Monday, December 12, 2016

A Very Direct Marketing Christmas

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "where is the one who has been born King of the Jews?" We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him and sell him various direct marketing products."  On coming to the house, they saw the Virgin mother Mary and her child, wrapped in a Norex rag that never needed washing.  It would go on to wash 11 of the 12 disciple's feet because Judas was not a believer in Norex.  But Peter later requested Jesus to take that same Norex rag and wash his entire body without soap, again without ever needing to run it through the clothes washer.

Then the Magi opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and doTerra frankincense and myrrh.  The myrrh would serve the new King by promoting awareness and lifting his mood, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and enhance the cleansing benefits of toothpaste.  As the new Lord and Savior of mankind began his ministry to save the souls of all men, the frankincense would benefit him by rubbing it on his hands before a full day of gardening for a smoothing effect and applied to the bottom of his feet would promote feelings of relaxation and balance his mood.  And the gold, of course, would be used as a buy-in to the company that would earn him 40% off all products and 20% for all people in his down line.

The Magi approached Joseph to join their team because he would be buying the products anyway so why not get the discount.

The Magi then said to Joseph, "Are you tired of having too much month at the end of your money?  What would you say if carpentry was your hobby instead of your career?  You could have people paying you to buy products they already use.  Most of your friends have joined and are earning 90% of their income with 10 hours of work per week.  We already have the shepherds on board.  They just joined our down line because they saw the benefits and were tired of their dead end jobs.  They already combined their shepherding with a lucrative Rodan + Fields business by using wool to apply skin care products.  Your wife, Mary, is 1 sale away from earning her own Mary Kay Pink Cadillac donkey cart. And Joseph, if you play your cards right, you could have your own son join your down line.  Who knows, one day he may reach 5000 people with 5 loaves of Pampered Chef beer bread and 2 bottles of Advocare fish oil.  And you would receive 20% of his sales! And no offense but this manger could use some infused Scensy coconut lemongrass that would freshen the cattle stalls right up."

When the mixer was over and the they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt.  Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to sell him BeachBody."  So He got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod lost interest and his phone number.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Advisor,
The Joyful and Tried Dad

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Trip to the Island - Part 1

Time for our 2016 Allen family summer vacation trip.  We were not planning on going on a vacation this year because we are trying to save a much money as possible to put toward our new house.  But on a whim, Lindsey came up with a bright idea to do what people without money do for a vacation: they go camping.  Now I grew up camping with my family but Lindsey did not.  So thats why she suggested it because she didn't know any better.  Because if you've gone camping before, you either love it or hate it.  We tried going once before as a family but we were set up to fail from the beginning.  Zachary was 3, Drew was 1, Lindsey was pregnant and I was in hell.  Our dog had the best time.  We did not.  Lindsey was too scared of Zachary falling in the fire even with the 50 foot fire barrier she put around the fire that no one could get close to.  So we are all froze to death, eating cold, raw hotdogs being eaten alive by mosquitos but the fire looked beautiful through the binoculars.  This was Zachary from that "wonderful" camping trip after given a burnt s'more.

When asked if he likes s'mores, He replied, "thumbs down, mommy."

So this time, our kids were at more appropriate ages and the only reason they would fall into the fire was because they were being idiots and not because I was a neglectful parent.  It had been a while since we've been camping but the most accurate picture of camping we've heard recently is from our favorite comedian, Jim Gaffigan.

Lindsey also made the executive decision to camp somewhere beautiful but within driving distance.  She chose Kelly's Island which is northern Ohio on Lake Erie.  There is a state park on the island with plenty of camping and a beach.  But my favorite was how she presented this vacation to the children.  She surprised them with a "beach vacation."  She conveniently left out that we would be camping and the "beach" was at a state park on Lake Erie.   They are still young enough to  be duped by this play on words.  If she had tried this on teenagers, we would be going on this trip alone.

We packed up the van and took off after work on Friday and made the 2 and a half hour trip up to Marble Head.

We ate at a local pizza shop and after 2.5 hours, people were getting Hangry and tired as we waited for our pizza.  Apparently Nate was not happy that we had to wait for a waitress, place an order, wait for it to cook, and then bring it out to us; you know like what happens at a restaurant.  No, he wanted it be ready to go into his mouth as soon as he sat at the table.  So he ran off and pouted and hid.  We missed the picture of him laying on the ground of the restaurant but we did capture this:

But pizza did finally come and we enjoyed the parmesan pops (fried dough covered in garlic butter and parmesan cheese) most of all.  It was like we had not eaten in 2 weeks because they were gone before the waitress even put them on the table.  After dinner, we debated continuing on to the island but the weather report said there was a storm coming in.  And everyone loves putting up a tent in the rain while 3 children wait in the car complaining about how bored they are.  We had friends staying in their beach house in Marble Head the weekend so after a quick call to them, they invited us over to spend the night.  We had a wonderful time visiting with them, watching the opening ceremonies and going to get ice cream at the Dairy Dock.

We spent the night at their beautiful beach home and prepared ourselves knowing the next night we would be sleeping on the ground in a tent wrapped in a bag.  We also woke up to delicious homemade donuts that Nick bought for us and prepared ourselves for the next meal to be made over the open fire either raw or burnt depending on my cooking skills.

We loaded back up and headed to the Kelly's Island ferry with our van.  The boys really loved loading the van on the ferry and getting out to look over the edge; and Lindsey hated it.  It was a little scary watching the van's tires rock back and forth with the waves not knowing if its going to let loose and go rolling into Lake Erie. 

The boys

Excited about the trip ahead.
We landed on Kelly's Island and headed to the State Park.  Apparently iPhone's Siri doesnt know where the heck she is because she led us straight to the 4-H camp and the middle of nowhere.  Luckily the island is not that big and we were able to find our way back to the water where we followed good ol' fashion street signs to the state park.  Once we found our camp site, we started a fire and set up the tent.  We started making breakfast and the boys helped to supervise.

Cook it faster, Daddy!

We discovered our favorite camping food: Fried potatoes.
They loved the eggs, bacon, and potatoes.
Campfire breakfast was a hit even if it took 2 hours to make.  I knew it would take a while but I was not expecting the potatoes to take as long as they did but boy, were they worth it.  Even the kid who only like noodles, pasta, or mac and cheese, loved them.  

After breakfast, we headed for the beach.  The boys loved playing in the sand and water if you could get past the first 10 feet of pure seaweed and algae that came in with the waves.  After that 10 feet then the water was pretty clear and didn't feel like you were wading through a kale salad.  

You can see the warm, inviting waters of the salad soup.

But once past the greenery, it was pretty nice and shallow.  Good for wrestling.

The boys had a great time playing in Lake Erie not realizing its not the ocean.  But eventually they wanted to try kayaking, so we rented 3 kayaks from the beach and tried our luck at "boating."  Now how it broke down was Zachary and Drew in a  kayak by themselves, Nate and I and then Lindsey by herself.  I don't quite remember how she pulled that off but I knew one thing: it wasn't going to last.  We headed off toward the open water of Lake Erie with the peaceful serenity of a lazy Saturday with gentle waves careening off our kayaks and just as I was beginning to enjoy this peaceful moment that only comes from getting away from it all, I was gently reminded that I had brought my children because the peace was shattered by screams and cries of arguments and fighting as the 2 older kids started doing circles in their kayaks and blaming each other for their lack of direction and forward momentum.  And just about the same time, my 6 year old started yelling at me because I was not rowing in the direction he wanted to go, which was back to the beach and off the stupid kayak.  But I informed him we rented these for an hour not 5 minutes and we were going to stay out on the water and enjoy some family time, to which he replied, "MOMMY, Daddy is not listening to me.  And I am so frustrated with him.  I want to switch boats!"  Which was ok with me for 2 reasons: 1) his 6 year old rowing skills were pretty lack luster and I was tired of carrying him and 2) every time I would lay back to rest and enjoy the sun, he would jab me in the crotch with his oar calling it the "weiner wake up call."  Eventually, Lindsey took Drew into her boat and Zachary went on his own.  We stayed out a little while longer until I was done being yelled out for an entire hour by the 6 year old and headed in.

They were really good at circles!

Before he realized we were going to be out here an hour, and before I realized what he would do with that oar besides rowing.

After kayaking, and glad to be back at shore.

After kayaking, we headed back to camp and took showers to wash off the gillyweed.  We next went into the small strip thats on Kelly's Island and played some putt putt golf.  Now putt putt is a pretty tame activity with not a lot of injuries, you would think.  But give 3 metal golf clubs to 3 unruly children and you never know.  So knowing this, I warned them all to watch their clubs and not to swing them around to hit each other or others.  They are golf clubs not swords.  You have to have those conversations with boys because they don't know any better.  Anything long and 2 handed will always turn into a sword/light saber.  We I forgot to tell them to watch out for their surroundings.  To my credit, I felt I didn't have to.  Well, we played the windmill hole, where you hit your ball under the  spinning windmill blades.  And my genius 8 year old does not walk on the outside of the flower planters but between them and the windmill, proceeding to get hit in the head by the spinning windmill blade.  I mean seriously?  You chose to walk through the 2 feet path next to spinning blades and not the 20 feet on the other side where everyone else was walking?  Well like a good father, I took a picture of the now crying child as mom comforted him to document the stupidity.  

After a good cry, we continued on our putt putt journey and could all have a good laugh at how bad mommy was at putt putt.

Drew also had an amazing shot between 3 spinning "Star of Davids," he was able to get his ball stuck perfectly under one of them while spinning.  

At least this was one spinning thing that didn't hit him in the head.

Putt Putt boys
After putt putt, we returned to camp and cooked some burgers and hot dogs over the open fire and enjoyed a nice relaxing evening after a long busy day.  We also made s'mores cones by adding marshmallow and chocolate to ice-cream cones, wrapping them in foil and dropping them in the fire.  Well, we only burned 4 of the 9 we tried to make, so we will call it a success.

Relaxing around the fire.

Enjoying s'more's cones.  The first 2 of 5 that didn't burn.
Exhausted, we all fell asleep at 9:30 that night including Lindsey and I.  We had plans of putting the kids down and spending some time around the fire with each other but after such a busy day, we both fell asleep with the boys and didn't wake until morning.  But thats excluding the time Nate slapped me in the face in his sleep and Drew elbowed Lindsey in the eye while he slept.  Kids are awesome!

More to come,
The Joyful and Tired Dad

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Five Blankets

We have not seen my parents in a while so we planned a trip to see them on Friday, spend the night, and then return on Saturday to attend my nephews birthday party with the rest of the family.  We were so excited to return to Sidney, where my parents live, and where God is closest to Earth.  No Bette Midler, God is not watching us "from a distance,"  he dwells among us and he lives in Sidney.  It is so peaceful and serene there.  They live on a farm with fields and woods.  Mostly because we can get away from the busyness of life and be taken care of by my parents.  They love to love on us and our children when we are there.  My mom "home-makes" everything, cooks from scratch, and sugar flows like waterfalls with all the deserts and cookies available at all times.  You want cake at 7 am, sure why not? Grandma says its ok!  For example, for breakfast this morning I had toast with peanut butter, 2 cinnamon rolls and fruits loops cereal because unbeknownst to me, I was carbo-loading like I was about to run 3 marathons today.  No protein, no fruits and vegetables, no judgement.  Grandma's house is awesome!

As soon as we got there, Lindsey and I were very excited to sit down and catch up with my parents.  It is amazing how when you take away wifi and cable TV, how children now look to you for their entertainment.  I remember growing up and playing by myself for hours at a time and never bothering my parents.  My kids were at Grandma's house for 30 seconds before they turned to me and said "OK, what now?"  PLAY BY YOURSELF!  Doing something not involving me!  There are new toys here.  Go play in the woods.  Try to catch a squirrel.  Eat some bark.  Bail some hay.   Cut down a tree and build a log house.  I don't care, just go do something.

We finally got some time to catch up with my parents and then played a family game of Telestrations with the boys.  We discovered that Grandpa is terrible at drawing and guessing drawings as evidenced by the picture below.  He was trying to draw "puppies" but it turned into an alligator rat hybrid nursing their mutant offspring.

Zachary holding Grandpa's Alligator Rat drawing.
We also were able to 4 wheeler rides through the fields and woods on my parents land.  I took Nate, the 6 year old, on the first ride and he asked if we could go see the 3 crosses.  My parents have a campsite set up on their land with a shelter house and camp fire where we have family gatherings.  They also put up 3 large wooden crosses near the shelter house to symbolize the family's faith.  After seeing the 3 crosses for the first time, Nate was convinced and claimed that Jesus was crucified in Sidney because he has seen his cross.  Anyway, Nate asked to go see the crosses, so we drove the 4 wheeler down to the campsite and as we passed the 3 crosses, Nate put 2 fingers up in the peace sign and yelled "Word up, Jesus!!" It's always nice to give Jesus a shout out every once in a while.

We had a great time in Sidney and then went to the birthday party.  The whole Allen clan was there.  All 11 boys ages 14, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 8, 7, 6, 6, and 3.  It was pure craziness and you can probably understand.  There were so many cause and effect moments: balloons then popping balloons; toys then broken toys; a slack line then a cousin pulling another off the slack line knocking the wind out of him; cake and ice cream then sugar rushes; birthday candles then balloons thrown on top of birthday candles causing them to pop; water balloons then soaked shirts without a change of clothes.  Also the biggest thing at this party was Clash of Clans.  Some of the cousins play an iPad game as well as some of the uncles.  I showed my nephews my Clash of Clans base and from then on, they could not stop touching me and hanging on me to see my phone.  They kept asking question after question and kept getting closer and closer, until at one point I had 4-5 of them crawling on my back, both arms and practically over my head.  But this was toward the end of the evening where they had just spent 3 hours wrestling and running around in the mid-summer heat.  I finally dug myself out of the mess of bodies and found sweet freedom and fresh air stating to the family, "I feel like I was just covered in 5 sweaty blankets soaked in B.O."

All 11 cousins!  If only you could smell them!
Off to take a shower,
The Joyful and Tired Dad

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Licking our way across the Nation's Capital

It was a spur of the moment trip.  2 weeks ago, Lindsey comes to me and says “Lets go to Washington D.C.”  We both had to work during our kids spring break and we haven't been on a family vacation in years, so I said, “sure, why not?”  So, on Friday we surprised the kids at school and picked them up at lunch time on April 1st and told them we were going to D.C.  Drew was the most excited, Zachary didn’t believe us because he thought it was an April’s fool day joke, and Nate asked “Whats Washington D.C.?”  It took some time to actually convince Zachary that we really were going on a vacation.  Even with the bags packed, the dogs boarded, and 4 hours into the 7 hour trip, he still was not convinced.  When did he finally believe us?  According to him, “April 2.”  

On our way!

The drive itself was pretty uneventful.  But word to the wise, there is literally no where to stop in Pennsylvania when it is dinner time and everyone has to go to the bathroom.  We also learned that only in Ohio are restaurants and gas stations right off the highway.  Apparently in Pennsylvania, the state agreed upon an elaborate tourism scam to make all bathrooms and eateries at least 3 miles off the highway and into small villages so that one can “see our beautiful state” while trying not to wet themselves.  

Fun with a selfie stick.

We got to our hotel in Crystal City, a suburb of D.C., and the kids immediately went to the pool.  This was the highlight of Nate’s vacation.  We knew it was either going to be this or a gift shop, both of which we could have seen at home.  It’s like at Christmas when children are less excited about the toy and more excited about the box it came in.  We enjoyed a quick dip in the pool after a 7 hour car trip and enjoyed the shower after even more.  Especially when this pool contained 1 part water and 9 parts chlorine.  Drew’s eyes were so bloodshot after the pool, he looked like we had just been to a Dave Matthew’s concert in Colorado.  

Our kids hate sleeping in.  They have never grasped his concept despite my multiple attempts, through tears, begging and pleading.  But nonetheless, at 7 am they were ready to start the day.  Our hotel offered a free continental breakfast to which Drew took full advantage of never-ending bacon and Zachary with 4 sweet rolls and no protein.  But between the 2 of them, they had enough carbs and protein for 2 people.  

Can I get a side of bacon with my bacon?

Doesn't the metro look so delicious?

We took the metro into D.C. to the Smithsonian.  The metro was where the boys started their real vacation.  Even though we had surprised the kids with the trip, how they vacationed was up to them.  And the 2 younger boys, decided to experience our nation’s capital by licking every surface they could get their mouths/tongues on.  If you have read my Disney blog, you would know that this is not a new thing for them.  As Drew managed to taste his way through the Disney bus transit system, I don't know why I thought this would be different.  But sure enough, when we got to the metro, arguably the dirtiest part of Washington, Drew and Nate had a “lick off” to see who could not get caught by their parents licking things in the metro.  Now to me it looks like a dirty train handle bar that millions of people grab each day to hold themselves up bringing with them God only knows what on their hands.  But to my children, it must look like a magical, giant silver sprinkle made by Willy Wonka that must taste like heaven.  I don't know how many times we uttered the phrases “Please get your mouth off of the that” and “Stop licking it, just stop!  Why do you keep licking it?”  Washington is not only known for its monuments but also for its Washington D.C’seases.  And I am sure my kids contracted at least 5 of them.  

After tasting the metro, we first went to the National Air and Space Museum.  We started with the flight simulators which were so much fun because Nate and I spent the whole time upside down trying to shoot down planes.  Now the rest of the museum I enjoyed but having a 6 year old who can barely read made it unbearable.   There was a lot of reading, a lot.  And after 45 minutes, Nate was more than done.  He wanted to go back to the hotel pool.  Which was amazing timing, considering we just started our day in D.C.  It really set the tone for the rest of the day touring.  We probably stayed another hour there but we were done with that museum by lunch.  

We hit up the food trucks outside where we met up with some friends from Ohio by accident.  In a city with a million people, we ran into our Ohio friends at a random food truck.  They had 2 little guys with them our kids ages, so our kids caught their second wind, running around with them.  After lunch and ice cream, we next went to the Natural History Museum.  And boy, was it crowded.  We found out that this was the Cherry Blossom Festival and peak season for all the spring breakers making it the busiest time in D.C.  After wading through a sea of people in the geological section we were able to see the Hope Diamond.  Surprisingly, we really enjoyed all the different minerals and rock formations they displayed.  And Nate’s favorite part:  the penis rocks.  Rocks in the shape of.. well, you know.  The crowds finally got to us, and we decided to head back to the hotel for some breathing room and much needed R&R.  Upon arriving back, we had some pizza in the room and we finally did what Nate had wanted all day, go back to the pool.  I was hoping the mass amounts of chlorine would burn away the D.C’seases they had picked up that day, because even though I didn't see it, I am sure they licked several WW2 fighter planes and 5 different types of Quartz formations. 

Nate's favorite D.C. attraction

A Megalodon can eat a lot of bacon, but not as much as me -Drew

The next day we started with an early morning progressive dinner of train poles at all the metro stations from the Pentagon to the Smithsonian, and finally ended back at the Natural History Museum.  We saw more of the Oceans exhibit and Drew found an actual Megalodon jaw.  We also watched an awesome Imax movie about the National Parks in 3D.  We met up with some more friends who live in the area and who also have a cool little guy our boys loved hanging out with.  

The number one museum in the world, huh?  Color me not impressed. -Nate

Next we went touring the monuments.  When we walked up the Lincoln Memorial, Drew had the most honest reaction of “Whoa, I didn't know it was so big!”  We then walked next to the reflecting pool and luckily no one fell in, but not for lack of trying.  I stopped them for jumping in to collect the coins only by telling them they would get arrested.  They really enjoyed squawking at the ducks and pigeons on the way to the WW2 memorial.  We only had to yell at them once for wrestling and attempting to climb the WW2 memorial.  We continued our long walk past the Washington monument, picked up some ice cream, and headed back to the metro.  

We said good bye to our friends and made one more stop at Arlington National cemetery.  Now we had been walking literally all day and this was our last stop.  We didn't want them to miss the changing of the guard at Arlington but after a long day, it wasn't the best idea to do Arlington at 6:30 pm.  There is a lot of walking to get back to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  Plus there was some construction, so there was more walking to take the detour.  We did make it in time to see the changing of the guard and our boys were surprisingly very respectful and quiet.  It was one of my favorite moments to share with them.  But then we had to walk back.  And then the complaining began.  In our nation’s most revered and sacred shrine to our fallen heroes, the cries of children rose to the heavens.  But it was because of sore feet and annoying brothers.  Men who fought so valiantly for our country, had to put up my children’s wails of sore tootsies.  

Are we there yet?

We made it out of Arlington and back to Pentagon City to eat at a wonderful barbecue joint and returned exhausted to the hotel.  But rather than falling into bed after 10 straight hours of walking, guess what the kids wanted to do?  Thats right: pool time!  Lindsey and I just laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation.  We were now 2 hours past bedtime and they got their second wind.  So off to the pool we went, because it was vacation.  We only spent 20 minutes down there but they loved every minute.  

"I'm not tired."  

Now you would think going to bed late after a 10 hour day of walking would mean the children would need to get their rest, but as I stated earlier, they don't know what sleeping in means.  So up at 6:30 the next day, they were ready to go.  After 3 pounds of bacon for breakfast, we loaded up the car and headed home.  

The trip home went pretty quick.  Except for one instance traveling in Maryland, down the side of mountain at 80 mph, in the rain, Nate decides he wants me to throw out his full cup of water out my driver’s side window.  And while trying not to crash or go off the side of the mountain, I spill half of the water on my lap while trying to dump the cup outside.  It was refreshing!  

We returned home safe with many memories of penis rocks, over-chlorinated hotel pools and the sweet taste of D.C. literally still in our mouths.  

Drew recommends the blue line metro with extra sprinkles,
The Joyful and Tired Dad