My Rocky Balboa…I hope it’s not insulting.

j m and n couples

Today is a GREAT day. It’s my sister’s Golden Birthday. November 16th. Except she did not just turn 16. She just turned…

Ah, what’s that expression?

I think it’s 40.

Over the hill.

Lordy, Lordy, Darby’s 40!

But she doesn’t look a day over 38. I would say 25, but I pretty much think all 25-year-olds look like kids at this stage of my life, so I will simply stick with the fact that she still looks like a lady in her 30s.

And who is this great 40-year-old lady with this wonderful name Darby?

Why, this woman is my Rocky Balboa. I really hope that’s not insulting.

Here. Let me explain.

My sister and I are 16 months apart in age.

If you have children, you understand. That’s close in age. So close, in fact, that at times you feel as if you have an extension of who you are.  Almost like a twin.

Except, I am not sure she feels the same way.  And this is why…

Before we returned to Poland, Darby and I were having a fabulous late-night chat.  You see, my husband left for Poland a month before we did, so I had the immense privilege of living with my sister and her wonderful husband and fabulous kids.  Which was also RIGHT next door to my amazing brother, his awesome wife and fantastic kids.

It truly was a dream month.

But back to my conversation…

My sister looked at me and said, “Do you remember all of those times you had to fight to wear makeup or high heels or pantyhose?”

“Do you remember all of those times you had to fight to go on a date or stay up late?”

“Do you remember all of those times you had to fight to drive a car or go to a movie with your friends?”

And I simply answered, “No.”

Because I don’t.

“Exactly.” She replied.

My sister.  She is the eldest in our family.  She was our Rocky Balboa.  She entered the ring first and fought all of those battles for us.

And for Darby, they were battles.

For my brother, Casey, and I, they were simply victories.

So, to my sister.  The one that turned 40 today, I just want to say…

I thank you.

I admire you.

And I love you.

Thank you for being the most amazing sister in the world.  An example as a wife.  A brilliant auntie.  A stupendous daughter.  And the most fabulous mother.

You are my Rocky.  And I thank you for being ahead of me.  Not just because you jumped in the ring for me, but because you have always been my steadfast fighter.

On your knees, before our awesome God, praying for me.  For my life—in health and uncertainty.  In my marriage.  And for my children.

I will never forget when you told me that God spoke to you in a dream and said, “Brooke, God told me you would have another baby.”

And then we had Max.  Miracle Max.

You, my sister, you are being celebrated a world away today because of a date that marks the birth of the start of your life here on earth.

But a world away, I will celebrate you.  Not because of your birth—but because of your life.

Thank you, my sister.

Forever I thank you.

And, to end it all, “Yo, Adrienne!”  Just because I couldn’t resist.

I love you, my Rocky.

Forever and always,

your B


Just for fun.  In case you have never had the chance to read another rather emotionally charged battle we had.  Except this time we were both in the boxing ring.  The opponents?  The other sister 😉  Enjoy a throwback blog posting.  xo b

Knockdown Drag out Fight in Costco

Happy Hooligans…

Well, many of you may know.  Many may not.

We return to Poland in one month.  EXACTLY.


Time is running out.

This is a super busy month for our family.  Not only are we packing up a home and preparing a container to send…

Not only are we trying to help our two littles overcome nasty breathing problems…

Not only are we seeing our daughter finish machine-pitch softball, junior chorus, and her 2nd grade school year…

Not only are we finishing our quarterly newsletter IMPACT for our foundation while running an international foundation…

Not only are we…

You get it.  The list is long and goes on and on and on.

But I am also starting to prepare my son’s 2nd birthday party.

He turns two in two weeks.  No.  He won’t remember it.  But I will.  His sister will.  His dad will.  His cousins will.  His grandparents will.

And, with that, I am looking—looking for inexpensive (we have ENOUGH expenses at the moment, eh?!) ways to have 2-year-old fun.

That is when I ran across this unbelievable gem.  Wait.  Let me say it again—GEM!

Please.  Don’t take my word for it—go here yourself and see!  It’s called the Happy Hooligans.  Here is her site:

In about 1 hour of searching, I have found a gazillion brilliant and inexpensive ways for the kids to celebrate our Miracle Max as he turns two.  And they are all creative activities.  Outdoor.  And messy.  Messy, of course, is the best!

Now…in honor of my little unbelievably cute miracle’s upcoming 2nd birthday, I’d like to share a few of my favorite photos with you of my buddy as he prepares to exit his 1st year and enter his 2nd.

XO for now…happy hooligan hunting!









Why is he a miracle, you may ask…

Because he fought hard to make it into the world and even harder to stay here in the world.

Every day, because of our little man, we look at the rising sun with a new appreciation for this life God has given us.  It is a gift.  A fragile, fragile gift.  And no one knows how long it is given to us.  So, we celebrate!  And this May it’s our turn to celebrate him.  Maxwell.  Turning 2!  Time runs, friends.  Time runs!  Just like Maxwell.




mom…i didn’t understand you, until i became you.

and now i don’t just appreciate you, i admire you more.  love you more.  and can never seem to learn enough from you.

you taught me to love.

to forgive.

to say i’m sorry.

to accept others.

to give.

you helped us live through laughter.

through creativity.

through giving.

you put others first.

you never complain.

and you are always there when we need you.

mom, words will never be enough, and so i’ll leave you with a simple wish…

i wish you continued beauty and grace.

love and laughter.

cuddles and kisses.

i wish you every bright and shining memory of a gloriously-gifted life.

a healthy countenance.

and joy in your children and our children…

and one day their children.

mom, i wish you a day to be celebrated for being the greatest woman in history.  or, at least, my history!

i love you, mom.

happy birthday!


I’m Superglued Together…My C-Section Adventure.

From Baby Belly to Belly Jelly…

Welcome, Josephine Diane!

So, I did not intend on a C-Section.  In fact, we went in to be induced on January 1st.  We were SO excited.  We had packed bags and big, big smiles!  Our children (Adelyne and Maxwell) were already dispersed to the cousins, and we got lots of family hugs all around.  My momma, whom the little J girl is named after, Josephine Diane (Diane being my momma’s name), got all dressed up for the hospital to meet her precious namesake.

My husband ate his last meal—and got me OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE for one of my last “pre-induction” meals.  Since we all know that ya can’t eat once induced.  And, if you know me at all, you know how much I LOVE my food.

So, my handsome hubby got me a “rocking” last pre-baby meal.

I tell you.  We had it all together and ALL planned out.

EXCEPT…When we arrived something completely different took place.


We were told, “Um…Why are you carrying your hospital bags?  You’ll be going home tonight.”


“Yes.  We induce you, and if you don’t progress 2 centimeters in 2 hours, we send you home to labor.  And you have 3 chances for this.”

SAY WHAT?!  You induce me and send me home to writhe in pain?!  Doesn’t sound like a jar of jelly beans to me.

Now—if I had progressed…And believe me, my contractions were every 5-10 minutes, I was 3 centimeters dilated, and my cervix was practically 0.  So, there was a SUPER GREAT chance that I would be one of the women that goes into labor, gets to stay in the hospital, and have the baby that night.

BUT…I don’t like pain, and not being near pain meds or professional anesthesiologists was so not for me.  In fact, the very thought of being induced, not progressing, and being sent home sounded like a small form of TORTURE.  And I’m not pro-torture Brooke.  Therefore, Rich and I said, “Thanks for this info.  We’re outta here.  We’ll come back next week when it’s Pitocin induction and I can’t be sent home.”

But something else happened between then and the “next week” .  I had an ultra sound on Friday (part of the Stress Testing that I had been doing twice a week since 30 weeks).

The Ultra Sound lady looked at little Josephine, and measured her.  And measured her.  And measured her.  And finally said, “Your baby measure 10.8 pounds to 10.12 pounds.  I need to call your doctor.  Stay here.”

And she did.  And Rich and I didn’t know what was going on.  And then the doctor said, “Come in first thing Monday morning.  We need to talk about a C-Section.”


Absolutely NOTHING was taking place this week like I had planned.  No induction.  Baby far bigger than anticipated.  No baby—yet.  I felt like hyperventilating.

But, instead of sticking my head in a bag and/or passing out, Rich and I and a whole slew of really awesome peeps came to our house the very next morning and helped up pack up our little farmhouse and move the entire house and all of its contents into a bigger house in three hours.  And, yes…I had contractions every 5-10 minutes the entire moving day.

Good thing the crowd of awesome friends let me eat donuts and direct traffic all day.

So, instead of being induced—instead of looking at a future induction, I was moving homes, having contractions, and starting to talk to all sorts of women about C-Sections.

To make a long story shorter…we agreed with the doctors.  And so all wheels were set in motion.

C Day…January 8th.  Her daddy’s birthday!


Now, mind you, I may have terrible pregnancies, but I was 2-0 for rocking labors.  My daughter came 11 days late, I was induced, and labor from start to finish was 8 and 1/2 hours.  It was like a party.  My son came 5 weeks and 6 days early, but labor itself was 4 and 1/2 hours.  It was not a party—because I had no pain meds.  But you really can’t beat a 4 and 1/2 hour labor.  I bounced back from that within 5 minutes.

But here I was about to embark on a different path.  And it was a very STERILE path.  Have you ever been in a surgical room before?  SCARY!  Freezing cold.  Sterile environment.  Anesthesiologist.  And lots of prep work for surgery—without my husband in the room.   Finally—lots of paperwork and signatures, signing your life away while letting you know of all the bad things that could go wrong.

YIKES!  Surgery was definitely not for me.  But we were there—and my belly was not getting any smaller.  Let’s rock this joint!

They finally let my husband in and started immediately.

Now—my husband and I are some of those people that take pictures and videos throughout my labors so that I can actually enjoy the moments post fact. With our C-Section, however, he wasn’t allowed to take pictures or video of the procedure.  I was a bit bummed about that.

But within minutes, I felt this unbelievable suction out of my belly.  It was like a huge balloon being pulled out.  And then we heard a loud ruckus of murmurs…”Wow!  Look at those cheeks.  She’s huge!”

And, before a moments notice was up, there she was.  Our little Josephine Diane right next to me.  And you are not kidding.  Her cheeks were HUGE!  And she was the spitting image of her ultra sound pictures.  And she was all dirty and screaming her lungs out.  And she was perfect.  And safe.  And we were so happy.

Then they put her on the scale.  10 pounds 10 ounces.  For those in the other measurement world, that’s roughly 4.82 kilograms.

Whoop!  There she is.  In all of her chubby glory.  Perfect.  Screaming.  Safe.

Thank you, Lord.

Now for the finale—putting me back together.  I was a bit bummed that I didn’t get to see any of the surgery, so I remember my sister-in-law telling me that if you look up at the lights, they act as a mirror, and you can see your reflection.

Sure enough, I glanced up and noticed that the metal bars of the large surgical lights above had a great reflection of the surgery taking place below.  So I got to see all of my inners—all of my guts and glory.  At first it was like, “Oh, wow!  That’s fascinating!”  With my second look, however, it was like, “Oh, yuck!  Scary.  That’s my insides.”  And so, I stopped looking after that and just appreciated the doctor as he verbally walked us through all the steps.

Truth be told, a combination of the anesthesia and then the rocking of putting my inners back in rendered me seasick.  And thus the puking began.

Of course, my hubby is with baby at this point.  So it’s just the anesthesia doc and me in all of my guts and glory—he’s catching my puke and wiping my face while on the other side of the curtain the doc and the nurses are reinserting my inners and working on gluing me back together.

And, of course, in the midst of the vomiting it did not hit me, but later it did…

Sometimes in life we take different paths or go in different directions than we intended.  If you had heard the conversation I had with the nurse on the Friday that we were told the doctors recommended a C-Section, you would have heard me at my worst.

I was upset.  I was angry.  And I probably wasn’t kind.  I was crying.  And I was not at all about to agree with the path that they recommended for me or our baby.

But I called many women and confronted all of my questions and fears.  By Monday, we walked into the office in peace.

The doctors shared their concerns.  If the baby got stuck, there would be an emergency C-Section (15 inch head, by the way, is what our little gal measured).  Or there was the possibility of her shoulder being broken, nerve damage, and, ultimately but very seriously, potential neurological damage if delivery did not go smoothly and something went wrong.

They didn’t try to scare us.  They shared with us.  And we both had great peace that yes, it was not what we had wanted, but it was the direction we were willing to go.  Down the surgical road of the big C.

Then the best part took place.  Since I reached my due date, they were wanting the C-Section the next day.  But we asked, “Um…If we are going to go C, anyway, can you wait one more day?  It’s my husband’s birthday on Wednesday.”

Sure enough.  They were willing to wait another day.  And I got to plan not only for our baby—but a double birthday party!

I never intended on being superglued together.  I never intended on a C-Section.  I never intended this pregnancy to end the way it did.  But that’s life.

Sometimes our insides have got to come out.  We have to be gutted.  We have to be cleaned.  And we have to be put back together.  And only then do we truly have what is best.

For us, the best was a safe and healthy baby placed into our arms.

You may have to endure your own surgery.  Perhaps your guts have to come out.  Maybe you will need a little suction or cleaning.  And then your world may rock as you are put back in place—causing great discomfort (in my case puking)…but it may also be the best for you.

After all, the most important is “Are you okay?  Are you safe?  Will you make it?”

And then, in the end, you may be superglued together.  But you know that everything is okay.

You will heal.  You may scar.  But you will live.

God is good.

And so is our baby, Sweet Cheeks 2, Josephine Diane!

View More:

One week before our Sweet Cheeks joined us outside the Belly


And now you can see how she got her name

(But she is #2 since our 1st daughter was also called Sweet Cheeks)

There is no comparison…

When my son stopped breathing and had to be rescued, and yet, once again, was left without any help…I sat next to him.  I had already spent all evening, from 9pm until 5am, shaking him every 10 seconds so that he would be reminded to breathe.  And, yes, I was in the hospital.

But then it happened.  He stopped.  Completely.  He had no more breath left in him.

And I had to run into the halls screaming, while his alarms were going off, because no one was coming.  I had to run into the halls and yell, “My son!  My son!  He is not breathing.”

Finally two nurses came and got him breathing again.  They did not call a doctor.  They never did.  They got him breathing and then left me alone, again, with my son.

And I saw his light begin to disappear.  He had already been fighting for three days.  And for three days, very minimal was done to keep him alive.  When we told the doctor the night before he wasn’t breathing, she looked at him, shook him, and said, “Oh, it’s sleep apnea.  It’s common in infants.”

And she left again.  For the entire night.  From 9pm until the moment I ran into the hall screaming, not a single medical professional came to check on my premature, listless, graying baby, who also hadn’t eaten in 3 days.

No one.

And so I knew.  I knew as I sat next to him that he had very little time left here on earth.  I called my husband to see if we could Air Vac him out of Poland, but they said that the medical doctors would have to declare that they were unable to care for him.  If you have ever met a Pole, there is no way one will declare that they are unable to do anything.  At all.  They are a country of great pride.  In many, many, many areas, they should be.  But not in the care of my son.

Then we debated going to the US Embassy in Warsaw and demanding help.  But that would take 3 hours one way.  And he didn’t have 3 hours left.

We were tired, dejected, and left without anyone fighting on our side.

I sat.  I sat next to my son and I watched as he began to slip away.  And I could only cry.  And cry.  And cry.

My mom and dad had gotten to meet him.  But the rest of our families had not.  And I knew now that they would not.

My heart was broken.  My sister called this baby, Maxwell, her baby-and she had never met him.  But she prayed for him from the moment of our announcement, she ran a Triathlon for him, she wept for him.  She was his biggest champion.  She loved him.  And yet she never had the chance to meet him.

And I knew that day.  I just knew she never would.

So not only did my heart break for my son that was lying next to me with mere moments left to fight for his life.  But my heart broke for the fact that my family would not get to meet our son.  Our beautiful and miraculous baby that we had to fight to even bring into the world.

And I did the only thing I had left in me to do.  I sat there touching my baby and weeping.

Then she entered.  A miracle.  An angel.  The new doctor on shift.  The nurses, they tried to explain away my baby, but she wouldn’t let them.  She didn’t even listen to them.  She took one look at Maxwell dying and said, “There is nothing I can do!”

An ambulance was called, and my son was escorted down 4 flights of stairs, into the waiting ambulance and brought to the nearest ICU.  I was kicked out and he was intubated.  He was put on 100% ventilation.  His body was put into a full coma.  And he was put on antibiotics to now fight the pneumonia that was also ravaging his body as well as congestive heart failure medicine, because the hole in his heart had doubled in size—the lack of oxygen caused his heart to work overtime, resulting in a heart that was also now at risk of failing.

He was given a blood transfusion.  And we were given the news.

It was bad.  There was no news if he would make it.  It was now a waiting game.  A waiting game for life.  A waiting game for death.

And my sister.  She again took charge.  An ocean away, and yet she was able to somehow help lead me through this time in my life.  We were only allowed to see our son from 11am-7pm.  Otherwise, we had to wait.  Every evening, we were allowed to call at 10pm and ask if there was a status change.  And every morning at 8am we were allowed to call and ask if he made it through the LONG hours of the night.  If he was still alive.

And my sister, God bless her soul, she would wait for our evening and morning calls, her phone bill, I am sure, ran into the 4 digits of expense, and we would give her the status update.  He was alive.  He was getting a blood transfusion.  His ventilator quit on him and they had to bag him for about 6-10 minutes.  He squeezed his daddy’s finger today, and so forth.

Every morning and every night she called so that she could share with the rest of the world if our baby was alive.  If there was progress.  If he was going to make it.  And, as she shared, the rest of the world prayed.

After all, she considered our baby her baby.

My sister…There is no comparison.

She is the woman I wish I was.  The woman that I would like to be.

Compassion never fails her.  Money never stops her.  And love never leaves her.  Even if an ocean separates her.

Today is her birthday, and I couldn’t wish a more deserving person 100 years, Sto Lat!  I couldn’t wish a more giving person a life of health, happiness, and love.  And I couldn’t ask God for a greater friend and supporter.

And so I’ll leave you with this…our son did fight with all that was within him. And he did conquer every demon that wanted to keep him from us here on earth.  And he did survive.

And because of it, he finally got to meet my sister.  His auntie.  And my best friend…

Happy birthday, Darby.


Marital Un-Bliss and Lack of Sleep had a Devastating Effect on My Eyebrows

Once upon a time, there was a lady—and she met a guy.  And they thought the other was pretty cute (Well, maybe not initially—but, after a few dates, they were smitten).

Kiss.  Kiss.  Cuddle.  Cuddle.

Dun, dun, da-dun.  Dun, dun, da-dun! Here comes the bride…


And then 12 years later we found ourselves here.

You know…

Old mom (give me old—because at 36 my body TOLD me it was OLD) to a newborn that went from…



To this:


In just under 5 minutes.

And then we finally got him here:


To send him back to this:


Phew!  Back here:


And now for his first international trip—German hospital, here we come:


Finally, bringing him back home to us here…


Besides being exhausted, everything’s looking pretty a-okay, right???

And that’s when we realize that sometimes photos are deceiving.

Here.  Let me give you some examples.

Look at how absolutely lovely (yes, I’m calling us lovely) we look together in these photos:




And, yes.  Times, over the years, were good.

But, oh…

This past Fall it went from:  birds chirping and harps playing while choirs are singing to pictures off the wall, loud shouting, and lots of crying in approximately 2.4 (seconds, that is).

And then that’s when I did it…

Lack of sleep and marital un-bliss did me in!

I loudly announced that I was off to the hairdresser and I was CUTTING my hair!  (That’ll show my husband, eh?  My hair, that he LOVED, was going, going, going…Gone!)

And I drove to the nearest city (we live in a little Polish village) and trudged up two flights of creepy stairs (literally creepy stairs) and announced, “I want to CUT MY HAIR!”

Even the hairdresser questioned my decision making, asking me many times…

How short?

Are you sure?

How about just a couple centimeters?

Loudly did I protest!

No…Cut it all.  To my chin!  Get rid of my hair.  Oh, and, by the way, color it while you are at it!  Color it…This color!  (I pointed to a color on the chart).

Again the hair dresser questioned…

Are you sure?

How about this color instead…???

Boy—I must be very opinionated and protest loudly because I INSISTED…

No!  This color.  This short!

And, so, reluctantly, she did it…

And, yes.  She was RIGHT.  I was WRONG!

My hair.  Oh, my once rather decently glorious hair went from decently glorious to ‘scarecrow in a field’ worthy in just under 2 hours.


Well.  Nothing I could do now.

(Speaking too soon, obviously)

Ooooooh, look!  A lady that can pluck my eyebrows!  Here I go, I’m gonna clean up my brows.  Yes!

(Laying myself down on the table)…

Nothing too crazy, okay?  Just normal eyebrows, okay?  I said to the eager looking cosmetologist.

Okay…she responded.

And that’s when I felt it…

A refreshingly warm liquid being painted onto my eyebrows.

I thought—What?  Is she going to wax my brows?  I thought she was going to pluck my brows.

And then she did something else.  She wiped the liquid off.

That’s odd.  I thought.  Maybe it’s a new treatment for brows—kind-of like a brow-cial (instead of facial).

And then she did something else.  She plucked my brows.

Now curiosity was KILLING me.

Hmmm.  It appears she’s done.  I sit up.  She hands me a mirror.

Friends, that’s when I realized that my husband—although the CULPRIT in this original bit of marital dispute-was The Winner.  I was CLEARLY the loser.

And to prove that he won and I lost, I’ll post these:



While he still looked like this:



Moral of the story…

When you are in a time of marital un-bliss and you feel like you NEED to do something crazy in order to simply survive, sit back, open your computer, and take a look at my eyebrows.

If those suckers don’t convince you, well, then, perhaps counseling will…

God bless counseling.