29 April 2012

Our Trip to Mississippi

Brian is in the midst of his comprehensive exams for his PhD program this week.  This is a pretty big milestone in his journey to get his PhD in Theology (New Testament).  These intensive tests (also called "Pre-Lims") are the last things he must pass before beginning his dissertation.  His last test is Tuesday, for which we are very thankful.

Last weekend, to help give Brian the time and space to prepare for this week's multiple day-long tests, I took the boys to see my grandmother (my only living grandparent) and to attend our family reunion.   That meant driving 18 hours in four days, with two little boys from Texas to Mississippi.

Thank goodness my little ones were angels and handled the drive very well.  Of course, my secret weapons included bringing my sister along (they love their Aunt Brook) and the car DVD player!  Not to mention, they got to see their Mumsy, Pops and Uncle JC, whom they adore.

Three generations: my sister Brook-Lyn, my mom, Grandmom and me at the reunion

Of course, nothing changes with our Cystic Fibrosis routine, even when we're on road trips.  We just had to bring lots of CF supplies along.  It's funny to see how we set up shop whereever we must go.

One of the challenges about visiting my grandmother (the boys' great grandmother) is that she and Bennett cannot be around each other.  Two years ago, my grandmother cultured Pseudomonas (a common lung infection in CF patients).  As I mentioned here, Grandmom is actually being followed by the CF clinic in Jackson, Mississippi and is currently being treated as a full-fledged Cystic Fibrosis patient.  This was our first time to bring Bennett to visit my Grandmother because none of our family was quite sure how to do it but keep the two of them separated the entire time.

One of the things I got to see when I went to visit Grandmom was her in her own CF Vest.  Isn't this just a riot to see?  My 85 year old grandmother in her vest?  Oliver thought this was very interesting.  Actually, it's very sad to see that she needs it.  But, thankfully, since being cared for by a CF doctor and after having recently completed an antibiotic tune-up in the hospital, my grandmother is doing wonderfully well!

Since Bennett and my Grandmom are both considered to have Cystic Fibrosis, we have to put infection control measures in place when they are near each other.  We don't want Bennett to get Pseudomonas, if at all possible, as it will increase his progressive lung disease.  The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation highly advises CF patients not to be within four feet of each other.  So, we practiced this at our family reunion and dinners as well.  Our doctor has advised us not to let Bennett spend time inside my grandmother's house because there are too many germs there.  So, the boys and I had to stay in a hotel.

One of my favorite parts of visiting Grandmom is getting to eat her home-cooked meals.  She makes some awesome Mississippi home-cooked meals, complete with butter beans, black-eyed peas, cabbage, cream corn and cornbread!  I was so sad to think we wouldn't be able to enjoy this aspect of our visit with her now that we can't bring Bennett into her house.  However, my mom came up with a creative idea to accomplish our goal of getting the family together: renting Grandmom's condo clubhouse across the street.  This allowed us family meals together in a private space but not inside a place where Bennett could get sick (Pseudomonas can't hurt those of us who are healthy).  We just made sure to put Bennett and Grandmom at opposite ends of the table and voila: family dinner like always.

The condo clubhouse even had truncated couches so we could relax.  Oliver really enjoyed getting to talk to his great Uncle Rob about tornadoes while we were there visiting.  Uncle Rob told Oliver about how Oliver's great-grandfather and he (when he was a little boy) were in a tornado.  Oliver was enthralled!

Oliver also loved playing with his cousin Reese, who is 3.5 years older than him. 

It has taken us a long time to be able to be together again.  Between Bennett's previous CF complications, our living two states away and my grandmother's CF issues, our visits were limited and almost non-existent.  But, I think we may have figured out how to be an extended family again, just modified to keep everyone healthy.  In fact, we plan to visit again soon.  My grandmother is a fabulous woman and I am so thankful to have been able to see her, if even under strange CF-related conditions.  Cystic Fibrosis is family, whether we like it or not.  But I'll take it if it means I can have a Grandmother as loving and caring as this one!

24 April 2012

Eight years today.

Eight years ago today, I became Breck Gamel.  
Eight years ago today, I committed to being faithful to the one that I love.  
Eight years ago today, I embarked on a journey I could never have known where I would go.
And I am so thankful that, eight years ago today, I married my best friend.

Thank you for loving me, 
in good times and in bad
through sickness and in health.  

I love you, Brian.

20 April 2012


It's customary to take "bluebonnet pictures" in the Spring when you live in Texas.  It feels a bit like Christmas (in April) when the bluebonnets pop up each year.  They are these beautiful purple wildflowers that they spring up everywhere for about four weeks!  It's so fun to drive past fields and fields of them at a time!  So, recently, during our family photograph session with Khimberly Caton from Snaptastic Shots a few weeks ago, I asked if she would snap some "bluebonnet pictures":

April 2012 (Oliver, 4; Bennett, 2)

April 2010 (Oliver, 2; Bennett, 6 months)

Khimberly caught the boys being exactly what I see them being on a daily basis: completely silly and super sweet.

15 April 2012

When No Nap and Treatments Collide

This is what happens when Bennett's lack of a nap and his breathing treatments collide...
I was in the process of taking a picture of my sweet boy falling asleep (which is why it is blurry), just as something within him seemed to call out, "Timber!"

And down he went.  Little guy hadn't had his nap so it's no surprise he fell sleep during his evening treatment time.  The humming of his nebulizer and the "massage" of his vest lulled him right to sleep.

Sweet boy didn't move at all even as clicked away with my camera.

So, what does this Mama do when her two year old falls asleep during his treatment?

She takes off his mask to make him more comfortable, turns off the vest machine and walks around the house very quietly.

Proof that when you're sleepy, anywhere is comfortable.

13 April 2012

Angry Birds/Silly Birds

I couldn't help but crack up this evening when I saw Oliver trying to jump off the sofa in the living room with his pointer fingers at his brow.  Wondering what the heck he was doing, I asked, "what the heck are you doing?"

Turns out, he was pretending to play this game:
(I consider it "Tetris" for a new generation.)

Angry Birds

Silly Birds

11 April 2012

Sweet Boys on a Spring Day

I couldn't ask for sweeter and more loving little boys...

Bennett is imaginative, playful and loves to laugh.  Oliver is tender, inquisitive and loyal.  

Best friends.  (This picture makes me think of one of the songs the kids and I enjoy listening to by Frances England called, "Best Friends.")  I'm so glad these sweet boys have each other.  

08 April 2012

Today is why I can face Cystic Fibrosis.

I have been given a daily reminder that death is never far away.  

I am aware of it when I pull out Bennett's Vest to start his chest therapy.
I am aware of it when I locate all the pieces to Bennett's nebulizers and begin filling them with hundreds of dollars worth of medications.
I am aware of it when I pack up the car to drive Bennett two hours from our home for our quarterly Cystic Fibrosis clinic appointments.

We are on a timer.  And I know it.  
Death lingers much too close.  

Recently, even 4-year-old Oliver has demonstrated to be acutely aware of this.  Despite our greatest efforts to reassure him there is nothing to worry about with death, his questions and fears indicate he is trying to build a schema around the idea of premature death, something our family is forced to confront with Bennett's Cystic Fibrosis.  He recently asked:

"When I die, can I call on God's phone and talk to you?  When I die, do mommies come with little boys? When I die, will you be with me?  I don't know, mom, I think God is going to do Oliver first, then Mommy.  I think boys are going to go first before girls, boys before mommies."

Even though I try to reiterate to Oliver that he will not die until he is really old, he seems to have a sense that the order of the world is not right.  And, ultimately, I know this is true.

The world isn't supposed to be this way.  My son isn't supposed to live a life of suffering.  My sorority sister wasn't supposed to lose her husband suddenly.  Our speech therapist wasn't supposed to be diagnosed with an incurable and debilitating disease.  Our neighbor's teenage granddaughter wasn't supposed to lose her battle with a brain tumor.  Our friend wasn't supposed to lose her firstborn before she had even had her first cry.

These are just a handful of the weren't-supposed-to stories I could share.  There are so many more.  Pain paints the world around me.  The world is not what it is supposed to be.  It's broken.  And it's waiting anxiously to be renewed.

This is why today is particularly wonderful.  "Today is not like other days.  Today, everything changes.  Everything."  

Oliver knows this too.  On the way home from church today, Brian asked Oliver, "Oliver, do you know why we have Easter?"  And Oliver replied, " make the world new again."

Today is Easter.  It is a day of Hope.  I like to call it Resurrection Day because it reminds me of the story that today tells.

This is the day when death was overcome.  And it is a reminder that death will be overcome once more, this time for good.  Today reminds me I can look into the eyes of death and know it does not have the final word on my son's life or on those around me.

I do not face Cystic Fibrosis because I hope for a cure.  
I face Cystic Fibrosis because of today.

He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.  Come and see the place where he lay.  Matthew 28:6

Christ is Risen.  This is the only reason why I can face Cystic Fibrosis.

06 April 2012

The Hunt for Easter Eggs

The boys have really enjoyed Easter egg hunting this year.  Neither child is particularly competitive but they enjoying finding hidden treats.

Off they go!

We are thankful for friends who offered an Easter egg hunt during our weekly pre-school playgroup time.  The backyard where the Easter egg hunt was held was nothing but a flat plot of grass so it made Easter egg hunting super easy (which is necessary when you are ages 2 and 4).

Bennett found carrying a basket around while hunting for eggs to be extremely exhausting.  Instead, he just wanted to find an egg, get the candy, find another egg and get the candy.  I suppose it's easy to be distracted when candy looks so good.

Oliver got the concept immediately.  He enjoyed running fast!

Playful brothers on a Spring day.

This is so how Oliver rolls.  During our last Easter egg hunt, he preferred to find eggs of his favorite color, rather than just get as many as he could find in his basket.  This is so Oliver and we love seeing his personality come out.  He is a faithful child, especially faithful to whatever he chooses to like.  The color blue is his favorite these days, which is evident by his Easter basket.  

02 April 2012

Kid "Bennett Brigade" T-Shirts

{REMINDER: Last day to order tshirts is April 19.  To order, email us at breckgamel at yahoo dot com!}

We had to tweak our tshirts one more time.  This week, I inquired about sizing of kid shirts at the local business from whom we are buying shirts.  Turns out, the smallest children's sized Gildan shirts would swallow both the boys up whole.

Normally, I wouldn't mind.  But since this Walk is all about Bennett, I felt it would be best to make sure his little shirt fit.  So, we found a company that could match our grown-up-sized shirts if we do them in emerald green.  So, the color changed a little but not a lot.

Tshirts will be emerald green rather than the Irish green I was originally hoping for.  Seems like we should make sure the little ones get to wear tshirts too.  So, we'll compromise so everyone looks like their on the same team!

Excuse this silly picture of Oliver modeling.  He is demonstrating how big (or rather, how small) size 3T in kid shirts are.  Oliver is a tall four and a half year old.  So, I am planning to order Oliver a size 5T and Bennett a size 3T.  Those sizes should fit them perfectly.

For those still unsure of what size to choose, consider this chart below: