Hold On Daddy's Coming!

Stories, rants and reflections by a clueless father of three

Hiking Mount Lamlam: A Survivor’s Story

Like many of you stateside, it’s been getting colder here in Guam.  Temps have dipped from the low-90s to a frigid 83 with a slight breeze.  So we certainly feel your pain.  

Anyway.  Yesterday, despite the elements, our family decided to do this hiking thing once again.  And this time we brought friends.  Having done this twice already, I knew that hiking with kids is a recipe for endless whining, exaggeration, and drama.  

Foreshadow alert: this particular hike was no exception.  

We decided to hike Mount Lamlam. It’s supposed to be a family-friendly hike with beautiful views.  We didn’t know this at the time, but it’s the highest mountain peak in Guam.  We came prepared: sunscreen, matching Nike hats, and copious amount of sour cream and onion chips.  Everything you would ever need.  

Like all other hikes in Guam, Mount Lamlam is marked by pretty much nothing.  If you look hard enough, you’ll find a sign that looks like it was made with a piece of  construction paper and written by a 3rd grader.  It says “Mt. Lamlam ->.”  It’s best to not think about the tax dollars that likely went into the making of this sign…  

Our destination was the summit of this really big hill.  And we were ready.  

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We got this.

So off we went.  Nobody needed to go potty,  nobody was thirsty, and nobody was injured.  It was all good…  

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Sun’s out, guns out!

And then it started.  Think: “I want to be the leader!” Think: “Nathaniel always get to be the leader!” Think “DAD BRODY JUST PUSHED ME!!!” 

So within minutes of hiking my heart rate is climbing, and it has nothing to do with this mountain.  

Onward and upward we go.  There are a bunch of random crosses lined throughout this hike, which prompts Riley to ask: “is this where Jesus died?”  Not quite.  “Then who died here?”  I don’t know sweetheart.  “Whoever it was must have been really special.”  Indeed.  

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Historical Note: Jesus Christ was not, in fact, crucified in Guam…

About 5 minutes later, the kids begin a chorus of “how much farther is it?”  Oh, and we have our first casualty.  Ms. Sabrina suffers a leg injury and cannot carry on.  We weigh the options and ultimately did what Dwight Schrute  would have told us to do: leave her behind.  Before doing so, we offered her an orange.  Pathetically, she replies: “Just roll it down the hill to me.”  

 

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Goner

We keep going.  All our kids want Gatorade but alas we only have water.  The kids also want lunch because, you know, they’re starving.  They each had lunch before we left, and we gently remind them of this.  Aaaaaand we are tyrants.  

Making matters worse, we only have two bottles of water and they are both pretty much filled with ice.  Lacking this vital life-source, I take solace in the notion that our matching Nike hats still looked great.

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We carry on and discover lots of boonie-bees.  One child reminds the others that “bees will sting you and they are poisonous and you can die.” This is a scientific fact he learned on the internet.  Naturally, panic ensues.   For the first time, the kids are happy to let me be the leader.  

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We reach something that resembles the top of the hill.  The kids are all exhausted and assure me they “can’t walk.”  We are also out of water.  Surely it’s time to turn around.  We stop so the kids can eat some chips, thus avoiding sure-death.  

It turns out that we were like 100 feet away from the ACTUAL top of the hill.  This is cause for celebration.  

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If you didn’t believe me about running out of water, you’ll notice Riley is clearly sucking on ice.   But no time for that, as a bigger storm is brewing…

See, Jimmy gets to hold the can of Pringles, which is no fair because he “always gets to hold the can.”  See, any five year old knows that holding the can of Pringles that you’re supposed to be sharing is the definition of having power.  Indeed, Jimmy has all the power.  

Anyway, fits are thrown.  

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Eventually, we make Jimmy put down the Pringles and Brody reluctantly joins the family for yet another epic picture.  

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Hint: Brody is NOT pleased

So we made it to the top of Mount Lam Lam.  Total distance on this torturous death-march is exactly 1.1 miles.  Like, just over four laps around a track.  

Time to head back.  The kids want to ensure we haven’t forgotten that they are so, so tired.  And then Brody slips down a rock.  I have mercy and carry him on my shoulders.  

Riley doesn’t like the fact that she’s walking while Brody is having the time of his life, and begins begging for me to carry her instead.  So eventually she gets her way.  And when I find Brody is struggling to get down again, I hoist him up on my shoulders.  Again.  And again, Riley is on the prowl.  “How come Brody gets two turns on your shoulder and I only get one turn.”  

This, in a nutshell, is hiking with needy kids.  

We find a steep death-drop and decide to take a look.  Andrew (11) notes that the view is “beautiful” but insists that we keep heading down because the cliff is “giving him anxiety.”  Of course…

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Heading down we wonder how our fallen hiker is doing.  Her daughter Vivian (5) asks me if I am going to give her mommy a “jelly-hug” when I see her.  Naturally, I’m curious.  Vivian informs me that a “jelly-hug” is when you “rub jelly on your belly and someone else rubs jelly on their belly and then you give each other a big hug.”  

Hmm.  Based on this information, I inform Vivian that I will not be giving her mommy a “jelly-hug.”  Ever.  

A whopping 2.2 miles after we set foot on this adventure, we reach the car.  #survivors

Within minutes, we were here: 

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My overall take is that the climb was actually kinda challenging, and the views ere amazing.  I didn’t get much love from my Apple Watch for this workout, but that thing never gives me the credit I feel I deserve.  And most importantly, kids say the funniest things on hikes, which is likely what will keep us coming back.  

In the meantime, we will do our best to survive the winter chill…  

Jelly-hug, anyone?  

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Our Drama-Filled Adventure to Tarzan Falls

I confess I’m not the world’s most outdoorsy person. Kayaking? That’s a sunburn waiting to happen. Camping? My bed works better. 

Left to my own devices I’d spend a perfectly good Saturday on the couch setting my fantasy football team, watching HGTV and eating copious amounts of Cinnamon Life. Now that’s living.   

But alas!  My wife is a planner.  She is outdoorsy.  And she is a big fan of mandatory fun.  

She’ll want to spend her entire Saturday doing something intrinsically senseless like picking apples or cutting down a Christmas Tree.  Apparently these activities are far more exciting than the football matchup I wanted to watch between the Central Michigan Chippewas and the Oklahoma State Cowboys.  I digress…

Naturally when my wife proposed we go hiking this weekend I had reservations. See, like doing Hot Yoga and eating hard-to-pronounce pastas, Ive always kinda assumed hiking was an activity exclusively for liberals.  Plus, see paragraphs above. 

Well, on tap this weekend was a trip to a place called Tarzan Falls.  Like, for a hike.  

As always, I tried to bargain. What if instead of going to Tarzan Falls we watch the movie Tarzan instead???  In the end we compromised… and went to Tarzan Falls. 

As with all directions on this island, the directions to Tarzan Falls lacked street signs, an address, and visible markers. We were literally told to take a left out of our neighborhood, then “go till it gets kinda forest-y,” and then look for the shoes hanging from the telephone wire.  Then, of course, you’re there.

In preparation I drank three cups of coffee.  Which is where this whole adventure begins…

Three minutes into the ride over and we need to stop. Like right now! 

And so there I was, on the side of the road.  Going to the bathroom in a sea of painful prickly bushes and bracing for a tree snake attack while the rest of my family laughed from the car.  Guess you could say it was your standard car ride…

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We arrive at Tarzan Falls around 11am and I waste no time taking an insane amount of pictures so my Facebook friends will think we do this kinda stuff every day.  Smiles kids! 

Jackie is sporting the brand new workout shoes she (ahem, we…) just bought in order to replace the older ones that had mud and dirt all over them.  That will become important in a moment…

Okay moments up.  Jackie’s new shoes were drowning in mud and dirt no more than 100 yards into this adventure.   AND THIS IS WHY WE CANT HAVE NICE THINGS. 

In fairness, I suppose we all underestimated how insanely muddy this trek would be.  So much mud.  And sitting water.  And more mud. 

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Coming Soon: There Will Be Mud 

The kids waste no time reminding Jackie and me that we’re legit tyrants.  “It’s so hot,” I’m so hungry,” and “I can’t walk anymore.”  Not even ten minutes in and all the kids are apparently going to die.  

The good news is there are some pretty cool things to point out along the way. 

Like…

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Stunning views of Guam

And even more importantly…

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A “Prince” Frog!!!

It was all fun and games until our 5 year old daughter slipped and fell into the mud.  I don’t have a picture of this particular moment, but what follows should give you a good idea of how this went down: 

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MUD!!!!

Others would soon follow suit.  Slip, fall, mud, tears.  Repeat.  

Eventually we make our way down the steep hills. The blood sweat and tears were all worth it when we got to this: 

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And did this: 

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And this: 

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One more: 

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After lunch it was time to head back.  

The hike back up was tough, no doubt.  The kids noted that the trek was “soooo far,” and that they were “soooo tired” and inquired into exactly when we would “finally get to mommy’s car.”  My personal favorite?  “I’m not hydrated enough to take another single step!” 

Try not to die, kids…

Then we hit a swamp.  The kids walked around it in painfully slow fashion until my quick-thinking wife convinced them there was an alligator in there.  Speed-walking commenced.

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We finish around 1:30.  Two and a half hours of Guam-inspired mandatory fun.  

Honestly? It was a blast! And perhaps somewhere deep down I really am an outdoors-y person. 

But for today, I’ll be watching the Indiana-Ball State Football Game and eating cereal on the couch while my wife does laundry. 

Say, she sure is lucky to have me. 

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A Step by Step Guide on How to Move Your Family to Guam Without Any Drama Whatsoever

We’re baaaaacck! And in case you’ve been out of the loop since my last post (over two years ago), here’s a recap: I spent 8 months living by myself in Norfolk, VA prepping for a deployment, then I deployed for 7 months, then I came back. And then, we PCS’d (military slang for moved) to Guam.  So basically, we’ve followed the standard progression of any normal family of five from Northern Virginia…   

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Perfectly normal family here.

Bottom line: our kids are older, my hair is thinner, and my wife is *loving* the Navy more than ever. Which happens to be where this whole blog picks back up…

So. If you’ve ever wondered how a legit professional takes his family and moves them to Guam without ANY drama/tears/tantrums/ iterations of ”oh-my-gosh-why-are-you-doing-this-to-me”, then listen up. Because I’m about to educate you.

STEP ONE: BE DEPLOYED WHEN YOU GET YOUR ORDERS TO MOVE FROM THE EAST COAST TO GUAM.

This is huge. You see, when faced with orders to move to a small island kinda near Japan (but really not near anything), your spouse may want to talk to you about all these questions she has, like “where are we going to live?” and “when is all of this going to happen?” and most importantly, “where the heck is Guam?” Fortunately for you, you will be on the other side of the world, incapable of answering any questions whatsoever. It makes the news that much easier to digest.

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Me being too busy to discuss moving to Guam…

STEP TWO: GIVE YOUR WIFE A LAUNDRY LIST OF THINGS THAT MUST HAPPEN IMMEDIATELY BUT THAT CANNOT BE ACCOMPLISHED WITHOUT WRITTEN ORDERS, WHICH ARE COMING.  WE THINK. 

Medical screening needs to be completed. Are we sure Brody had his tetanus shot? Movers need to be arranged. Car needs to be shipped. We need to get on the base housing list. We need to enroll the kids in school. We need to do it now!

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Stop wasting time, this medical screening is due ASAP!!!

Problem is, nothing happens until written orders are in hand. And getting written orders from the military can be as enjoyable as a 16 week seminar in “Commercial Paper.”   Or (foreshadow alert!) a 36-hour flight to Guam. Super fun.

STEP THREE: COME HOME FROM DEPLOYMENT AND COMMENT ON ALL THE THINGS YOUR “WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY” TO PREPARE FOR THE BIG MOVE.

My wife just *loves* comments like these:

“You scheduled the pack out for a Tuesday, huh? I would have gone with later in the week.”

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Should have done this Friday…

“I see we let the kids color and paint all over the floor and walls in the dining room while I was gone.” Or…

“Did you forget about the lawnmower I left in the garage while I was deployed?”

Stuff like that goes over real well in our house.  

STEP FOUR: RENT OUT THE HOUSE OF YOUR WIFE’S DREAMS TO A FAMILY OF COMPLETE STRANGERS.

You love this neighborhood, huh?  Well this is no time to get all sentimental on me. Paint the walls. Clean the carpets. Replace the carpets. Fix the grout. Stain the deck. AND FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE DON’T LET THE KIDS WALK ALL OVER THE DECK I JUST STAINED!!!

Fun like that…

STEP FIVE: MOVE IN WITH YOUR MOTHER IN LAW FOR A FEW WEEKS WHILE YOU ARE HOMELESS AND EVERYTHING YOUR FAMILY OWNS IS ON ITS WAY TO GUAM.

Yep. I’m just gonna leave this one right here without further comment. Moving on…

STEP SIX: HAVE THE NAVY BOOK YOU SUPER CONVENIENT FLIGHT TO GUAM.

Sometimes Always the Navy likes to spend as little as humanely possible, without any consideration for your well-being or the well-being of your family. So a direct flight might make a whole lot more sense and cut out five hours of flight time, but if it’s costs an extra $10 in the system, you’re not getting that direct flight.

Nope, instead you wind up with a downright hellacious itinerary that starts in D.C. and goes to Detroit and then to Tokyo and then some random Japanese Island I’ve never heard of before called “Kansai”…and then to Guam. Leave Tuesday morning, arrive Wednesday at midnight. More on this in a bit…

STEP SEVEN: WATCH TIME SLIP AWAY AS YOUR BEST LAID PLANS TO “SEE EVERYONE BEFORE THE BIG MOVE” FALL APART DISASTROUSLY. 

If you end up with text messages like this, then you’re doing it right:

Friend:  Can you get together tonight? 

Me: Actually, I’m boarding a flight and won’t be available for three years.

STEP EIGHT: FLY TO GUAM.

It’s easy! I mean, it’s not like a 14 hour time difference will impact your children in any way.

But here is the REALLY important part: overlook where everyone is sitting until minutes before boarding. Then realize your seat is nowhere near your family’s. Then make your useless attempt at convincing the very nice Japanese couple that can’t speak a word of English to trade seats with you.

Then, sit alone in silence and pretend not to hear the screams from the back of the plane. 

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Me looking fabulous.  And not hearing the drama in the back…

STEP NINE: LIVE IN A HOTEL ROOM WITH YOUR WIFE, KIDS AND 15 BAGS OF LUGGAGE FOR 10 DAYS.

To soften the blow of a move to Guam the Navy sends you and your family to a hotel. It’s downright cruelty. From here, you will discover there is an “unanticipated shortage” of base housing and that we might be living there for a while. Welcome to paradise.

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Loving this hotel…

STEP TEN: GET YOUR CAR BACK.  

Here’s the process: (1) go to office that has your car and fill out forms, (2) go to the DMV to fill out forms, (3) go back to the office that has your car to…you guessed it…fill out forms. But wait! Brand new policy involving…you guessed it again…more forms. (4) Take the forms to customs, and then (5) bring them back for processing. And if you think your work is done? Start back at one.

Even Brian McNight couldn’t make this romantic…

STEP ELEVEN: GO PRETTY MUCH BANKRUPT.

A box of strawberries? $9. On sale. Dinner for five? $75. Kid’s meals aren’t what they used to be. Breakfast muffins? $5 each. The blows keep coming: Phone plans, sun screen, internet, moving costs, therapy. It all adds up SUPER fast, and your ability to make ends meet is ENTIRELY dependent upon the skill and capability of some Personnel Specialist Seaman Apprentice with about five months of experience in the Navy. So good luck with all that.

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DONT DROP THAT $9 BOX OF STRAWBERRIES!!!!

STEP TWELVE: BE AT WORK WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN.  

See:  “The kids didn’t pass the swim test? So sorry. Gotta run!”

See also: “The air conditioner isn’t working at our rental? Bummer. Let’s talk about this later!”

Hate it when that happens…

STEP THIRTEEN: BE READY TO BRIBE YOUR KIDS WHEN THEY START ASKING ALL THE TOUGH QUESTIONS.  

Daughter: Daddy why did we have to move to Guam?

Me: Chocolate, or vanilla?

Oh, and for the older crowd…

Spouse:  Didn’t you say we would be making MORE money out here than back at home? 

Me:  White wine, or red?  

And if that fails…

STEP FOURTEEN: MISLEAD (OR, LIE) TO YOUR MILITARY SPOUSE AND TELL HER EVERYTHING WILL FALL INTO PLACE VERY SOON.

My personal go-tos are “I’m sure a house will open up any day now” and “we’re gonna do some amazing traveling real soon.” If you’re really desperate, you may try offering to acquire a new wardrobe. Or diamonds.  Or plastic surgery. Or something crazy like that. Regardless, you gotta go big here, because the usual flowers or night out on the town just aren’t gonna cut it. And besides, after all this, a night on the town with you is gonna be the last thing she needs.

 

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We’re going to Australia soon?  

STEP FIFTEEN: ENJOY EVERY SECOND.  AFTER ALL, YOU ONLY GET 36 MONTHS OUT HERE…

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DISCLAIMER: In all actuality, we are having a great time, and making lots of new friends. Most of the time. And I’m told by the local Navy divorce attorney that my wife hasn’t made an appointment yet. So that’s always a good sign.

A Journey Through Shawn Kuykendall’s Awesomely Random Facebook Page: Part 4

This is the fourth and final installment of a series on Shawn Kuykendall’s epic Facebook page.  In case you missed it, Parts One, Two, and Three gave us a glimpse into the life of a man who could make us laugh with the best of them.  But what follows is Shawn at his very best.  Brace for the story that redefines what it means to be strong. 

2013 (July – December)

July:

Encouraging messages start pouring in for no apparent reason, while throwbacks of Shawn with his friends suddenly flood his Newsfeed.  Clearly something’s wrong.  Then, the dagger:  a friend requests prayer as Shawn begins “his first round of chemotherapy.” 

Wait, what?  For Shawn? 

On July 16th, Shawn would announce that he had a rare form of cancer in his chest, and that it was spreading.  Stage Four.  The body of a professional athlete was now failing him.  Shawn was dying. 

My biggest ray of hope is that God has a purpose for me…” he explained. “I love you all and hope to connect soon.  Shawn Kuykendall.  #Kuykenstrong.”

Days later, after a second round of chemotheraphy, Shawn shaved his rapidly-thinning hair.  For those who couldn’t believe it, this was tangible, undeniable proof that Shawn was in the fight of his life.  Nothing would ever be the same. 

Shawn Shaved Head

Meanwhile, this “Kuykenstrong” thing caught fire and spread fast.  Almost immediately, a Kuykenstrong blog and Facebook page began tracking Shawn’s treatment, while “#Kuykenstrong” shirts and bracelets started selling like hotcakes. Had someone embroidered “Kuykenstrong” on a leather couch it would have gone for thousands.  Indeed, with one quick hashtag, Shawn created a moniker of hope for everybody who knew him… and countless others who didn’t.   

In time, hundreds of people would post pictures of themselves wearing their Kuykenstrong swag.  After all, this was one fashion statement upon which Shawn and the rest of the world could agree.  Friends, former teammates, and current professional soccer players all posed in their new gear.  Heck even this thoughtful DC United intern offered his support…

Landon Donovan

Just kidding. I know he’s a famous snowboarder.

Of course, Shawn didn’t ask for the fanfare – all he requested was prayer.  And on August 16th, he got lots of it.  From Georgetown University Hospital, Shawn announces he is preparing for round three of chemotherapy.  

Afterward, his doctors reported the mass in his chest had shrunk, and that his body was responding well to treatment.  Obviously great news, but tempered by the reality that the disease was still taking its toll.  Shawn then thanked his family for making life feel “normal” despite the “abnormal” circumstances – all of which represented their new normal. 

Shawn Chemo Daggers

September 5:  Shawn posts a video of “red stuff” going into his body and smiles like a lunatic as he gives a big thumbs-up.  That red substance, of course, is chemo-related poison.  No big deal.  Days later, Shawn would be honored at RFK Stadium by the DC United Soccer Team.  For someone as humble as Shawn, it’s easy to forget he once played soccer for this storied franchise.  You know, no big deal…

September 26:  Shawn confesses he’s “drained” and requests prayer to get through his fifth round of chemotherapy.  “It’s not easy to fight and I can certainly put on a brave front,” declares Shawn.  “Today I want to say how difficult it is and I need God more than ever.”  Scared, weak, but never quite so strong, Shawn would soon announce that the mass in his chest had shrunk yet again, rendering the torturous rounds of chemotherapy worthwhile.  God bless him, he was fighting back. 

October:

Cancer will force a man to make some difficult decisions, but on October 7th, Shawn faced an easy one.  Indeed, Shawn reports that 90s hit Wannabe by the Spice Girls is playing on his iPod, forcing him to decide whether to “hit next” or “let it ride.”  Of course, Shawn being Shawn, we know exactly how this ends: “Just kidding.  I let it plaayyyyyyy.”  And rightfully so. 

October 17: Shawn notes that his rare disease makes him the first person ever at Georgetown Hospital to receive the formula that encompasses his chemotherapy.  He also observes that he is usually the “first one in and last one out” of the infusion center, and that bald is “still not his best look.”  His conclusion?  

Whatever you face today…be bold.  Be brave.”   

Selfie Shawn

November: 

Shawn declares “God is good,” which is how most of his posts now begin.  He then reveals the disheartening news: his cancer is spreading.  Aggressively.  So much so that he was in the emergency room to control the pain.  Despite this gut-wrenching post, Shawn insists: “Don’t give up, and smile today.”  Well, I didn’t smile that day. 

Shawn did make me smile on November 20 when, paying homage to some of the best music ever made, he notes: “when someone yells ‘STOP’ I am not sure if it’s in the name of love, it’s Hammer-time, or if I should collaborate and listen.”  Well well well.  Looks like Shawnsington’s back with a brand new edition! 

Days later, the Washington Post publishes a front page article on Shawn, which ignites a wildfire of shares, posts and praises.  “I Need God More Than Ever” was the title, and those who regularly read the Post know that faith-centric articles are a departure from the norm.  But then again, there was nothing normal about Shawn, and now there was no denying that he was legitimately famous.  Indeed, followers from around the world wanted to know more about what it meant to be Kuykenstrong.    

2014:

January: 

Shawn spends nearly the entire month at the Georgetown University Hospital in high spirits and in excruciating pain. The disease would keep Shawn from his sister Sami’s wedding – perhaps cancer’s biggest blow yet.   

Kuyenstrong Wedding

Photo: Nichole Haun Photography

Shawn didn’t post much of anything this month, and the silence was deafening.  Then, on January 27th, Shawn announces: “This bachelor is sexy for sure.  But he is boring me fast.”  Now chalk this up to things I never thought I’d say: Shawn’s insider commentary on ABC’s the Bachelor was a legit breath of fresh air.  For those praying for Shawn, this post was sexy for sure

February:

Shawn shares a post from his “most smart friend” Sergio Del Valle, who drops wisdom on an on-going debate about the existence of God.  Knowing thousands of people were tuning in, Shawn figured they should understand why he believed God was real.  Fittingly, this was the last thing Shawn would ever post on Facebook.    

February 21: Shawn turns 32 and spends the day fighting for his life in the hospital.  Says Shawn’s mom Sherry, one of nearly 500 people who would post on his wall that day, “Happy birthday to the strongest man I know.”   The Kuykendalls, who had been by Shawn’s side for countless selfies, surgeries and soccer games through the years, were determined to be at his side through the finish.

Kuykendalls 2013

And then, on March 12th, it was finished.  Shawn’s fight was over.  He was now at someone else’s side…

Shawn could have cursed his disease, but chose instead to raise awareness for the cure we have in Jesus Christ – the man who walked this earth without sin, and then died on a cross so that we could have a relationship with God.   Jesus isn’t something Shawn believed; He’s someone Shawn knew. And boy do they have a lot to talk about…

Indeed, both had thousands of followers, both faced death sentences in their early thirties, both endured seemingly endless suffering, and both brought life to a dying world.  One went bald, the other wore a crown of thorns – the parallels are impossible to ignore.  Of course, Shawn wasn’t without sin and that’s precisely why he needed Jesus each and every day.  I’ll let him explain this better than I ever could:

By God’s endless mercy, Shawn is now free.  His Hot Body Campaign is complete, and the results, I’m sure, are SILLAAAYYY.  Which brings me back to why we started this journey in the first place…

Shawn’s Facebook page is epic because it highlights so beautifully the life of a friend who left nothing on the field of life.  It tells the story of a man who provided so much light in an oft dark and dreary world.  That’s why I leave you with this: 

Yep, what you watched was a music video featuring Shawn, his sister Sami, and actor Robby Stone dancing, fist-pumping and deer hunting their way through Justin Bieber’s “Eenie Meenie,” with sweet cameos by Audrey Hepburn and Jason Kuykendall.   It’s an eenie meenie glimpse into a man of incredible character who had the heart of a child.  It’s classic Shawn. 

Shawn got cancer, but there’s victory in knowing cancer never really got Shawn.  He was a fighter all the way, and through his story, scripture has become real to people around the world.  It’s a narrative of triumph over tragedy – a legendary account of how Shawn was made weak, and in his weakness, he was made strong. 

Kuykenstrong. 

Shawn 2013

A Journey Through Shawn Kuykendall’s Awesomely Random Facebook Page: Part 3

This is Part Three of a four-part series on Shawn Kuykendall’s epic Facebook page.  In case you missed it, Part One featured #throwbacks and YouTube throw downs, and Part Two brought us numerous surgeries and selfies.  We now pick up where we left off, with yet another treasure chest of Shawn-given amazingness.  Let’s go!   

2012:

What’s notable about 2012 is that Shawn kept the fire that is his Facebook page burning brighter than ever.  Here are a few snapshots of brilliance:   

I just had a Baconato combo. I am about to throw up,” and

Sometimes I get nervous when I see an open door,” and

Recent poll (conducted by me) found that girls don’t like guys with a dumpy butt. #screwed.” 

Ahh, yes.  He’s still got it!     

2012 is the year Shawn proves he may be a thirteen-year-old girl trapped inside the body of a grown man.  As evidence, I note that he takes his use of the word “jeally” – a tween-friendly substitute for “jealous” – to extreme levels.  Further, he makes no mistake about his fondness for pumpkin spice lattes, The Bachelor, and Hansen’s hit song MMMBop.  Throw in status updates like “Omg Biebs and Selena broke up!!! #devastated” and it’s a no brainer. 

And then there’s “SIKE!” See, “Sike!” is a great way to note that the previous statement was totally false, and made with intent to deceive.  Ex: “Ankle socks look great with sandals!  SIKE!”  Shawn used this expression back when he traded Pogs and knew all the lines to Free Willy; but then, like the rest of his generation, he stopped using it shortly after the sixth grade…

SIKE!  Shawn will turn 30 this year, and he’s still going strong.

#Kuykenstrong

See? He works out…

Our last new word is “cised,” which appears to be some kind of synonym for “excited.”  Ex: “100% chance I wake up at 3am to preorder the iPhone 4s. I’m cised!”  As with most Shawn-isms, “cised” can stand alone as an entire sentence and be spelled with seemingly unnecessary letters, like this: “Banana Republic is introducing a new line of European-cut suits!  Ciiiiiised!” 

So to recap: “jeally” means jealous (if you’re still in middle school), “Sike!” means just kidding (if you’re still living in the 90s), “cised” means excited (at least I think), and “ciiiiiiised” means super-duper excited (with a cherry on top).  Got it?

Now let’s get “cised” about the highlights from this rather fantastic year: 

February: Shawn turns 30.  To mark the occasion, hundreds of people post on Shawn’s wall, and each of them has a different nickname.  Here’s a few: Shawny, Donald, Uncle Donnie, Prawny, Brodo Baggins, Sine, Dino, America, and Americaaaaaa.  And the notion that people actually call him “America” makes me so ridiculously jeally.    

March: Shawn takes everything I know to be true about fashion and throws it out the window.  Indeed, first he announces that cargo shorts “couldn’t be more” out of style.  Then he claims he’s “over” plaid in all forms (including Target brand pajama pants), leaving me with practically nothing left to wear.  What’s next?  Is he gonna tell me I shouldn’t be wearing workout sneakers to social functions?!?! 

April 21: Shawn posts a picture and asks everyone to “name what’s wrong with it.”  Guesses include (a) that it’s a close-up of “some dude’s crotch,” (b) the fact that the man “doesn’t have arms,” and (c) the notion that “he’s physically disabled and you just don’t like that about him.”

Sneakers

All of these answers had promise, but as it turns out Shawn took issue with this man going to a social function in… you guessed it… his workout sneakers.  I should have seen this coming. 

May: Shawn asks Facebook if anyone “wants to cuddle?”  He gets one response from a female, but unfortunately it’s just a recommendation to “get a dog.”  Just as it started to look like all hope was lost, friend Jason McGraw saves the day with this rather adorable response: 

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May also marks the month Shawn drops this bomb of amazingness:

Yep.  What you just watched was a video of Shawn wearing questionably snug white pants to compliment some well-choreographed dance moves (with sister Sami), all to the tune of some song called “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing,” and all in front of the sheets that Shawn slept on when he turned seven years old.  By the way, did anyone else catch Shawn’s amazing intro slide about five seconds in?  Yea, the only reason I don’t feel like dancing is because I feel like slow-clapping instead.   It’s glorious! 

June: After years of keeping it in the dark, Shawn finally admits: “I think I like blue.” Wow.  Good of Shawn to finally get that off his chest… 

August:  Shawn posts one of his patented while-driving selfies.  To think: this is one of those valuable skills that driving schools simply aren’t teaching their students. It’s an outrage! 

Shawn Selfie 2012 Driving

The Inventor of Driver’s Seat Photography

September: Shawn’s friend Melanie posts a close up of Shawn’s torso, and if you look closely it appears to contain feint traces of definition.  Now, I’m not sure if this is the result of (a) a successful Hot Body Campaign, or (b) Shawn wearing smaller shirts.  Option (c) of course is man boobs.  But I seriously doubt that’s the case…

Hot Body Campaign 2 2012

October: American University’s finest soccer coach reminds us why he isn’t cut out for a desk job…

Election Day: Shawn contrasts political candidates with a man named Jesus Christ, and lets just say things don’t go so well for the politicians.  Say, this is legit wisdom!  Kuykendall for Congress! 

December: Shawn’s friend Kimberly takes him to the White House Christmas Party, where he apparently meets President Obama and then just kind of strolls around the Executive Mansion for a few hours with seemingly unfettered access.  Here he is stealing fruit belonging to the most powerful man in the world…

Who let this guy in?

Who let this guy in?

Days later, Shawn finishes the year off right by demonstrating how just one misplaced letter can account for the difference between having a sick mind, and being legitimately homesick:      

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2013 (January through June):

2013 marks the year Shawn assigned a fun little name to each day of the week.  From what I gather, they are as follows: Cabernet Sauvignon Sunday, Tickle Me Tuesday, Way Back Wednesday, Throwback Thursday, Man Up Friday, and Selfie Saturday.  And apparently Monday no longer exists. 

February: Shawn earns something called an “A” Coaching License.  This is a really big deal to Shawn’s mom, who’s going nuts about it.  But that’s not saying much because as his former homeschool teacher it’s likely she goes nuts every time Shawn earns an “A.” Heyoooo!  

March:  Shawn posts the following picture of a cute little puppy taking a “legit” selfie while lying down for an afternoon nap:    

Concedes Shawn: "I have to respect it."

Concedes Shawn: “I have to respect it.”

March 28: Shawn is publicly admonished for that night’s dreadful goaltending performance.  The ensuing conversation sends Shawn spiraling through the four stages of grief: 

1.  Denial: “Sometimes you save it.  Sometimes you don’t.  What can I say!

2.  Anger: “I didn’t have gloves!  Blame Billy Knudsen!

3.  Depression:  “KuykenBotch in goal today.  Disaster.” 

4.  Acceptance:  “All I can say is sorry…

April: This happened…

Selfie in Bath 2013

Yep, leave it to Shawn to post a scandalous mid-bath selfie while eating an ice cream cone.  Even better are the comments, which range from “porno!” to “weeeeiiiird” to “I just threw up” to “I approve of this.”  And for the record I too approve of this…

June 17: Speaking of weeeiiiird, Shawn posts a picture with his parents and notes that they “made” him – both “figuratively” and “literally.” And I don’t know about you, but Shawn’s unsolicited crash course on human reproduction really makes my day – figuratively, and literally.  

Made Shawn 2013

Well folks, that’s the end of this leg of our journey through Shawn’s amazing Facebook page.  As a parting gift, I leave you with this picture of Shawn getting SILLAAAYY on the dance floor while other men judge him in the background.  So nice of the DJ to finally play MMMBop just for Shawn…

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A Journey Through Shawn Kuykendall’s Awesomely Random Facebook Page: Part 2

This is Part Two of a four-part series on Shawn Kuykendall’s epically peculiar Facebook page.  In case you missed it, Part One featured a classic Christmas video, a larger-than-life pimple, and a late night run-in with Norman the Zebra.  With that in mind, it’s hard to believe things could get any more spectacular.  Oh but they do…

2010:

On March 27, after a two year Facebook hiatus, Shawn announces that he is “BAAAACK” and “better than ever.” And indeed he is.  But what truly makes 2010 such a special year is that Shawn linked his Twitter and Facebook accounts, opening up a floodgate of profound must-reads.  Like these:

Soooo I burned my mouth on hot cookies haha” or

“Golf at Oak Marr.  By myself haha again” or

“Aaaaand someone farted during prayer at the morning devotional.”

Note: can’t you just feel yourself becoming more intelligent?  

2010 is also when Shawn regularly begins using several variations of the word “donk,” which I confess is a new one on me.  The context in which Shawn uses this word leads me to believe it’s an abridged version of “donkey,” used to mock someone as both a noun (“haha you’re such a donk ”) as well as an adjective (“those cargo shorts are “ri-DONK-ulous”).  Which could explain this:  

"DOOOOOOONK!  It was so cold.  I had to!

“DOOOOONK! It was so cold. I had to!”

Botch” becomes another regularly employed Shawn-ism, especially when spelled with about seven extra “O’s” and used in the following context: Mess up of night by me…  I said, “down to your nutties” and “down to your uhohs!” BOOOOOOOOOTCH haha”  

Oh, and speaking of things botched, here are a few statements I’m sure Shawn would like to take back:

– August 14: “Redskins…Super Bowl.  There I said it.” (Finished dead last in the NFC East…). 

– September 14: “I could not be happier about having Donovan McNabb as our quarterback.”  (Replaced by backup Rex Grossman four months later…). 

– November 30: “The Miami Heat will NEVER win a championship.” (NBA Champions 2012, 2013).  

And since we’re talking sports, lets discuss the 2010 World Cup, during which Shawn’s 24/7, non-stop commentary created a flood of soccer analysis that nearly drowned my Newsfeed.  Think: “Wow Netherlands, WOOOOOOOOOWWW,” then “Come on Netherland,” then “Holland is not sharp right now,” then “Dumb foul by van bommel,” then “Violent tackle from de jong”…  all in the course of, like, fifteen minutes. 

Other highlights from this great year:

May:  Shawn portrays a main character in “For The Glory” – a movie about how Kurt Kuykendall found Jesus and became really good at – shocker here – the sport of soccer.   Shawn insists his dad is a living legend, but does so by merely referring him as a “ledge.”  To recap: Kurt Kuykendall = “ledge” = living legend.  Got it?  

May also marks the launch of Shawn’s “Hot Body Campaign,” inspired by the realization that he is both “fat” and “soft.” And while normal humans would characterize this as “getting in shape,” Shawn insists it’s all about “getting his body RIIIIIIIIIIIGHT.”  Right.

June:  Shawn gets stranded on the side of the road with a “double flat tire” and praises God for it “in all seriousness.”  Funny how Shawn sees God’s wisdom in something as crappy and bizarre as a car breakdown.  In the future, Shawn will face circumstances that are infinitely more crappy and bizarre, and his response will be no different.  In all seriousness.      

July:  Shawn publicly eats Captain Crunch cereal and collects silly bands because, you see, he’s actually seven years old.  

"Seriously, if you wear silly bands you are nuuuuubs”

“Seriously, if you wear silly bands you are nuuuuubs”

August: Shawn has the most highly documented ACL surgery in the history of mankind.  And I’m not joking:

That's the knee...

That’s the knee…                                           

Same knee...

And here it is again.

And here it is again...

Same knee…

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 2: Shawn announces that he is “In a relationship” with a girl that he clearly met that night. Here’s her classic take: “hahaa you’re a creep. I never accepted you as being in a relationship…and I just met youYou’re ridiculous.” 

Shawn’s response? “Were in a fight…our first fight.”   

It’s for the best that things didn’t work out, because if Shawn had a lady friend by his side then the following “Selfie of the Year” may very well never have been taken.  Props for an amazing caption: 

“The Owls of Ga’Hoole 3D IMAX! By myself!  Siiiick!”

“Owls of Ga’Hoole 3D IMAX! By myself! Siiiick!” 

Fashion Statement of the Year: “men can wear cardigans.”  Hooray!  Wait.  What about everything else Mr. Rodgers wore?  Any restrictions?  HELP!!!!

And then there’s this:   

Yep, what you just watched was Shawn (and sister Sami) dancing, leaping, and crypt walking around a miniature Christmas tree, with cameo appearances from a fake swordfish and just about every power tool in the Kuykendall shed – all to the tune of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”  It’s literally all I want for Christmas. 

2011:

This year ushers in a tidal wave of profound status updates.  Brace for the brilliance:

– “My butt just went numb from sitting on the floor next to the wall charger so my iSilly could charge…” and

– “At an orientation for new staff… This guy across me has a money coffee stain on his collar…. Yiiiiikes” and

– “Ryan Reynolds is a boat of dreams;” and

– “Thursday? yup… looks like a great night for a bath.”

2011 also marks the year Shawn becomes the king of “liking” his own comments, links, pictures and statuses.  There were times when Shawn was the only one.  He was never deterred…

Highlights from the year that was:

January:  Shawn gets stuck in an epic traffic jam (oft referred to in the DC area as the “Traffic-pocalypse”) and posts a video of himself singing “Hakuna Matata.”  What a wonderful phrase!  

May:  Shawn’s team makes it to the finals of the American University staff volleyball tournament.  Says Shawn: “we live for opportunities like this.”  And indeed we do. 

Shawn also launches a soccer training camp called the Kuykendall Academy.  My guess is that this is just an excuse to play soccer 100% of the time he is not otherwise sleeping, eating Popeye’s, or attending weddings.   

July: Shawn finally figures out why he’s “fat.” His explanation was lengthy, but the culprit was, of all things, his “extra volume” shampoo.  Oh Shawn…

July was also the height of his recreational soccer league.  Having played against his Kuykendall-heavy team on numerous occasions, our strategy was always to “keep the ball away from Shawn.”  And if that failed he was to be tripped.  And if that failed we were to make fun of his mom.  It was cutthroat…

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August 1: Posting from his vehicle, Shawn is not at all surprised that the incompetent driver in front of him is a female.  According to Shawn, this entire interaction is dictated by “science.” 

October: Shawn publishes the “Selfie of the Year.” And I ask: what could be better than a picture of Shawn driving eastbound on Route 66 while wearing an oversized Count von Count costume?

Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

November:  Shawn has yet another surgery on his “#kuykenknee.”  The bad news?  Shawn’s mom drove him to the hospital while “slamming” some McDonald’s with full knowledge of the fact that Shawn couldn’t eat.  The good news?  The procedure was followed by some “siiiiiiiick” chicken from Popeyes.  So all is well…

Fashion Statement of the Year: “Girls with Jorts are not money.”  In case you’re confused, this is Shawn’s unique way of conveying his aversion to the way jean shorts look when worn by women.  Honorable mention: “no one looks sexy eating wings.” Of course… 

And speaking of fashion statements, here we go with a deluxe new profile pic:  

Best comment: "no homo you look like a model!"

Shawn looking “SILLAAAYY” with his “iSilly”

And that about wraps up the epic years that were 2010 and 2011.  But worry not, because the next segment of this series contains still more hilarious songs, selfies, and statuses – all of which are nothing short of ri-DONK-ulous. 

A Journey Through Shawn Kuykendall’s Awesomely Random Facebook Page: Part 1

Shawn Kuykendall’s Facebook page is an epically peculiar compilation of thoughts, pictures, and downright shenanigans.  It’s a place where every day is #throwbackthursday, female drivers are mocked at any given moment, and fashion faux pas are promptly called to the world’s attention.  

Stretching back to 2004, Shawn’s Newsfeed is no quick read.  See, Shawn’s the kind of guy who will let you know, via social media, that he has decided to take a bath while eating a chocolate Drumstick.  So pretty much NOTHING has gone undocumented.  

With that in mind, I recently spent literally hours upon hours scouring his Newsfeed, reading every last comment, post, link, and birthday wish for the last ten years.  It was a marathon, not a sprint.  But what I found was far from dissapointing.  Here goes Part 1…

2004:

Shawn joins Facebook in October.  That’s important.   Then someone reminds Shawn that he is a “10 out of 10” when it comes to being physically attractive.  Another labels him a total “hottie.”  Bottom line: Shawn is a bona fide Hottie McHotterson.  Like, totes magotes.   

2005:  

At some point this year Shawn became a professional soccer player.  On July 28, he apparently played soccer against some team named “Chelsea” and switched jerseys with some guy named Frank Lampard.  My guess is that this was a big deal, but I must confess I’m not much of a soccer guy.  Indeed, the only “Chelsea” I’m familiar with was a resident of the White House in the 90s, and it would be really awkward if he had switched jerseys with her…

In other news, “Deluxe” was a word Shawn used (and perhaps overused) quite regularly.  For instance, friend Jason McGraw posts “how does it feel to get served in front of all your people in the VIP?  Keep it deluxe, son.  Deluxe.”  Somewhat confused, I consulted Urban Dictionary, which uses the word as follows: “So, I was in this new club and these hot twins kept buying me drinks all night – it was so deluxe!” 

Umm, yea. “Deluxe” just might be my new favorite word.    

2006:

This year’s highlights include a gig playing soccer with the New York Red Bulls, a profile pic that resembles Ace Ventura Pet Detective, and a run-in with “Norman the Zebra.” 

Shawn Zebra 2006

Hey Norman!

Which kind of reminds me of this picture…

Hangover Tiger 2

Good times.

May 10: Someone suggests that Shawn start a boy band.  I’ve always kinda wondered if this was his true calling in life.  Think: better pay, and fewer knee surgeries.  For names, may I suggest The Shawnsington Boys?  Or Deluxe?  Or my personal favorite: The Smelly Shin Guards?  Just something to think about…

Oh, and here’s a video that proves I may be right about Shawn’s prospects for a career in pop music:

2007:

Things really started taking off this year.  I counted 228 separate friends who posted on Shawn’s wall at a time when there’s no chance I had 228 friends – Facebook or otherwise. 

Here’s one of my favorites from Ms. Susanne Tortola: “remember when you used to tuck us in burrito style and then give our stuffed animals hugs to smell all funky?”

WAIT A MINUTE NO FAIR!!!  Shawn’s never tucked me in burrito style…

Here’s another, from Mr. James Smith: “if you’ve ever seen the movie Cold Creek Manor, you look a lot like the bad guy. I’m a little scared of you.”

Here’s who Mr. Smith is talking about:

I kinda see the resemblance...

There’s a resemblance…

Also, 2007 is when Shawn regularly begins using several variations of the word “sick” to describe things that, ironically, are actually quite favorable or satisfactory.  These include “sick,” “sic” (without a “k”), and “siiiiiiick” – as in, “I love that Freelance Whales song…it’s so siiiiiiick.”    

For now, the variation of choice is “sickaness” – spelled with a seemingly unnecessary “a.” Ex: “The Wombats are quite simply put… The SICK-A-NESS.”    

A meaningful synonym for “sick” (and all variations thereof…) is “silly.”  Silly can be spelled the old fashioned way, or it can be misspelled (preferably in all caps) as follows: “Ryan Reynolds’s performance in The Proposal was SILLLAAAAYY!!!”  (I will touch on Shawn’s ridiculous man-crush on Ryan Reynolds in a subsequent post…).  “Silly bazilly” is also an acceptable variation, and if you don’t have the time to write all that out, “bazilly” works too…

To clarify: those are all ways of saying “silly,” even though the word “silly” doesn’t actually mean silly.  Are you following? 

Speaking of silly, what follows is a picture of what very well could be Shawn crashing the 2007 James Madison High School Homecoming Dance.  I’ll leave it to him to explain otherwise.

Shawn is Special

Rule #7: Blend in by sticking out.

Editor’s note: as it turns out the picture above was a premiere for this work of brilliance by Scott Jeschke, starring Shawn as a bad guy with a rather legit Russian accent.  As suspected, most members of the cast were in fact students at James Madison High School.  Check it out: 

In addition to hanging out with high schoolers, Shawn was in Germany this year, and provides several suggestions of up-and-coming German bands.  The entirety of my knowledge of German rock is based off a late 90s song called “Du Haste,” the video of which features a bunch of creepy dudes screaming “You Hate!” in German, mixed with some overly serious power riffs on the guitar.  To this day the video scares the crap out of me, so I’m definitely open to any other suggestions Shawn may have.  

And speaking of music… 

Yep, what you just watched was a video of Shawn Kuykendall dressed a bit like Fred Flintstone (with his sister Sami) while dancing out of his parent’s basement and a trashcan – all to the tune of Real McCoy’s Another Night.  Rendering it YouTube gold.  

As I scour through 2007, it’s clear Shawn was years ahead of the “selfie” craze.  See, according to the Internet, the selfie became popular in 2010, and a legitimate phenomenon in 2012.  But here we are years beforehand, with the skill already mastered: 

Selfie 2008

Brace yourselves for MANY more selfies to come…

2008:

Apparently Shawn went dark in 2008.  All we get from 2008 is a picture of a friend pointing out a super-sized zit on Shawn’s forehead, which obviously is fantastic.  

Shawn's epic zit

Shawn’s siiiiiiiiick zit.  

2009:

Another year of undocumented randomness.  Although I will point out that this was the year he had Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailamos” as his ringtone – which is characteristically SILLLAAYY for Mr. Kuykendall. 

And that about wraps up what I categorize as the “pre-Twitter” years of Shawn’s Facebook page.  But worry not, because the next segment of this little series contains endless amounts of fashion snobbery, botched sporting predictions, Bible verses, bizarre Shawn-isms, and world-renowned Christmas videos. 

It’s gonna be so deluxe, son! 

Throwback Thursday

Dressed like the sick-a-ness.

Our Wild and Crazy “Family Vacation” in Paradise

Vacationing with small children is a wild, exhausting, action-packed, drama-filled, Kodak moment-waiting-to-happen adventure suitable for those most brave, fortunate and reckless of parents.  I’ve pretty much said this before.  And in my family, it goes a little something like this:

The madness that was our recent trip to Aruba began right out of the gate.  Literally.  After landing, and then dragging four carry-ons and two diaper bags off the plane, and then weaving my way to the baggage claim, I notice something very odd.  Someone’s toothbrushes, sunscreen, big-boy underwear and other items are making their way around the conveyor belt, and everyone who was on Flight 829 from Baltimore is totally getting a kick out of this.  Whose luggage was it?  I’ll give you one guess…

Next stop: our all-inclusive beachfront resort where they serve endless amounts of French Fries drenched in nacho cheese, super-greasy chicken nuggets, and delicious fruity beach drinks.  This will be my meal of choice for the next nine days.  It’s a menu from Heaven – unless you actually mind undoing seven months of intense exercise in about four days.       

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Before I get too far ahead of myself, I should mention that in addition to my family (two adults, three kids) our group consisted of an additional five adults and seven kids all packed into four hotel rooms.  It’s a gloriously-chaotic compilation of nieces, nephews, and in-laws.  Ten kids.  Average age of the little ones?  Three and a half.  There were ten of them. 

Our time spent at the resort was an awesomely-tiring circus of fun and craziness.  Here’s how an average day would go down:

3:00am: baby wakes up.

4:30am: baby wakes up again.

5:00am: baby…

Look, anyone who can maintain their baby’s sleep schedule throughout the course of an international vacation really has this parenting thing down.  Furthermore, baby Brody had an ear infection and I’ve found that when you’re traveling, you’re only ever as happy as your least healthy child.   

6:00am:  Jimmy decides he’s ready to be up for good.  

Quickly and quietly, I surrender and take my oldest outside so my still-nursing wife and the other kids can get a few minutes of uninterrupted sleep.   See, when our family of five shares one small hotel room, each night brings with it yet another hostage negotiation, and these kids know they have all the bargaining power.  They’re cute little criminals.   

Don't be deceived...

Don’t be deceived…

8:00am-10:00am: kids play in sand nicely while mom and dad enjoy coffee and conversation. 

Umm, just kidding.  The kids are probably arguing over who had the pink bucket first… at least that’s what I gather as I hear a chorus of toddlers screaming “MINE!”   Or perhaps it’s a scuffle over the rightful owner of an incredibly popular Thomas the Tank Engine toy.   The purple sand shovel?  That’s “MINE” too.  If you’ve ever been on a trip with a bunch of kids, chances are you’ve said “you can share” many, many times.  Or my personal favorite: “well, take it back from him.”  Either way it’s gonna end in tears. 

The aftermath...

The aftermath…

All of this leaves me wondering why I’m drinking coffee when I could be drinking bourbon.   I’m kidding, of course.  The bar doesn’t open til 11… 

10:00am-11:00am: get ready for the pool. 

Getting small children ready for the pool truly is God’s work.  If you’ve ever seen how ghostly pale I am, you’ll know that we’re rollin’ to the pool with sun shirts, sun hats, and lots of SPF 75 sun screen.   Spray-on sunscreen is amazing, but the best way to cover a face is the old fashion way, which can get sloppy.  So imagine all this happening while two toddlers scream “MY EYES!!!!” at the top of their lungs.   

Ready to swim?  Almost.  All we need is our flotation devices and ear plugs.  And one last trip to the potty.  Oh, and JUICE! 

I may need a vacation from all this vacation…

11:00am-2:00pm: pool time.

Time spent at the pool is legit family fun time, and involves a lot of playing a pretend “silly” lion, or launching kids up in the air as far as humanly possible, or contests to see who can make the most amazing football reception while leaping into the deep end.  It’s all good stuff.   

P1060084

P1060273

My wife and I keep those kids swimming as long as possible because every two minutes spent in the pool adds another minute to naptime.  It’s science.  And when you’re vacationing with small kids, each hour of naptime is like a stick of pure gold.  You treasure that stuff.   

2:00-3:00pm: shower and prep kids for their naps.

Getting multiple sandy children to willingly take a shower is painful, and once in the shower, getting them out can be twice as difficult.  I find bribing them with Skittles helps move this process along quicker and with fewer tears, but if you have a better method please let me know. 

3:00pm-5:30pm: naptime.  

Now quick!  Grab a drink, take a deep breath, and enjoy every glorious moment of childless conversation.   And remember the cardinal rule of naptime parenting: you wake ‘em, you take ‘em.   

NAPTIME!!!!!

NAPTIME!!!!!

6:00pm-8:00pm: dinner.

If there’s one way to ensure you’ll get terrible service and judgmental looks from strangers, it’s walking into a romantic restaurant at its peak busy hour and asking for a “table for 14 plus 3 high chairs.”  Predictably, once we’re seated it’s nothing but chaos.  Picture broken glass because someone didn’t use two hands.  Picture a toddler in timeout because he was climbing on the table and yelling for no reason. Picture a scene as loud, wild and destructive as a group of college students on Spring Break… only louder.  THAT’S what it’s like dining at a table for 14 plus 3 high chairs. 

CHAOS!!!!

CHAOS!!!!

8:00pm-10:00pm: keep kids occupied until bedtime. 

This usually involved long walks, contests to see who could make one of the babies laugh the hardest, or dance parties – and indeed, some of these kids can really shake it.   At this point I’m down for pretty much whatever it takes to bridge the crucial dinner-to-bedtime gap; however, that does come with a few caveats.  Climbing rocks?  “Just be careful.”  Running around the pool?  “Be careful.” Dancing around a cactus?  “CAREFUL!”

Which brings me to my point: I don’t understand why I tell my children to “be careful.”  It’s as senseless as “it is what it is,” and as unhelpful as when you lose your phone and some genius says “well, it’s gotta be SOMEWHERE.”  Lesson learned: “being careful” means nothing to my children – particularly Jimmy, who actually did fall on a cactus.  I guess that just is what it is… 

Not my fault.  I told him to be careful...

Not my fault. I told him to be careful.

10:00pm: bedtime. 

How do we go about capitalizing on this newfound freedom?  We go to sleep cuz we’re exhausted and this whole process will repeat itself in the morning.   

So yea, that’s what it was like vacationing with a bunch of kids. 

Timed family photo fail...

Timed family photo fail…

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering what it’s like getting a flight out of Aruba, apparently this is the process: you stand in line to check in, and then check your bags.  Then you stand in a line to have your passport checked, after which you stand in another line to have passport “verified.”  Then you stand in line to go through security.  Once your shoes and belt are back on, you make your way to “US Departures” where you grab the bags you just checked, and then stand in line again to go through another layer of customs, after which you go through security.  Again.  And then you check your bags.  Again. 

It was every bit as long and painful as a tax audit.  Or a Redskins game.  At one point I actually wondered if this was the island’s way of punishing me for not attending a single timeshare presentation.   Perhaps I’ll never know. 

What I do know is this: in a few years, these trips will be relaxing and rewarding.  But for now, while the kids are this young, I’m simply thankful that it was indeed a very rewarding nine days in paradise. 

Cuz let me tell ya, there’s nothing relaxing about a table for 14 plus 3 high chairs… 

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Here’s Why Alec Baldwin and I Owe Our Lives to a Flimsy Piece of Rope

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for a non-descript piece of rope that dangled off the back of the Mayflower in 1620, without which I would not exist.   Curious?  Hang on. 

In September of 1620, a 21-year-old Englishman stepped aboard the Mayflower without the slightest clue of what was in store.  His name was John Howland.  The “New World” toward which he was headed represented a new beginning, but it also presented some serious dangers.  Indeed, circulating the ship was speculation of starvation, disease, and savagery.  As it turns out, these fears were well founded.

Howland was an indentured servant, which, if my recollection of American history serves me correctly, meant he was in some serious debt.  His conditions were far better than those of a slave, but it’s worth noting that when John Howland came to America, he was not a free man.   

After months of logistical and financial shenanigans, the Mayflower set sail on September 6, 1620.  Unsurprisingly, the journey SUCKED.  Strong winds and severe storms kept all 102 passengers off the main deck and tightly cramped into the decks below for weeks at a time.  Food and supplies were scarce, turbulent waves rocked the ship night and day, disease spread, and it smelled freaking awful.   Not exactly your average cruise through the Bahamas…

With all this in mind, Howland needed a breath of fresh air.  Against orders, he climbed up the ladder to the main deck.  Immediately drenched, Howland took in a few deep breaths of glorious fresh air while waves crashed around him. 

And then, out of nowhere, a gust of wind blew him overboard. 

As Howland hit the Atlantic Ocean, he was a dead man.  See, ships like the Mayflower don’t just turn around like some Kawasaki Jet Ski – especially in a storm.  It was cold, and the waves likely made it impossible to see.  All bad news.

But then, a frantic Howland finds of a piece of rope dragging behind the ship, and desperately grabs it with all the strength he can muster.  This rope is technically called a “Topsail Halyard,” which sounds very fancy.  Anyway, the Mayflower was moving so fast and pulled him so hard that the rope dragged him nearly 10 feet underwater.  He was quite literally hanging on for his life!   

Moments later, members of the crew found Howland in the water and pulled him aboard.   He was sick for weeks thereafter – a small price to pay for cheating death.  The sequence of events that transpired minutes before was nothing short of a miracle.   

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“Pilgrim Overboard” by Dr. Mike Haywood. The pilgrim-looking dude at the bottom would be John Howland…

In November of 1620, the Mayflower landed in Massachusetts, which is hundreds of miles north of the intended destination: Virginia.  Uhh… oops. 

It didn’t get any easier when the passengers found shore.  Howland was part of a small group that first disembarked the ship and looked for a settlement site.  Unfortunately, the Northeast weather was far colder than anyone expected.  Faced with below-freezing temperatures, inadequate clothing, and wet shoes, several members of this group died within hours of hitting land.  Half of the 102 passengers died that winter. 

That spring, John Howland’s master died of a stroke.  This made him a free man. 

What he did with that freedom makes his story worth telling.  A few years later, John married a much younger woman named Elizabeth Tilley.  He earned his living selling furs, and served his community in the militia and in local politics.  By all accounts, he was a passionate follower of Jesus Christ – which is the precise reason his master and fellow passengers came to America in the first place. 

John and Elizabeth lived in a house that stands to this day.  In fact, my dad took me there when I was in high school and I recall thinking the whole thing was “lame.”  But in retrospect, it was actually amazing.  The house sits at 33 Sandwich Street, Plymouth, Massachusetts.  Google it! 

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John and Elizabeth Howland had 10 children, which went on to give them 88 grandchildren.  88 GRANDKIDS!  Consequently, millions of Americans can trace their lineage back to John Howland.  Here’s a few notable descendents:  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the entire Bush family, Henry Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Brigham Young, Chevy Chase, and yes, Alec Baldwin. 

Every last one of us descendants can rightly declare “our faithers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this willdernes; but they cried unto ye Lord, and he heard their voyce, and looked on their adversitie. Let them therfore praise ye Lord, because he is good, & his mercies endure for ever”. – William Bradford

God had a vision for John Howland, and his story perfectly captures what makes this country so great.  

Of course, none of it would have been possible without a flimsy piece of rope that just so happened to be hanging off the back of the Mayflower at the precise moment when he plunged into the Atlantic Ocean.   

Heck, even Alec Baldwin has to be impressed by that… 

Happy Thanksgiving. 

“In a mighty storm, a lusty young man (called John Howland) coming upon some occasion above the gratings, was, with a seele of the ship thrown into the sea; but it pleased God that he caught hold of the topsail halyards, which hung overboard, and ran out at length; yet he held his hold (though he was sundry fathoms under water) till he was hauled up by the same rope to the brim of the water, and then with a boat hook and other means got into the ship again, and his life saved; and though he was something ill with it, yet he lived many years after, and became a profitable member both in church and commonwealth.”  – Firsthand account by fellow passenger William Bradford 

17 House Rules Our Toddlers Are Destined To Break

Kids, 

We need to talk.  See, it recently dawned on me that at all times our house is like a Wal-Mart on Black Friday.  It’s pure chaos.  So, what follows is a list of what functional families call “rules.” You probably don’t know what a “rule” is, but hey, until a few days ago I had no idea what “twerking” was.  So we’re all gonna learn something new this week.

Rules will take all those fun things you love doing (like standing on the dishwasher, running to the neighbors, running with scissors…), and prevent you from doing them any longer.  At least that’s the idea. They’re standing orders.  They’re the worst.  So please, sit down and take a few deep breaths as you soak these in.  Ready?  Here we go…

1.  No death-jumps onto the dog

Don’t get me wrong, “Lilo” really appreciates you using her rapidly-aging back as an art canvas, step stool and lunch tray.   However, your aggressive, Hulk Hogan-esque flying thrust kick from the couch is shockingly not all that comfortable for her.  So for now, let’s just stick to headlocks and bear hugs.  Or perhaps even just regular old hugs…

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2.  No sneaking outside when you randomly feel like it 

Look, I get it.  Escaping this house makes you feel like Tim Robbins in the climax of an uplifting prison drama.  But rules are rules.  You are banned from walking out of this complex we call “home” without adult supervision and underwear.  Or at least underwear… 

3.  Absolutely no street

The street is like the “shadowy place” in the Lion King – you must never go there!   This means you can’t sprint out onto the street with arms flailing about like a reckless maniac. It also means you can’t kneel down at the curb, put one finger on the asphalt, and then look up at me to see if that counts.  Trust me, that counts.

4.  No helping yourself to the hose 

I’m no expert on firefighting, but I did watch the end of Ladder 49 and would prefer you choose a different profession.  So, this whole “turn-up-the-hose-and-go-crazy-in-the-yard” routine can end.  And thank you, but there’s nothing in the foyer that needs to be watered.  No seriously, turn it off.

5.  No helping yourself out of your bed 

And just so we’re clear: “your bed” does not mean your sibling’s bed, my bed, the dog’s bed or the bathtub.  Now lie down, fork over the puzzle and go to sleep!  Wait, where did you get crackers?!?!   

6.  No helping yourself out of timeout 

Freeze sucker! Anything you say or do for the next two minutes can and will be used against you.  You do not have the right to be represented by your sister.  You actually have no rights whatsoever.  Is this funny to you?  Why are you laughing? 

7.  No Chuck E Cheese coins in the air conditioning vents 

For those who aren’t familiar with the inner-workings of our family, this rule may seem as bizarre and out of place as Shaquille O’Neal in the driver’s seat of the latest Buick sedan.  But unlike said car company, I have no choice in the matter.  So it stays. 

8.  No assaulting your baby brother

Or at very least no assaulting him while he’s sleeping.  Examples of assault include… oh, you know… hitting one’s stomach, vacuuming one’s ears, or furiously stuffing one’s face with pop tarts.  Stuff like that…

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9.  No highly-destructive fridge raiding

So let me get this straight: your story is that while I was in the other room someone broke into the house, dumped a dozen eggs onto the kitchen floor, and then immediately ran out the front door without taking anything?  You’re sure about that?   

10.  No un-chaperoned face-painting parties

Don’t worry; you will have plenty of opportunities to do things like this in college…  

Rules 4 and 10 captured in one highly incriminating picture

And what did I just say about the hose??

11.  No picking each other’s nose

You can pick your own nose as long as we’re not (1) out to dinner or (2) taking family pictures.  However, picking someone else’s nose is weird, gross, and somehow begs for a trip to the emergency room.  Yea, good luck explaining that one to the doctor…

12.  No dumping your drinks

Why yes, I went through all that effort to get you a cup of juice just so you could promptly dump it all over the carpet.  Say, you know what would make this floor smell really awesome?  Bingo!  Your milk! 

13.  No grabbing dog poo with your bare hands

Seriously?  You don’t smell that? 

14.  No unauthorized electronics

Unless told otherwise, all adult electronics are not to be touched.  This specifically includes laptops, hair dryers and shredders.  And don’t bother touching them with one finger and then looking up at me to see if that counts.  Because trust me, that counts.   

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15.  No unauthorized peeing

Forgive me for not explaining this earlier: the fridge is not a potty (PS: you are so weird).  Other things that aren’t toilets: the floor, the couch, the dinner table, mom and dad’s bed, the car, and the dog.  And if you’re gonna go in our bed, then at least do it on mom’s side…

16.  No drinking mom’s Diet Coke

Remember the sound that a protective momma bear makes when someone threatens her cubs?  Well, your mom can make that sound too…

17.  No endless crying sessions for no reason

It’s 10:00pm.  So as shockingly tyrannical as this is going to sound, the answer is “no.” I’m not changing you into your bathing suit.      

Phew, all done.  And I know what you’re probably thinking: I’m the worst.  I’m evil.  I sit on a throne of lies.  It’s all true.  And unfortunately there will be no “good cop, bad cop” routine here because you’re mom’s crooked too. 

However, rules are meant to be broken, and sadly there’s no chance you two conspirators will be following them anyway.  So, your mom and I may be willing to look the other way during one of your infamous hose fights if you’d kindly never go into the street, because that really scares us.  Deal?

-Dad

PS: Oh, and don’t bother standing at the edge of the curb hovering your right foot over the street to see if that counts.  Just trust me, that counts…

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