find a way to explain how grateful I am for all the years you put your needs on hold, to care for mine; all the months you sacrificed the things that brought you joy, to bring me joy; all the weeks you cried with me over my latest breakup when I am sure there were a million other things that were heavy on your heart; all the days you woke me up and got me off to school rather than getting to sleep in; all the hours you spent praying, not for blessings for yourself, but for me; all the diapers you changed, clothes you washed, meals you cooked, dishes you scrubbed, sleep you didn't get, tears you dried, silly stories you listened to, back talk you endured, for all of that and for so much more - I am forever grateful. I pray that I can be as amazing a mom to my girls as you were to us! I love you momma ♥

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

katy and me....and our crazy brood

Let me introduce you to one of my best friends in the whole world. Katy. Now Katy and I have been through it all together: planning a gorgeous wedding that ended up being legally invalid (opps!), crazy random health issues, panic attacks, infertility, a brain tumor, IVF, pregnancies, emergency and planned c-sections, a baby in NICU, we’ve sat by each other’s hospital beds - crying as the other was in so much pain, parenting our girls together, adoption, losing a child, selling houses, buying houses, spider bites, meningitis, moving away, moving back, our families even lived together for two weeks while we waited to close on our house. Let’s just say – she’s been there for me, and I’ve been there for her. We’ve been one of the first to know the other was pregnant and one of the first to hold the baby after their births. It’s like our kids all have a built-in second mom. It’s easy and comfortable and always fun. We laugh and we cry together, we’ve shared so much life, and that is irreplaceable.
Between us, Katy and I have 4 little girls, ages 2 ½, 3 ½, 5, and 7. Being with the 6 of us is a true lesson in multitasking and an hourly practice in not losing your mind. Katy and I have our conversations in two or three words increments, punctuated by, “Robyn, do not spit anymore.” ….three words of conversation….”Savannah, stop kicking Finley.”….one more word….”girls, no gymnastics in the car!” You get the idea.
Since it is so much raucous fun – I thought I’d bring you along on one of our little outings. We decided to take the girls to the Surfside Chick-fil-a Cow/Egg Drop! It was almost more fun than we could handle…….

05:35:23 pm – Miraculously we are almost on time! This may be a new world record for us, we are never this close to the time an event actually starts. As we circle the parking lot I realize they haven’t even inflated the inflatables yet! Amazing. As we pat ourselves on the back we park, and of course the first order of business is to record this moment for posterity. After 5 tries, there is not one photo of all 4 girls looking at the camera at the same time. C’est la vie!

05:37:49 pm – We give up and begin herding our 4 hyper little girls (My two, Robyn and Finley; and Katy’s two, Kylie and the always precocious, Savannah) down the middle of the road ahead of us. Pink hair bows twirling in the wind, pretty dresses billowing around their itty bitty legs, pink and purple Easter baskets swinging from tiny wrists. Savannah, with her basket upside down, beating it like a drum. We can hear the loud music, see the pink and purple inflatable castle in the distance, we are full of skipping and giggles, excitement oozing out our pores.

05:38:15 pm – Cue the Jaws theme song as out of the corner of my eye I spot the Chick-fil-a cow, live, in-person, 7 feet tall, all black and white, with a blood red t-shirt on, bearing down on us rapidly. Robyn is the first one to notice, her smile instantly drains to panic, crocodile tears streaking her face immediately (how do they do that?) Finley turns white and from her shrieks you would think she had just witnessed a beheading. Katy and I both take turns trying to convince her, trying to hold her, I cover her eyes with my hand, but she wants nothing of it, “I GO INSIDE!” she shrieks over and over so loudly that I can no longer hear the soft rock radiating from the BOBFM-mobile. If she could have clawed her way through the air to get to the door she would have. Rushing everyone inside, the shrieking stops, but now we have another child crying because she didn’t want to come in, one hysterically doing the potty dance, and Robyn explaining to Katy, “see, that’s why I can’t go to Disney! Cause I’m scared of the cow!” Ah-ha! Dinner! (after a quick trip to the potty) now that should fix everything! At least for the next 30 seconds.  :o)

05:43:32 pm – We claim our two tables near the playland. If you have ever been to Chick-fil-a – we ARE those 2 mothers. We will do whatever it takes to get our kids settled where they need to be, without being the least bit rude of course. As I return to the table after ordering, I notice Katy eyeing our other table, one at which we have laid out our stuff, and at which a very grumpy looking father has now parked himself. He is leaned back with his large coca-cola, chair resting on those back two legs, all he is missing is the remote control. His face clearly said, “don’t you dare mess with me,” but our stuff is at the table, so like any good momma who is looking out for her kids, I make Katy tell him to move.

05:51:26 pm – Next round in our tag team tournament leaves me watching the bags, the tables, and the kids playing in the playland, while Katy orders. There are several older kids playing, who I would testify under oath are quite a bit taller than the height chart on the door, and one of them actually has the nerve to look at me and say “why are there so many little kids playing in here?” In certain situations I think it might just be okay to slap someone else’s child upside the head. But my attention, and head slapping hands are distracted as Robyn comes tearing out, sobbing that someone has hurt Finley. Let me tell you, I am already in my protective momma mode, and some little boy has just messed with the wrong momma! I can hear Finley at the top of the slide and she is crying her hurt cry. Not a fake one, but you mommas know what I am talking about – the real hurt cry. I lean down to the mouth of the slide and sweetly say, “baby, come on down to momma, you’re okay.” Robyn is up there with her, also crying, saying, “he won’t let her mom! He kicked her in the stomach on purpose!” Without warning, this voice erupts from my body, it is like a combination of James Earl Jones and Hannibal Lechter, “You stay away from my baby! You let her come down that slide right now! You get away from her! Do you hear me?” And then before I know it I am up that 20 foot yellow curly slide mere inches from the sweaty little face of this 12 year old boy, and I’m pretty sure by the look on his face I am snarling and growling like a cornered lioness protecting her cub, or maybe more like Edward protecting Bella……hmmmmm. Anyways……I am snarling and growling, and may have grown some fangs. “I didn’t mean to, it was just an accident!” he stammers over his shoulder as he crawls away to hide in the depths of the tube maze. I cradle my sweet baby close to me and slide down to the bottom, Robyn, Kylie and Savannah close behind. “That’s it! Out of the playland! Now!” They file out, one by one, no questions asked. That’s the quickest they have obeyed all night. I think they may have witnessed the snarling as well.

06:12:47 pm – Finally we are arranged at our tables. We are all still alive and for the most part, happy. Finley has stopped crying, except for intermittent shrieks when the 7 foot cow walks thru the door. The food is laid out in front of us, the girls just start digging in and we realize it is almost time for the “cow drop.” Okay. Redirect. Katy and I drop our food, grab up the girls, “quick! Choke down that nugget!” We hand out the baskets, once again pink and purple cheerfully hanging from 2 little wrists, Savannah’s upside down on her head this time, and Katy holding Finley’s basket as Finley clings to her like a vice grip in fear of the C-O-W. We march our 4 little ones out the door, right behind Mr. Grumpy Pants, the table stealer, and (spoiler alert!) his son, the 12 year old I almost shredded with my bare hands at the top of the slide! Hmmmmm……now that really does make sense!

06:25:17 pm – After much shuffling and adjusting, we think we’ve found our perfect spot to catch a “Parachuting Cow holding an Easter egg.” We’ve ewhhhed and ahhhhed as we watch the crane lift the man high up in the air. We have shouted “Eat More Chicken!” for the video. We are standing, necks craning, eyes on the basket of the lift, our little sweeties hopping from one foot to the other in sheer anticipation!

06:30:46 pm – The man in the basket yells over the bullhorn, “Are you ready?” “YES!” we respond. “Here we go,” says the man. And in that instant of silence, right before he drops the eggs, I can hear the BOB-mobile going strong, rocking out to “Relax.” Does anyone else here know that that song is about the “M” word (shhhhh….ever since a small childhood trauma I can only whisper the word – masturbation) I am pretty sick of all these inappropriate songs that adults think they can play at children’s events, but again, that’s another issue, for another day.

06:30:47 pm – Mass pandemonium has broken out. You would think the guy was dropping gold bullion from that basket – of course that might cause injuries – but you get the point. Adults knocking over little kids and holding their baskets (yes they even brought baskets) high above the children’s outstretched fingers in their wild zeal to catch some of these stuffed cows on parachutes….admittedly the perfect addition to any décor. Pure craziness! Katy and I quickly realize that we are going to have to work if our girls are going to get just one apiece. Just as that realization starts to sink in I hear Finley’s shrieks above the crowd, I look down and Robyn has her arms clasped tightly around me. The C.O.W. has appeared again. (Now in his defense – this is Chick-fil-a – don’t come here if you don’t like cows, right?) I quickly snatch one parachute out of the sky, I feel another hand tugging on it, but I’m not even looking to see who else has ahold. This one is Finley’s. Another one comes my way and a young girl and I grab it at the same time. Now, you may think I’m mean, but I already warned you I’m looking out for my babies. I see this young girl already has three or four other parachutes in her hand and I gently (I swear no snarling this time) let her know that my daughter has none, so this one is going to be Robyn’s.

06:34:14 pm – It is over. Everyone is dispersing. I am watching in astonishment as adults walk away holding 20 or 30 cows. While Kylie and Savannah are holding back tears because they have none. We divide up the two that we got, giving one to my girls and one to Katy’s girls. Katy and I have desperation in our eyes as we look around for someone to ask if they would be willing to share. All the while the C.O.W. is circling causing Finley to shriek. We are a huddled little mass of shrieks and tears, until a sweet momma whose daughter caught only two, offers us one of theirs. She is followed shortly thereafter by another generous mom who again gives us one of the two she had. Okay. Relief. Phew!!!!! I suddenly feel my tummy rumbling as we dry tears and comfort our sweet girls. Switch gears – food!

06:51:56 pm – We are once again filled with joy as we head back outside to jump in the inflatables and get our faces painted! The C.O.W. is nowhere to be seen and the BOB-mobile has finally packed up, taking its inappropriate songs with it. The music filling the air now is the best sound I’ve heard all night, laughing and giggles of happiness and excitement, innocence and sheer delight. We end up with our little girls painted as two cute kitty cats and two sweet puppies. It is all worth it as we walk to the car amidst barks and meows, giggles and dancing!!! It is amazing the rollercoaster of emotions we just lived through. But this is life with 4 very diverse girls, some passionate, some shy, some head-strong, some easy-going who feel every single emotion and express it – fervently – just like their mommas!

06:55:24 pm – Katy and I chalk this one up as a success, deciding that we will do it again next year, but next time we will be prepared – we’ll bring back-up – specifically two big, strong “cow catchers” named daddy.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I usually write in my head a lot. In fact, I am almost always writing something in my head, a story about my day, a letter that I need to send, a conversation I’d like to have. After I get a good bit written, then I sit down to edit and whittle away, taking some things out and adding others. Tonite as I took a shower I started to write my feelings about my day. I immediately begin to edit, thinking “no I can’t say that, that may be taken wrong,” or, “mmmm, someone might think that’s dumb.” As I wrote in my head these thoughts continued to play in the background. Then I realized – only for the umpteenth time – how very, very, very codependent I am. I am editing myself based on what some unknown face in the crowd may or may not think about me. Seriously?

So, on that note, showing for one nite only….hold onto your hats folks!.....Here she is…..Brooke Fox unfiltered!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I am heartbroken today as one of my very dear friends spent the day with her family honoring the life of her father and grieving his death.

I am thankful that I have an amazingly sensitive and caring husband who takes such amazing care of me and our babies. I am aware that so many women do not.

I am angry and frustrated at a healthcare system that I don’t understand and the fact that they are trying their darndest to make it impossible for me to get the treatments I need,

I am laughing out loud as I think of Finley’s silly antics and tearing up as I think of her giving me “loves” before she went to bed.

I am missing my momma. I want her to hold me while I cry. When you’re sick, don’t you just want your momma?

I am grieving Robyn’s statement today, “I wish I had a regular mom instead of a sick one.”

I am overwhelmed with love and gratitude for my sweet little family God has created. My Robyn, my Finley and my one and only Charles. They are the lights of my life.

I am fearful that even if we find a way to pay for the treatments that they won’t work.

I am worried for a friend who tends to worry as she worries worst case scenarios for her precious 1 year old baby girl.

I am wishing that my entire family; Mom and Dad, Charles, Me, Robyn and Finley, Shep, Mindy, Maddy, Sophie and John William, Michael and Susan, Josh and Jordan, and Amanda and Ben all lived within a 2 mile radius.

I am desperate to feel better, no matter what it takes.

I am so concerned that my mom not take this all on as her responsibility to fix.

I am inundated by the decisions that must be made in the next week.

I am annoyed with life’s little annoyances like litterboxes and rude drivers and running out of toaster waffles and eating gluten free.

I am delighted by life’s tiny little joys like Robyn and Finley’s giggles as they play together and Finley learning a new word and Robyn passing her math test and a yummy dinner made by Chef Charlé.

I am relieved that none of it is in my hands, but in the hands of my BIG, STRONG and MIGHTY GOD!

I am happy at the same time I am sad because my life is so filled with joy and blessing while simultaneously being unbelievably difficult.

This is me……unfiltered.