Never Admit You’re Wrong

A month or so ago, Myra developed a boil on her upper gums. Never thought I’d start a blog with that sentence!

Anyway, it wouldn’t go away so we made an appointment with our family dentist, and Missy took her. One of the assistants took some X-rays, and then our dentist came in to look at them. After about three seconds he said, “Something’s not right here, are these X-Rays flipped?”

The assistant confirmed that they were flipped. I guess Myra wasn’t comfortable the way they had tried to position her or the infected area wouldn’t show up or something. The point is that the X-rays were flipped and our dentist realized it within a few seconds of looking at them. He was a little concerned because the X-rays seemed to indicate that although the boil was directly above one of Myra’s front teeth, it looked like it was affecting the tooth next to that one.

Since he doesn’t specialize in pediatrics, he referred Myra to a dentist across the street who does, Dr. Amanda Ward at Norman Pediatric Dentistry. Missy was in the room as they called the office and told them they were faxing/emailing Myra’s X-rays, and they specifically told them that said X-rays were flipped.

A few days later, Missy took Myra to Dr. Ward. The infected tooth needed to be pulled. Before anything else could happen, we had to write a check for $385 because Myra’s insurance doesn’t cover this. During the consultation, Missy even asked about the fact that the infection looked to be affecting a different tooth than the one the boil was above. Dr. Ward brushed it off and said, “Oh, you know, infection goes where infection goes.”

Then she pulled the wrong tooth.

It was immediately obvious because the tooth that was pulled looked completely healthy, with the longest root I’ve ever seen. Dr. Ward knew it was wrong and proceeded to pull the correct tooth next. Which means Myra lost both of her front teeth in a matter of minutes. Missy reported that Dr. Ward was very gentle with Myra and that aside from the one major gaffe, the experience was a positive one. The office is clean and Dr. Ward made Myra feel as comfortable as possible during the whole thing.

Myra was very brave. The only time I saw her cry was that night. I asked her if her mouth was hurting and she said, “No, I just wish I could have my teeth back.”

When Missy was telling me the whole story, I couldn’t believe the office didn’t promise to refund our $385 right away. So I stopped by there to talk to them about it and was lucky to catch them on their lunch break when no patients were in the building. Then again, I guess I was unlucky because I ended up getting talked down to and treated like dog poop.

Dr. Ward and one of her employees sat down with me in a small waiting area. This is the conversation we had. There is no exaggeration here; this is how it happened.

First I explain that I’m Myra’s dad and I’m here to get my money back.

Employee: Oh, don’t worry. We didn’t charge you anything for that second tooth.

Me: I’m talking about the $400 I paid for the other one.

Dr. Ward, befuddled look on her face: You want a refund for pulling the correct tooth, the one that needed to be pulled?

Me: Yes. I think the whole thing caused her extra pain, and she’s sad about not having any front teeth.

Dr. Ward: You think she had more pain getting two teeth pulled than she would have for just one?

(Somehow she was being serious with that question.)

Me: I can’t imagine it was less painful.

Dr. Ward: So you want a refund for a baby tooth that was going to come out anyway?

(At this point it’s hard to tell if she’s just being a smartass or if she really thinks I’m that dumb. I was really tempted to ask if they just pull random healthy teeth as part of a normal check-up since it’s no big deal but I refrained.)

Me: It wasn’t going to come out any time soon, which means she’s not going to have a tooth there for a really long time. Look, I’m not trying to accuse you of doing anything on purpose. I understand it was a weird situation with the infection being above the other tooth. I understand that the X-rays were flipped. But it was still an entirely preventable thing and I think you should make it right.

Dr. Ward: And you think “making it right” means getting your money back? For the correct tooth that needed to be pulled?

Me: Well I’d prefer my daughter get her tooth back in her mouth. But since that’s not going to happen, a refund would seem to be fair.

Dr. Ward: We didn’t know the X-rays were flipped. (Employee nods in agreement).

Me: Somebody knew. My wife was in the room when our dentist called your office and specifically told whoever was on the phone.

Dr. Ward: No, we didn’t know about it.

Me: My wife told me about it before the procedure, because it was an odd thing. She didn’t make it up. I’m confident our dentist remembers this also if we need to call him and ask. Obviously, I have no way of knowing who was on your end of that call, but somebody in this office was told about it.

(I didn’t even mention the fact that our dentist, who legitimately didn’t know about the flipped X-rays, immediately recognized it. And he isn’t a pediatric specialist, nor was he about to yank a 6-year-old’s tooth out. Would seem like you’d want to double check before pulling a tooth. Clearly this could have been recognized regardless.)

Dr. Ward: Well, what would make you feel better about this situation?

Me: Getting our money back for the mistake that you made.

Dr. Ward, super condescending tone: That’s what would make you feel better?

Me: Again, I’d prefer my daughter had her tooth in her mouth. But yeah, since that’s not going to happen I’d like to have my money back.

Dr. Ward: Well we can certainly do that.

And she did. We got the check in the mail just a few days later. What we definitely did not get was anything resembling an apology or a show of basic human respect.

About 10 years ago, we were eating at a Chili’s in Wichita with Missy’s family. Missy ordered a salad and there was a staple in it. She bit into it and it caused quite a bit of pain and bleeding. Guess what Chili’s charged me for my burger that day? (You mean the correct order with no staple in it?) Naturally, the whole meal was free and they gave us a gift card with $50 or $100 on it. Because a crappy restaurant chain is somehow better at being personable and acknowledging a mistake than a pediatric dentist.

Myra (left) before this whole thing. After picture below.
Healthy tooth is on the left.

July 4

When you’re really young, it’s hard to top Christmas on the list of favorite holidays. Santa, Jesus, the presents, the magic…that’s going to be the apex for just about every five-year-old in America.

I was certainly in that group at that age, but it didn’t take me long to switch my favorite holiday to Independence Day. Relaxing, watching baseball, and grilling out are all part of my ideal day, and those are key ingredients to the 4th.

Franklin family July 4 tradition stretches back decades. Starting around the time I was 12 or 13, we’ve always gone out to the Yukon Freedom Fest at Chisholm Park. It’s a really cool setup with good food, good fireworks and good people. The thing that got us started going there was the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, which has performed there every year as far as I can remember. They start playing as twilight turns to dark, finishing as the fireworks start.

As always, the day started with me grilling out. This was the first time I can remember grilling something besides hot dogs and hamburgers as the main course. Missy and the kids had eaten those items a few times already over the previous few days and wanted something different. So we marinated some chicken and I grilled it up, and I must say it was delicious. For the second or third year in a row, I grilled up some zucchini and squash from our backyard garden. Brush some olive oil and balsamic vinegar on there and it’s the perfect complement to the chicken. Missy also made up some baked beans, pasta salad, peach salsa and cookie bars. We like to eat in the middle of the afternoon and then head out to Yukon.

I thought I was going to miss the end of the Cubs game, and I suppose technically I did, but they were winning about 12 to 3 when we left the house so I felt pretty comfortable with that. Those are the kind of games you don’t mind missing the end of because if they had somehow blown that lead I wouldn’t have wanted to see it anyway.

Missy always has the kids dressed up in special patriotic outfits, and while getting some groceries on July 3 at Wal Mart I decided to get into the spirit with a $4 patriotic tank top purchase. Missy enjoyed my participation.

Don’t mess with my freedom

Once we get to Yukon, we always stake out our turf near a specific pond in the southwest corner of the park. It’s close to the Philharmonic with a good view of the fireworks. The kids and Francine love to put their feet into the pond, where the turtles like to give their toes little nibbles. This year Francine also brought some cool mini rockets the kids could fire into the air (they use rubber bands, not actual rockets). They found a little pasture near our setup to play with those.

Naturally my wife and mom are the only ones who look normal in this picture

Of course it wouldn’t be July 4 without a hot dog eating contest, and they have one in Yukon. I lifted the kids up on my shoulders so they could watch a dude eat 14 in 10 minutes. It was the dude I predicted would win before the contest started. Personally we didn’t partake in any hot dogs, but I did down 20+ ounces of homemade root beer somebody was selling. It was probably even better than the State Fair root beer, which is a high standard. The kids got free ice cream and watermelon.

The guy second from the right won the hot dog eating contest, just as I predicted.

The Philharmonic was as good as it always is, and the fireworks were even better. They got rid of the ones that just make a really loud noise and do nothing else. I never did like those (crochety old man alert).

The long haul of lawn chairs, waters, blankets and snacks back to the car is always interesting, but we made it without incident. I was very happy that my mom was able to get around without much trouble barely one month after her hip replacement surgery. She’s really doing great.

Of course, by the time we get home and get the kids in bed, Missy and I have to unwind a little. Of course, that means eating leftovers. Feeling completely stuffed and exhausted is the sign of a good 4th, and we had another good one in 2019.

Father’s Day

The other day I asked Addie to go look at the calendar and see if we had anything going on this Sunday.

“It just says, ‘Father’s Day.'”

“Oh reallllllly?” I said in my way-over-the-top voice. “Well isn’t that exciting? Aren’t you excited???”

She just rolled her eyes at me and walked away.

This week my sister and her family are in town so we’re spending a lot of potential blogging time with them. And on Sunday I leave for my short World Series of Poker trip to Las Vegas. But since it’s Father’s Day week I thought I’d provide a little glimpse of where I’m at with all four of my ornery kiddos.

Father’s Day always comes with a tinge of unworthiness for me. The kids always make cool cards and posters for me and I just keep thinking about my shortcomings as a parent. I try my best but often wish I had more grace and patience with them. Part of that unworthiness comes from trying to measure up to my own dad, whose grace and patience far exceeded my own.

Going into everything my dad meant to me and all the ways he shaped who I am today would be a significantly longer blog. At this very moment the two things that stand out were his optimism and his presence.

He was always looking for the best in people and spinning every situation into its most positive potential outcome. And he was always present in my life, even if he wasn’t the most vocal father. He loved to play card games or golf with me, and those things really made me feel loved. Sometimes those two positive traits would come together in an annoying way when we would be playing golf and I would hit a terrible shot (not an infrequent occurrence.) He would always yell at the ball to hit a tree and bounce back into the fairway, or skip over the water. I would be irritated with myself for hitting a bad shot and didn’t want everyone on the course to look over because he’s yelling at a golf ball that has no chance to end up anywhere besides the creek or the woods. And of course the one time in 100 when the ball actually would bounce miraculously back into the fairway, he was hooting and hollering like I’d made a hole in one. I look back on those things fondly now but that wasn’t quite how I saw it back then.

I also want to acknowledge my father-in-law Richard Hockett. For one thing, he was never anything but completely accepting of me when I began dating Missy. There was no intimidation thing going on. But the main thing I learned from him was service. I’ll never forget the first Thanksgiving dinner I went to with Missy’s family. We were at her grandpa’s house and there were probably about 15 people eating there. Richard stayed on top of the dishes the entire weekend without ever having to be asked to do so or chiding anyone else for not helping. I’ve tried to emulate that in my house on a daily basis and especially during the holidays when there is extra cleaning to be done.

As for my kids, they’re all still young enough to like me most of the time. Our favorite special routine is the head rides I give them to their beds at night. They sit on my shoulders and get a circuitous route to the beds, with occasional earthquakes or spins involved. Sadly they’re starting to get too big, but so far I haven’t had to quit on them yet, even Addie. And thankfully Hawk is old enough not to drool most of the time now. The top of my head used to be sopping wet every time I gave him a head ride.

With Addie right now, I really appreciate how helpful she is with the other kids most of the time. There are exceptions but she is generally very loving and inclusive with them, which means a lot to me. She is learning a lot right now, so my favorite conversations with her involve her telling me whatever factoid she has just discovered and asking follow-up questions on that subject. I love the enthusiasm she has for learning, and she’s told me several things recently that I didn’t know or had forgotten so I’m learning from her too.

Myra is my cuddle bear, I love getting hugs from her every day. She’s starting to say some funny things too. Today she said, “You know, when I see a yellow car it makes me want to eat some mustard.” Like Addie, Myra is great about playing well with the boys, and they really look up to her. She knows a lot of sight words and has memorized some books, so my favorite thing is when the boys gather around her and she reads books to them.

Maddux has been into playing catch with the football with me, and he’s gotten to where he can sling it pretty good. We’re still working on catching it without closing his eyes or hands, but he’s getting better at that too. My favorite thing to do with Maddux, though, has always been reading books. He’s always just been completely mesmerized by books and I love seeing his eyes wide open with amazement and full attention while we read books. You can’t ever read too many books for his taste.

Hawk has been really into competition lately. The only way to get him to help clean up is to give him a five second countdown to put up a toy. But if you do that he’ll go as fast as he can to get the job done. Tonight he wanted to race Maddux to see who could put on pajamas faster, and you would have thought it was the seventh game of the World Series. I find it interesting that while Maddux has always been overly sensitive about losing and goes into a huge fit any time he loses anything, Hawk is the opposite. Even though he loves to race and play games, he doesn’t get bothered if he doesn’t win. He’ll just say, “Maddux won that one,” or “I couldn’t be the fastest this time.” And then he goes on about his business.

So anyway, that’s a little snapshot of my favorite things about my kiddos in the summer of 2019. I know I’ll get some cool drawings and something with Reese’s peanut butter in it, but they can’t give me anything better than just being themselves every day and letting me be a part of their lives.

Softball

Thursday was a weird evening for me in several ways.

First, I was staying the night at my mom’s house. Thanks to everyone who prayed for her hip replacement surgery Tuesday. After a rough first night she rebounded fantastically on Wednesday and was able to go home Thursday. She’s already getting around as well as she was before the procedure and I’m very hopeful that this will greatly increase her quality of life. But I didn’t want her staying home alone on that first night.

Which leads to Weird Thing #2. Mom went to bed early as usual and I had a kid-free evening of relaxation, but with no DVR on the TV. I don’t watch anything live on TV. Even sports, which is the one thing everyone watches live. I still DVR it, wait until the kids go to bed and then fire it up in peace and zip through the games quickly. I can watch a Cubs or Thunder game in about 45 minutes and a football game quicker than that. If it means I have to stay off my phone for a few hours in the evening to avoid spoilers then I consider that an added bonus. So I’m just chilling on her couch, flipping between the NBA Finals and the Women’s College World Series.

Which leads to Weird Thing #3. I watched a lot more of the softball game than I expected to. I’d still say the TV was on the basketball game more than 50% of the time, but it was close.

It was a great back-and-forth game, with OU beating Alabama 3-2. The next night while playing poker I watched the winner’s bracket game between OU and OSU. It’s pretty cool that both schools made it and the atmosphere at Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City seemed really electric. The top-ranked Sooners pulled away late for a 6-1 victory.

Why is it that I enjoyed watching softball two nights in a row when I never watch women’s basketball? Why did I watch more softball the past two nights than I’ve watched college baseball over the past two years? I think it comes down to the product. Women’s basketball is (in my opinion) an inferior product to men’s college basketball, which itself has become barely watchable ever since we got an NBA team. But they are essentially the same game. College baseball is an inferior product to minor league baseball, which is an inferior product to Major League Baseball. But they are essentially the same game. Softball is a different sport entirely, and the differences are what make it fun.

Start with the underhanded pitching motion. For one thing, it allows pitchers to throw multiple games in a row, as opposed to major league games where starters get pulled after four innings and it takes 6 guys to complete a game. It also allows for some different spin and manipulation of the ball. It doesn’t take long to figure out how hard it is to make solid contact off of these elite softball pitchers.

Softball games are full of chants and songs that don’t really make sense to an outsider like myself but they make for a festive environment. The whole field and base paths are smaller and shorter than a traditional baseball diamond, which makes the whole game move quicker. The shortstop doesn’t have time to play patty cake with the ball before throwing to first; any hesitation will cost her the out. My great friend and former OU softball beat reporter Josh Ward compares it to Arena League football, and it’s a perfect comparison. The quirks are what make it fun to watch. Yet it’s still very similar to baseball, and the players can easily display their athleticism in the field and on the basepaths.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt when your alma mater has the best program in the country. In 1995, OU hired the coach at Long Beach City College. All Patty Gasso has done since then is win 78% of her games and four national titles. And this year’s squad may be her best yet. OU is 54-4 and didn’t lose a game in Big 12 Conference play. Statistically, this would be their best team ever if they can win three more games and capture another title.

Patty Gasso

I came to OU three years after Gasso did, and in 2000 I was the sports editor of the school paper. The aforementioned Josh Ward covered the softball team, which looked like it might be a special one.

If you know Josh, you know he can be a tough critic (especially the Y2k version of Dub). But he never had a negative word to say about Gasso or the way she ran her program. He said she was great to work with and always “had her shit together.” Not that anyone could have predicted this level of success, but Josh says he never had a doubt that OU would be a big winner under Gasso.

One of the coolest experiences I ever had at OU came on the softball field while I was sports editor. Gasso let me, Josh, and our sports photographer Paul Dryden take batting practice against OU’s pitchers that spring. It was really a testament to both Josh and Coach Gasso. Most reporters wouldn’t have developed the kind of relationship with the team to make that a possibility, and most coaches wouldn’t be cool enough to go along with it.

I remember going to the old (and now defunct) Perfect Swing off Highway 9 to get some practice cuts in. I didn’t plan on hitting a home run but I was darn sure going to get the bat on the ball. OU’s pitchers that year were Jennifer Stewart and Lana Moran. Stewart was the ace and she had a changeup that made Josh and Paul look silly. Like any good pitcher she threw it with the same motion as her fastball and you only had about half a millisecond to react to that if you wanted to hit it, so when she threw the change you looked like Bugs Bunny swinging three times at the same pitch and striking out. I don’t know how anyone hits that pitch unless they just guess right that it’s coming.

Gasso only allowed us 5 or 10 pitches each. Neither Josh nor Paul made contact with any of Stewart’s pitches and the entire team was sitting on the outfield grass laughing up a storm and talking trash. So the pressure was on yours truly. Luckily I didn’t have to face Stewart. Moran was also a good pitcher but she didn’t have that nasty changeup and I was able to send her first pitch over the fence and into the parking lot, where it shattered Gasso’s car window. OK maybe that’s not quite how it happened. Actually, I just fouled it straight back, which was already a pretty big win for me. I also managed to hit one fair, although it would have been a routine ground out.

But it was a blast, and it made me appreciate how hard the sport is. As the sports editor of the paper, it stinks that the school year ends before the Women’s College World Series. Josh had some great coverage of the team during the season but by the time the WCWS rolled around it was summer and I had a regular job.

I’ll never forget the day OU won the national championship that year. It was Memorial Day and our family tradition at that time was to split into two groups. Mom took Andrew and Allison to her hometown of Enid to decorate the graves there, and I went with dad to the small town of Jones where his family was from. In the world before smartphones, I had no idea what was going on in the game against UCLA. As soon as we got home I turned on ESPN and the first batter I saw was the last batter of the game. It was really exciting to see this team we had been covering all year celebrating a national championship. The football championship wouldn’t come for another 7 months so this was the first time OU won anything during my tenure there.

Josh covered the WCWS and says he remembers some kind of special edition of the paper after it was over. It just stinks that the majority of the students wouldn’t have been on campus to read his great work and that I didn’t get to be part of the coverage or design of that paper. He said he gathered his notes and mementos from that WCWS and later gave them to Gasso, although he doesn’t know if she kept them or what she did with them. She’s won three championships since then (with a fourth hopefully on the way in the next week), but that first one is always special.

I was never the beat reporter for the softball team; I covered the baseball team. I covered several high school state tournament games at the Constitution but only one OU game. It was a Bedlam game in Norman, and I wasn’t actually sent to write about the game itself.

I was there to do a feature on Courtney Totte, who was a catcher for Oklahoma State. She was a great player and as far as I can remember she was the only Lawton kid during my time there to go on to play for OU or OSU. The stadium was packed and the crowd was really into it. I remember the weather being absolutely perfect that night, the game moved along at a good pace and OU won (sorry Courtney). Afterward I got a good interview which turned into a pretty good story, if I do say so myself. I remember it being one of those nights that make sportswriting the best job in the world. (The nights when the game takes four hours, the coaches are grumpy and the computer quits working, not so much).

This summer my daughter Addison is playing softball for the first time. We watched some of OSU’s win over Florida the other night together. We’ve gone to the park a few times to practice, just her and I, and it’s those kind of moments that you live for as a parent. She’s got some natural talent but she’s also good at volleyball, basketball, and a lot of non-sports stuff like music, acting, cooking and science so it will be interesting to see what piques her interest the most in the upcoming years.

I’m not pushing her toward softball by any means, but I’ll enjoy whatever time we end up getting on the diamond. And I’ll be watching the Women’s College World Series, at least as long as Gasso and the Sooners are in it.

Boomer.

News and notes

Another school year is almost in the books. It’s crazy how fast time flies now. I remember when I was growing up, wanting to be done with high school, and how the school year seemed to last forever. Now I find myself constantly unsure of what month it is. And it’s not like I’m just lagging behind a little bit. Sometimes I think it might be November when it’s April or vice versa.

As we head into the summer I thought it appropriate to give a little update on everyone in the Franklin clan.

Of course yesterday was Mother’s Day so we ought to start with the queen bee (and no, that bee is NOT short for another word). Missy has been kicking some butt lately (even more than usual).

This semester she taught her usual class at OU and did her usual once-per-week overnight shift in the labor unit. But she also picked up another part-time gig at the hospital that lasted a month or so which mostly involved her being on call. We realized that doing all three at the same time was probably a bit too much but this poker habit I picked up won’t pay for itself so she’s just going to have to deal with it.

Besides all that, she’s also coached Addison’s volleyball team and done a masterful job in our garden.

Missy did all of this basically by herself. That’s our strawberry patch on the bottom right.

Now that the semester is over, so are two of her three jobs, at least for the next month. So we celebrated all of that and Mother’s Day at Missy’s favorite restaurant in the whole world, a hibachi place in Lawton called Kudo’s. Some of our favorite people, the Goodmans, were able to join us and it was a great dinner.

Speaking of moms, my wonderful mom has been in a lot of pain lately and is having hip replacement surgery at the end of this month. Some of my favorite memories with mom involve going for walks in the neighborhood, and those just aren’t possible right now with the amount of pain she’s in. Her feisty dog Harry B told me he also hopes to get mom back into walking condition. Her knee replacements about 15 years ago did wonders, so here’s hoping the hip surgery is as effective. Our whole family would appreciate prayers that everything goes smoothly.

Today Addie has two end of year parties, one for drama club and one for volleyball. She did an amazing job in her drama performance last Friday and the volleyball team won their final game of the season the next day. This summer she’ll try fast-pitch softball for the first time. I think she has a natural talent for it and with no school I figure I can make her practice about 90 hours per week until she gets offered a college scholarship in July.

Maddux is finishing pre-K and is ready to go school all day this fall. He’s come a long way with his vocabulary and knowledge of numbers and the alphabet. Last night he told us two knock-knock jokes he came up with.

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Zero.

Zero who?

Zero. Like nobody is there!

Then he tricked me on the second one, since I was expecting the same punch line as the first one.

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

None.

None who?

None of your business.

Myra is graduating from kindergarten. Her favorite thing this year was learning about chickens and then watching as the seven eggs her class got hatched. Myra even got to name one of the chickens, Rainbow. (Last night Joey asked if she named it Fried).

Hawk has been super cute of late. He’s intellectually ready for school but will have to wait two years before he’s old enough for pre-K. His vocabulary and deductive reasoning are really impressive, he just needs to work on communicating his emotions a little better (probably true for every 3-year-old). The other day Missy asked him what he was eating. He said, “I’m eating the grilled cheese sandwich. You can have the boy cheese sandwich.”

As for me, I had a great time celebrating at Kudos last night and am really looking forward to Friday. That day I get to help Maddux and some other pre-K kids go through Super Kids day at school, where they compete in a kind of elementary school Olympics. Then we scored some cheap OKC Dodgers tickets through OU Medical so we’re going to that as a family.

Silver Dollar City

The very first family vacation I remember taking as a child was to Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo. I was about 7 years old, and my only strong memory of it was getting my first baseball bat there. They had a shop where the bats were made from scratch and they would carve your name into it.

I had that bat for years; in fact it might still be in our garage somewhere. In high school Chad Anderson, Kevin Ash and I would go over to the little league baseball fields off 12th St. in Moore and play home run derby. Generally we’d use Chad’s aluminum bat as it generated more dingers but occasionally we’d use the wood bat with “Matt” carved into it.

That’s really my only memory of Silver Dollar City from my youth, but Missy has a stronger connection to the place. Growing up a little closer to Branson than I did, her family made frequent trips there. There’s not a spot in the whole park that Missy couldn’t tell you a story about — something that happened there, a different ride or attraction that used to be in that location, etc. So Missy really wanted SDC to be a part of our family, and it truly is a great place for the whole family to make some lasting memories.

We’ve gone many times over the years but for 2019, since we don’t have a big summer family trip planned, we decided to get a season pass. Every couple of months SDC has different themes which include new shows or attractions, so Missy tentatively planned four separate trips to the park, the first of which was last weekend.

It’s a solid five-hour drive, and we made it up there with only one stop (the Missouri welcome center at the border has clean bathrooms and a playground for the kids to let some energy out). For this trip we decided to stay at the Silver Dollar City cabins, which were really perfect for our family. The cabin was small but it had everything we needed, and it was only about a mile away from the park. There was a loft with three beds, with another bed downstairs. We had a gas grill outside and a small kitchen with a fridge and a microwave. We arrived Thursday evening and grilled up hot dogs and smores while soaking in the perfect weather and beautiful Ozark mountain scenery.

Our plan was to put the kids to bed upstairs in the loft while Missy and I did some Netflix and chill downstairs. But naturally the kids were being stinkpots and refusing to go to sleep or even be relatively quiet, so we scrapped the whole setup and moved both boys downstairs with me while Missy moved into the loft with the girls.

The park itself is only open for eight hours a day, and that goes by super quick when you have as much on your to-do list as we did. On Friday we had perfect weather again. In the morning we rode a bunch of rides. Our kids’ personalities really came out when it came to what they wanted to ride.

Addison was an amazing big sister and was willing to accompany any of her siblings on just about anything they wanted. She chickened out of the super-mild roller coaster Fire in the Hole but otherwise was willing to go on just about anything.

Myra won the Most Brave award I gave out at the end of the day. There wasn’t anything she wasn’t excited to try out and she loved all of it. She was also a great big sister and helped out the boys.

Maddux and Hawk

Maddux loved the Dumbo ride, with elephants that fly in circles. A button allows you to control how close to the ground the elephants go. But Maddux, true to his form as our shy kid, wasn’t much into trying anything he wasn’t sure about.

On the other hand, Hawk wanted to try out everything he was big enough to ride. I took him on Fire in the Hole with me, and while it was a little scary for his liking he had a great attitude about it and it didn’t keep him from trying out other rides. His favorite was the Racing Regatta which went in a pretty fast circle.

We paused for lunch and visited the Foods of Wonder, which is one of their seasonal features this spring. Missy and I split some fancy nachos that included tri tip steak and an avocado cream sauce. Of course later in the afternoon we had to grab a bag of kettle corn, which SDC has always done extremely well. I’d characterize SDC’s food prices as “I’ve seen worse.” It’s cheaper than Disney World or a Major League Baseball game but with four kids you’re going to drop a decent amount of money even if you pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch like we did. I literally had $6 cash in my wallet at the end of this trip.

After lunch we changed into our swimwear and took advantage of the great weather to do all of the water attractions. The first thing we wanted to do was the lazy river but it was shut down for renovations. That was unfortunate but we were still able to do several other rides. I like the one where you can shoot water at people on the sidewalk or on other boats but they can also fire back at you. Myra’s favorite ride was the classic log ride. Missy took the girls on it and SDC screwed us out of $15 by taking such a perfect picture of them that we had to buy it.

Missy, Addie and Myra on the log ride

We stayed in the water section until the park closed and then headed back to the cabin. Everyone was so tired that we didn’t have the usual bedtime issues, we all just passed out.

On Saturday Chad’s family drove up from Clinton, Mo. to join us at the park. It was only about a two-hour drive for them and we were excited to spend the day with them. The only problem was a high chance of rain in the forecast. Somehow, it never rained a drop. Instead, we got attacked by the biggest pollen storm I’ve ever seen. The morning was really bad — everybody was coughing and sneezing. By the afternoon it had gotten a lot better. We all took the train ride around the park, the same one involving about 5000 corny jokes and a pair of fake train robbers holding up the train to tell more corny jokes. Chad said he remembered the same routine from when he visited as a child 30 years ago. But the kids love it and it’s a nice way to get off your feet for half an hour. We stayed until the park closed and then stayed an hour later than that for the nightly show they put on in Echo Hollow. Although it’s usually pretty good, none of us were overly impressed with this edition.

Myra and Addison riding in front of Everly and Aften

It’s something of a Sunday tradition of ours to stop at Lambert’s just outside of Springfield for lunch on our way home and we talked the Andersons into joining us. Chad had never been before and described it as “Cracker Barrel on crack” which is pretty accurate. They just keep giving you food. It does taste good though, and when you’re on vacation you can eat whatever you want.

Lambert’s Cafe

The drive home was as smooth as the one out there (thanks, Honda Odyssey movie player) and it was a great experience for our family. Looking forward to a few more long weekends like that one throughout 2019.

Volleyball

I’ve been lucky enough to be able to coach my kids in several different sports. Missy and I want our kids to try out as many as possible but we aren’t pushing them toward any of them. We just think it’s a good experience, good exercise, good to learn rules, sportsmanship, make friends, etc.

In addition to doing dance, art, drama and music at different times, Addison has played T-ball, soccer, basketball and volleyball. I’ve coached all of those sports except volleyball, which I know next to nothing about (incidentally, that equals my knowledge of soccer). That’s not a problem because Missy was a great volleyball player in high school and is a much better coach/communicator than I am anyway. So Missy is the coach of Addie’s YMCA volleyball team.

Except for when she’s out of town. Then I have to take over.

That’s what happened last weekend. Of course, that was also the one Saturday all season when they scheduled a doubleheader. Thankfully, Missy had already set up the rotation so there wasn’t too much work to do. Or so I hoped.

The name of this team is The Striking Asteroids Pink Cheetah Lightning Whose Name Shall Not Be Named. I’m not joking, that’s the name they came up with. Ten year old girls be crazy. Anyway, Missy has really done a great job with them, and Addie has shown that she has some natural talent in the sport. Several of the players had never played volleyball before, and Missy and Addie are both super encouraging. We’ve only played half the season but you can already tell a huge difference.

Missy’s parents and brother came to town, and her mom wanted to watch Addie’s games. It was raining cats and dogs on Saturday, so I dropped Addison and Karen off at the front door of the Y and parked the car. By the time I got inside (which was only a minute later) the game had started and the score was 5-2. What the heck?

My star volleyball player Addison and her amazing coach.

I looked at my watch, it was 10:55. The game was supposed to start at 11. The Striking Asteroids Pink Cheetah Lightning Whose Name Shall Not Be Named had exactly the minimum number of players so of course they weren’t lined up the way Missy had drawn it up.

Generally we have the same referee for every volleyball game. He knows the rules inside and out and is very encouraging to the players. But he wasn’t reffing this game. We had a high school kid who literally didn’t know the rules. If a ball was anywhere close to the line he would look at me or the other coach and ask if it was in or not.

Turns out, the other team’s coach had wanted to start early since they had played another game at 10 a.m. and already had all their players there. Had I been there I would have gotten them to wait until at least 11 so our substitutes had a few more minutes to show up. But this coach kind of railroaded the 16-year-old ref into starting the game early, and it was my fault for not being there early myself.

The reason the score was 5-2 already is that the referee didn’t know the scoring rules. You’re only supposed to get a point if your team is serving and they win the point. Awarding a point for every play regardless of who is serving is called “rally scoring.” It’s used as the scoring for tiebreakers, but the first two sets are supposed to be played using the regular scoring. When I pointed it out, the kid looked at me like I was speaking Portuguese and the other coach said, “We’ll just play this set out with rally scoring and then we’ll play two regular sets after that.”

So we did. And the teams were very even — with one exception. This is a coed volleyball league. Last year, Addie’s team had one boy on it, although he was one of the shortest people on the team, and not one of the better players. This year’s team is all girls. The team we played in the second game was all girls. The team we played first was all girls except for one dude. And this dude was serving overhanded lasers all over the court at will.

It was like Roger Federer jumping into a youth tennis tournament. Our girls were afraid of the ball and I really couldn’t blame them. Addie had the courage to get her arms on a few and they literally left red marks. Even when the girls tried to hit them back, they never went over the net because they’ve never practiced against anyone who could serve like that. The team called this guy the “Mr. Spiker.”

When anyone else was serving, the teams played evenly. Funny thing was, when our team hit it to this dude during the regular run of play, he wasn’t any better than anyone else at getting it back over. He just had the overhanded serve down pat. Hardly anyone at this age group can execute an overhand serve. In fact it’s very rare to see a serve make it to the second row of defenders, much less coming in at high velocity like this. Six points is the maximum allowed for each server and this kid got the full six every time he served.

So we lost both regular sets with scores of about 15-4, and 12 of those 15 came on aces when this kid was serving. Real fun game. I was just proud of Addie for making a full effort to get to all of his serves. The most frustrating point came when Addison actually got to one of these balls and hit it a mile into the air. It was 100% going to come down in bounds on the other side of the net but it hit one of the folded-up basketball goals hanging from the ceiling and came down on our side. I figured that would at least be a do-over but evidently the rule is that it’s a point for the other team. Oh well.

Before I talk about the second game, I want to give the YMCA some props. I really love how they organize and run their youth sports programs. Basically every sport below age 8 is played without keeping score, and coaches are supposed to give all the kids equal playing time. That’s how I coached and that’s how it should be at those ages. As the kids get older the games can become slowly more competitive, and that’s what the YMCA does.

Under age 8, it should be all about learning the rules and the basics of the game. There is no need to keep score; the parents are the only people who care about the results anyway. After that, it’s a good time to introduce scoring so kids can learn how to handle winning and losing appropriately, when they have a modicum of emotional ability to do so. But it’s still a very friendly and encouraging environment. In fact, although they keep score in Addie’s games, the standings on the website show all the teams with a 0-0 record.

The coach of our opponents in Game 2 took this to the extreme. She was wanting to let all the kids who hit crappy serves have a second chance. She let several of her girls serve from the front row. I actually didn’t have a problem with any of this because these were clearly players who hadn’t played volleyball before. But it seems like if you’re going to take that much liberty with the rules, you might as well not keep score.

Maybe it was just that I was frustrated by watching Mr. Spiker pound our heads in 20 minutes earlier, but the scoring aspect of this second game was starting to stress me out. The Striking Asteroids Pink Cheetah Lightning Whose Name Shall Not Be Named was clearly better than our opponents, but because the referee kept allowing all these do-overs and telling the scorekeeper not to count some points, the game was very close. Again, I would have been fine with just not keeping score but if you’re going to keep score why not keep it right? Then if we had extra time after the game we could scrimmage just for fun and practice.

As it was, the match was very close. In fact it went to the tiebreaking third set, and that was close too. But eventually The Striking Asteroids Pink Cheetah Lightning Whose Name Shall Not Be Named pulled out a 15-13 victory. It’s great for the girls, but more importantly I became the Vince Lombardi of YMCA volleyball and picked up the first of what will surely be one career victory. Thankfully our great (and hot) coach is back on the sidelines.