Friday, September 21, 2012


Two blog posts in one day, might just be a record for me!  However, I just couldn't let this go by without recording it here.

As I have previously written about, the kids are playing volleyball this year in a homeschool league.  We were so happy with the coaching and emphasis on character last year that we were quite excited to start again this year, especially with Matthew and Olesya joining Angela and Kenny in the league.  Matt, Olesya and Kenny are all on one team, and Angela moved up to the next team.  That's what you get for having 4 kids a year and four months apart in age :-)   That can be a curse or a blessing, depending upon what side of the net you are on...hahaha!  A blessing for us because it means there is not yet another game and set of practices to accommodate, a curse because loading a team with LaJoy's does not necessarily mean you will have a very competitive team.

Truth is, at this stage, Team LaJoy needs a loooot of work in the lower ranks.  We all joke about it, and after only 2 games Matthew is serving quite well, as is Olesya, and when Olesya gets a little more control over the direction of the ball she will be quite good.  Kenny, who really will likely be the world's best cheerleader is also showing significant improvement...we all (him included) consider it a huge success that he doesn't squeal and turn away from the ball anymore, and tonight he even got it over the net a couple of times.  But to give you a true idea of the real competitive nature of the LaJoy offspring, when I was trying to get them into the spirit in the car before the game, I said "So, whose going to WIN tonight?? Are you going to DO IT?" and it was so hilarious when the response from all of the kids wearing uniforms grinning at me in the rear view mirror was a less-than-hearty "Maybe" and "I don't know".  We all got the joke and laughed so hard over it, saying their coaches probably wouldn't appreciate that lukewarm confidence.

Angela, who was initially a super competitive kid coming into our family, has changed dramatically over the past two years.  I have no problem with having a healthy spirit of competition, and quite honestly I was pretty darned competitive in my younger years, especially with my brother who was an amazing athlete at every sport he ever tried.  Angela commented upon her change of heart herself recently, saying out of the blue, "You know, Mom, I used to care so much about winning because that was all there was for me in Kazakhstan.  If you were good at sports, you might get lucky and move to Taraz and play there as an adult...and you wouldn't have to live on the streets.  So it was really important to me.  I don't know why, but since coming to America, I don't care about winning much at all.  In fact, it all seems kind of silly to get so upset over a kid's game."  I asked her what she thought the reason might be, why she had a change of heart.  She thought about it a moment and then said, "I think because now I see there are so many things to learn, and so many things I can be when I grow up.  It's like now I can explore things and be something besides a sports girl when I am an adult."

Sometimes I forget that adoption does changes futures, it changes trajectory, it changes simply everything.

So there is a situation on Angela's team that she brought to my attention, where a young man is not getting any playing time.  I mean literally not ANY playing time.  He has a sister on the team who has been on the court a little more but not as much as would be fair, but he has played almost zero, even after traveling out of town for a game.  After the second game when this happened, Angela asked me what I thought was going on.  I told her that maybe something was going on behind the scenes that we were not aware of, that perhaps he was being disciplined and made to suit up for games and cheer on his team but not allowed to play.

After a conversation this week with his mom, it became clear that was not the case, and feelings are being deeply hurt.

I shared this with Angela, so that she would understand.  Turns out she is also this young man's "Secret Encourager", a tradition they have on their team of assigning a secret friend who brings a little surprise treat or card or something to each game, and encourages one another.  We talked a lot about how this was affecting him, and Angela was growing more upset by the minute at the unfairness of it.  We talked about ways she could help him feel supported, and actions she could take if she ever felt she wanted to.  There is something quite special about Angela's sense of justice, and I truly see in her someone who will one day act on it in profound ways.

One day came tonight.

Angela is one of two players who never sit out.  Almost never.  One is the coach's child, the other is Angela.  I think she sat out one game for two serves, but otherwise has always played.  Tonight was a tough set of three games, and the competition was fierce.  One game passed, and our little friend had not played at all.  It was so heartbreaking to watch from the sidelines, his eagerness and how he jumped up each time a substitute was put in only to learn it was not him.  The second game started, and still he didn't get put in.  There was a time out, and the team was directly in front of where we were sitting.  I see Angela trying to get her coach's attention as she was blushing and having a hard time saying what she wanted to say.  Then I hear her, "I would like to sit out so others can have a chance to play."  Her coach looked at her in surprise, and might not have caught it as Angela had to repeat herself and she pointed at the young man, and later I learned the coach said "That's nothing for you to worry about."  Eventually, she did pull Angela for 2 plays and put him in, only to immediately pull him out again.

I'll tell you something,  Angela is a good player, actually, she is very good.  While I enjoy watching her play, I don't really take pride in it, because I don't see being blessed with athletic genes as something to be proud of really, it is sheer luck.  It is fun to watch her, but for our family athletics is about getting exercise, learning some new skills, and having fun.  It is not about being the best, winning all the time, or coming out on top.

What am I proud of?  The character and courage she showed tonight, now that's something to be proud of, in my book.  I heard her shaky voice as she gathered the courage to point out a wrong she saw in the world, I saw her willingness to put her own playing time aside to allow time for someone else to shine.   I know that young man went home sad, but feeling supported by at least one team mate.  She made a difference.

We have five very different children.  I know that for many parents, it is extremely important to have "bragging rights" about their children's accomplishments.  They and  their children want them to be the captain of the football team, they want to have the 4.0 GPA, they want  to be the math whiz, the basketball star, the chess champion.  I already know we are totally weird as a family, but what I love most (OK, it is super hard to say "most" about anything with the kids 'cuz I love 'em SO much!) is that not a single one of them has to be a star, they have absolutely no need to be in the spotlight, they don't shove themselves to the forefront.

Matt received another rank advancement last night at Civil Air Patrol.  In all seriousness, this kid really has something to brag about, he has moved up in rank with lightning speed and it is a considerable amount of work for each advancement.  A year and two months in, and he has 6 rank advancements altogether, each requiring testing in three different areas.  We wouldn't have even known he was receiving his advancement if we hadn't asked.  He just quietly got pinned, and didn't even show it off in the car after we picked him up.  Angela could easily be a bit of a show off in sports, for she excels easily there.  She has no desire to even appear better than anyone else, instead she offers cheers every single time for her other team mates, even if they make a mistake she is there supporting them.  Joshie is 9 years old and is working on his black belt this year.  Unless the conversation comes up and someone asks, he never, ever mentions it.  Kenny and Olesya each have their own ways of shining as liturgist, cake decorator, animal lover, etc.

Angela's behavior tonight, her righteous anger at that is something to be proud of.  That reveals the true character within, when someone is willing to do without so another can have a chance. She may suffer for it, despite how kindly she put it.  She may find herself playing less in the future, or on someone's "uncooperative" list.

One day, she just might take bigger risks.

One day, she just might stand up for the abused or oppressed.

One day, she just might rise up and surprise us all.

As we told her tonight as we hugged her close, we couldn't be prouder of her.  She loves Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Teresa.  Just this week she asked mt to ask our Pastor for names of more "Jesus-like" people that are alive today so she could learn more about them.  We told her that tonight was a huge first step for her, that Martin Luther King himself started at some point when he was young, seeing injustice and feeling a need to right the wrongs he saw.

Sounds like lofty conversation, doesn't it?

Probably, but somehow it seemed a heck of a lot more important that talking about how she could improve her play at the net.

Besides, we're wouldn't really expect anything "normal" out of us, would you?

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