Living the Dream

Living the Dream

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My Special Gift....His Name is Steven

When this little soft spoken boy came walking into my house the first day, I fell in hopeless, bottomless love.

His overwhelming need to please, his precious outlook on life, in spite of all the trauma and pain he had suffered, truly inspired me.

I have had this little love bug for 1550 days.  I've watched him blossom and try new things, I've seen him trigger from his nonstop PTSD and just go a bit crazy, and I've watched him melt down over something simple as a TV show.   It's all been a bittersweet journey.

He has been in counseling for his trauma most of the time I have had him.  We have been peeling layers and layers and still it keeps coming.  I won't betray his confidence and share his pain here, but I can tell you that it is layered in him as deep as the bone, and it's taken hard, incredibly painful work to get him slowly to a healthy place.

He won't mind me sharing this with you, because I think it will resonate with so many.  I take for granted my pretty normal (whatever that means) childhood.   These kids, mainly Steven, went through more than anybody ever, EVER, should have to go through.

And he is coming out swinging.  Every time I have a parent teacher conference, I know what they are going to say about him.  Any new parent meeting him for the first time, same thing.  All his church leaders, all his friend's parents.  Everyone loves them some Steven.

Yet he lives mired in pain and anxiety that he is not wanted.  Because his son of a bitch father (I don't even feel bad typing or saying that, because I'm pretty sure this dude's picture is by this word in the dictionary) didn't have enough brain span to see what an incredible child he managed to father, and beat him daily.... and gave him up in court without a backwards glance, and terrorized a tiny boy so badly that he started to have panic attacks walking home from school, Steven still feels the loss of not having a father's love.  "Lolly, why no one want me?"

And that is the root of everything.  So we have been working on this in counseling, and after last week, after a really really hard session....I shared with my friend, who told me that her husband had Steven on his heart for awhile and wanted to take him to a thunder game, did I think he would want to go?    Well.  Hello.   This kid is a walking rainman of stats and can almost tell you every play of every game with his photographic memory.

Here is a picture with the trainer of the Thunder team, and Russell Westbrook signed a hat for Steven.

And he and his friend Kason Kaaiohelo spent a fun filled evening in a SUITE at a thunder game with Jon Evans.   And freaking loved it.

My ears were bleeding when I got home with him.  He TALKED ALL THE WAY HOME.

It. was. stinking. awesome.

Then yesterday one of his best friends that goes to another school, shows up on our doorstep with his dad and they sweep Steven up to an OU basketball game with them, and again..... thrilled and overwhelmed, he goes to bed speechless.

SO HANG ON PEOPLE, it's about to get Real Good.

Today, at counseling,  as we are driving back to school, my precious little son, says to me. .

"Lolly, you know how Pastor Craig is telling us all about Divine Direction at church?  It just crazy to me how everything he say (Yes, I'm using his language, because it's perfect) always speak right to my heart.  Because, I know that even if my dad here on earth don't love me or want me, that my father up in Heaven love me and want me, because this week, God showed me His face, with Jon.   Jon take me to game, and show me how fun it is to be a man, and make me think that I can be a good man too. I know that everything is going to be ok, because God in heaven is watching me everyday."

Well slap my face and call me Shirley, I was a puddle of goop, trying to drive a car.  

When I get discouraged and think I'm not doing one thing right for these kids, something like this happens.

And God shows His face.   Through friends, phone calls, texts, groceries on my porch, gift cards, He shows His face.

Through friends that love my kids, and treat them to a big night out.  

He shows His Face.

Profound moment for my teenager.  Some people never know what that means their whole lives.  This kid grasped it at 13.

This precious son of mine is going to be a world changer.

Because Steven saw God's face, and he KNOWS how much his Father in heaven wants him and loves him and watches over him....

for God is good, All the time.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Let's Try Volleyball, Mom

Hallie signed her Letter of Intent to play volleyball for West Point this morning.  It was fun listening to her coach talk about her and tell everyone, "When she was a freshmen, she was a baby giraffe, I'm not going to lie."  And how true that statement was.  How far she has come, in 5 short seasons.  There are soooooo many people to thank, on her way to making it from a baby giraffe to a West Point cadet.  Let's review.... (and I apologize in advance for the bragginess of this blog.  My older girls have asked me to be sure and "write everything down that she has won", because it is just short of amazing).

Back when she was starting (5 short years ago), she didn't have a clue what she was doing.... her first coaches (at Longfellow) were Kevin Hogan and Cara Sumpter.  Coach Hogan spotted a giant 8th grader walking in the halls and urged her to try her hand at volleyball.  "Mom, do you think I can do this???"  Me,  "Uhm, no" (how's that for parental honesty)  and  bless Cara-- she was the assistant and she worked with Hallie a few times to give her some tips, because seriously, in those early days (and now still, if I'm honest), I was just clueless about everything.

In their very last tournament, the club volleyball director from Charge Volleyball club saw her play, and found me after the tournament and asked me if I had ever heard of club volleyball.  what volleyball?? I asked.  And that began the club volleyball phase in our life.

She tried out for Charge Volleyball Club her 14's year, and what a learning experience it was.  I had just gotten the kids, so Lacey was her volleyball mom and took her to the tournaments, while I stayed with my new, getting used to us, Vietnamese kids.

I got to go to a couple of the tournaments (we didn't go too far for any that year) and we did have us some fun, in fact, we got to go to Arkansas with Kip at one point, and that trip was one for the books.

Jim Zepp was her first club coach.  He will get stars in his crown in heaven for coaching 14 year old girls.  I mean, really.  Coach Zepp has followed Hallie her whole career.  I don't think there has been one school season that he missed watching her play at least one game.  I really appreciate Coach Zepp.   His take on Hallie... "when her body quiets down, she is going to be something else".  14 yrs.

Freshmen year she started on JV and moved up to Varsity when one of the seniors got hurt.  She actually played the JV games and suited up for varsity and it was always a hold your breath moment when she got the ball set to her.... But she improved drastically and  actually was starting by the end of the season, and was awarded Most Improved Player her freshmen year.

That year, I had met the club director for the club in Norman and it being 2 miles from our house, and all of Hallie's teammates playing on the team, she tried out for Premier Volleyball and was a proud Diamond her 15's year.  That was a fun fun team, all Norman North girls playing together, and they had a really good season, earning themselves a bid to nationals with a regional win.

Brandy White was her 15's coach, and I really appreciate Brandy.  She shares the love of adoption with me, and has two of the sweetest little "take-outs" along with her two "homemades" (using my terms here).

Sophomore year it seemed like everything clicked in place for Hallie.  She understood the game, she had the height, the intensity, and she was beginning to think about colleges.

At the end of the sophomore school season, she was awarded All-City Honorable Mention, had won All-tournament at 2 of the tournaments she had played in, and won the Norman Athletic Association's Student Athlete of the Year, with Senior Setter, Audrey Alford. (who was going on to play for OU)

Norman North made it to state that year, a feat they hadn't accomplished in many years.  Norman Transcript's take on state 2014

That year, since Hallie was driving, and I wouldn't have to drive her to and from club practice, we decided to venture out and see if there was anyway that Hallie could make a team at the leading volleyball club in the state, Oklahoma Peak Performance, out of Edmond. She had decided that she wanted to go D1 with her volleyball and we knew we would have to reach outside our comfort zone to make that happen.  One tryout and a sweaty superman tshirt later, she was on the Peak Smack team for her 16's year, with Coach Will Ethridge as her coach.  That year was amazing.  That team was comprised of some of the tallest girls I have ever been around, and come to find out, some of the nicest, amazing girls.
 Team went to finals in National Championship and Made it on ESPN.  I LOVED IT FOR THEM!

The moms made it on tv too!  (Oh dear) P.S.  We learned a lot that year.  (ROFL)
 2nd place in the nation, and that ain't bad. 
 Coach Ethridge
Hal stayed very close with Coach Ethridge.  He helped her achieve her Candidate Fitness Assessment requirements for West Point and we just love us a whole bunch of Coach Ethridge!

Junior year Norman North- Great season, this year team won regionals again, made it to semifinals in state, losing to the eventual state champs.  Hal was honored with 2 all tournament awards (she missed the 3rd for her sister Chaurley's wedding), All City 1st team (the only junior! what?) All Conference Offensive player of the year, and NAA Student Athlete of the year -- In Hallie's words "It was a good year to be Hallie".

This year, after taking visits at University of Kansas, University of North Florida and heading to see Univ of West Virginia, we took a visit to West Point,in New York,  and the minute she walked on campus, I knew she had found her place.  Loved it and verbally committed that weekend.

17 year club season belonged to Coach Greg Dewey.  He was probably the toughest mentally on Hallie and challenged her every time they were together.  He also wrote one of the nicest recommendation letters to the West Point selection committee and was probably one of the reasons she got in.  100% belief in her, even when she didn't have it in herself.  Kera Dukic was assistant coach and found herself stuck with us when we traveled.  She might have been weirded out by our insanity the first time she roomed with us, but she quickly grew to love us and blended right in with our crazy.
Uhm, how's the weather up there, Hal?

Senior Year Kudos-  All tournament MVP, Broken Arrow Tournament, All City 1st team, All Conference Offensive Player of the Year, All State, Under Armour All American Honorable Mention, and Gatorade Player of the Year nominee.  The team made it all the way to the championship for state and lost to Edmond Memorial (2 of her club teammates play for that team) and for the 3rd year in a row NAA Student Athlete of the Year.  

The Norman North seniors with Angel today.

Hallie is in her 18 years at club this year, playing with coach Edgar Miraku and we've only played one tournament, but already got a bid to nationals !!!  (so there's that).  I appreciate Edgar and the assistant coach McKenzie Fyfe (who is stuck traveling with us too, lol).  We've been so lucky with Oklahoma Peak Performance.  They have poured into Hallie and allowed us grace beyond reason, and for that I am forever, eternally thankful. 

The two people that I left out are certainly not least, but I did save for last.  They were Hallie's first one on one coaches and spent more time with her, collectively, pouring into her, building her up, yelling at her, teaching her (and teaching her and TEACHING HER) skills and basics and technique, and without these two very important people, she would not be the player she is today.

First up, Coach Stephanie Kane.  Hal's Norman North HS coach. Stephanie helped Coach Zepp out with his Big NEWBY middle the 14's year, and Hallie had private lessons with Steph .. and wow...she has tirelessly poured into her "Baby giraffe" and believed in her and supported her and loved her and WAS SO MAD AT  her so many times.  Thank you, Stephanie, for believing in this big ole kid.  Her success is your success.  

And now to T.  Coach Toriano Lands, who took a 14 year old, who couldn't serve, couldn't pass, could ONLY block and had twisted her knee toward the end of the 14's season, and the first summer he had her playing beach volleyball, with his club, Stingray, and turned her into a BEAST mode player.  I dropped her to him at 730 am every morning, and picked her up at 2:30-3.  For 7 hours every day that first summer, he worked her like a Hebrew slave.  I'm serious.  She was in the gym, then he would work her on the sand.  He knew how to talk her language, and she responded to every direction he threw at her.  He called me "Deat" (still does) and he knew, LONG before any of us knew, that she was going to be able to write her own ticket.  "Her natural talent,'s know!!????"  And because I didn't know, I would shake my head, "SURE, T I Know".   For 3 summers, Hallie played volleyball almost 8 hours a day, every day, either on the court, or on the sand.  Every. Single. live. Long. Day. 

So when people wonder how she did it, how from the age of 14 to the age of 18 she improved enough to be accepted into a college with a less than 10% acceptance rate. (only 120 girls per year)'s because she loved her coaches, this sport, and wanted to be the best she could be.  She started in sand, playing with her best friend Kassidy Miller.  Her mom, Laurie and I knew that they would either a) go to the olympics together they would be so good, or b) kill each other and us.  It almost was b, so after one season, maybe even half a season, if we're real, they split up and are still BFF's to this day.  I looked and looked in my pictures and I cannot find one shred of evidence they ever played together.  I'm organized like that.   2nd partner was Ericka Scholl.  They were so cute and so little, (well Ericka Was)  just look at them... 
And they were #1 in our books for sure.  2013
 T awarding Hal and Ericka their 1st place ribbons

Then T changed up the teams and Hallie started playing with her fellow teammate Rachel Krutz from Norman North, and the partnership was sealed.  They won 4 bids to nationals at different tournments and were a serious force to be reckoned with. 
 T developed them, and worked them, and believed in them, and hauled their sunburned, sandy, smelly bodies to tournaments and kept them hydrated, SPF'd 200 beyond their limits to hold sunscreen and fed them their weight in gummy bears.  
I love T like a brother.  He loved on my Vietnamese kids like they were his own, and my boys found a man to look up to in those early days I had them, and for that I can never repay him.

speak no evil, hear no evil, see no evil.... big dorks
This was funny because, well because it just is, but it's perfect, cause who's the man?
These were T's national teams in 2016. 

Thank you, T and Stephanie, for pouring into this girl.  

I was overwhelmed with needing to cry today, but it always stopped just short, because I am so proud for her.  My baby.  My last born.  My heart. 

Senior signers, Abbey Woodrow, Texas Woman's University, Rachel Krutz, Colorado College,
Hallie and Lexi Thompson, Seminole State!  Congrats to these awesome girls 

Kass N Hal, and Laurie! 

Good ole Hailee ..... and don't forget her teammate Rachel "C"rutz.  

All these people got you there, now go and get it.