Sunday, February 26, 2012

One Year of Downsized Life

March will mark one year since we downsized from a large home into our current apartments.

One year later, this is what I still love:
The space itself.  We've realized our family of seven can easily function comfortably in 1700 square feet.  And if you take away Ken's office space, that really leaves 1500 of our actual living space.  We've had a house-full of friends over for Christmas Eve and for small group.  While it's not as spacious as our old place, it still works and our friends don't mind being a little closer.

The freedom. No worries over broken blinds, broken AC units, and even clogged toilets.  All of this and more have been repaired or replaced by our apartment staff at no extra cost or hassle to us.  The lawn is kept manicured, the pool sparkling, the roof patched.  Gates, wood trim, and other cosmetic details are painted frequently. That, my friends, has been completely worth it!

The location.  We truly enjoy this area of town.  We're a few minutes from DFW Airport and a 30-minute drive to downtown Dallas, while still only 15 minutes from where we used to live and still spend a lot of our time.  We adore the trails and enjoy the fact that the kids can ride to the park without ever touching one single street or crossing.  This is also the only place we've ever lived where we can walk to the library.  Huge bonus.

What has been challenging here:
The kids.  It started out great.  The girls began making friends quickly.  But as soon as the girl-drama kicked in (including my own girls' girl-drama), all hell broke loose and it's now truly volatile.  I won't go in to the details, but it's been fairly horrid at times.  It got so horrid, the girls and I gave up.  They just don't hang with kids here and I quit encouraging them to go work things out.  I guess this is what kids face in public school?  TJ has one close friend and a lot of the boys his age and younger follow him all over the complex.  This developed only after suffering through his own time of getting teased, called all kinds of names, and even pushed down and bloodied up by a bigger boy.  We were truly spoiled in our old 'hood.  The kids didn't always see things eye-to-eye, but they remained friends.  They certainly didn't call each other R-rated names or resort to physical violence.  They hashed stuff out when the rare fight occurred and were truly friends to each other.  The other major difference is, in our old 'hood, I was in weekly-if-not-daily contact with the other parents, even if it was just a quick text.  I haven't even met more than a few of the parents here.  

Our own gated yard. There are days when we're doing school that I'd like to send the boys out to play, but can't do that unless one of the older kids or I am with them.

Making it my own.  Since I know this is a temporary home for us, I don't add a lot of our family personality to it. I haven't painted or even decorated beyond filling my kitchen pot shelves and hanging a few photos.  I have a vision for the boys' room, but their walls are plain and bare.  Fortunately, I like the paint colors and the wood and dark granite that make it feel warm and homey without my own colors added.  Painting and extensive decorating are not worth the work knowing we won't be here much longer.  

We won't be here much longer?  Correct!  Our lease is out at the end of the summer.  At that time, we'll be moving elsewhere, but I'm not sharing those details just yet.  Yes, I'm totally leaving you hanging; I know it's mean!  Well, I must give you a reason to keep checking back, right?  

All-in-all, we have loved living here.  The amount of money we were able to make on the sale of the house helped us tremendously with adoption expenses.  The freedom we've had from homeownership has been a true blessing during this season of family transition after the adoption.  God knew what he was doing when he prompted us to sell our house and move here.  Even with a few struggles along the way, we have no regrets!   

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Meme: What Society Thinks

In the last couple of weeks, we've seen a lot of the "What Society Thinks I Do" and "What I Really Do" posters.  We've seen them for lawyers, homeschoolers, interpreters, Mormans, and just about any other people group you can think of.

Ken and I decided to make one entitled "Deaf."  Without even thinking about it, the poster ended up with photos of men only.  It was quickly brought to our attention, so we made another one with women*.

The real issue is, I could have filled 100 posters with photos of Deaf people in a wide range of roles.  Ken and I are thinking about creating one.  Here are a few of the people that come to mind.  Who would you add?  I know there are SO many more. This was just my initial list off the top of my head.  If you think of someone, let me know in the comments section and, if you can, link me to their website or some online photo of the person.

Adrean Clark: Cartoonist/Homeschool mom
Matt Diagle: Cartoonist
Paul Rutowski: Entrepreneur
Chef Kurt: Irish Chef/Sexiest Chef in Austin!
Ron Bledsoe: Business Owner "Paint Paramedics"
Laura Bledsoe: Homeschool mom
Thomas Means: CPA
Sean Berdy: actor
Anthony Natalie: actor
Kenneth Brown: first Deaf employee of OSBI and LVMPD
Tim Rarus: ZVRS Vice President
Howard Rosenblum: CEO of NAD - Attorney
Chris Wagner: ZVRS Vice President
Julie Rems Smario: Founding Executive Director of Deaf Hope
Dr. Glen Anderson: University Professor. First Black Deaf person to obtain PhD
Jewel Rocha: Elementary school-aged performer, advocate, and interviewer at Jewel News!
Ben Behan, Ken Mikos: Professors and co-creators of Signing Naturally Curriculum

Taken from
First woman president for National Association of The Deaf and Deaf Seniors of America, as well as the first Deaf woman in the country to head a school for the Deaf
First Black Deaf attorney in the United States and the first Deaf student to graduate from the American University (AU) Washington College of Law
First Deaf student to be a student government president at a predominately hearing University with close to 18,000 students
First female to race for a factory team last year when she joined the Honda Red Bull and X Games’ first Deaf gold medalist
CEO of TCS Associates, first Deaf women to be named as Entrepreneur of the Year by Professional Woman’s Magazine
Established and operates Western Interpreting Network (WIN) one of the four interpreting companies in the United States that are owned and operated by Deaf people
Owner and Fashion Designer of By Mara, incorporates ASL in her clothing line in order to increase the public’s awareness of sign language
Co-Founder and Art director of the word-of-hand magazine called KissFist which features all talents within the Deaf community
Spokesperson on closed captioning, recently lobbied on behalf of HR 3101, “The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009,” for National Association of the Deaf which got passed in 2010
Licensed psychologist who focused her work with multicultural Deaf children and their families for over 26 years in mental health, education, and community-based settings in the United States as well as Taiwan
Blogger and political activist who received attention from CNN as well as NBC for her blog, recipient of the “Local Grassroots Leadership Award” by the Latino Inaugural Celebration Committee at the Organization of American States
Established Deaf Women in Film (DWIF) with the sole purpose for supporting, recognizing, and helping all Deaf women cultivate their careers as well as signers associated with the film industry
Painter who established the infamous one-eyed signature style which was shown at several art galleries in California and New York
Singer who was featured in See What I’m Saying film, Alanis Morissette and Tori Amos concert, Much Music, MTV, City TV, and The New Music
Computer-generated artist who has worked on films such as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Fantastic Four, and Bolt!
Actress, Director, and Write who was featured in several television shows such as Soul Food, Girlfriends, Strong Medicine, and ESSENCE Magazine
Blogger for her own blog called “A Deaf Mom Shares her World,” writer for Chicago Moms, Disaboom, and Parenting Squad
Equal communication access advocate who fought with the Lollapalooza, an annual musical festival in Chicago, to provide ASL interpreters for Deaf people
Passionate advocate for Bilingualism and is heavily involved with Early Hearing Detection and Intervention program (EHDI)
Graduated from DePaul University in 2009 with a M.Ed in Educational Leadership and is currently the Director of Little Arrows Early Childhood Center
Advocate, Leader, Warrior, Trailblazer, Mentor – many of the words used to describe Marcella M. Meyer (1925-2009). She was all of these and more.
She became GLAD’s first executive director, and in 1975, she became the Chief Executive Officer, a position that she held until retirement.

*Please note it was not our intention to be derogatory to women by using the term "waitress."  That title isn't negative to me.  I've never thought of it as negative.  We recieved a few comments from people saying we shouldn't have used that term, because "waitress" implies we think it will be a stupid woman who thinks Deaf people read Braille.  The truth is, it's happend over and over again in restaurants with wait staff of both genders, flight attendants of both genders, and random people, again of both genders,  calling the Deaf services departments or schools for the Deaf all over the country asking about Braille. 
All of that to say, "waitress" isn't a negative term in my view.  It's just a job description we picked.  If you'd like to imagine it says "service personell" then knock yourself out. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Twilight Book and Movie Review - Part 2


Book one, Twilight, was a sweet story, fairly innocent, and better than the movie.  Big surprise. The book is not, however, a literary masterpiece.

Book two, New Moon, was my least favorite.  I skimmed through a chunk of it, not really caring about all the vampire and werewolf history.  I didn't seem to skip over anything too crucial, because the rest of the series continued to make sense.  That may speak to the caliber of the writing, but I'm no writing critic.  I am, however a major Harry Potter fan and couldn't help but compare the two series.  There is no comparison.  The literary quality of Harry Potter is in a much higher universe than that of the Twilight Saga of books.  However, the Twilight Saga story in its entirety is an enjoyable one to read.  I say "in its entirety" because if you take any one of the books alone without seeing how it ends, the characters' choices can be frustrating.
What jumped out at me in this book was that Bella was nuts.  She was a whack-job.  She wasted months of her life being depressed over Edward's leaving, then led Jacob on in a way that was frustrating to read.  It made for great conversation with my daughter.  "A girl can't tell a guy with her words that she just wants to be friends, then let him hold her hand and snuggle with her on the couch.  It's just not lady-like nor is it fair to the guy.  We gotta be a little wiser and more discerning than little Miss Bella."

Book three, Eclipse, was my favorite.  I enjoyed the alliance the werewolves and Cullins' family created. There were a lot of "teachable moments" in this book.  The benefit of alliances with people who should be your enemy, according to the world.  Showing kindness to those who don't see the world the same way you do.  Coming together, even with those who live contrary to your worldview, to fight against a greater evil.  I liked those themes in this book.
The fact that Bella is a virgin came into light in this book.  While it sounds very "Christian" that she's a virgin, she doesn't want to be one.  She's only going along with Edward's wishes.  She pushes herself on Edward often and only remains a virgin because of his self-control.  Other than the fact that he doesn't want to kill her in the process of ending her virginity, he also wants to give her soul a chance at salvation since (he believes, but it's not a fact) his soul is already damned.  Again, that sounds very chivalrous of him, but if he knew the truth about heaven, hell and God, he would know that losing ones virginity before marriage doesn't equal eternal damnation.  One's soul also isn't lost or saved based on outweighing your bad deeds with your good deeds.
So while, yes, as a conservative mom, I appreciated the fact that they did not have sex, it's not enough to leave it at that.  My daughter and I had already discussed Bella's behavior toward Jacob during the second book.  In this book, we had to witness more of her aggressive behavior and decide she was not a heroine.  Not to us anyway.  And for the record,  I do believe that sex outside of marriage is against the laws and will of God.  I just know that breaking God's law alone doesn't equal damnation or else we'd all be without hope.

I began reading book four, Breaking Dawn, and realized just how important it was that I was reading ahead of my daughter.  After the lovely description of the wedding, the book dives into the married relationship of Bella and Edward Cullen.  There will be a time when Hannah can read this story.  It's not dirty or sordid.  It tastefully describes their physical relationship, but it's information I feel is not for a 12 year-old girl.  Maybe in a couple of years.  That's exactly what I told her. I let her know it was sweet and romantic (she knows that God created marriage and the physical relationship that is the great gift within that marriage), but that it's not something I want, or even she would want to read at age 12.  She agreed and put up no argument.  Part of the benefit of reading through a series like this with her is that it builds our relationship and trust.
The honeymoon chapters include a lot of tough themes.  She's bruised and battered after consummating their marriage.  She immediately is pregnant, with the baby growing at an alarming rate.  Knowing the baby will most likely kill her from the inside out, Edward wants her "get rid of it."  That's a LOT more than I was ready to dive into with Hannah.  I didn't even have the energy to keep reading, so I shelved the book for a week.  (I had read all three in less than a week.)  I did end up picking it back up and finishing, skimming through much of Jacob's thoughts and the werewolf stuff.  While I like Jacob, that side of the story didn't appeal to me.  And the book wasn't written in a way that forced me to stay with it.

The movies were a different story.  I previewed each one before deciding to allow my daughter to watch it.  I felt like the more grown-up themes were written into the book in subtle ways.  The movie is much more overt, in-your-face, leaving nothing to the imagination.

I let my daughter watch the first movie, skipping one scene.  I didn't let her watch the second movie at all.  We watched the third movie, skipping through one section.  We also watched the fourth movie, skipping the entire time on the island.

Hopefully, this will help any other parents who have girls wanting to read the series.  Funny, despite the theme of vampires and warewolves, my son wasn't even remotely interested in Twilight. Go figure. :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Twilight Book and Movie Review - Part 1

I know that in light of what I normally blog about here, these next couple of entries may seem totally random; but as a mom of young girls, this blog post has everything to do with parenting.  It may also tell you a thing or two about my worldview.

When the first book, Twilight was released at the end of 2005, I had absolutely no desire to read it.  I didn't even know much about it until the movie came out three years ago.  When the movie came out on DVD, Ken and I rented and watched it.  I remember feeling like it was highly romantic, yet cheesy movie and was quite astonished that many of the young girls my kids knew, even girls as young as 10 years old, were reading the books and watching the movie.

At that time, I made my judgement based on the first movie and what I heard about the books and decided I didn't want my girls reading anything that encouraged rebellious, dangerous love.  In the first movie, Bella pursues Edward even after warnings from trusted adults, her best friend, and even Edward himself.  The fact that her rebellious love for him was romanticized was something I could handle as a 30-something woman, but that I undoubtedly did not want my girls to read.  After seeing the movie in 2008 and noticing many young girls reading the book, I picked up the book from the library so I could see it for myself and make a wise assessment.  After skimming through it a bit, I wasn't impressed, so decided not to waste my time reading.

Then, at the end of last month, I began listening to Film and Theology, a sermon series from Mars Hill Church.  I listened to a discussion of "Elf" and "Inception", then decided to hear what they had to say about Twilight.

The premise for the Film and Theology series is excellent.  The truth is there is nothing new under the sun.  The laws of God are written on our hearts.  And by "our," I don't just mean Christians.  Humans are created in the image of God.  It makes sense then, that the ultimate story, The Gospel, would show up in the stories coming from the mind of man.  At Mars Hill, they host "Film and Theology Nights" where they get together, discuss a movie, watch it together, (I want to go to one!) then discuss the theology and spirituality woven throughout the movie.  Yes...from Elf to Inception, The Gospel message shows up.

I listened to Pastor James Harleman share his thoughts about the movie and decided I would read the Twilight book series.  What struck me in his remarks were these thoughts: (I encourage you to listen to the podcast. I'm working on finding out if there is a transcript out there somewhere.)

  • Edward and his vampire "family" were born into a sin nature.  Their sin nature leads to death and destruction for humans, so they choose to will themselves into resisting their nature in order to be good.  Harleman pointed out that The Gospel offers so much more than simply a life of resisting our sin-nature, but I digress.  I'll get to that later. 

  • Bella (along with countless young and not-so-young women) become obsessed by the idea of being loved by Edward.  He's immortal.  He's supernaturally powerful.  He's bedazzled.  His pursuit of Bella is without limits.  He's willing to give up everything, anything, to the point of his own life, to prove his love to her.  It's obvious that people are crazy-nuts over this idea of selfless, perfect love.  Yet many, I'd say most, are blind to the fact that this type of perfect love is not fiction.  It's right in front of every single face, man or woman, on the planet.  It's not a fictional vampire who has a "bad side" either.  This Savior is perfect, blameless, and as real as the air you breathe.  

In my next post, I will share my thoughts on each book and movie. Spoiler: I truly enjoyed reading the series (with a few caveats)!   I'll also share my thoughts regarding my twelve year-old daughter reading (or not reading) the books.

The gospel is the historical narrative of the triune God 
orchestrating the reconciliation and redemption of a broken 
creation and fallen creatures from Satan, sin and its effects to 
the Father and each other thru the life, death, resurrection and 
future return of the substitutionary Son by the power of the Spirit 
for God’s glory and the Church’s joy.  --The Village Church

Sunday, February 5, 2012

An Update

My blogging time has recently been overtaken by a more dense school schedule, my working outside the home part time for the first time in years, and by editing video for our YouTube page.

The most recent video shows Ken and Travis looking at mostly names and a few words.  I could blog about the boys' language development, but the videos speak for themselves, so check out out page if you haven't already.

So, how are we all doing almost seven months after the littles were added to our family?  The boys have attached well.  So well, I have to keep reminding myself to continue to be purposeful in attachment activities and behaviors on my part.  The boys are almost inseparable. They are each other's best friend, playmate and brother.  It's been a sweet joy to witness.

The older three Brownies continue to adore and help care for their new brothers.  They are also sometimes irritated by them, which almost makes me as happy.  They treat them like siblings, not like guests in our home.  The other day, my firstborn, Hannah, said, "Mom, I just love them so much. When I think about them...or think about not having makes me want to cry.  I'm so glad I have toddler brothers because I get to snuggle and hold them all the time."  And oh, how they love her! Both boys love their siblings.  Tian has learned to ask for each of them by name any time I'm doing something he doesn't enjoy.  He knows they melt when he asks for any one of them.   The girls are both little mommas, helping dress the boys, scold the boys, and comfort them, too.  TJ is an amazing big brother.  He plays with them, roughhouses, but is also extremely protective and watchful over them.  All five of our kids are blessed to have each other.  We can see every day the joy they bring to each other, even with the typical sibling fighting mixed in.

Travis is proving to be generally very neat, tidy, and a tad obsessive-compulsive at times.  He certainly likes things a certain way and will have a fit when it's not.  He can be a typical fussy toddler, but that's not his typical mode. Mostly, he's extremely happy-go-lucky and easy-going.

Tian idolizes his brother.  If Travis is out of sight, only seconds pass before Tian is asking, "Where's Travis?"  Tian is also a happy kid, enjoying playing with his siblings, his trains, or a few toddler apps on my iPhone.  He seems to have a bit of allergies and asthma. In fact, he's been sick for the past couple of days.  We've had plenty of experience with this thanks to our firstborn, so we kinda know the drill.  We just got albuterol for him today so we can start treatments with the nebulizer.

The older three Brownies are focused on school and home right now.  They still have issues with neighborhood kids, but are navigating those problems well.  They've spent the majority of the days outside with other kids and very little drama.  Always a good sign.

Ken was recently given new responsibilities at his work and is loving it.  I can't express how proud I am of him.  He's always been so very talented in his work.  It thrills me to see his employer making use of his skills.  It's a great time to be with Z! 

I'm working, freelance interpreting, for the first time in years.  When we moved to Texas, I didn't have the time to build my own reputation professionally. School and home management were plenty for me to do.  You'd think now would be the worst time to work, but it's been fun to get back out there.  The beauty of my work is that I can set the schedule, working only when it "works" for my entire family.

The main focus of The Brown Seven right now is work, school and family.  It's fun to see the boys' language allow them to show more of their personalities.  I hope it's not too long before they are able to tell us more about their first two and three years of life.

Thanks for following us on our journey!