Mom, Dad and Sports

We were going to get Mom an ice maker. The kind that makes the Sonic-style ice that she loves so much.

So we went in with my sister and got Mom the ice maker for Christmas. The last couple of years, we had gotten her tickets to a Thunder game for her Christmas present. She loved those, but with the team trading Paul George and Russell Westbrook in the offseason it seemed like a good time to get her something different.

The ice maker was still sitting in its box a couple of weeks after Christmas. Mom said it was too tall for her to reach on her kitchen counter. I said it was no problem to take it back and asked what she might want instead. Of course, she said she didn’t want anything. Of course, my sister and I were not going to give mom nothing for Christmas.

I asked if she wanted to go another Thunder game. Her face lit up. “Well, if you want to. That would be fun.”

So we went. And it was a lot of fun, even though the Thunder got behind by quite a bit early and lost to the Toronto Raptors.

We posed with a cardboard cutout of Steven Adams, Mom’s favorite player.

This season was supposed to be something of a bummer after trading away the two big stars. Instead, fans have really embraced this squad that shares the ball and plays hard on both ends of the floor.

No one has gotten more emotionally involved in this team than my mom. I think the only reasons she owns a TV are Fox News and Fox Sports Oklahoma, and not in that order. She watches every game (at least the ones that aren’t played on the West Coast after her bedtime) and is very concerned with the health and well-being of the players. I get texts asking about Andre Roberson and Terrance Ferguson on a regular basis. Her favorite player is Steven Adams, whom she said she’d like to have dinner with.

These Thunder aren’t the first sports team my mom has been obsessed with. My dad was also very into sports. So I suppose I come by my attraction to sports honestly.

When Mom and Dad were growing up, baseball was king. And since MLB.TV hadn’t quite been invented yet, there weren’t a lot of options when it came to which teams to follow.

Growing up in Enid, Okla., Mom latched onto the New York Yankees and their Oklahoma-born superstar, Mickey Mantle. They were frequently on TV for the Game of the Week, and there were plenty of stories about the team and the Mick in the newspaper. Mom made a scrapbook of many of the newspaper clippings, which we still have. It’s pretty cool.

If you weren’t a fan of the Yankees in those days, the St. Louis Cardinals were probably your favorite team. Growing up in Jones, Okla., dad could pick up Harry Caray’s radio call of the Cardinal games and became a fan.

Both made treks to see their favorite teams before meeting each other. Mom got to go to a Yankee game in Kansas City and followed Mantle and a few of his teammates to a local watering hole after the game before avoiding further trouble. Dad joined the military and was stationed close enough to St. Louis to get to catch a few games when he was on leave. He said the longest home run he’s ever seen in person was hit by Willie Mays at one such contest.

When I was growing up, Dad put a basketball goal in our driveway. I used to throw the ball onto the roof of our house, wait for it to bounce off and then catch the “pass” and shoot. My goal was to be able to beat Dad at one-on-one, which was no easy task since he was 6-foot-4 and pretty good at basketball. I quickly learned to put a lot of arc on my shots since that was needed to get them over his arms.

Mom and Dad were great sports parents. Very encouraging and always attending our games but not berating the officials or telling us all the ways we messed up.

As far as their favorite teams went, Mom more or less abandoned the Yankees after growing up and having kids of her own. She really didn’t have time to be a fan of anything other than her kids. Dad never wavered from his Cardinals but didn’t get to watch many games.

One of my first sports-related memories was the 1987 World Series. The Cardinals were playing the Minnesota Twins and I was 7 years old. My bedtime was well before these games ended, but I snuck out of my room and into the hallway, where I could catch a glimpse of the small TV in our living room where Dad was watching the games. It was a great World Series, with Minnesota winning in 7 games. I loved the atmosphere in Minnesota for the games there, with the “homer hankies” and Kirby Puckett making great catches. I asked for something Twins-related for Christmas and got my first ever ballcap, a snapback with the Twins’ “M” logo.

Every Twins fan waved one of these at the Metrodome in 1987.
This is what my first ever baseball cap looked like. Now I have way too many of these things.

The 1987 World Series got me hooked on baseball, but there weren’t many ways for me to get a fix in those days. The only teams that were on TV regularly were the Chicago Cubs on WGN and the Atlanta Braves on TBS. Both teams stunk back then but the Cubs were on during the day and had the always-entertaining Harry Caray (the same guy that got my dad hooked on the Cardinals) calling the games, so I picked them.

I didn’t know that the Cardinals were the Cubs’ chief rival, and by the time I figured it out I was too entrenched to do anything about it. Ryne Sandberg was my favorite player.

Eventually I was able to beat my dad at basketball, mainly because he wasn’t great at dribbling and I could steal the ball from him. But he could always shoot it about as well as I could and I definitely couldn’t guard him in the post. Unfortunately, he had a bad back and was worried about making it worse so we didn’t get to play too much after I finally beat him.

We did, however, start golfing together. That was the one thing he almost always did on his day off from work if the weather was decent. He was a pretty good golfer, usually scoring around 85-90. Once at Earlywine he was hanging around even par for 9 or 10 holes, which was exciting. He tailed off at the end but still broke 80 which was a rare occurrence.

Once, we thought I might have hit a hole in one. Turns out the ball had either rolled into the pin and not stuck into the hole or it rolled just behind the hole. Either way it was about 6 inches from the hole directly behind the pin, but it was exciting nonetheless. I was never as good as dad but on a couple of lucky days I did manage to beat him, and that was always a good feeling. I very rarely golf anymore and the main reason is that it brings back so many memories of rounds with dad that I’ll never be able to play again.

When I graduated from high school in 1998, my graduation gift was my first ever trip to Chicago. Mom and Dad both went with me and we went to a pair of Cubs games. We sat in the bleachers for my first game ever, arriving early enough to sit on the front row in right field. I leaned over the wall and snatched a piece of ivy. I was scolded by security but I got to keep the ivy. That was a special season as Sammy Sosa hit 66 home runs and the Cubs made a rare playoff appearance. Sosa didn’t homer in that first game but we had a great view as he made his trademark sprint to right field to start the game, and the Cubs won.

Dad and I both got into the home run chase of 1998, which was eventually won by Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire. In 1999 Dad planned a trip to St. Louis for the two of us to watch a Cubs/Cards weekend series at Busch Stadium. On the drive up there, dad said he hoped to see McGwire and Sosa hit three home runs apiece and the Cardinals win two out of three. (This was generous of him, wanting me to get to see one Cub win. I of course wanted the Cubs to sweep the thing.) Sure enough, McGwire and Sosa hit three home runs apiece and the Cardinals won two out of three. It was a really memorable trip and a great time.

Around this time, perhaps because of some of the home run hype, Mom started getting back into baseball. All of us kids had graduated and she finally had some free time on her hands. If she had any struggle over which team to support, she didn’t show it. She got really into the Cubs.

In 2004, the three of us went to St. Louis for another Cubs/Cardinals series. While eating lunch before the game, we saw Cubs broadcaster Steve Stone. I was too intimidated to bother him but Dad walked right up and introduced himself. Stone was very generous and told us that if we wanted to see the Cubs players up close, we could go to such-and-such hotel at some specific time, as that’s when they’d board the team bus to head to the game.

Mom’s favorite player was Moises Alou. Let’s just say he was the Steven Adams of 2004. Mom was kind of obsessed with him. Anyway, Mom really wanted to see the Cubs up close so we went to the hotel at the time Stone told us to. Sure enough, we got to see the team. When Alou emerged from the building, Mom started yelling, “Moises! Moises! Moises!” and blowing him kisses. Mind you, we’re only standing a few feet away from him. Alou glanced our way and gave a wink, then started chuckling as he boarded the bus.

Dad passed away in November of 2004, which naturally changed everything. As far as the Cubs were concerned, Mom still rooted for them but not with the same vigor, especially since Moises left the team after that 2004 season.

Dad’s favorite Cardinal that year was Albert Pujols, who was emerging as a superstar. At first, Dad didn’t know how to pronounce his name (Pu-holes). But then, even after he learned, he would purposely mispronounce it (Pu-joles) because he thought it was funny. Dad did things like that a lot. It’s kind of crazy that Pujols is still collecting paychecks and home runs in the major leagues, more than 15 years after Dad quit calling him Pu-Joles.

Mom was never an NBA fan, but that changed when the Thunder came, as it did for many Oklahomans. When Kevin Durant left us for Golden State on July 4, it ruined Mom’s Independence Day. Truth be told, she probably didn’t get over KD leaving until Russ got traded this summer.

At the Thunder game we went to, Mom made fast friends with the young man sitting next to her. Between talking to him and yelling for the Thunder, I don’t know how she had a voice left at the end of the night. It was really cool to see how much fun she was having.

I think I know what I might get her for Christmas this year.

Putting a Bow on 2019

Personally, Christmas isn’t my favorite time of year. Too many commitments, too much mayhem, too many pine needles. And in our family it’s always a little extra hectic because Addison’s birthday is the day after Christmas. But it is truly priceless to see the innocent joy on your kids’ faces when they are completely overjoyed, and Christmas produces a lot of those moments.

Our main present to the kids this year was the announcement that we are taking them to Disney World in May. Missy put together a cool scavenger hunt that helped them piece together the clues. They were even more excited than I anticipated, although Maddux is already scared of the airplane and Hawk seemed to think we were leaving immediately.

Got 3 happy kids out of 4, that’s not bad!

We always try to make Addie’s birthday a completely separate event from Christmas. This year we pretty much let her dictate how we spent the whole day. She chose a “girls only” visit to the movies for Frozen 2, which made me very sad — NOT. Then we drove all the way to Lawton for her favorite restaurant, the hibachi place Kudo. It was great as always.

I can’t believe that girl is 11.

A couple days after that, we watched OU get embarrassed by LSU. Of course, you want to see it be more competitive than that, but we knew this Sooner squad was outmanned even before the suspensions and injuries. That’s why, a couple blogs ago, I wrote that my dream scenario was for OU to win out in the regular season but miss the playoff so they had a chance to win a major bowl game.

Honestly, they probably weren’t going to beat Georgia or whoever else they might have played in one of those things so I guess they might as well be able to say they made the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. It’s an impressive accomplishment no matter what the haters say. The program is in great shape. Let’s cool the jets on all this negative talk.

As I look back on 2019, my personal highlights were getting to see the Cubs play in three different states (Spring Training in Arizona with Chad, in Texas with James and in Chicago with Randy). Turning 40 was also kind of a big deal, and I got to celebrate that in a big way with my friends here and also in Mexico with my beautiful wife Missy.

Now we’re visiting Missy’s sister just outside of Austin, Texas. This is where we were exactly a year ago, and I’m sitting in the same room where I wrote my first blog on this new platform. My New Year’s resolution for 2019 was to get back into writing by doing one blog per week. Mission accomplished! I’ve truly enjoyed it and will keep up the blog.

However, I am planning to scale back just a bit. Sometimes I felt like I had to throw something together just to meet my goal and it wasn’t always my best work. Also, I basically abandoned my guitar for the year and I’d like to get back into that. So my goal for 2020 is to do at least two blogs every month and also play guitar at least twice a month. I also have work and personal financial goals I’ll be striving for this year.

I want to give a heartfelt thank you to everyone who gave me feedback on any of the blogs I wrote this year. I don’t think I could have stayed with my goal if not for you. The encouragement was very encouraging (yes, I’m quite the wordsmith).

When I take stock of my life, I can’t believe how much cool stuff I’ve been able to do. That pales in comparison with the quality of people I get to call my family and friends. Y’all are the best. Have a Happy New Year. See you on the other side.

Playa Mujeres 2019

Busy week!

Thanksgiving was amazing. July 4 is my favorite holiday but Thanksgiving is a close second. The last couple of years I’ve spent more time in the kitchen and have enjoyed spending that quality time with Missy and whichever kids happen to be in the mood to help cook at a given moment.

We made so much good food (sweet potatoes are always my favorite) and I carry no guilt for overeating for a few days. On Wednesday we ate at my mom’s with Andrew’s family, then on Thursday we hosted Missy’s family at our house. We still have leftovers and they’re still delicious.

This year my overeating started early, as Missy and I went to an all-inclusive resort in Playa Mujeres last weekend to celebrate my 40th birthday.

It was the perfect trip for us at this time in our lives. Both grandmas stepped up to help with babysitting and we were able to go for four days. It was so refreshing to just be able to relax and enjoy both the beach and each other’s company. I feel like much of our marriage at this point has been reduced to being co-managers of the family, making sure kids get to practices, get homework done, and act halfway decent. This trip allowed us to go back to “dating” mode, talk about ourselves, laugh and relax. The food and atmosphere were great. For anyone who is interested, here’s a link to the place we stayed.

Part of our package included an hour of something called “hydrotherapy” at the spa. I’d never heard of it before, and after 10 minutes I was convinced that the whole thing was a prank. As the name suggests, the concept involves using water of differing temperatures and pressures.

The first thing they had us do was go into a steam room for five minutes. The steam was so thick you could barely see, and the temperature was so hot that I was having a hard time breathing. I almost gave up and just busted out of the thing, but we survived for the requisite five minutes before moving on to the next room.

There, we stood in a small shower-like cubicle and our guide told us to pull on a rope that dangled down. It was attached to a huge bucket hanging from the ceiling. We pulled on it and freezing water poured out of the bucket and onto our heads. It was at this point that I started looking for the hidden cameras. I was convinced that there were a room full of employees somewhere on the property watching us and laughing. I could hear one of them saying, “I can’t believe these stupid Americans will actually pay us to dump cold water on their own heads!”

From there we moved to a different shower which had sprayers pointing in every which direction firing water at different temperatures all over our bodies. That was a trip too. After that, thankfully, the experience was much more normal and actually very relaxing. I have to say I’d do it again if we ever go back.

Here are some pictures from our trip!

The view from our balcony
My feet got sunburned that day because I didn’t put sunscreen on soon enough
Surf and turf with this beautiful woman!
Our balcony had a private pool
Fancy pina colada
Made friends with some iguanas

40 Year Old Pillows

I didn’t think I’d ever make it to 40. Not specifically because I thought I’d die young, just because it seemed like a faraway number that only a different species of life could attain.

My family and friends made my 40th a special event. It was basically a full week’s worth of festivities. It kicked off on Nov. 9 when Chad was in town and took me to Bricktown Brewery for burgers and beer. On the 11th mom took me to my favorite restaurant, Charleston’s. On the 12th, my actual birthday, the kids made me custom birthday cards, while Missy made me a homemade pizza and a turtle cake (yum!). The next night I was treated to dinner, cigars and bar games by my friends. On the 15th I had lunch with my brother, and on the 16th I got a really nice card from my sister and her family in North Carolina.

Even considering that I snuck this picture without telling anyone, these guys look awful bored.

And that brings us to the pillow.

I’ve never bought one in my life. I went from using the one my mom got for me growing up to using the one my wife got for me a few years back. One of the many ways in which I am weird is my sleeping pattern. I fall asleep on my stomach and then switch to my side about halfway through the night. For the last several years, I’ve used the flat pillow I grew up with to fall asleep, then switch to the big tempurpedic one when I go to my side.

Thrilling blog so far.

A few weeks back Andrew asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I thought it might be nice to try to find one pillow that could work the whole night for me. Yes, I am aware that children are starving in Africa and I want an upgraded third pillow. Andrew and Allison were nice enough to go in together to get me that upgraded third pillow.

And so on Friday, after our lunch, Andrew and I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond to pick out a pillow. I hadn’t given any thought to this process beforehand. And I couldn’t tell you if my experience was a normal one, because it’s the only pillow-buying experience I’ve ever had. But it was kind of weird.

First off, I had assumed that the pillows would be included in the “Bed” portion of Bed, Bath and Beyond. But evidently it’s “Beyond.” Literally two sections beyond the beds. Not that I’m trying to get a 30-minute test drive/nap on these pillows, but how am I supposed to tell if I like the way my head feels on the pillow if I can’t lay my head on the pillow? I grabbed three or four pillows and took them over to the “bed” section, but that felt weird too.

For one thing, there were only three beds over there. If “Bed” comprises 33% of your store’s name, you need more than three damn beds in the place. If I were named CEO of Bed, Bath and Beyond — a very distinct possibility after their board of directors reads this piece — I would demand that one of two changes take place. They should either put in a crappy, unmade bed in the pillow section explicitly for pillow testing, or just change the name of the whole operation to “Beyond” and end the façade of selling beds and baths. Now that I think about it, I’m not even sure they sell baths there.

Like I said, I carried my pillows over to the fancy beds and tried to test them out, but I didn’t want to lay all the way down on a $1200 bed I had no interest in buying just to test a $30 pillow. They had the beds propped up kind of high, so I tried to just stand next to the bed, lean over onto the bed without laying down and try it that way. My 40-year-old back did not like that, plus I felt like an alcoholic trying to sneak a flask out of my pocket and take a swig before anyone saw because I knew it looked ridiculous.

So I took the walk of shame back to the pillow section, holding four pillows, zero shreds of dignity and zero firsthand knowledge about which of these pillows I might like to purchase.

Let me tell you something else about these sample pillows. They’re all nasty. I wouldn’t expect them to actually be clean, but I can’t really think of a reason why every single one of them has a stain. A couple of them had red stains, which means that either blood or ketchup was involved. I started to think of some scenarios by which different-colored stains would arrive upon the pillows, then figured it best to leave the subject alone. But trust me, they be nasty.

Around this time, a BB&B employee came up and asked us if we needed any help. I told her my pillow preference and asked if she had anything that would fit the bill. She gave a couple of recommendations, after which her presence was no longer required. Yet it persisted. I know she was just trying to be helpful, but it’s been a couple of decades since I squeezed a pillow and then looked directly into the eyes of a complete stranger. She started talking about her daughter’s pillow preferences, which did not help make things less weird.

Averting my eyes did not help matters, as it usually ended with me looking at this guy hugging his own pillow. So many questions here.

The My Pillow guy holding his pillow

“My pillow” is 100% a mafia thing, right? Seems like the only way that name could get to market. When 15 marketing executives tell you to give it a real name and Al Capone stands up and says, “It’s my pillow. That’s what we’re calling it,” you name it My Pillow.

Also seems like the only way they’d plaster this dude’s picture on everything. Those same marketing execs probably went to him and said, “Look boss, we’re not saying you look completely creepy, but we gave Bob Saget a couple grand and a free pillow to be the face of this thing.” To which Al Capone said, “We got a problem here?” To which the execs said, “You going to keep the necklace on or…yep, great. Necklace looks classy.”

I tested the My Pillow, and at the risk of getting whacked I’m going on the record and saying it sucked. Also, crème colored stain. Next I tried a Claritin pillow. Have to admit, did not know that was a thing. Somehow supposed to fix your allergies while you sleep. I was born 40 years ago, not last night. So I passed on that, as well as the pillows infused with charcoal and the pillows infused with CBD oil. Somehow, those are real products that people buy.

This epic business battle for my siblings’ pillow money came down to two pillows. One was called the 5 degree pillow and claims to be 5 degrees cooler than the rest of the room. The other was easily the best pillow in the room. I think it was made from clouds or something. The only problem is that it cost more than twice as much as the next most expensive pillow in the place.

I was skeptical about the 5 degree cooler thing, but I liked the firmness of the pillow. Seemed like it was right in the happy zone between too flat and too big. Our helpful sales lady said it really was 5 degrees cooler and I could take it out of the bag and test it. Son of a bitch really is cooler than everything else in the room. This might be the greatest worthless invention of our generation.

All things being equal, I would have bought the pillow made from slaughtered whale blubber but I couldn’t bear the idea of spending $200 on a pillow, even if it was my brother and sister’s money. So I’ve got this five degree thing. If you’d like to buy one without being stared at by a single mother working in the pillow section at Bed, Bath and Beyond, here’s a link.

So far, the pillow seems to be working out. I have woken up with frostbite on my ears the last two days, so that’s a plus. They didn’t sell me a crock of crap.

Thanks to my siblings for the pillow. Thanks to my wife, kids, mom and friends for the birthday gifts. Thanks to everyone who texted, emailed or Facebooked to pass along wishes. Thanks to the My Pillow guy for keeping it real. And thanks to all of you for reading a blog about pillows.

Bailey

I’m not a pet person. If it were up to me, we wouldn’t have one.

Missy is the opposite. If it were up to her, we’d go to the pet store and order “The Noah”.

Knowing my preference for a pet-less existence, she made me agree to it before we got married. Call it a pet pre-nup. Pet-nup? Pup-nup? I agreed to get a dog as long as she agreed that we would only have one dog and zero cats.

And so our life as a budding family began the way many do. We got married in August 2006, moved out of my one-bedroom apartment and bought our first house in January 2008, and in March of that year we went to the animal shelter to pick out our dog.

I’ll never forget that day. There were probably 20 or 30 dogs there ready to be adopted. We made the rounds a couple of times, but both of us were pulled toward the dog with the black spots and the boundless energy. He held eye contact with us the whole time we were on his row of crates. Did a couple of hops and spins and wagged his tail.

There wasn’t any debate, we both picked him. On the drive home, we threw out a few name suggestions. I know Bailey is generally more of a girl’s name, but for some reason it just felt right for him. Something about his spots and his smile made him look like a Bailey to me, and Missy agreed.

The animal shelter had him listed as a lab/dalmatian mix. We thought that was probably inaccurate, and our vet said he thought Bailey was a border collie/blue heeler mix, which is certainly closer to the truth considering Bailey never grew to be very tall and has never weighed more than 45 pounds.

Our vet guessed that Bailey was four or five months old when we got him, and he definitely acted like a puppy. He couldn’t get enough attention, and as a young, newly-married couple we were happy to give him plenty of it. We loved throwing him tennis balls in the back yard to fetch, and Bailey loved chasing them down and bringing them back to us. The only problem was that he never wanted to drop the ball back at our feet so we could throw it again. We had to wrestle it out of his mouth every time.

One day when Missy was at work, I was upstairs playing with Bailey when my cell phone rang. While I talked on the phone, Bailey kept jumping on me to try to get me to play again. After about two minutes of this, he quit jumping, took one step back, looked me square in the eyes and laid a giant dump on the middle of our rug.

“No big deal,” I thought as I calmly cleaned up the mess.

Just kidding, I was pretty pissed. Bailey spent the next few hours in the backyard.

His favorite backyard activity has always been digging. He digs holes underneath the fence and emerges on the other side. We tried everything to stop him but he was determined. Sometimes he’d just go straight to the front porch and wait for us there. Sometimes he’d roam the neighborhood for awhile. But he’s always known his way back home, even when he was a puppy.

The first time Missy and I went out of town without Bailey, we asked my friend Spike to watch him. Spike lived across the street so it was pretty convenient. On the day we were getting back in town, Spike texted and said, “Just so you know, Bailey ate all of your shoes while you were gone.” Sure enough, he chewed right through several good pairs. Thankfully that phase ended pretty quickly.

My first major bout with depression came on my honeymoon, as I wrote about here. The second one I can remember came a few months after we got Bailey, on an afternoon when Missy was working and I was home alone. I just curled up in bed and cried for a solid hour. Although I’m sure he had no idea what was going on, Bailey really helped me through that just by being there and letting me pet him.

Bailey had about nine months as our only “child” before Addison was born. We were worried that he might get jealous as our attention to him decreased, especially after the poop incident. And as a parent you’re always worried that the dog might hurt your baby, either accidentally or on purpose.

I remember there being a little bit of jealousy on Bailey’s part after Addie arrived, but he’s been the perfect dog to have around children. By the time Myra arrived, he was completely mellow with the kids. He’s been ridden bareback like a horse by all four of them at one point or another, and he never even barks at them.

Now Bailey is getting old. He’s almost completely deaf and can’t see that well, either. He doesn’t run around the house or the backyard like he used to, although he can still get feisty on occasion.

He’s also taking advantage of all of the benefits of being old. He just jumps onto the couch or the bed instead of waiting next to it for us to give permission. We just let him get away with it now. He knocks over the trash can to eat whatever is in there, even though he knows better. A couple of times I’ve come home and Bailey has immediately run from the living room straight into his cage. He never does that so I knew something was up, and sure enough I walk into the kitchen to see the trash can knocked over and trash everywhere. He just went ahead and gave himself a timeout in the cage.

Bailey hops into beds like he owns them now.

We don’t know Bailey’s exact birthday because we got him at the shelter, but because we got him at about 4 to 5 months old in March, we celebrate his birthday on the same day as mine — Nov. 12. And this Nov. 12 Bailey will turn 12 years old. He’ll get a big bone from Petsmart and probably some extra table scraps. I hope he has many birthdays left, but time isn’t on his side.

We thought we lost him for sure a couple months back. We went to Branson and Maddux let him out the back door of our airbnb, then didn’t tell us because he thought he would get in trouble. Bailey was gone for about an hour and Missy and I were scared to death because of course he didn’t know the area or his way back home — or so we thought. While we were scattered throughout the complex searching for him, he popped back up down the road when Myra and I saw him, and he immediately ran straight to our front porch.

He does that all the time in our neighborhood at home, but now that he’s getting older we fear he won’t be able to see or hear a car, or he’ll forget where home is. We remind the kids of how old he is, probably to a fault. The other day Hawk came up to me and said, apropos of nothing, “Bailey is really really old and then he will die.”

But of course it saddens me to think of how the kids will handle Bailey’s eventual demise. They haven’t had to go through a loss like that yet (knock on wood). They love him so much. I know it will be a big loss for me, too. He’ll always be our first “child.”

I’ll always remember his quirks. How he gets so excited on walks that he chokes himself pulling on the leash to go faster. How he gets so excited about getting a treat that he does all of his tricks — spinning, jumping, shaking a paw, sneezing on command — one after the other instead of waiting to see which one we actually want him to do. How he tries to cover his poops with grass in the same way that a cat covers them with litter.

But mostly I’ll remember the love and stability he brought to the Franklin house. Everyone thinks their dog is somehow different than all the other dogs in the world. Bailey isn’t supernaturally gifted in any way, but he sure is ours.

I’m glad I made Missy sign that pup-nup.

Foster Care, Myra and Halloween

On Monday, Myra turned 7. It doesn’t seem possible. Seems like just yesterday that we were moving into our house, and five days after that DHS dropped off a 3-month-old girl that we’ve had ever since.

It’s been a festive week in the Franklin house, as Myra got three special birthday meals. First she went to Golden Corral with Missy’s family when they visited for the weekend, then we checked her out of school on Monday for a Mazzio’s lunch, followed by her birthday dinner with my mom and her cousins at Ted’s.

Of course it’s also Halloween so we went to a church festival last night and got the kids loaded up on sugar.

Addie the Egyptian princess, Myra the angel, Maddux the dinosaur and Superman Hawk

Myra fits perfectly into our family. She’s a great bridge from Addison to the younger boys. She’s very nurturing and loving towards them, especially when Addie finds herself getting frustrated by them.

She loves to laugh and to smile, something she’s been doing since the day she came into our home.

I wanted to share something I wrote five years ago, when we officially adopted Myra. Most of you know that there is a huge need both in Oklahoma and nationwide for foster parents. If you’re in a position to do that, I hope you’ll consider it. Maybe our story will help.

Please feel free to reach out to me or Missy with any questions. A few of our friends have taken the leap with us and they have also been blessed. You’ll change a child’s life as well as your own. And if you’re not in a position to take a child, please consider donating to a place like Cookson Hills. They are hosting and helping as many kids as they can.

It’s often the most unexpected things in life that end up providing the biggest blessings.
That’s certainly the case in my life as it relates to foster care.
Foster care wasn’t even on my radar until a few years ago. I spent the first 25 years of my life terrified at the thought of having my own kids, much less taking care of someone else’s. Even after meeting and marrying a woman who grew up in a children’s home, I still never considered the possibility that I’d end up doing it.
Fast forward to yesterday, when I woke up and groggily sauntered into the living room. The first thing I heard was Myra saying “Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Daddy.” I looked and she was hanging upside down from her grandma’s arms. When we made eye contact she burst out laughing. A couple hours later many of our closest friends and relatives came over for a party to celebrate the fact that we have officially adopted the precious sweetheart I now can’t live without.

How did we get here? Like I said, my wife grew up in a children’s home, where her parents modeled God’s love by having about 10 foster kids under their roof at any given time at Cookson Hills, a Christian ministry located just on our side of Arkansas border in a town called Kansas, Oklahoma. My church growing up had supported Cookson Hills, but I had never visited until I started dating Missy in college. It was definitely cool and touching to see kids who in most cases had zero advantages or hope outside of Cookson thrive in the loving environment there. The mass-produced food they ate didn’t taste good, their clothes were donated, and they had just one TV for the household of 12, but the support network there made all the difference in the world to those kids.
It took me five years to get around to marrying Missy, and another three for us to settle into our careers and move from Lawton to Oklahoma City, where we wanted to live permanently. When that happened and Missy brought up the idea of foster care again, my normal reaction would have been to say no. It doesn’t take a lot to stress me out, and we already had a kid. But something inside gave me a peace about it, and it felt like the right thing.
So we went through 10 miles of red tape to get approved, which took almost a year, and then we dove right in. Way, way over our heads. It was only a few days before Christmas 2012 when we got a call about three children who had been in an extremely traumatic situation and needed a place to stay for the holidays.
We said yes and took them in for about 3 weeks, but in no way were we prepared to provide them what they truly needed. We had no experience with kids older than Addison, who was not yet 4, and no time to prepare a house that needed to expand from three to six occupants. More important, we were not equipped to help them emotionally deal with the traumatic event that had shaken their lives, and since it was the holidays it was hard to find professional help.
Nevertheless, God is good. Our church had so many families willing and able to provide Christmas presents, food, clothes, diapers, etc. (The kids arrived with nothing more than the clothes on their backs). I know the kids could feel that we loved them and were trying the best that we could. And of course, Addie was a sweetheart who made fast friends with all of them.
It quickly became apparent that this would not be a good fit for our family long-term, and in mid-January 2013 they were placed with a relative. I believe we were the right family for those kids for that amount of time, even if it was an extremely stressful three weeks.
At the end of January, we got a call asking if we would be interested in taking a 3-month-old girl. This seemed like a much better situation for our family with one problem — we were set to move into a new house on Jan. 31. We asked if it was possible for the girl to be temporarily placed somewhere else for a few days. They asked if we could take her on Feb. 5. So we moved in and took Myra five days later.
All she ever did was smile. She only cried when she was extremely tired or extremely hungry. The rest of the time she just kept a huge smile on her face, with an occasional chuckle. Everyone who met her commented on her joyful demeanor.
We — especially Addie — fell in love with her from the first day. I tried to guard my heart a little, knowing that the state had a right to remove her from us any day. In fact, that’s the goal of foster care, to reunite the child with a parent or relative. But in this case (and in about 50% of all foster care cases), that wasn’t able to happen. Soon, we received the great news that we would be allowed to adopt her.
When she came to us, she had five names (one first name, two middle names and two last names). Four of them were spelled differently in different documents the state gave us. We decided to keep her first name, give her our last name, and for the middle name we combined the middle names of both of her grandmas. Myra Alisue Franklin. Although the adoption process took far longer than we would have liked, all Myra did was smile, and on March 25, 2014, it became official.
Two weeks after that, we loaded Myra on a plane to India to spend a couple weeks with her aunt, uncle and cousins, the first of many great adventures we will share with her as our beloved daughter.

I’ve tried my best to describe the huge blessing Myra has been. Even though we’ve had two children of our own since getting her, our family would have a huge hole if she weren’t a part of it. She brings so much already, and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for her future.
I know foster care isn’t for everyone, but I would strongly encourage you to pray and think about whether it’s right for you. There are so many kids out there who have done absolutely nothing wrong, living in a state shelter and waiting for someone to take them in.
Our lives were forever changed by one of them.

Myra in 2014 on her adoption day

Satan’s Wife Went to Silver Dollar City

We’ve taken dozens of family trips since Addison was born in 2008. The one we took this weekend was a landmark. It was our first one not to include a stroller, although we did bring a wagon to haul around the park with all of our stuff. Occasionally one of the kids rode in it. Incidentally, this was also the first trip ever in which Addie didn’t want to take any of her stuffed animals to sleep with.

Our babies are growing up.

In lieu of going on a bigger trip this year, we got season passes to Silver Dollar City and planned four trips for 2019. Last weekend was the third trip. It was a great trip, and I will be taking this opportunity to show off a bunch of sweet pictures of my fam and tell a couple of stories.

On Saturday, the weather was perfect and the park was jam packed. Most rides had an hour wait. We decided to go to a cirque show that was set to start at 4 p.m. Missy and the kids got in line around 3:20 and sent me to try to get a refill on our drinks.

Both lines — the one for the show and the one for the drinks — were incredibly long. You’d think you could get a Coke refill in less than 20 minutes but on this particular day you’d be wrong. Finally Missy’s line began moving as they allowed people into the auditorium where the cirque show was being held. Obviously, trying to get four kids in sync will take a few seconds.

Behind Missy in line were a mid-40s woman and her teenage son. They tried to just straight up cut my family in line when they didn’t immediately move along. Missy cut them off with the wagon and said, “Really?” The other lady acted like she didn’t hear.

After they caught up with the rest of the line, it backed up to a stop yet again. As soon as it started moving again, this woman and her kid again went for the pass. Again Missy was able to hold them off, and Addie noticed the attempted cut and asked Missy about it. Missy used her outdoor voice, looked at the lady and said, “I guess some people are in a real big hurry in this line.” Again, the woman didn’t acknowledge the comment although Missy says it would have been impossible for her not to have heard it. (I love that Missy isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. The day before, someone loudly complained about our kids blocking an entryway for about 2 seconds. Missy said, “That’s enough from you, lady.”)

When the line reached yet another chokepoint, Missy called me to ask whether I had the soda. I said I was still in line and she just yelled, “Abandon! Come find us!” During that 5 second conversation the line had begun moving again and this mother-son duo shot past my family and didn’t look back. They got to the entrance and after this worthless pair of humans walked in, the usher stopped Missy and said the auditorium was full and nobody else could come in. The woman turned around and waved goodbye to Missy and the son turned around and wagged a #1 finger at her. (Literally the #1 finger, the index finger. He didn’t flip her off.)

This story seems too crazy to be true but it isn’t. Luckily, after I showed up they found seats for about 15 more people, so we got to see the show. I wanted Missy to find those people and make sure they knew we got in but she’s classier than I am.

Our boys got kisses from the barmaids at a show we went to.

I have another quick story to tell. I have a long-running thing with Addie where every day, I tell her I have a secret for her. She comes over to hear it, and then I always say that I’m proud of her and I love her. Usually she finishes the second half of the sentence as I say it. Then she rolls her eyes and says, “I knoooooow. You tell me that every day.” She acts exasperated but I hope that deep down she likes it when I say that.

On Thursday, we had parent/teacher conferences with all three of the kids’ teachers after school and then hit the road so we could spend all day Friday and Saturday at the park (minus staying at the airbnb to watch OU beat Texas Saturday morning). After stopping in Joplin for dinner we didn’t get to Branson until after 11 p.m. It was raining very hard when we arrived, and thankfully our Honda Odyssey navigation system literally tried to run us into the middle of the lake (thanks again, Eskridge Honda!). It had us make about 100 turns, then told us we arrived at our destination. But since we were about to drive into the lake we knew that couldn’t be right so we pulled it up on Google maps on our phone. We were 15 minutes away from our condo.

I was completely exhausted after waking up early and driving the entire way. Now the rain was so bad I could barely see. I was driving about 10 mph so we didn’t actually go into the lake. By the time we arrived and unloaded all of our stuff in the rain, I was almost delusionally tired. I was depressed, like I frequently get when I’m that tired.

Missy and I tried to get the kids to bed ASAP. Addie was really great about helping unpack everything and keeping a good attiude. As I was tucking her in, I told her I had a secret for her. I told her I was proud of her and loved her. She said, “I knooooow. You tell me that every day….and I like it.”

It’s cool how kids can sense when people are emotionally vulnerable and know how to make it better. I’m so lucky to have such an awesome family to do this life with.