Wednesday, September 30, 2009

MONSTER TRUCKS!!!

The Monster Truck Show came to town again, so we surprised Elias and took him and Elijah. The whole thing was a surprise, and while they asked an occasional question, they never really even wondered why we were driving so far or buying tickets for something.

Elias on the way to Elijah's house. Totally unsuspecting.




So excited to be together.



We stopped at the only restaurant we could find- authentic Mexican food. I even had (got) to order our food in Spanish. And the boys' favorite part was drinking Jarritos.


Elias takes a picture of us.


Video:They figure out where we are!

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At the Pre-Show Pit Party






Fans are interesting and butt cracks are funny to young boys.


Check out the backflip and then the boys' reaction!
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A little Monster Truck action for your viewing pleasure. The truck hits the wall at the end of the video- the driver actually passed out and they had to carry him out on a stretcher!
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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Best Friend's Wedding

Best friends' weddings are so fantastic! One of my best friends from childhood (met in 7th grade, friends through school then roommates in college) got married in her hometown of Rapid City, South Dakota in late August.

Elias and I flew to Colorado the week before the wedding and enjoyed spending time with friends and my wonderful, younger sister Liz. Then Chase flew in a few days later and seven of us drove in a borrowed mini van to Rapid City. While the drive seemed long as it stretched on at 12:30 a.m., the scenery through Wyoming was beautiful!

Ami (best friend and bride) was an amazing hostess with all kinds of activities planned and a ton of site-seeing around the Black Hills area. Again- very beautiful. Us Browns love us some purty nature and cool weather! I think Elias' favorite part of the whole trip was driving the ATV with his dad.



Elias and the groom, Nate

Elias and beautiful bride, Ami

Elias was very serious about trying on his tux for Ring Bearer

Cool Dude


Gearing up for his big debut as ring bearer


The Browns and Schroeders (Meagan's parents)

All dressed up in our wedding attire

Dancin' the night away with mommy



Gettin jiggy (yes, isn't that an AWESOME shirt to wear to a wedding reception? I was so tired by the time the reception came around that I didn't even realize what he was wearing until I saw the pictures later

A fabulous trip and we can't wait to go back to South Dakota!

Monday, August 31, 2009

First Day of Pre-K

Elias had his first day of Pre-K last week at his new school. He was a little apprehensive about not going back to his preschool from last year, but he warmed up within the first few seconds of being in his new classroom and seeing the potential for so many new friends.

He goes to school three mornings a week and spends the other mornings asking me why he can't go to school that day.

We're really excited about this new school and know it will be a phenomenal experience for all of us this year!

This first day of school picture was actually taken after school. In classic Brown Family style we were running late to get him to school on time and miss the classic on-the-porch or in-the-tree first day of school picture. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that Elias was up for 3 hours during the middle of the night before school started, causing extreme exhaustion for all of us. :-)
All the parents and students went to the class and read The Kissing Hand together. A really sweet story and Elias has talked about it over and over again.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

First Sleepover

Elias has a best friend named Elijah. The first things Elias will tell you about his friend is that "he has brown skin like me", he "likes cars too" and that "we're both from Eef-opia".

Elias has found a lot of comfort in the ways he identifies with Elijah. I honestly thought that identity around race/color and adoption would come at a later age, but these boys haved talked often about their color, adoption and birth families since eary on (age 3 and 4). Needless to say, all of us are just thrilled that they have each other.

We are fortunate to know Elijah and his family, and it's a huge bonus that they live just 4 miles away from us. The boys LOVE to get together and go through withdrawal if they are apart for very long. We've been out of town SO much this summer and Elias has been so sad not to see his best friend very much.

With all this time apart, we decided that a sleepover was in order. This was Elias' first time to have a friend spend the night, and to say that he was excited is an understatement. He checked in with me at least 30 times that day to make sure Elijah was still coming to spend the night.

The boys played for a while, had some yummy homeade ice cream, and then it was time for bed. They carefully arranged their identical Cars sleeping bags on the floor of Elias' room. While I was reading them a story, I noticed that Elias adjusted his sleeping bag over and over again to make sure that it was touching Elijah's at all points possible. He didn't want to be an inch too far from his best friend!

After the boys were down, us parents played games for a couple of hours longer. The whole time we could hear whispers and giggles and numerous trips to the bathroom. Every time I checked on them they'd be back in their sleeping bags, side-by-side, chatting away. I have no idea what two boys can talk about for so many hours! (Elias told me later they were talking about racing cars. No surprise there).

So excited to be together!

Getting settled in their sleeping bags


Finally fast asleep. (Notice how Elias, ever the snuggler, is touching Elijah's arm.)

Just 6-7 hours after falling asleep, the boys woke up bright (actually it was still dark) and early. Needless to say Elias was very tired and subsequently put his shorts on backwards. He couldn't figure out how to turn them around and kept trying to twist them to the front while still wearing them and got so frustrated. So sweet friend Elijah helped him get them off and on again.





After getting some fuel from chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, the boys raced around and around and around until Elijah's parents came to pick him up.

We can't wait for the next sleepover!






Wednesday, June 17, 2009

ED Video and Final Pictures

Here's a little video of Elias in his 60 meter race. The filming isn't the best, but it's still fun to watch. I only wish you could see the smile on Elias' face when he gets halfway down the track and sees his daddy cheering at the end. Chase cries everytime he thinks about it. :-)





Softball Throw Competition

Another Ethiopian at the Games!


We are so thankful to Chase's employer, Orthotic and Prosthetic Technologies, who not only gave Chase the time off to attend the Endeavor Games, but also sponsored Elias in the Games and even made special shirts just for us!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Athletes- Our Heroes

The most significant moments of the Endeavor Games were meeting the athletes, hearing their stories, and seeing them compete. There were a large number of veterans at the Games who lost limbs in the Iraq war. It was deeply moving to see them there, successfully living a life so drastically altered from the one they knew before. Their camaraderie is intimate and unique and we felt privileged to look on as they encouraged one another to achieve new physical feats.

Remember the athlete we met on the first day? His name is Kortney Clemons. We got to know him a little more throughout the weekend. His story is fills us with deep gratitude and admiration. Here it is in his words:

“We were on our way back to camp when we came across an overturned U.S. Humvee. There was a wounded soldier half inside, half outside. We got him onto a stretcher and at the guard rail, crossing over the median; there was an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). The two soldiers who were assisting me were killed instantly, as was one other who was standing by us. I knew I was injured pretty badly.” But it wasn’t until he woke to find he had been transported to a military hospital in Germany that he discovered that one leg was gone above the knee and his other had been hit by shrapnel. “I had to get a lot of surgery,” he says and a lot of vascular work Kortney recovered at Brooke Army Center over a period of ten months.

A true hero! You can read more about Kortney here and here.

Kortney is now at the Olympic Training Center training for the 2012 Paralympics. Kortney won the gold in the 100m at the Endeavor Games. One of the most special moments was when he later saw Elias and gave him his gold medal. Elias wore it so proudly!

One more friend we met is Atzel. Atzel lost his leg at the ankle this past year in an accident at work. He got his prosthetic leg just 20 days before the Endeavor Games. He and three of his friends drove 22 hours from California to compete and meet the other athletes. Isn't that incredible!! He left just a couple hours after his amazing race to drive back to California!




Saturday, June 13, 2009

Endeavor Games Continued

We just came back from the closing ceremonies of the Endeavor Games. Wow. Wow. Wow!

We have had a packed schedule the last couple of days and are exhausted but oh so happy. It's going to take a while to process everything- the amazing people we've met, deep conversations, inspiring stories, witness to phenomenal victories as athletes over come significant challenges... It's easy to say that this has been a life-changing event.

Most impactful is the obvious- that Elias has had the opportunity to be surrounded with others who are like him. I've loved to see all the kids (and adults too) compare prosthetics. No one stares. No incessant questions. Legs lying around all over the place like it's the most normal thing in the world. :-) He has been so free to be himself.

There are many pictures and lots of stories to tell. But it's late and this hotel internet is slow. Here are a few pics for now. Stay tuned for more once we're home and rested.

Hanging out with new friends

Having some fun before the races start

Hanging out with the "competition" in the runners tent

The big 60m race!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

2009 Endeavor Games

It's been forever since we've posted anything and there is so much to talk about- travels around Texas and to New York, swimming, summer time fun, Family Day 2009, etc. But for now I just have to post a few pics from our first afternoon at the 2009 Endeavor Games.

We found out about the Endeavor Games a few weeks ago and jumped on the opportunity to come and be surrounded by amputee athletes (and those with other disabilities) from all over the world. This couldn't have come at a better time for Elias who is starting to really struggle with being "different" and wishing he had "two yellow legs like Mom."

We arrived in Oklahoma this afternoon and attended a running clinic. Elias had post-nap grump and it took him a while to warm up. Actually he acted quite serious the whole time and hardly ever even cracked a smile. I think it was a lot for him to take in, seeing all these amputees of all ages and sizes running and exercising around the track.

I took him on the track to show him where he would be running in his 60m race on Saturday. We did a few practice runs, but then he said he wanted to run with the other athletes. So, he bravely went and asked the fastest guy out there if he would run with him on the track.

The guy was so kind to Elias. He took some time to give him a few tips and coach him a little, then they ran the track together. He had some very encouraging and inspiring words for Elias that I hope he remembers for the rest of his years.

Tomorrow we'll practice more at the track, watch an amputee basketball tournament, watch some swimming, and then participate in the Opening Ceremonies. Saturday morning is Elias' big race, then we'll spend the rest of the weekend watching the other events.

This is exciting stuff!













Thursday, May 7, 2009

World AIDS Orphans Day

Today, May 7, is World Aids Orphans Day. The magnitude of the orphan crisis overwhelms me to the point of paralysis sometimes. The statistics alone boggle my mind; I can't even comprehend the reality of these all these numerical digits connected to the word "AIDS orphans". Numbers like these...
  • There are over 15 million children orphaned by AIDS living around the world RIGHT NOW. 15 million is the equivalent to the number of all of the people living in New York, Paris, and Bangkok combined. That is an awful lot of children.
  • Well over 12 million AIDS orphans live in Sub-Saharan Africa, alone.
  • Experts believe that millions more orphans remain unaccounted for in India, China and Russia.
  • At least 10 million more children will be orphans by AIDS by 2010.

When we visited AHOPE we fell in love with the sweetest girl named Belane. We later learned that she was one of the first children to be adopted by a family in the U.S. Her mother is now working for AAI to facilitate the adoption of children at AHOPE and her blog post today is excellent and gives great ideas of what I, you, WE can do to make an impact. She includes this quote in her post from Rich Stearns, President of World Vision, US:

"I believe that this could very well be looked back on as the sin of our generation. I look at my parents and ask, where were they during the civil rights movement? I look at my grandparents and ask, what were they doing when the holocaust in Europe was occurring with regard to the Jews, and why didn't they speak up? And when we think of our great, great, great-grandparents, we think how could they have sat by and allowed slavery to exist? And I believe that our children and their children, 40 or 50 years from now, are going to ask me, what did you do while 40 million children became orphans in Africa?"

I think about my own son Elias, a former orphan. When I see him run and jump and feel him snuggle in to my neck to whisper "I love you Mom", I can't fathom the former life he had during the first 16 months of life. I can barely stand to think about the circumstances that led to his birth grandmother caring for him for as long as she could before she made the most unselfish decision on earth to take him to Sele Enat orphanage to be given up for adoption. I mean, it's almost phyically difficult for me to even type these words.

The reality is that now this boy is MY son and I have the honor to be his mom. I get to witness the way God's redemption and grace plays out in his life on a daily basis and the way he touches and loves people all around us, all the time. I get to laugh my head off at his funny jokes and fix him his favorite foods and drive matchbox cars around the couch together and even wipe his bottom.

But who is going to do that for the millions of children around the world who don't have a mom and dad to care for them?

I love the quote that AAI's director has as her tag line on her email signature: "Adoption doesn't change the world. But it can change the world for one child."

Adoption isn't the answer though. Solving the AIDS crisis is. Some might say you just don't have that "calling." I'd argue though that you do. We all do.

Don't know where to start? Here are a few ideas from Erin's post: Educate yourself and spread the word, sponsor an orphan, sponsor an organization that supports orphans and their communities, or even consider adoption.

There are lots of blog posts and articles today, May 7, about World AIDS Orphan Day. Maybe next year there will be even ten times the number, because many of us have spread the word. ANd perhaps even just two years from now, the statistics will be going down, not up. And a decade from now? Maybe there won't even be this World AIDS Orphan Day thing.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Drop Off at the Governor's

Many people across Texas have been hard at work getting petitions signed to show support of the House Bill that will grant coverage for prosthetics for amputees. As I talked about here, this will have a huge impact on the lives of many, many amputees!

My mom was a champion, collecting signatures everywhere she went, including the mechanic and copy store. Thanks Mom!

Several thousand signatures were collected in just over a week. Last Friday we headed back to the Capitol to meet with a few others in the Governor's office to deliver the petitions.

It was great to see our new friends. The adult amputees are encouraged and energized by Elias and how incredibly well he is does with all his running and jumping around. And Elias equally enjoys being around these other amputees and checking out their cool prosthetics.


In Front of the Texas State Capitol
Presenting the Signatures to the Governor's Aide
Signing the Governor's Reception Book


Elias' favorite amputee friend, Frieda

The bill has officially passed through the Senate and will become final when it is signed by the governor in the next few days. Hoorah! This will be a huge benefit to Elias for the rest of his life and we are so grateful towards those who dedicated their time for the last two years to make this a reality for 30,000 amputees across the state of Texas.