The Latest from Brooke

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Journey to Ireland

Saddle up your horses
We've got a trail to blaze
Through the wild blue yonder
Of God's amazing grace
-The Great Adventure by Steven Curtis Chapman
Well, dear friends, I have some exciting news to share with you. A spectacular mystical tour of Ireland...and you are invited! I have partnered with CIE Tours, the Irish Board of Tourism and my dear pastor, Monsignor Jay Clarke for a trip to Ireland in August of 2015. Last year's journey to Rome was such a blessed gift not only to travel on the wings of the Holy Spirit, but to make some amazing friends through our tight-knit group in the process. It is my sincere prayer that we can duplicate that and create a trip that will truly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We've been working very hard on this for months. The journey is designed to stimulate all of your senses. From the culinary heritage, to the rich history, religious landmarks, to the music! The dates are August 9-20, 2015.  We will be visiting Dublin, Belfast, Knock Shrine, Croagh Patrick, Ballintubber Abbey, Gallway, the Cliffs of Moher, Dingle Peninsula, and so much more. Experience an authentic Medieval Banquet, served in the Great Hall of a 15th century castle! Kiss the Blarney Stone and find your Pot o' Gold!
This trip is all-inclusive, including airfare, meals, lodging, and tickets and transfers. You can even pay in installments. The full itinerary and details will be posted soon but I was given permission to spill the beans here, first. ;)  If you have any questions, please let me know! I can hardly even type without breaking down in a happy cry. I just know the Lord has some amazing things planned for those who "saddle up" and embark on this great Irish adventure. If you have any questions or would like to reserve a spot (hooray!:)  You can reach out to Mr. Tim Vaughn at 216-210-0828 or
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
 And the outtake (Jim is taking the "Irish eyes" to a whole new level!) ....
Love, from our family to yours! 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Don't Worry, Be Happy

* Today's post is sponsored by The Cleveland Clinic*

Today was a big day for our little girl. Karolina's first day of school!
 This is her second year riding the bus and attending an all day preschool. She has the same teacher as last year (an answer to prayer!) and this time around I think we both feel a lot less apprehensive about the whole endeavor. We know what to expect, and Karolina is a girl who loooves routine so I know she'll soon feel right at home with her familiar schedule.
Since I'm already reflecting on the last year and hopes for the year ahead, I thought this would also be a good time to do a little status update. Here's a list of most commonly asked questions and general stats:

Name: Karolina Elizabeth
Age: 4
Weight: 34 lbs
Does she talk?: She is still considered nonverbal.  Karolina does have a vocabulary of between 10-15 words but doesn't always use them in a functional way.
Does she understand instructions/conversation?: I'd like to think so! Her physical response does not often indicate this is the case, but I believe there is a cognitive recognition of language, even if it's partial.
Is she learning? Absolutely. The progress is slow, but quantifiable. She's beginning to sign more to communicate her needs: "more," "all done" and "help." Very often she will say the word itself as she signs. This is great growth! She's doing better with fine motor skills (holding a pencil for instance) and is more receptive to sitting with me to read a short book.
What does Karolina enjoy? Her greatest joy is music. She loves to sing. Karolina's mental jukebox is incredible. Just the other day I heard her humming "Away in a Manger," a song she hasn't heard in 8 months! If she hears a melody even one time she can very often mimic it from memory. Music calms her, makes her smile and helps her engage like nothing else can.
Do you worry about her progress? I'm a bit stuck on how to answer this one. The short answer is yes. I cry at least once a week. I love her so much and often feel helpless and frustrated and quite alone and unqualified. That's the pity-party answer. Yet, I honestly try not to dwell on it, and I think over the last year I've made progress there. When a stranger would approach Karolina, it used to trigger a gush of grief and panic that I didn't know how to handle. Do I pretend she can understand the person (when clearly it's obvious she's not going to respond to them)? Do I tell them up front she's autistic or would that seem like I'm setting her apart because she's different?
These days, I'm much more pragmatic about it. Thanks to my very sensible hubby who just says "be happy and love her." Yes. YES! You make it sound so easy there Mr. Bobby McFarren. I countered that optimism by responding with  "Yes, but aren't the one going to the IEP meetings and filling out the milestone charts at the doctor and being confronted with the hard fact that her disability isn't really improving."  But he's right. And maybe, so  am I. Which is why I've never been more grateful that my husband and I are often opposites. :) I think we've learned from each other and he's taught me just to enjoy my daughter and the beautiful person she is today.
What's the hardest part? Trying to stay on top of everything.  In addition to autism, Karolina has other medical issues like digestion problems, seizers and random nosebleeds. All of these are infrequent (thankfully) but very tough to tackle. Most have been ongoing since we brought her home. Here is a literal snapshot of a "day in the life" moment as an example. This was the scene a few weeks ago when I came in to pick her up from her nap:
My apologies for the graphic picture (Karolina was not hurt).
She had obviously had a nosebleed again but because she is nonverbal, I had no idea. It was all over the walls, bedding and Karolina. I was fresh of a victory of keeping her out of her diaper by purchasing overalls, then a new surprise caught me off guard. Lol. Now, one of the things on our "wish list" is a video monitor.  Other issues I'm trying to navigate include: fencing. While we love to play outside, she wanders from our property and it's a constant workout follow behind her and to physically guide her back since she usually doesn't respond when called. Furthermore, if she were to ever stray (God forbid) I would have no verbal way to locate her because she doesn't speak. Finally, the bed. She is still in a crib, but needs to transition into a bed for safety purposes (she's learning how to climb out). I researched adaptive beds and they are thousands of dollars. These beds come with a mesh canopy that would keep her inside yet it's breathable and easy to zip open. Yet, not all insurances help cover the cost because some consider it "entrapment" (not so, for goodness sake). Oh, the things you learn when you are walking on an unmarked road! I reckon I'll get pretty good at all of this in a few years, but right now it's still a bit overwhelming.
The prayers and love for Karolina have been a lifesaving buoy in the middle of this sometimes-wild  ocean. In addition to that, I thank God for the good friends that we've met through the journey so far. Best of all, I know Karolina is in the hands of a loving God who knows exactly what her future holds
and who loves her very much. And that's reason to sing!

Here's a lithe song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don't worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be happy

"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God."
 -Corrie Ten Boom

If you or someone you know wants to learn more about autism, please visit the Cleveland Clinic website for helpful resources. The Cleveland Clinic is a leading provider of research, information and assistance for those with spectrum disorders.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sunrise Songs to the Savior: {Our Morning Routine}

My mom always thought she would become a nun. She spent her youth and young adult life in a convent preparing to do just that. Although my brothers and I owe our lives to the fact that didn't work out (thanks to my handsome and charming Dad), the piety she possessed then, has never waned. When I was a little girl, she taught me songs she learned as a young postulant.

Softly and still as night comes stealing.
It is the end of day.
O Holy Queen of Heaven
O Star of Hope so Fair,
All grace to thee is given,
Hear thou our evening prayer...

All of my childhood through my teenage years (and all the drama that went with it) up until I left home to get married, she never failed to tuck me in with songs and prayer. So, I can't begin this post without giving a misty-eyed nod to mom. She gave me such a beautiful example of how to make life a seamless song of praise. Not that I can compare, and I fall short daily. But I'm grateful for her illuminating the corners of my heart with the first light of faith. So, as I begin a new chapter of life as a stay-home mom, I've been joyfully anticipating being able to integrate faith like my mom did. Although I only have one full week under my belt of being home in the morning, many of these things I've done for years either on weekends or on my own. Here are a few of the ways we've been trying to sneak in a few sacred seconds with the Savior.

Prayer Upon Rising
My son Gabriel shared with me once, that every morning when he wakes he makes the sign of the cross. He marks himself with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. A physical way to brand his soul and mind with the reminder that he is a Christian. Also a gesture of thanksgiving in waking up to greet another day.

I have a copy of this prayer from St. Teresa (The Little Flower) that she reportedly said each morning:
O my God ! I offer Thee all my actions of this day for the intentions and for the glory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I desire to sanctify every beat of my heart, my every thought, my simplest works, by uniting them to Its infinite merits ; and I wish to make reparation for my sins by casting them into the furnace of Its Merciful Love. 

This is another, shorter prayer:
O my God! I ask thee for myself and for those whom I hold dear, the grace to fulfill perfectly Thy Holy Will, to accept for love of Thee the joys and sorrows of this passing life, so that we may one day be united together in Heaven for all Eternity. Amen.

The moment I am consciously awake, I try to whisper a quick "Good Morning Jesus, thank you for this day. Help me spend my time, serving you today."  So often, I go to bed frustrated with myself that I wasted time, lost my patience or somehow "blew it" in various ways. So, I added the last part of the prayer to remind myself that I need God's help every day and in all things, like time management and self-discipline.

Sweet Kisses

The older kids no longer do this but it's something I still cherish with Karolina and Gus. As I carry them downstairs in their cozy pj's and bed-head hair, we go over to the crucifix and statue of Mary for morning kisses.

Morning Music

We love "Good Morning Jesus" by Dana.
I would definitely recommend this one for the little ones! The entire album is good, and also a great way to learn prayers like the Angelus.  Even on a busy morning, we always listen to a bit of Good Morning Jesus during breakfast.

Another recommendation is "St. Patrick's Breastplate" by Christ Music Kids. The prayer of St. Patrick himself is a powerful way to start the day. Set to music, it's a catchy reminder that God is with us, always.
(all of these mentioned are available on iTunes).

Morning Readings
Before the big kids head off to school, we always listen to the Gospel reading that day. Thanks to great apps like Laudate

and Evangelizo, we always have the liturgical readings handy. Magnificat is also a wonderful resource (great reflections that go with Sacred Scripture, as well as daily mass, etc).
This is such a vital component to begin the day. Even on rushed days where other things may be omitted, the gospel reading is a must.

Family Prayer
A morning rotation of prayers is a tradition that was started a few years ago by my husband. It used to be in the minivan on the way to school. Now. it's a quick football huddle before breaking into bus stop formation. It's often brief, but just a quick moment to gather and one person leads the prayer and offers their intentions for that day.

Holy Water Blessing

Finally, when it's time for the bus rush and the kids are headed out the door, I mark the sign of the cross on their forehead with holy water. It's not a superstitious thing, it really is a powerful sacramental tool.
For historical context, consider this:
"According to the Apostolic Constitutions, a document dating back well over 15 centuries, the use of Holy Water is attributed to a recommendation issued by St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist.  The lives of the saints are packed with instances of heavenly protection and blessing secured through the reverent use of Holy Water. "

After that, it's pretty much on to our day of getting dressed, eating, diaper changes, cleaning up and repeat!
If it seems like I've listed a lot in our routine, remember most of these are literally under 2 minutes. Just little bits to help capture the holy miracle of another new day.

There are dozens more, from the Divine Office (Lauds) to praying a morning rosary and/or attending morning mass. But this is working for us. For now. I thank God for the gift to "catch up" in this way with my kiddos. I pray for more moments like these, and to somehow follow in the footsteps of that almost-amazing-nun. My mom.:)

I would love to hear your tips too! Please feel free to leave a comment to share your "Sunrise Songs to the Savior."

Have a wonderful morning, friends! 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Contest Winner!

Sorry I'm a bit late on this! Yesterday was my birthday, and I'm using the excuse that I overate cake and fell asleep early (sad but true). :) The contest winner was randomly selected and it was #19, Melody! I also discovered that she happens to have a beautiful blog and is an amazing homeschool mom. Go, girl!
Thank you ALL for being the best blog readers and taking the time to enter the contest. Melody, I hope you enjoy the goodies!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Settling In

Greeting from the home front! Day 2 at a SAHM. Here are a few highlights so far:

Day 1:
Bella enjoyed her first visit to the spa (aka a free bath coupon. Thanks Petsmart!) As you can see, Gus was excited about it. Bella? I'll let you be the judge. :)

 While she was being bathed we ran errands (Goodwill drop off and a stop to get Karolina's bangs trimmed). Next, it was lunch and naps. After that, a wonderful run with these two in tow!
The biggest victory was my long-hoped for goal of writing a "Back-to-School" rosary for the kids. I knew it would be time consuming because it meant writing out meditations and tying the prayers into the new school year based on the Joyful Mysteries. I was so grateful when it was complete though and excited to pray the family rosary Monday evening! So much planning goes into gathering the supplies for school but I wanted to also prepare the kids spiritually.  Just a small to try and sanctify the eve of a new school year.

Day 2:
And, they're off!

Looking dapper! Gabriel (on the far left) is starting 8th grade! Um, excuse me, but wasn't this just yesterday?
Gabe on his first day of Kindergarten. Okay, must move on. Quickly. The dam is about to burst.

Grant is starting 5th grade and Garrett, 3rd. Karolina starts school next week! All my little birdies are flying the nest. I still have my little energetic shadow, Gus of course. Looking forward to some great memories consisting of Tonka Truck puzzles and nursery rhyme classics. 

We've also had our share of lowlights (like my awful attempt to cut Karolina's hair and Bella marking her territory throughout the downstairs ) but those I chose to not document with photos, this time.:)
This new life has been a refreshing change of pace. Granted, it's been less than 48 hours and I'm definitely in honeymoon mode, but it's been nice. Still celebrating sweet sleep! It's the little things, isn't it?

Thanks for checking in. And any advice you want to share, I would love to hear (I already figured out coffee is a must). :) Also, don't forget to enter the contest if you haven't already! I'll be announcing a winner later this week.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Last Day {and a Giveaway!}

In honor of my last day on the morning show, I've whipped up a little giveaway. Just a small way to say thank you,  for the opportunity to connect with you. Thank you for inspiring me over the years and reminding me that we are all on this blessed, beautiful life-walk together.

Since I'm leaving the workforce to be a stay-home mom, I thought it would be appropriate to theme the giveaway around that, and little helps (okay, sanity savers) that help brighten your day. :)

So without further adieu, here's what's "brewing" for you (hint hint):

 First: The Little Oratory: A Beginner's Guide to Prayer in the Home. Critically acclaimed new book from David Clayton and Leila Marie Lawler. Rich with ideas to help you practice your faith in the heart of your home.

Next: Mystic Monk Coffee in the "Midnight Vigils" blend. Organic, fair trade, ground gourmet brew. Enjoy a monk shot to start your day!:)

Finally: Chonda Pierce "Did I Say That Out Loud?" comedy DVD. Chonda is hilarious with a huge heart. Check out her Sizzle Reel here. Be sure to empty your bladder before turning this on, she is THAT funny! Also please remember her in your prayers. She recently lost her sweet husband.

I feel like this giveaway isn't complete without an emergency supply of chocolate. With the summer weather though, I worried it would melt in the mail. My apologies, but I am open for personal chocolate meetups any time!

To enter the contest, simply leave a comment (below) with your e-mail address and you will automatically be entered into the contest. The winner will be notified through their registered email address. Be sure to check back in case the email didn’t get through your spam filter.  Wishing you the best, and thanks for stopping by!

I'll be doing a blitz of new blog posts (well, maybe that's shooting a little high) but I do have plans to more regularly update, and I hope you'll check back!

In the meantime, don't forget to visit my new site for bookings, videos, and info.
Also, The Mom Squad blog and Facebook page!
And, if you missed the on air announcement about my departure you can find it, here.

Hugs, and lots of love to you! +

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Time to Change

This is a post I can't believe I am actually writing, and yet, I'm surprised I haven't written sooner.   After nine years, I am leaving the Family Friendly Morning Show. God has been so good. My heart is full to overflowing with listeners that have truly become family over the many years. Working at The Fish has been the privilege of my life.  Sharing a studio with one of the greatest, dearest men I've ever known; my partner Len Howser.
 Walking through the monumental to the mundane roads of life, side-by-side, was more than "just a show." We have collectively shared in this family journey; building a bond with listeners who are so much more than that. You allowed me to hear your stories, pray with you and have inspired me to grow in my faith. When considering how the Lord would guide my life as an adult, I never imagined this.
 You've walked with me through the valleys. From my dad's cancer diagnosis and death, through my son's stroke, to the mountaintops of our adoption and surprise baby Augustine. And even the unexpected paths like homeschooling. But for those who have been long-time listeners (or blog visitors) -you may have already sensed that this momma has been nearing the point of no return for a long time. Early hours, a long commute, and often 6-days a week commitments have taken me far from home, physically and emotionally. With five children including one with special needs, my vocation as wife/mother is the most pressing priority.  It has become necessary to lay everything else aside and focus on the supreme obligation (and joy) of my life.

To be entrusted with five eternal souls, to mold, love, and teach is an awesome responsibility. And too many times, I've worried more about keeping up with the world, than the things that truly matter: faith, simplicity, patience, and TIME. I fully expect I still may struggle with those things as an at-home mom but, I'm ready. There have been many red flags over the last few years (just not paying proper attention to the little things the kids need, falling behind on basic things, etc) and I before I know it, the chance I had to raise little children into adults will be gone.
 I have to grab hold of the opportunity with everything I have, while I have the chance. Financial comfort, lavish trips, nice clothes...our modern world of shiny pictures loves to spotlight those moments. I love those moments too, and I don't begrudge anyone who can fully enjoy the fruits of a big life. But for me, I realized that I was missing the precious little things. I no longer panic when I think of our new, smaller-budget. Less money, means less stuff. Maybe that's just what we need. More time...less stuff. 

Every soul on this earth is called to their own unique journey, and I am constantly in awe of the incredible women I meet, especially through The Fish. Walking away from the mic, and walking into the arms of my family at this moment, is my journey. That is my hope: that through my feeble attempts to glorify God for 9 years at The Fish, that there will be a small footprint of faith that remains. I know a wave will shortly come and wash away my memory, as often happens in broadcasting, but God's work is eternal, and as long as I served Him in some way, my heart is content.  I will forever carry the stories, names and connections that were miraculously made over nearly a decade in my heart. Thank you for blessing my life with the imprint of yours.
Like the verse in Matthew 11:29-30, God equips us to carry whatever cross or crown we are given. And through obedience, freedom comes.  And, for any mother who has questioned her "ability" as a mom, and the dignity that lies in the call..I hope you know (as I am learning) that you are enough... JUST AS YOU ARE. 
I hope you are blessed by these words of truth:

 "Through the raising of children, the woman, the mother... holds the future of the nations in her hands."
 "True, mother works in the home, but her quiet labor radiates upon the etire nation. She passes on the entire treasure of culture from generation to generation. She builds up the future and not merely the future of this earth; nay, her task reaches out into eternity, to the very heart of God. She is the unknown soldier of common everyday life. The hand that rocks the cradle hold the helm of the world. Everything that lives and dies on earth has its origin in mother."
-Cardinal Joszef Mindszenty

What's next?
I am so grateful to report,  I will still be part of The Mom Squad ministry and events. I will also be speaking at women's groups, churches and retreats. Please head over to my brand new website to book me for your event! If you book me, it means I'll be able to feed my family that week...hooray! No pressure. :) Ha ha. 
Finally, I also hope to start blogging more regularly. I say "hope" because I honestly just need to take things one step at a time and ease myself into this new chapter. Once I have naptime down to a fine art, the laundry caught up and supper in the slow-cooker,  I will gladly meet you at the screen with a skip in my step.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for all the ways you have been there...whether or not we've actually ever personally connected or not. I still love ya. And I mean it. It's more than just a sentiment. It's an affection that has saved my sanity and solidified my faith. God bless you and farewell. 
Until we meet again.:)