August 2011, I had dragged my feet long enough. The time had arrived for me to get the process started for Hope’s hip replacement. She would be five in two months. I took her to a surgeon in Oklahoma City. I dreaded each moment leading up to that appointment. My mind kept replaying the sight of that doll in the cast. I hated it. The thought of Hope being immobilized broke my heart. The doctor took his own x-rays. I sat in the patient room with Hope nervously. I anticipated the surgery, when it would be scheduled, and how long she would be in the cast. I prayed that when it was time she would heal faster than normal. The doctor walked in the room and shut the door behind him. He said “I don’t know why you are here.” A chill shot through my body. He continued “her hips are perfect! Her right hip is a tiny bit smaller than the left but, it’s there formed correctly. The other doctors must have been wrong.” I choked back tears as I spoke “three doctors into different states were not wrong. My aunt and I were there holding her down for x-rays. We saw the x-rays. They were right, it hadn’t formed correctly. I want to see your x-rays.” He said “okay” and exited the room. He returned shortly with xray films in hand. He clipped the x-ray to the x-ray illuminator and flipped the light on. I stood there looking at the x-ray, I was astonished. Hope’s hips were there perfectly formed. The doctor said “no surgery is necessary, I can’t explain this” I said “I can!” He looked at me confused. I felt a tear roll down my cheek, “I don’t know about the god you serve but, the god I serve is still in the miracle working business.” He nodded and told us to have a good day. When I got to my car, I called my Aunt Deedee immediately she was just as excited as I was.
October 2011, Mitchell called. Child support services began garnishing his check two months earlier, he was angry. He told me that he was coming to Oklahoma in five days I was going to see his daughter. I tried to explain that she did not know him, and that I didn’t feel like it was in her best interest. I felt like it would be traumatic and confusing for her. He kept saying that he could see her since he paid child support. I finally said “you do remember there’s a no visitation order in place? You asked that no visitation be ordered for you.” He called me every derogatory name he could have. He said he was taking me and his son’s mother to court. He wanted a paternity test because he didn’t believe Hope was his. He believed I cheated on him around the time Hope was conceived. He said he didn’t want any more children and he was tricked into having her. I kept asking if it was all about his money. He told me he was pissed about the child support. He asked if I had someone who would adopt her. I told him I did but, it wasn’t moving something we could do right away because of finances. Near the end of a phone call he had calmed down some. I told him that I knew he had my address because he had my phone number. I told him he was not welcome on my property and would be arrested for trespassing if he came to my home. He asked for photos of Hope. I emailed him some. He never responded. I filed a police report and spoke with an attorney the next day.
We didn’t have to discuss it. Kevin and I just knew we would be married someday. We started looking for land for sale in the school district we wanted to be in. We found the perfect land. The land had a well and septic. Dozer work had already been done on part of the property. We met with the seller at the end of November. We set a closing date. In December we began turning the thirty year old home Kevin’s parents had given him. We replaced floors and dry walled the home. We closed on the land December 30. Life was good.
On February 18, 2012 Kevin and I went on a date. We went to a Mexican restaurant, then headed to the myriad gardens in Oklahoma City. We went inside the Crystal Bridge and took our time looking at the plants and flowers from all over the world. At the north end of the building we walked up steps that were lined with plants and flowers. At the top of the steps we walked around inside of a dome containing aquariums that were home to rodents from many countries. As we exited the dome, we found ourselves standing side by side on a bridge overlooking the entire greenhouse. Kevin spoke “You know I’ve been a lot of places… I’ve been to Colorado, Yellowstone..I’ve been from the mountains to the ocean, seen a lot of very beautiful places and still, you trump them all.” My breath was taken away. I grabbed ahold of him to hug him. I uttered “That was so sweet.” He was wiggling to free himself from my hug. I remember wondering what his problem was. He pulled a royal blue box from his pocket. He kneeled in front of me “Stormi, will you marry me?” Time stopped. I was shocked. I said “what? You have a ring? When did you get ring? Where? How? What? What? What?” Kevin said “So is that a yes?” I responded “Of course, it’s a yes!”
We arrived at Kevin’s parents’ home. I showed Hope the ring on my finger. She was disappointed at first. She asked to see Kevin’s ring too. She thought we got married without her. Kevin showed her he didn’t have a ring. We explained to her we made a promise to marry each other, and that we were not married yet. I told her we had a wedding to plan, and asked if she would be my flower girl she asked “Could I wear flowers in my hair?” I told her she could.
At the end of Hope’s pre-kindergarten year, the school celebrated with inflatables. That day after school I asked hope if she had fun. She dropped her head and said “I didn’t get to jump in the inflatables the PE teacher said I couldn’t because my leg would pop it.” I was angry. For the first time in Hope’s life she was told she couldn’t do something. My family and I had spent her whole life telling her she could do anything anyone else could. Hope cried “I didn’t want to be born this way. I wanted god to give me two legs.” I cried with her. I reminded her how beautiful, how loved she was and that we love her just the way she is. The next day I ripped the principal a new one. I also contacted the superintendent and our state superintendent.
Hope did not go to the same school the next year, and never will attend that school again. I feel they failed her that day.
The next six months were spent wedding planning, and late nights remodeling our home. Hope was so excited that soon daddy wouldn’t have to leave at night to go home. I couldn’t wait till I could fall sleep and wake up next to him every day.
We were married on August 25, 2012. The day was perfect! Kevin took vows with Hope, eliminating every dry eye in attendance.
Kevin’s promise to Hope:
Hope, today I promise to love, cherish, and honor your mother as my wife. I love you too, and I pledge to take care of you as my child. We will be a happy family together and we will share many fun times.
About a month after Kevin and I were married Hope and I were in the car. From the back seat, Hope said “We got married, and now your last name is Boland, when will we change mine?” I told her we would work on it but, I didn’t know how long it would take. Kevin and I talked to an attorney about Kevin adopting Hope. The process would be relatively easy and cost about $3000 if Mitchell tried to contest it. We were willing to pay that amount. We had bigger issues that made it not in Hope’s best interest for Kevin to adopt her. If Hope were to be adopted she would need to be carried on his Medical Insurance. That presents a roadblock for us. The Medical Insurance Company could refuse completely to cover her due to preexisting conditions or if they agreed to cover her we may not be able to afford the out of pocket expenses.
In January 2013, Mitchell called my mother in law stating he needed to talk to me about HIS daughter. I called him back. He demanded that I have his daughter call him every day because he was paying child support. I explained that she was six years old, and that she did not know him. He argued that he had 12 grandchildren, and knew how to talk to kids. I told him we would not be disruptive to her life in this way. He shouted repeatedly “I AM HER DADDY!” I got irritated. I finally said “You are not her daddy! Her daddy is the man who plays with her, prays with her, reads to her, provides for her, bandages her scrapes, picks her up when she falls, and is here for her every day. That is not you! That is Kevin!” He was pissed, and started calling me bad names. I finally said “That’s enough” and I hung up the phone.
Hope spent months telling me I needed to go to the doctor. She told me I needed to pay for a baby, pick one out, and bring it home. She wanted a sister or a brother. She even told me if I didn’t I would go to jail because I was selfish. She said if I didn’t get a baby, she would.
Kevin and I learned I was pregnant in May 2013. We didn’t tell anyone until July because of the complications I had with my previous pregnancies. We took photos of Hope in a T shirt. On the front of the shirt is said “shhh, I have a secret…” on the back it said “I’m going to be a big sister!” she couldn’t see the back of her shirt to read it.
Kevin and I bought two books for her, “Best ever big sister” and “God gave us two”. We made a photo book that contained chronological photos of Kevin and I as babies, dating, engagement, wedding, and finally photos of our new baby and Hope in her shirt. In July we met my Aunt Deedee and my uncle in Dallas. We chose to eat at a Schlotzsky’s. We handed Hope a gift bag with her shirt and books inside. I handed Deedee the photo book. She and Guy looked through it together, they bawled. Hope went back and forth between wanting a brother or a sister. We spent the next two days going to families’ homes and sharing our book. Everyone was excited!
Hope became a big sister to Isaac in January 2014. The nurse let hope help give the Isaac his first bath at the hospital. Hope is a very caring and helpful sister. We found out I was pregnant again in July 2014.
In November to 2014, I started the process of applying for a grant for a running leg through the Challenged Athletes Foundation. I asked Hope’s second grade teacher to write a letter of recommendation for the grant application. The letter still makes me cry when I read it. Her teacher didn’t just write a letter, she shared her heart.
Dear Challenged Athletes Foundation,
I am writing this recommendation in regard to Hope Smith. Hope is second grader at (omitted) School and I’m honored to be her teacher. I have known Hope for three years. I first met her as an independent and remarkable Kindergarten student and it has been such a pleasure to watch her grow and learn.
First of all, let me talk about Hope’s academics. Hope is a very intelligent girl. She is reading two or more grade levels ahead of her second grade level. She is on the Superintendent’s Honor Roll which is the highest level of achievement of all A’s. Hope not only excels in the classroom, but can be a very eager and helpful student and friend to others. She is always the first one to help a student that falls or hug a friend that has gotten their feelings hurt by another. She strives to do her best and achieve in all areas, but her physical achievements are the most remarkable of all.
Hope can lead her class across the campus at full speed, although her prosthetic leg can be awkward and difficult her inner spirit and strength shines through. As she leads her peers, Hope swings her leg, hops or skips in order to pump her leg to empower her leg to go faster. Whether she is chasing boys at recess or running from boys at recess, she doesn’t let anything ever slow her down. Did I mention that she is beautiful? She fully participates in all activities during Physical Education class, recess and all the brain breaks and activities of a very engaged and active classroom. She climbs to the top of our tallest playground equipment, the Flippo Hippo and climbs or slides down while I hold my breath. She doesn’t accept any limitations at all! When she would become too sweaty at the beginning of the school year, she would have to go to the bathroom to dry and readjust her prosthetic. I went with her to help her and I was once again amazed by her ability to take care of herself and get the job done.
In all my years of knowing her, I have never heard Hope say, I can’t. I think that this spirited, confident and determined girl will grow to be an independent leader and role model for thousands. I appreciate you for considering her for a running foot. It is my desire to give you a glimpse into this remarkable girl named Hope. I cannot adequately describe the difference it would make in her life. If you asked Hope about her greatest accomplishment, she would show you her UCO Endeavor Games Medals. Her very first show and tell in my class was her medal and leg. She stole my heart that day and I know she would steal yours too.
Second Grade Teacher