Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall Family Traditions

October has been full of some of our fun fall family traditions as well as a first for all 5 Brownies.

Pumpkin Carving
This is something the kids and I enjoy every year.  This year, the boys got to help by removing the icky, slimy guts from the pumpkin!
Before the carving

Pulling out guts!

Our owl, Hedwig

Visit to Oklahoma to meet The Brown Grands
The boys did fabulously!  They had a great time visiting, playing with their cousin Emily, riding bikes, driving RC cars, and riding around in Grandpa's "tractor."  It was the boys' first overnight stay away from home (still with us, of course) and they didn't seemed phased a bit!  However, the look of deep love on Travis' face when we pulled in at our house told Ken and me that he knows this is home.  Travis smiled, laughed, and would have wrapped his arms around the house to give it a big hug if he could.  It was heartwarming to witness.
Grandpa driving the boys.

Putting together the airplane.

Setting up for flight.

Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch
We've been visiting The Patch since the first season we lived here, 4 years ago.  We got to see it through toddler eyes this year and we all had a great time.  In fact, I think we'll make one more trip over there before October 31st.  The new $5 parking fee is well worth it.  Such great memories and tons of fall fun.

Sweet Peas

Silly boy has mastered the fake smile.

Love to see the older Brownies helping their little brothers.

More goofiness.

The State Fair of Texas
The Fair is a must here in Texas.  For the past several years, the kids and I have gone with my sister, niece and my parents.  This year, my parents were out of town, my sister went earlier in the week, and Ken could finally join us for the first time.  It was a little slower with the boys in tow, but we still had some good family fun.  We got to hang out with some friends, too, so that was a bonus!

The Alliance Air Show
We Browns get downright giddy about the air show.  If you know my husband, you'll understand why. This year, we had added excitement because the little boys adore airplanes so much.  We figured they'd simply freak out!  A big storm passed through the night before the air show and I woke Sunday morning feeling grateful that clear weather was forecast for the entire day.  We woke early, packed up, and headed out to Alliance Airport.  When we had almost arrived, I checked my twitter feed and saw Alliance announce that due to heavy rains rendering the parking spaces useless and even dangerous, they decided to cancel the air show.  Major bummer.  Not nearly as exciting as the air show, we stopped by Founder's Plaza at DFW airport to watch a few planes land.
Tian's sign for airplane

Wedding Celebration on the Lake
We're rounding out the month with a wedding celebration on the lake!  A good friend is getting married and (bravely) invited all seven of us!  It was the kids' first-ever wedding.  (And Ken and my first wedding on a boat!)  Can I have a momma brag moment?  The Brownies were fabulous!  They danced, golfed off the back of the boat, danced some more, played with friends, and had a great time.  The two littlest Brownies played with some toys another mom smartly brought.  As we left, Hannah said, "This was the best party I've ever been to!"

Ready to see the bride and groom.

How the boys spent most of their night.

And we still have trick-or-treating to do next week! Then it will be time for the holiday fun of November and December!  What are some of YOUR favorite fall or holiday traditions?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hero Mom

Click here to vote!

My friend, Adrienne, the same friend who nominated me for the Distinguished Mom Award, has yet again nominated me for's "Hero Mom."  The grand prize is $2500 from Allstate, most of which she says she plans to give us to help pay off our remaining debt from the adoption, which I admit would be a blessing to us!

First of all, may I take this chance to publicly thank my sweet friend, Adrienne?  She has been there for me in so many ways, encouraging me in Christ and in my daily life as a mom, wife, and homeschool teacher.  Her friendship to me is priceless.  Oh, and if you want to learn to speed clean your house using non-toxic, green products AND want to learn how to teach your kids to do chores well, check out her website,  She has an excellent DVD that teaches parents how to teach their kids to clean.  She and her husband spent a lot of extra time and money getting their DVD closed captioned, which means SO much to us, as you can imagine!

Here is a portion of the letter Adrienne sent out, asking for votes.  We'd love it if you blog readers would take a moment to vote!  Just click the link and click "vote."  That's all.  No sign-ups or registering.

This is from Adrienne:

Look for ADRIENNE FREAS….I wrote the story. So, you are voting for me. I am in second place right now. If I win I plan to give $2,000 to The Brown Family to cover some of the debt from their recent adoption and $500 to a family adopting a little blind girl from Russia. Her story can be read here!

You can vote one time EVERYDAY!!!

First place wins $2500
Second place wins $100 gift card. ( I am currently in 2nd place)

Thanks, blog friends!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Things People Say

In the past week, these questions have turned up in one form or the other.
“Why didn’t you get a fully functional child instead of a deaf child?” (To his credit, the person who asked this is a 12 year old kid.)
A grown woman in her 60s asked, regarding Travis, “Oh, he’s deaf and dumb?”  Sigh.
A Home Depot worker spoke to Ken.  Ken, who had the two little boys with him, indicated that he was Deaf, so the worker jokingly gestured toward the boys, “How much did they cost?” then laughed, thinking he was pretty darn funny.
One of my passions is educating anyone, especially older kids and adults, about the Deaf World and now adoption, but some days, these types of comments can just rub the wrong way.  Other times, I revel in the chance to enlighten someone. 
Recently, as some Deaf friends and I were discussing the issue of hearing and how hearing people place so    much    value    on hearing and speech, we had the chance to educate a hearing onlooker who didn’t have a lot of experience with the Deaf World.  The onlooker indicated that she felt like we were on a high horse, putting her down for not agreeing or understanding our point of view.  Thinking back over the conversation, there was no putting down, but possibly, our tone may have come across that way to her.  But she or anyone else not familiar with the Deaf World would have to try understanding that the questions the general public ask get asked over and over, year after year.
Can you drive? How do you travel alone?  Do you have a job?  I saw this amazing video where a girl hears for the first time, did you see it? You should get one of those implants.  
So, within the tight-knit Deaf community, we DO give each other knowing looks and sometimes joke about these questions, but we normally only do so with each other.  When someone asks one of these or a myriad of other questions, we appreciate the opportunity to educate, and yes, even enlighten.  The onlooker felt negative about the fact that we were hoping to “enlighten” her.  We were.  Isn’t that the beauty of open dialogue with people who aren’t like you?  People who have a different perspective?
The same issue comes up regarding adoption and homeschooling.  People say the darndest things!  It forces me to think of times when the tables are turned and I'm looking in on a lifestyle or culture I know little about.  

I remember when we began our adoption journey, I was searching for anything and everything adult adoptees had written.  Let me tell you, there are some angry adoptees out there and they blog!  As I read, I found myself feeling defensive.  Many of them addressed fantasy-minded adoptive parents.  They were addressing me!  But as I read, I knew they had much to say and that I better listen.  And I was enlightened.  I didn’t agree with everything I set my eyes on, but I learned and continue to learn.  My eyes were open to a perspective I never had considered.  I learned the problems with adoptive parents telling their kids, “Your birth mom loved you so much...that’s why she gave you up.”  I learned why it’s hurtful for kids to grow up hearing that they are “so lucky.”  I learned that my Asian sons may not want to hear me say, “I don’t see you as Asian. I just see you as mine.”  I was enlightened.
Thinking back, I’m sure I’ve said more than my fair share of ignorant comments and asked innocent, but offensive questions.  When others say things that jab a little, I have to take a moment and think about where they are coming from.  Most often, people are just genuinely curious and unaware.  Rarely, but still sometimes, they’re plain unthoughtful or rude.
Maybe Ken and I are gluttons for punishment.  When I think about it, there are many things about the Brown Seven that seem to give people (friends, family, strangers) what they think is an open invitation to question, scrutinize, criticize our lifestyle.
Size of our family.  Homeschool.  Multicultural adoption.  Deaf/hearing, using sign language. Other family choices, such as media.  

Thank God that He equips us for what He's called us to.  The "equipment" I'm praying for is patience, slow anger, slow speech, and grace for others as I've been drowned in grace.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Don't Adopt!

Yeah, the title got my attention, too.

Since it's been a week since my last post and I don't have a new post ready right now, I thought I'd at least share what I thought was a fabulous blog entry by Russell Moore, the author of Adopted For Life.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Downsizing Adventures: Six-Month Update

This month marks a half year that we have been in our new digs.  I blogged about our downsizing adventures right as we moved.  It's fun to go back and read those thoughts.  Not a lot has changed.  The pros and cons are unchanged.  Every time we come home from a trip, Ken and I agree that we have no regrets regarding our decision to downsize.  

A couple of weeks ago, I sat down to work on our budget for the first time since we've been home from China.  It felt useless to try to follow a budget during the last few months before we traveled, so it's been quite a while since I worked up a budget.  I was pleasantly surprised!  We're still tight coming off the China trip, but by the end of October, we'll be able to breathe and be back on track again.  We actually have extra cash to give and save.  We've not been able to do either for a year now.  Finances are a huge part of our decision to move, but there are so many more benefits.  

This week, we were all very sick with a horrid stomach virus.  It was just a 24-hour virus, but it knocked us to our feet!  Having a smaller home made it so much less stressful to keep clean.  This morning, I got up to a tornado of a mess (after being sick and lying in bed all day yesterday and hubby out of town for work).  It took me just an hour to clean the kitchen, work laundry, tidy up, and disinfect the bathrooms.  I had very little energy coming off of yesterday's virus, so being able to stay on one floor and take fewer steps was a true blessing. 

One thing we loved about our big home was entertaining.  We truly enjoyed having people over to swim, barbecue, eat dinner, host parties for others, and just use the space we had to enjoy and bless others.  We learned Sunday that size doesn't matter!  We had about 13 adults and even MORE kids at the house for our new home group.  There was room for everyone and we had a great time.  It was our first time to have a large group come over since moving, so it was nice to see that it still works.

We have had issues with neighborhood kids.  Bullying, foul language, gossip and drama.  I have a whole other blog planned about that, but we just try to see it as a way for our kids to grow character, learn how to deal with people, and give God's grace.   

One last fun renting story.  Regency truly has very good customer service.  They aren't perfect, but who is?  I believe I already blogged about the AC getting fixed so quickly the first month we were here.  Well, a few weeks ago, Tian decided to flush a ball down the toilet.  His oldest brother did the same thing when he was the same age.  We were living in Vegas and after taking our toilet outside and rolling it around the backyard, we realized that ball was NOT getting unstuck, so we bought a new toilet.  We were quite worried about this toilet, thinking we were going to have to pay for whatever work was done.  One of our maintenance guys came up, took the toilet off, broke apart the ball, sealed the toilet back, then left.  No stress.  No budget buster.  Just fixed.  That, my friends, is what we need in this season of our life!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Deaf Girl Hears for the First Time?

There has been a lot of buzz online about this video, now gone viral.

Let me begin by saying that the news and bloggers are correct, this video is touching. I love her reaction!  Whatever her past hearing issues have been, she's obviously thrilled with the results of this Esteem implant, not to be confused with the more widely-known cochlear implant (CI), that has just been activated.  (This link explains the differences in implants for those who might be interested.)  I'm happy for Sloan because a: she's 29 and has every right decide to pursue an implant like this.  b: the implant is doing exactly, if not more than what she expected it to do.  It's fun to watch her and her heart-felt joy is sweet.

Did you guess I'd have a problem with it, too?  You were right!  Here's my problem with the video.  I hope that when she's interviewed (her video has over 2.5 millions hits, so I'm thinking the news stations will pick this up), some of my questions will be answered.  I may be proven wrong, but here's my assessment:

The title itself is misleading: Deaf Girl Hears for the First Time.  No way.  Sorry, but there's no way.  If she's never heard, how can she understand the technician ask, "Can you hear me?" when her eyes are covered? I've met many people, quite a few of them friends of mine, who have gotten CIs.  They say they could hear instantly upon activation, but had no clue what the sounds were.  Leaving the audiologist, they didn't know if the sound outside was a bird or the big air conditioners.  Sounds are learned over hours and hours, months and months, years and years of training.  This girl has to have some past hearing experience.  Her original video title on You Tube is "29 And Hearing Myself for the First Time."  Maybe she could hear other's voices some, but not her own?  I'm not sure.

I'm also blown away by her speech.  If she's truly been profoundly deaf since birth, never able to hear speech sounds, then her speech therapist should be famous right now.  Again, I have many Deaf friends who have very good speech.  My own husband has never heard speech in his life and he can certainly talk.  But her speech is SO very clear, it just doesn't match up with someone who is hearing "for the first time."  There has to be more to this story.

So maybe Sloan has heard speech with her hearing aids.  It seems that this implant has improved how she hears to an amazing degree, but the video is misleading and that's what bothers me.  This video will continue to mislead the general public into believing that a deaf person can simply be "cured" by getting an implant.  It will give false expectations to hearing parents of deaf kids and that is what bothers me most.  The truth is that implants are giving hearing to people who never would have heard before.  It's up to each person to decide what technology to use or not to use.  Sadly, the media will eat up videos like this, using incorrect terminology and leaving out critical parts of the story.  After all, "Girl with profound hearing loss has great results with new implant" doesn't make for viral videos.  Stories like this also promote the idea that all Deaf people want to hear and should be "fixed."  And that's why I have a problem with this video.  I hope to see her interviewed so the video will make more sense.

(The way I feel about this movie reminds me a little of some sentiments from the Black community regarding the movie "The Blind Side."  I get it.  And I loved that movie.)