Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010 Happenings

I just mailed out all our Christmas cards and didn't include a family update like we usually do. Since so many people are on facebook it seems redundant to write about all the family happenings that most people already know about. So, since our card included our blog address, I thought I'd just do our family letter here. And maybe now I'll be more consistent about updating this blog too.

We were just a little into 2010 when we found out that I was pregnant, and by the time we wrapped our minds around the fact that we would be having a newborn, Merin was here! It has been an absolute delight to have a newborn baby in our family. I'd prayed throughout my pregnancy that this experience would soften all of us, and it certainly has. There is just something magical about how a baby- so fresh and new- brings sweetness and peace into even the darkest of moods. We have all enjoyed her so much. She's an easy baby which means I can say "sweetness" and "peace" when I talk about a newborn. She just started smiling this week which is so much fun.

Chase, who wasn't too sure about how it would be to have a daughter, is absolutely smitten. And Elias loves her more and more everyday. He loves to sing and dance and talk to her and feels so important when he gets to help take care of her. We work to find plenty of ways that he can be included and this has really helped his transition from being the only child. It'll take time though. We were a family of just three for a long time!

Chase is commuting to San Antonio for his job which is hard on all of us, but he loves what he does and where he works. We are so thankful for this. Between working and his long hours in the car everyday he doesn't have much time for his many hobbies, but gets out to the gun range whenever he can. He went deer hunting recently for the first time and we had to buy a new freezer to house all the meat. Venison is the new chicken in our house. Anyone have good venison recipes?

Elias goes to Kindergarten every morning and really loves it. Well, he loves math and recess. He still talks nonstop and has more energy than all of us put together. He's gotten really into soccer and loves playing at school during recess and wants to play more as soon as he gets home. I was a pretty lame soccer opponent late into my pregnancy, but I could at least stand there and kick the ball with him. He played t-ball this year which was perfect for him and will probably play again this next year.

Elias recently got into legos and it's the only thing he's ever encountered that will keep him occupied for hours. He completed a 362 piece set yesterday while I took care of Merin and got a ton of Christmas stuff done!

I worked part-time for my church this year which was so much fun for me. It's helped make my transition to having two children go smoothly just because I'm not as busy trying to juggle working on top of home and all our other activities. We have simplified life a lot since October and it's made all the difference. I still "work" with refugee women in Austin which I love. I don't like to say "work" or "volunteer", because the women are truly my friends and I love to be with them and a part of their lives. You can see more about my refugee friends here: http://www.hilltribers.blogspot.com/
We are still waiting on our Ethiopian adoption. We never thought we'd wait this long and it's hard to even talk about. But we know that God has this whole adoption under His faithful, loving control and we'll have our child in our arms not a moment too late.
You can read more of our blog for a couple other happenings in 2010 (like the Endeavor Games and Chase's trips to Haiti), and I'll post a few of our other favorite pictures of the year below. (I lost my hardrive though so only have pictures from the summer until now).

Merry Christmas!

Family Camp at Laity Lodge

First Day of Kindergarten
Cool Tatoo

We finally meetComing out of delivery room with Chase

Meeting Big Brother Elias, Aunts, Grandmothers for the first time...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Any day now

Baby Girl Brown is expected to arrive any day now and we are ready for her to be here!

I don't have much energy or pain tolerance to be out and about anymore, so Elias and I spend a lot of time at home playing games, watching movies, reading books, and kicking the soccer ball outside. It's been a sweet time together as we wait for his sister to arrive.

He is SO excited about being a big brother and is especially excited to have a sister. I was actually suprised by this since he is so into all things boy, but his expressions have been super sweet about having a baby sister. And loves to see her dresses and pink clothes and ooh and aah over them. :-)

We haven't taken any pictures as a family with me pregnant because I'm always the one with the camera. But we had a friend snap a few informal shots in our living room the other day. I'm revealing to the blog world me and all my pregnant belly glory.

I'll post again with the first pictures of our family of FOUR!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy July 4th!

Just in time for Independence Day... Elias has taken his patriotism to a whole new level.

Happy July 4th everyone!

Friday, June 25, 2010

It's a.....

I haven't posted much the past several months because I've been tired and have had other things occupying my brain. About 5 months ago, we found out that I'm pregnant! My due date is toward the end of October so I'm more than halfway there.

We are, of course, very excited about the baby that will be coming into our family soon. We get lots of questions all the time- - here are the answers. :-)

Yes, we are excited.
Yes, we're still adopting. Our decision to add to our family through adoption is independent of us having/not having biological children.
Yes, we were surprised, and at the same time, no we were not surprised.
Yes, I'm feeling well.
Yes, Elias is really excited. Then Elias always pipes up and says, "I can't wait to have TWO "babies" come into our family!" So then I respond...
No, I'm not having twins- we're adopting as well.
Yes, we're finding out what we're having.
No, we don't have a name yet. (And if we did I wouldn't tell you).

It's been an adjustment to be expecting a baby by birth after expecting our next Ethiopian child for so long now. Adoption is so up and down with twists and turns and heartache and so many unknowns. With pregnancy, I can pick up a hundred books at my local library or look at thousands and thousands of websites that tell me exactly what my baby is doing today, how I may feel or look, and give me pages upon pages of suggestions, remedies and opinions on how to handle any bit of uncomfortable feeling, ache, or pain.

It's amazing really the illusion of "control" all this information creates. No wonder people are afraid to adopt! For us it's been fun to experience the polarities of both experiences at the same time.

Now, on with the title of this post. We found out recently what we're having and decided to surprise Elias and the grandmas with a homemade cake announcing the gender. It was fun to celebrate together in this way!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Endeavor Games 2010

Elias had the awesome opportunity to participate for the second year in the Endeavor Games in Edmond, OK. We love the Endeavor Games for a million reasons, but especially because Elias gets to be with other amputee kids and this has proven to be really significant in his life. The EGs are also special because each individual gets to be exactly who they are without people staring or them feeling so different. Legs and arms are laying everywhere, and no one bats an eye. I love it!

Elias ran in the 60, 100 and 200 Meter races and also participated in "Softball Throw". The best part for him is that he medaled in each event- 2 gold medals and 2 silver medals! Every night I hear them clanking up in his room as he plays with them before bed. :-)

Here are some of our favorite pictures from this year. There is a link at the bottom of this post to pictures in the Edmond newspaper that show the whole story of the Endeavor Games (and not just my awesome son). :-)

Practicing with friends the day before the race

Taking rest on the field (and actually devising a strategy as his friends ran all the way around the track. He cut across the field and got right in front of them, beat them to the finish line and then cheered as if he'd been winning all along. Elias is SO competitive!)

Cousins Melinda and Kaden (along with 3 grandparents) got to come. It was so fun to have them there!

Getting ready to race on game day

Running the 100M race

Crossing the finish line

Getting ready to jump in Daddy's arms (tongue was out the whole race).

Funny faces on the field

Posing with friends at the Closing Ceremonies Banquet

Two of the medals
Click here and here to see the slideshow from the Edmond Sun Newspaper.

We can't wait until next year!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

New kind of beer

The other day Elias was with me at a BBQ joint for lunch with large group of young people from our church. (By "young people" I mean younger than me. I'm old, so I get to say things like that now).

He thoroughly enjoyed all the attention he was getting from the YPs. With the focus of everyone on him, he took a big swig of his cherry limeade in a bottle and said,

"Aaaah. Cherry Limeade. It's like beer for kids".

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Haiti Trip #2, Update 1

Chase has been in Haiti for several days now and is having an incredible time. Sounds like it's been exhausting, exhilarating, emotional, and a ton of plain ol' hard work.

Once he arrived home from his last trip just 4 weeks ago he hit the ground running with getting all the details in place to start the prosthetic clinic at Mission of Hope in Haiti. He said it felt like starting a brand new business in three weeks time for a clinic that is 2000 miles away. Throw in the cultural differences and resource limitations and general chaos and it was a tough job! He had lots of help from his boss and doctors and many others around the country who have pulled together to make this dream a reality.

A huge logistical component was ordering all the equipment and supplies for the clinic and getting them shipped just in time. In fact, the shipment was still in customs on Thursday morning, and customs was closing at noon that for the Easter weekend! Miraculously though every single piece of equipment arrived safely at MOH on Thursday evening, just in time for Chase and his crew to arrive and set up the clinic over the weekend. It was hard manual work but they got it all done!

Chase started seeing his first patients on Monday and hopes to have their legs or braces ready by the end of the week.

Today was an emotional day as he had to deliver devastating news to an 18-year-old boy that a prosthetic will not work for his leg due to the condition of his residual limb. This family lost their home in the quake, is living in a tent city and also lost their sister/daughter in the earthquake. Chase said that the conversation with this family today was one of the hardest he's ever had and they all broke down crying together. The only option this boy has is to undergo a second amputation on the same leg and then after it heals the boy would be a candidate for a prosthetic.

Our prayer is that God gives peace to this family to make the right decision and that the shame of disability and immense discouragement of today's news be redeemed by the plans God has for this young man.

Finally, one more story from today. Chase helped with food distribution outside the gates of Mission of Hope today and a riot broke out. Some people were injured and Chase was the ambulance driver to get the injured to the hospital. He said he is emotionally drained and appreciates your prayers!

Thanks for your love and support!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Letter to an amputee child in Haiti

msnbc.com is doing a spotlight on the amputees in Haiti. They have a special section of their website where they are following the stories of amputees in Haiti as they seek treatment and get their first prosthetic limbs.

A reporter contacted us last week and asked if Elias would be interested in writing a letter to a 4-year-old boy who is getting his first prosthetic leg this week. I sat down with Elias and showed him pictures of Schneily and asked if he could tell me a few things to write in a letter to him.

Elias said some of the sweetest things, all with no prompting from me.

His letter is on the msnbc website today: Dear Schneily, I'll be your friend

It warms my heart to know that Elias was an encouragement to this family who is enduring so much right now!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pictures from Haiti Trip

Chase was fortunate to have a professional photographer (Kevin Morrison) in his group in Haiti. He took some great shots of Mission of Hope and the neighborhoods around Port Au Prince. Most pictures are labeled briefly underneath.

Picture of Mission of Hope with ocean in background

The people streamed in each morning to go to the clinic when the gates opened.

Waiting in line for the clinic

External Fixator (prevents amputation)

Presidential Palace

Tent City

Street in Port Au Prince

Lots of garbage and skinny dogs

Monument in city with humvee driving in front

Chase has been incredibly busy with getting all the details together for his next trip to Haiti. They are putting together an entire clinic, including construction to build out the clinic, purchasing and shipping all the equipment and supplies, filling out government forms, lining up volunteer staffing, and much more... all in just a few weeks time!

His team will leave next week to set up the clinic over the weekend, and then Chase will start seeing the first patients the following Monday. There are a million details that have to coordinate perfectly for that plan to be successful, so he appreciates your prayers!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Haiti Update #3

Chase is home! He had a phenomenal, life-changing trip and said he'd turn around and go back tomorrow if he could. He came back to a house full of out-of-town guests and then is back to work today. He hasn't really had a chance to even unpack his bag, but will hopefully catch his breath in the next day or two and then post some stories himself to the blog along with some pictures.

His last day in Haiti he sent me two pictures and a funny story that I'll post below...

This tent city sprung up in the days following the earthquake. Haitians that lost their homes or who are afraid of being inside because of the aftershocks fled the neighborhoods and came into this flat area and staked out places to live. Homes are constructed by pushing four sticks into the ground, then covering them with a sheet or blanket. Lucky ones have found tarps to place over the sheet. The rainy season starts in a just a couple weeks which is a huge cause of concern for the several hundred Haitians living in these tent cities.

This picture is the hospital at Mission of Hope being built on to existing clinic. The bottom layer is done. Red doors will be entrance to prosthetics clinic. Lots of turkeys and goats around with an occasional donkey.

One funny story: I was down by the clinic and heard what sounded like a woman wailing/screaming like she was in severe pain and anguish. My thoughts were filled with the images of legs being amped or bones being set. Wounds being cleaned/debreded. Oh what must be happening to this poor soul...

It was a goat. A darn old goat with what seemed like a case of heartbreak.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Chase in Haiti- Update #2

I had one quick conversation with Chase yesterday (in the middle of coaching Elias in his T-Ball practice). He said that things are going really well. His biggest impression is Mission of Hope and the amazing things they are doing in Haiti. Even more, the amazing vision they have for the future.

Chase spent a lot of time yesterday sorting supplies and food from containers. It was mind-numbing work, but desperately needed. Three more 18-wheelers with containers were arriving last night, and two more today. While many organizations are not able to get their supplies out of the port, Mission of Hope has access to one just five minutes away from their facility. So, supplies come through in a quick, steady stream and they are able to get them distributed to the people and organizations that need them most.

The morning started out heavy with a woman dying in the clinic. Death is such a part of life there. As he watched a line of 150-200 people line up at the clinic as the sun was rising, they spontaneously burst into song, then into prayer with one another. God is redeeming the Haitian people and it has been amazing to witness that in person.

He plans to evaluate amputees today and possibly work in another clinic. I don't know much other than that.

Thanks for your prayers everyone!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Chase in Haiti- Update #1

Chase is in Haiti! A few weeks ago he connected with a group of medical professionals and other Christians here in Austin who have been involved in helping the Haitians since the day after the earthquake.

Chase was asked to help establish a prosthetic clinic in Haiti and he jumped at the chance! There was an extra spot on a private jet so he left for Haiti on Tuesday morning. He only found out about the trip three days ahead of time, so his mind was a bit of a whirlwind as he tried to make plans and gather his thoughts and things before leaving. He was so thankful that his boss let him go on such short notice.

Today was his first full day in Haiti. We finally had a successful phone connection this evening so he talked as fast as he could before the phone went dead. These are the basic details of his time so far....

He is working with a ministry called Mission of Hope that has been in Haiti since 1998. Located about eight miles north of Port Au Prince, MOH is in a strategic location and is doing incredible things. Chase said they are feeding up to 400,000 people a day! They have 18-wheelers coming in delivering much-needed supplies that are then used by MOH or distributed throughout Haiti. They also have a church, school, orphanage, clinic and are building a hospital. Chase and others will be setting up the prosthetic clinic in the basement of this hospital.

Chase went around Port Au Prince today and said that people are slowly getting back to living life again. Vendors are out selling their wares in the streets and cleanup is beginning. There are piles of rubble everywhere, but some buildings are left standing and operating once again.

He passed by a white-looking field about an acre in size. He was told that it is a sulfur mine area but has now become a dump for an estimated 80,000 bodies. The bodies were dumped there in hopes that the sulfur would cover the stench of the decay. Horrible. Just horrible.

Part of the amazing timing of this trip which seemed random but was certainly ordained by God is that Chase was able to take part in a very important meeting today with all the international players involved in medical and prosthetic care in Haiti. He said it was like the UN- people from all over the world from various organizations and the UN, WHO, IRC, USAID, Handicap International, etc. It was a very serious meeting for people to report who they are and what their intentions are in Haiti.

Chase was third in line to stand up and speak, and he said he was nervous but just prayed for the right words to communicate. He was relieved that no one drilled him with questions like they did with the others and he credits that to the solid reputation that Mission of Hope has in Haiti. He had several people come up and talk to him afterwards and was invited to a second meeting tomorrow for prosthetists to go over more technical details of prosthetic care there.

He also spent time playing with kids in the orphanage today and can't wait to go back and play more tomorrow.

Chase feels amazing favor from the Lord and miraculous provision. Thank you for your prayers!

He ended the call by saying, "My life will never be the same... and neither will yours!" Looks like we have some new adventures ahead and I can't wait!

I'll post more as I hear from him. He's been trying to send pictures so hopefully I can post them soon.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Home for the Holidays

Our family had the special opportunity to be featured in an adoption special that was aired on the local ABC affiliate on Christmas Eve. I wish we could link to the whole show here because it was heart-warming to see families and children from all walks of life who were brought together through adoption.

The team that came out to film our family were so talented and did a great job at editing a couple hours of footage into a three minute feature. Of course it's a little weird to watch ourselves on TV. But this is God's story, not our own, and we hope that people who watched were encouraged by our experience with adoption.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Future Para-Olympian

Elias was so so so excited to try out the prototype for his running leg this weekend! He's been anticipating this for a very long time and it was awesome to see him finally run with a "real" running leg.

Chase is especially excited because he was able to fit a knee on the running leg. Usually kids start out with just a straight bar instead of a knee. While it will be a little more difficult to control as Elias learns to use the running leg initially, he'll run much better and with correct form in the long run if he starts out with a knee now.

The first day Elias put it on he convinced me to wear it all day, including during his nap. Then he cried and cried when he didn't get to wear it to school the next day.

The running leg has also inspired his imagination about what it will be like when "he runs fast and wins a race and gets a trophy." He's been practicing a special run with his arms raised in the air like a champion.

And a champion he truly is.