Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The one where I finally find something Brian Sloat can't do

"Watch this." 
"Watch Travis here. He's going to learn something. He doesn't know it yet, but he's going to."
"What's he going to learn?" 
"Shut up and listen, this will be good." 

Let's be real for a second. As an adoptive parent, I have a problem. It's a problem that stems from my selfishness and pride, both of which can spiral out of control very quickly in my life.

I don't need your kind words and panegyrical speeches about how awesome we are for adopting kids. I really don't. I still don't think we did an amazing thing, I think we did what any human being on earth would do, we saw some kids who needed a home, and we gave them one.

By the way, I'm getting all the stuff that makes me look like a douchebag out of the way early, so if you want to scroll a bit you can. I'll understand. 

For whatever reason, though I don't want your edification of our character, I do expect our children to be grateful.

See the problem yet? Again, the offer to skip forward still stands.

I feel like my wife and I (who I am absolutely not speaking for here) pulled these kids out of a situation where their lives could have taken a much different turn. Some of the birth family reads this blog regularly (Hi guys!) and I'm not out to skewer them about how the kids' lives would have turned out. For all I know, they might have changed their lives around and raised better children than I could ever dream of.

So the kids should be grateful. No, I don't expect kissing of rings or regular shoe shines from them, but maybe stop the entitled behavior a bit, yeah?

The other day Aven decided he didn't want to live here anymore. Said it was awful. He wished he lived somewhere else.

Guys, seriously, skip ahead. 

So I told him anytime he was ready to leave I'd help him pack. I was pissed. I was offended. I've also never parented an eight-year-old boy before, so cut me a little slack.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. Aven had a real bad day at Drake's birthday party on Sunday. Drake got Legos, and Aven got pissed because he thinks he should have all the Legos in the house, and he threw a fit then gave everyone the silent treatment, and basically took all the attention away from Drake on his big day.

For his behavior, he earned some alone time in his room, along with the promise that when the family left, he'd be getting his rear end lit up.

For an explanation of why I was waiting until family left, see the following tweets:

Well, eventually the party died down and I went into Aven's room with the paddle. I had planned on doing a bit of yelling, a bit of paddling, and ending in a lecture about his choices.

I told him to sit down, and I explained what was about to happen. I told him that he had made some real bad choices today, and that he was now going to pay the consequences for his actions. I told him he had options when he got mad. I explained that one of those options was walking away. I explained that another option was some alone time in his room if he wanted. I made sure to reinforce that these were his choices, and no one could make them for him.

I then told him he was to go apologize to his mom and his brother, and then he was coming back to get his spanking.

He walked back in to the room, and I told him that he could get mad about the punishment, but my dad busted my butt and that's why he was getting his butt busted.

And just like that, words stopped coming out of my mouth, because a very shocking thought crossed my brain.

Aven doesn't need Brian Sloat as a dad. Aven needs Travis Sloat as a dad. 

The revelation floored me, and I'm sure I seemed a sight to Aven as I stood there holding the paddle while being unable to communicate.

I heard a voice in my head. It wasn't Brian Sloat. To tell you the truth, I absolutely know it was the Holy Spirit, giving me a direct order that I wasn't ready to accept.

"Pray with your son." 

Eventually I put the paddle down. I sat down on Aven's bed and I told him to stand in front of me. I looked at the wall for a while, then at the giant Superman on the wall. Then I looked at the dresser, the whole time trying to find words that adequately suited the situation, and that would affirm to my son that I had not gone completely bat-shit crazy.

I finally looked him in the eye.

"Aven, I love you so much."

The tears fell. Through blurry eyes I watched as everything in his countenance changed, his features softened from anger to what could almost be called remorse, and then tears fell from his eyes too.

"Dad, I'm sorry," he said. And then he hugged me.

It was one of those classic father/son hugs you see in the movies. The whole tears staining the shirt, me gripping the back of his head like a man desperately trying to keep a hydroplaning car on the road type hug. If you had been in that room, you'd have cried, trust me. Nicholas Sparks in all his writing glory could not have manufactured a better hug than that one.

And we cried.

Eventually the crying stopped, and I looked at him again.

"Son, if anything ever happened to you, I would never be the same. You are wanted. You are special. I love you so much, and I know it seems like I'm mean to you sometimes. I've never had a son before. I don't always know how to be a good dad."

And then we prayed.

"God, help me have a better attitude, and help me not be jealous, and make better decisions, amen." 

"God, I'm a bad father sometimes. Please help me realize that Aven needs me as a father. Please help me be a better dad. Thank you for showing me what mercy looks like. Thank you for Aven. Amen." 

May 15, 2016 will mark the second time ever that I have prayed with my son. The first was his salvation. I am an absolute idiot for not doing it more. I should be praying with all my kids. I'm going to try and make that happen.

As for Aven, well, there will be more bad decisions. He's eight, after all, soon to be nine. He's got a whole lifetime of bad decisions ahead of him. Just like his dad.

And I'll spank him again. It'll happen. Not for fun, not because it's what my dad did to me, but because I'm biblically bound to do that. I just need to remember that I'm also biblically bound to love my children as my Heavenly Father loves me.

Alicia walked in the house yesterday and said, "I don't know what you said to him yesterday, but he's been amazing today."

I guess sometimes sparing the rod is necessary. I guess ultimately, that's what Christ did on the cross. I deserved a beating, and instead I got told that I was loved, that I was special.

I'm a horrible father. Nothing you can ever say to me will change my mind about that. But I love my kids, and Christ loves me, and that'll work just fine. And in the meantime, I'll be busy reminding myself that although Brian Sloat was a brilliant father, he doesn't need to be the one who parents Aven Sloat.

That's my job. That's what I do.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Whole30: Day Three

Well, Day Three sucked.

Lack of preparedness, Alicia being sick, and intense cravings/mood swings almost put me over the wall. But, here I sit, Day Four, having gotten through Day Three without caving.

Breakfast was the only meal I got a picture of because it was seriously the only meal worth photographing. I sautéed mushrooms and onions, then added GUESS WHAT?!?!?! Three fried eggs. That's right, more eggs.

I did apply my homemade hot sauce liberally, and truth be told, it was a great breakfast.

I also sliced up some tomatoes and sprinkled some pink salt on them. They were store-bought so they weren't great, but they added a nice contrast to the eggs. 

Lunch was leftover lettuce tacos from the night before. Ugh. I just sort of powered through it. Lunch will be tough for me as long as I continue to eat leftovers, and I'll continue to eat leftovers because it's really difficult to get up and fix breakfast AND lunch. Maybe I should try this meal prep thing. 

As an aside, I did make it through the mid-morning without a snack. However, I broke into my almonds at about 2 p.m. I have my seventh graders that hour, and we're working on research projects, and I could feel myself getting a little cranky. 

I got home and ate five pickles. Five. They were tiny pickles, but I ate five, and drank pickle juice because that's allowed and don't judge me. I also ate an apple. 

Dinner was a shitshow. Alicia had set out turkey and ground beef, and then got to feeling puny, and I was pissy because, no carbs, and so I had to think of something. My plan? Turkey burger patties with sautéed onions, garlic, and mushroom powder, then I made a sauce out of drippings, chicken stock, and almond milk. I also sautéed onions, mushrooms, zucchini, and asparagus for a side. My patties were undercooked, so that sucked, but three minutes in the microwave fixed it. 

Alicia also brought home some raw almonds, and I tried my hand at roasting them. I popped them in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes, let them cool, then added a teaspoon of light evoo, salt, onion and garlic powder, and cayenne. I wound up eating them all as a bedtime snack. 

As previously mentioned, today is Day Four, and we'll see how it goes. Hopefully supper will be a shade better this evening, and I'm really going to try to stay away from all the "snacks" that I'm indulging in, even though they're compliant, and even though Erica is telling me it's okay. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Whole30: Day Two

Day Two of the Whole30 was not as bad as Day One.

This was, I think, due partly to good planning. We made a grocery trip the night before (see yesterday's blog), and picked up some things for the day. 

One of the things I picked up was asparagus, because I freaking love asparagus, and I'd seen someone in our Facebook group talk about asparagus and eggs for breakfast. Since you basically eat eggs forty-two times a day on this plan, you have to think of ways to church them up. So I did. 

That is roasted asparagus, topped with three over easy eggs fried lightly in clarified butter. I also added a few drops (half the bottle) of a really good hot sauce, which Erica then mentioned might not be compliant. So what did I do yesterday? I MADE MY OWN FREAKING HOT SAUCE. 

That's right, jalapeños, dried Carolina Reapers, tomato paste, smoked paprika, apple cider vinegar, beef stock and a few other compliant spices. It'll peel the paint off your car, and it tastes pretty dang good if I say so myself. 

Back to the meals though. I did get hungry about halfway between breakfast and lunch, and luckily I was prepared. 

I doled out exactly twenty-eight almonds and ate them slowly, thinking about how good they'd be loaded up with sugar and syrup and all the things I would never put on almonds but that I want to put on them now. 

Lunch was leftovers from Day One, steak and mushrooms with hot sauce. It was freaking phenomenal and made me wish I had made more. One of the things I'm trying to do though is to make sure I'm eating smaller portions. Yeah, I'm pretty sure I can eat all I want on this plan, but that doesn't mean I need to abuse it. 

I found a recipe for Whole30 tacos online yesterday, and essentially begged Alicia to let me make them. Another short shopping trip after school, and I had the ingredients for the tacos, as well as the ingredients for the aforementioned hot sauce. 

I mixed up my own taco seasoning, and I forgot the oregano listed in the recipe, and that sucked. It wasn't as good as the taco seasoning I buy in the pre-made packets, and I don't care who you are, it'll never be better and you won't convince me otherwise. But it was tasty, and it'll do. 

Scooping that beautiful taco meat onto green and crunchy romaine lettuce instead of taco shells was probably the most depressed I've been on this whole plan, and it was just Day Two. I threw some fresh onion, tomato, and avocado on as well, and enough of my hot sauce to drown the sadness in my heart. 

A lot of people get mad at me for being able to tell a difference in my body so quickly when I make a diet change. But the plain and simple truth is, my diet was SO TRULY TERRIBLE, that any changes I make get noticed very quickly. 

As a result, the following things have happened: I've noticed my stomach is laying flatter in the mornings when I wake up, instead of being bloated; my skin is less oily; I'm colder, which means my blood sugar is dropping; and I feel like absolute shit. 

Day Three will be interesting, I brought leftovers from last night's dinner, and Alicia set out turkey to eat tonight. I don't know exactly what we're going to do with it. In the meantime, I'm going to try to make it without a midmorning snack. 

Day Three

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Whole30: Day One

Yesterday my wife and I began the Whole30 food program. I hate to think of it as a diet, it's more of an eating change.

The basic tenements of the program can be found here

We didn't really have the groceries on hand to begin the right way, but I have a couple of Yeah Write buddies who are in on it, and I wanted to give them some support. 

I weighed on Sunday. I am 324 pounds. I have man tits. My gut is enormous. I'm currently taking three medications for diabetes (Metformin, Glyburide, and Invokana), a pill for blood pressure, and a pill for a fatty liver, as well as an antidepressant.

Something has to give. 

So yesterday was Day One. 

I had two poached eggs for breakfast. That was it. That was a poor decision on my part, but it's what we had. For lunch, tuna. No seriously, that's it, tuna with pickles. I ate that meal in the teacher's lounge and wanted to cry afterwards. 

I was mean to students, moody, and determined to go get groceries for a better dinner. So when I left school, that's what I did. 

Dinner was sirloin steak, sliced thin with mushrooms, garlic, and a sauce made from beef stock, fish sauce, and oregano. My god it was amazing. I put the larger portion in a container for lunch today. That was a difficult thing to do. 

I also made clarified butter, which is something I've never done before. Something else I did was buy only myself dinner, and didn't get anything for my wife and kids. Alicia pointed this out to me when she got home, and because we've begun depriving our bodies of things it thinks it needs, she pointed that out to me in a rather angry fashion. 

I had a church league basketball game last night, and my performance was awful. Not that it has even been grand (not since high school), but I missed every shot I took and airballed a three. Embarrassing. 

Even tougher was coming home. I was starving (or so I thought), and I wound up eating plain salsa (Whole30 approved) and pistachios. I went to bed hungry, but (sorry for being personal) I got laid, and that helped a lot. It also helped that Villanova beat UNC in the National Championship game. 

Today is Day Two, or Day Twenty-Nine, depending on my mood. I'm going to try to post every single day, even if it's just words and no pictures. I've accidentally discovered that food photographs way better when it's healthy, and so I'd like to document that for you guys. 

I also don't plan on posting anything on public Facebook until the deed is done. Then I'll post the link to Day One, and people can follow it through. 

Well, let's do this thing.

Day Two

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Bright lights, heartbreak, and it's really not that bad

maybe, maybe, maybe
you'll find something that's enough to keep you
but if the bright lights don't receive you,
then turn yourself around and come on home.
 Matchbox Twenty

Sixty hours ago I was throwing my backpack into my truck and headed to go get Nate. 

As we made the trip to the State Fairgrounds, I kept checking Facebook and seeing all the statuses about heading to Oklahoma City and how excited everyone was. 

I was excited too. 

The State Tournament. The Big House. And the Okay Mustangs. 

Those words aren't used together every year. Volleyball, maybe, but not basketball. 

Since no one bothered to tell us about the massive construction project on I-40 (shoutout to all you chumps), we got to the game just a few minutes before it started. Okay vs. Velma-Alma, two schools that, had you conducted a poll anywhere but there, no one would have heard of. 

Our boys made it look easy. 

That's not slighting the Comets, that's simply a testament to the shooting performance our boys gave. Shots were dropping like gas prices during an election year, and it was fun. After a certain point, it didn't even seem real anymore. 

I'll be perfectly honest with you and tell you I wasn't sure how they'd handle the big stage. 

Turns out they didn't need me to believe in them. 

A twenty-point win and a drive back to the hotel, where I swam in the pool and thought about the game. Where I thought about Chad, and how he was back where it started for him in 1998. About that time I played thirty seconds in a state tournament game and had one rebound and one turnover. 

I seriously think I told that story to whoever would listen. I was pulling hotel maids into the room and reenacting the rebound, making Hayden and Nate play defense every time I told it. 

Enter day two. 

A 10:30 a.m. game against the number three team in the state. A team that had also been up by twenty points in their first game. 

I was, yet again, worried, because that's what I do. 

Turns out they didn't need me to believe in them. 

The shooting performance they put on Friday made Thursday's show look like me trying to dip two McNuggets into a painfully small hot mustard packet. 

I honestly think at one point I made a three. And if I live long enough I'm sure that's how the story will go one day. Three-pointers were flying through the nets like a...well, listen, I've watched my two favorite teams lose today, so I'm at a loss for a simile. 

They got hot. 

They won by ten, but it was really by twenty. 

In the meantime, Fort Cobb-Broxton was busily winding their way through the bracket, making it look as though the OSSAA had mistakenly assigned a 5A team to the A tourney. 

And then today happened. Day three. The championship game. 

A Facebook post informed me earlier that Okay has been a school district for 97 years. In 97 years we've never once had a basketball team in a state championship game. 

But by God we did today. 

I was worried. I watched Fort Cobb play both nights and I was worried. I tried to contain what I felt but my celebrations were muted, my conversations heavy with the weight of my pessimism. 

Turns out, they didn't need me to believe in them. 

Our boys—Our Okay Mustangs—went out onto that floor and from the very first tip worked their butts off to bring home a gold ball for our town. They ran off screens, they dealt with bumps, they hustled for loose balls—all for us. All for Okay. 

Those shots that fell the first two games didn't fall today. And you know what? That's okay, and here's why. 

My children teach me things all the time. Just when I think I'm the smartest person in the family, one of them will innocently say something so full of wisdom that I know The Lord is trying to knock me over the head with a lesson. 

I pulled into the driveway this evening, emotionally exhausted, upset, and proud all at the same time. 

Aven, my eight-year-old, was playing in the yard and came up to the truck as I got out. 

"How was basketball?" he asked. 

"It was a lot of fun," I replied. 

"Did you win it all?" 

"No, son, we lost in the championship game." 

"Oh...well, that's really that bad though, right?" 

I looked up, and saw my beautiful wife, who I'd missed very much, coming outside to kiss me hello. 

In that moment, the entire weekend sped through my mind like a highlight reel on fast forward. The jump shots. The three-pointers. The conversations with people I'd grown up with. The celebrations. The hustle. The silver ball. The first second-place state tournament ever for our basketball program. The beautiful game of basketball that I love, played by young men that I love, coached by two men I admire and respect, administrated by a principal and superintendent that I think the world of. It all came over me, baptizing me in the sheer fun of the weekend. 

And I realized that my son is wiser than I am. 

"No, Aven, it's really not that bad." 

Book the hotel rooms, Mustang fans. We'll be back next year. And I hope Fort Cobb-Broxton is there in the final, Goliath vs. Goliath, four or five moments away from another shot at a gold ball. 

Thank you, boys. Thank you, Chad and Steve. Thank you to the fans, to the town that raised me, and the town that is letting me help raise their students. 

November can't get here quick enough. 

On hope, and four or five moments

"The game can kill you with hope."  - Kevin Baker

Well, they've done it. 

Yesterday, while battling to maintain a lead against the No. 3 ranked team in the state, the Okay Mustangs were suddenly up 20 points, and I'm still not entirely sure how it happened. 

I mean, yeah, 70 points from Caleb and Darius Riggs probably did it, but still. 

Remember yesterday when I said I wanted Goliath vs. Goliath? Well, I watched Fort Cobb's game with Seiling yesterday thinking that I was an idiot for writing it. 

But I'm not. The whole season has been leading up to this point. Two teams, both Mustangs, across the state from each other, and each doing the kind of work it takes to be successful in this glorious game of basketball. 

And now we're in the finals. School history has been made. We all got to see it. We all get to see it. 

This small group of boys from a town no one has ever heard of have given hope to thousands of people. 


noun — the feeling that what is wanted can be had.

It's such a simple word. One syllable and four letters with an ocean in between each one, and a gold ball waiting just after the "e." 

You know, you're going to laugh, but I finally went to see Deadpool last night, and I think I can actually use part of a scene from that movie to teach something here. 

Colossus, a member of the X-Men, stops Deadpool from shooting someone by saying:

"Wade! Four or five moments."


"Four or five moments — That's all it takes to become a hero. Everyone thinks it's a full-time job. Wake up a hero. Brush your teeth a hero. Go to work a hero. Not true. Over a lifetime there are only four or five moments that really matter. Moments when you're offered a choice to make a sacrifice, conquer a flaw, save a friend..." 

Now if you've seen the movie you know that quote immediately loses relevance not long after, but I think it maintains its relevance here today. 

Okay Mustangs, go be a hero today. Live in the four or five moments of this game where you'll make a choice, play harder than you thought you could, or sacrifice a shot for a better one. Live in the moments where you'll be a hero. 

Something I struggled with as a player and now as a coach is being told/telling kids to "leave it all on the floor." I understand the sentiment, but if you leave it all on the floor, where's "it" going to be for the next game?

Today, there is no next game. Today is the one day I agree with "leave it all on the floor." 

I'll be in the stands hoping. I'll be in the stands believing. Thousands of us will. 

In the moment of hope, there is no doubt. There is no room for doubt. So hope breeds confidence, and confidence breeds happiness. You've made the town of Okay and your families very happy. You've already accomplished something enormous that will never be forgotten.

Thank you for that. 

Now finish the job. 

"hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul
and sings the tune without the words
and never stops at all." 
- Emily Dickinson

Friday, March 4, 2016

You tell them we're coming...and we're bringing Okay with us

It's just after 7 a.m.

Light is slowly filtering through the blinds of our hotel room—a hotel room that Hayden booked 400 miles away from the stadium—and I've already been down to have breakfast, which was crap.

I woke up excited.

My roommates, Hayden and Nathan, are still snoring softly in the bed behind me, which they are sharing because I told them I'm a cuddler.

I woke up excited because the Okay Mustangs made school history yesterday.

Yesterday wasn't a great day for our state or our nation. You see, schools took yet another budget cut. A budget cut that will mean the end for some. There's some small school in Oklahoma that will have to close its doors thanks to the idiocy we're seeing at the state level.

Hundreds of thousands of people were taken off Medicaid, something I don't quite understand, but expect to soon.

Last night during the presidential debate, politics were eschewed for penis measuring, which, I suppose, is really the basis of all politics anyway.

Yesterday wasn't a great day for our state or our nation.

But it was a great day to be a Mustang.

I wish I had a cool action shot to post here, a picture worth more than a thousand words, showing the hustle and effort our boys put forth into bringing home the first Okay State Playoff win in school history. I wish I had a picture of Darius shooting three pointers from the parking lot, or Paul Taylor checking into the game and in the first five seconds driving in for a layup. I wish I had a shot of Caleb or Austin shooting jump shots with the confidence that Donald Trump has in his hair, but I don't. I was busy in the stands updating my Facebook every three seconds for the folks back home.

I'm told the boys' bus ride back to the hotel yesterday was silent. They weren't celebrating their win. They realized that although they made school history, all they really won was the chance to fight another day.

Today. This day.

Most probably haven't even woken up yet. They probably haven't gone downstairs to gorge themselves on homemade omelettes and all-you-can-eat bacon (I'm looking at you, Hayden). Some of them might be up though, thinking about the game, doing the mental preparation that is oh so important in this game, yet so often overlooked.

Our opponent opposite the bracket found themselves in a close one yesterday. Everyone talked about how they hoped there would be an upset, and I joined in that conversation. But truthfully, I don't want an upset. I want 1 vs. 2 out there tomorrow. I don't want to see David and Goliath, because we all know how that goes, and sometimes Goliath wins anyway. I want to see Goliath vs. Goliath.

But they aren't there yet. They have to win today.

And you know what? Even if they don't, even if they lose today, one day they'll look back and say, "Remember that time we won a game at state? That hasn't been done since, has it? Remember how many points I scored? Remember how proud the town was?"

You're damn right I'm proud. This town, this Okay town, is my life. I will empty all I am into it until it shines or until I die, and I'm even prouder to say that I don't stand alone in that objective.

So go fight today, boys. Go win the chance to take on that other Goliath. You'll hear us in the stands, and if you don't, feel free to come over and remind us that we're not Okay.

We're freaking great.