Wednesday, September 29, 2010

finally little people

Hey friends and family,

We are geared up and ready to visit my family in Missouri. One of the many things left to do before flying with the twins is to get child-friendly headphones. I'm amazed by the lack of options at Best Buy and target. It seems there is nothing between $100 huge, professional headphones and the $4.50 pink, plasticy versions. They are so cheap there is barely any packaging not to mention longevity. I predict Layla would break them in half before the opening credits of Shrek are over.

I can't even begin to describe the relief I feel to take a vacation from work. Usually when i take just a long weekend all of my work stays on my plate and on my mind. Not this time! I shifted all of my work to others on my team so I will do my best to not check into work (or think about it).

Easton and Layla are going through a growth spurt right now. We believe this to be true because they are eating more than normal and napping more frequently than their usual every other day.

For Easton we are working to improve his focus and confidence. He's starting to figure out that he doesn't have to let Layla be in charge all of the time or take his toys. Today he jumped into the pool from the side all by himelf for the first time. He's getting braver every day to try things like this.

For Layla we are working to reduce the stubbornness and disobedience. She occasionally disrespects Kendra or I by folding her arms and pursing her lips followed by repeated saying, "no" to every question or comment. It's so difficult not to laugh when these personality traits pop up because the twins are so fun to watch as they figure all of this out.

I've only got a few minutes to blog tonight which is just as well because I only have a few pictures. Because it is still blazing hot here Kendra took the twins to the Bounce House for some indoor activity.

This picture in particular shows how grown-up the twins look.

And Layla's features are becoming more pronounced every day.

And she has NO fear. She never lets anything get between her and good old-fashioned play time fun.

Easton is a still a little apprehensive about the big-boy slides, but luckily Daniel is there to give him a word of encouragement.

What are friends for, right?

The 4 Webbs jumped on Skype tonight with Oma and Opa. We miss them more than they miss us, but I know they will debate me on that point... There is a distant light at the end of the tunnel because we get to share Halloween costume fun during their visit to come see us in a month. The fun never stops and I'm perfectly fine with that.

See you soon!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

car washers

Hi friends and family,

What an outsanding weekend! Our time together wasn't without issues, but overall we accomplished what needed to be done and had a ton of fun along the way. I've heard people describe this age as the "Terrible Two's", but Kendra and I reject those negative statements as fast as they roll off the lips of unknowing people and correct them by saying, "this age is the TERRIFIC Two's, thank you very much". Even so, I would more accurately describe this age as "obedience training". When Easton and Layla learned the word, "no" it was a blessing because they could communicate with us about well-being situations. We ask questions and they are able to respond with a yes or no answer. That made our lives 10 times easier.

Then recently they learned they have a choice to obey or disobey through obedience or saying, "no". That brings consequences which include (but are not limited to) toy time-out where the airplanes and princess dolls are taken away for a few minutes. This is proving to be a better discipline method than timeout for them.

Working through the discipline scenarios is exhausting, but they also do things that make me very proud of them. This picture hangs on our hallway wall next to Easton and Layla's kiddie table.

During snack time Easton looked at the picture and then said to me, "Mommy is a princess." And Layla (not wanting to be outdone) said, "and Daddy is a prince." I agreed and then the two of them proceeded to argue about WHICH princess Mommy is. Easton says she is Snow White and Layla says she is Belle. Hearing them make their case in an attempt to convince the other made my day. I'm happy they were willing to stand up for what they believe even if it is something as simple as defining which princess Kendra is.

Going to the grocery store alone with the twins is getting easier. Partly because they like to ride in the side-by-side car extension on the front of the baskets. two steering wheels and two seat belts. It makes the whole shopping experience more tolerable.

Sounds like the cart was custom made for Easton and Layla, right? Well... one horn worked and the other didn't so they argued the entire time about the horn as Layla kept trying to honk Easton's functioning horn. They straightened up when I threatened to take away toys so at least that part is working well.

The car needed a bath so I suited up the twins and recruited their help in washing it so Kendra would have a shiny car to drive. As you can tell, the elastic in Easton's trunks is worn out and he needs some new ones. Maybe he'll be a plumber when he grows up???

Using so much water as they sprayed each other down turned our cul-de-sac into a giant puddle. The twins wanted to splash around and run through it so of course I agreed to let them.

Easton's balance and running ability improved hugely over the past few weeks. He used to have a tendency of falling often on the blacktop, but he does great now.

Kendra came out all dressed up for an evening out with her friend April. She still took time to help push Layla up the driveway on her tricycle. Mommy mode is never "off" and sometimes it takes a while for her to even put it on pause for a night out with friends.

I took the Saturday morning shift with the twins and we went early to the park. However, it wasn't early enough. The amount of time it takes to get the three of us out the door is obscene. The temperature outside is still super hot (96 degrees by 9:00 AM) so by the time we left the park they were a little over heated.

Both of them love to dig in the sand and get dirty though so the heat didn't stop us from having a great time together. I stopped by Circle K for a round of Icees and then we went directly into the pool at home. My goal was to have as much fun as possible and ensure they were worn out enough to take a nap. Mission accomplished!

Kendra played soccer on Sunday night and I snuck in a sunrise mountain bike ride Sunday morning. We rode the trails for 9 miles, but as we crossed over a street we saw a Red Diamond Rattlesnake laying across the road. We threw a few rocks at it in an attempt to get it off the road, but it didn't budge one bit! We cruised past it and went on our merry way, but so close to such a deadly reptile really made my skin crawl.

Packing has officially commenced and we are preparing for our longest journeys of the year. We can't wait to see my family!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

redefine busy

Hey friends and family,

I feel the need to redefine the word "busy" because many people (myself included) have an idea of what busy means as a single person or married couple. Adding twins or even a singleton into the mix sets the bar several notches higher than what I conceived as possible when it comes to busy.

My disclaimer up front is that some of our time is spent together (without kids) as well as doing individual hobbies. So not everything is out of our control as far as available time is concerned. "All work and no play" has nothing to do with whether a person is dull or not. It's a matter of sane vs. insane. We choose to be sane. :)

Anyway, today Kendra started her mentoring / training and then went to soccer tonight. That meant I was in charge of the twins for the entire evening. After cooking dinner for them (not myself) I headed directly to the park because the sun sets earlier every night and they needed some exercise. After the park play time I stopped by Arby's on the way home knowing it was time for the three B's (bath, books, bed). I helped them into the tub and then sat on the edge. I attempted to eat my sandwich with one hand while keeping Ariel away from the shark with the other.

Easton doused my sandwich accidently with bath water and that's when I realized "this is busy". It's not like I can just go sit and relax in the living room eating my sandwich in peace. There is no way for me to leave the house to replace my soggy sandwich without a monumental effort getting the twins out of the tub, dressed, and into the car.

Instead, I just ate my soggy sandwich. Actually, I shared my sandwich with Easton and Layla before it was watered down so the truth is: I ate my soggy half-sandwich. Don't cry for me though. I'm not sad or mad at all. The whole incident resulted in a laugh-out-loud moment. Layla stopped splashing long enough to ask, "what is so funny, Daddy?" They are both exceptionally intelligent, but I didn't bother to explain the humor of the moment. Instead I just said, "YOU two are so funny."

After working all day, then running the household this evening I will make time for this blog, then a P90X workout, then do some work and hopefully be in bed before midnight.

As I said, much of my busyness is self-imposed, but it feels like I have less and less time as the months go by. When I think back to what life was like with new born twins, it was tiring, but absolutely less busy. I remember having hours at a time to play video games or watch TV or (gasp) do absolutely nothing.

People ask if parenting gets easier as time goes on and I can tell you definitively, no. It gets more challenging because spare time is virtually non-existent. Every minute I spend doing something I WANT to do is time away from parenting. However, I feel less guilty about taking an hour for martial arts if I modify my schedule to include more time with the twins some time that day.

That's my journal entry for the day so now on to the adventures. Story time at the library kicked off again after the summer hiatus. This time they have an automatic bubble blower so it looks like a kid-friendly disco, if you ask me.

The Library Lady told the kids to put their hands on their head so she could give everyone a stamp.

I think it was a puppy paw or something, but by the time I arrived home from work that evening it was just a smudged dark mess I thought was a bruise.

The pool is still semi-comfortable at 86 degrees so we stretched the pool time out a few extra days. Easton and I turned the foam noodles into swords and pretended to be Captain Hook and Peter Pan. We BOTH lost though because Layla squirted us with the water gun. I consider it a success though because they were as tired as me.

I'll have to talk with Kendra and justify buying any clothes for Layla for the next year. What's the point??? She'll end up wearing her princess dress all the time so why bother with shirts and shorts? Even on the sit-n-spin she's still a princess...

The sunsets around here are excellent most of the time. Easton and Layla loved running around in the park in dark.

You can see how long Layla's hair is growing. Especially since Kendra stopped cutting it (thank you very much).

The grounds keepers freshly mowed the lawn and also raked the sand around the playground equipment. Easton, Layla, and I took our shoes off and ran in the playground feeling the sand squish between our toes.

Layla's hair isn't quite as light as the picture shows, but it has lightened considerably in the summer sun.

We're gearing up for our trip to Missouri, which takes weeks of planning. It is well worth it though. The 4 Webbs are all amped to see my family and cousins. From what I heard there is a family reunion of sorts in the works including my extended family and 96 year old grandpa. Also, we'll have our next round of family photos just in time for me to finish hanging the ones from last year on our wall.

See you soon!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

booster seats

Greetings friends and family,

Today we bid Neill and Jenny a sad farewell after ten days of staying with us. Time went by too quickly, but we are hoping they were able to accomplish all they intended as well as rest and relax before their whirlwind tour around the world.

Our friend, Letty, discovered the friendly nature of Neill and Jenny. She offered to cook an authentic Puerto Rican meal for all of us just to spend an evening hanging out.

I can't pronounce a single word she used to describe the delicious food, but that didn't affect how good it tasted. We've never had cuisine from there before and apparently there are only 2 restaurants in the whole valley which serve authentic Puerto Rican food. Turned out to be a real treat and great opportunity to get to know her better as well.

Every summer brings a false signal where the temperature dips down below the boiling point, but then jumps back up for one last furnace blast week before the wonderful time of year sets in. Well, Kendra took the twins along with Neill and Jenny to the zoo and it just happened to coincide with the last blast of summer. They were hot, but after a full morning of monkeying around everyone took a long nap and they were back to normal.

The puppy leashes are rarely used anymore, but the zoo is the perfect place for them to serve the purpose. Especially when the objective is to keep the twins from being taken by a giraffe. Those things are big!

Easton and Layla's favorite part of the zoo trip is allowing the long, black giraffe tongue to take lettuce from their hand.

Ever since Easton saw Shrek he developed an excitement for dragons. He pretends to be a dragon who goes after Layla's princess dolls. Naturally he picked the shiny dragon on the merry-go-round.

After the up close and personal giraffe exhibit Layla was looking forward to riding on this one. GOpa is so interactive with the twins and definitely appreciate his willingness to join in the fun.

By the way, after spending time with Neill and Jenny we pronounce giraffe as "jer-off". Sounds so much more proper after you get used to it...

For dinner we used our Groupon thingy at Honey Bear's BBQ. The meal was great as always when we go there, but the most notable aspect of our dining out experience is how Easton and Layla officially graduated from high chairs to booster seats. I thought they might slip right out between the table and seat onto the floor, but they behaved well. Another milestone down and they are growing up right before our eyes.

The sunset this evening was awesomely colorful. Easton and Layla were shouting random colors all the way to the mailbox.

Orange n red n beyoo n bwack. Yep, they were right. we even saw some ultra-dark rain clouds passing by that could be described as black.

I love this next picture because it shows Easton and Layla's inquisitive look as a candid shot. They were obviously not looking at me or the camera. they were focused on a diesel truck with a trailer which happened to chug by our street.

Layla requested to bring her dolly stroller and Jasmine dolly. Easton requested to bring a tennis ball and his Delta plane. I said yes to all of the items because I knew in the end all of it would end up in Layla's stroller and not my pocket for the walk back home from the mailbox.

Layla finally earned her Ariel bath toy after 6 weeks of looking at it in our closet every day. Kendra bought a few toys and told the twins they could have them when they used the potty like a big kid. Layla finally did it today so bath time this evening was more lively than usual (if you can believe that is possible).

The blinds in Easton and Layla's room came with the house and are always turned up because it lets in less sunlight. However, we turned them over and now Layla's princess personality makes complete sense. No need to wonder where it comes from...

We know it is bed time around the Casa de Webb when the twins drag out their blanket and pillow. I took one picture where both of them looked a little too melancholy so I told them to smile and this is the result, which I think is hilarious. Easton had to take his thumb out long enough to show his smile and Layla tensed up and squinted.

I'll end the blog post with a short video clip showing what happens every evening when I put them to bed. They ask for a story and I give them a chance to tell me what elements or characters they want to have in the story. Very funny.

See you soon!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

birthday party

Greetings friends and family,

One of my favorite things to do is observe. If I could have any super hero power it would be invisibility. Not because I want to hide, but because I get so much wisdom from observing people young and old. Here are a couple of parental truths I discovered by what I saw in others and how that differs from the way we operate.

1. You can tell an awful lot about a person based on how they speak to their spouse on the phone. I can't tell you the number of phone conversations I've overheard which were very insightful. Some were frightening because of the terrible words and tones used, but some were encouraging because of the patience and kindness expressed. Although I do my best not to judge, a child's perception of acceptable and expected behavior is shaped by how they see Mom and Dad talk to each other.

2. The opposite of a screaming father is not a silent father... it's a loving father. From what I can tell many fall into one of those first two categories. Either they scream at the mother and children or they don't say much of anything at all. I made a vow before the twins were even born not be a screamer NOR a silent father. Parenting as one of those extremes is really easy. When things get bad it doesn't take any effort to go ballistic or shut down completely. Those are the easy routes, which I believe are equally damaging to children. However, the toughest response is the best: patience and love through words. It's so important to talk...

I have not idea where that came from and it doesn't really relate to our recent adventures in any way, but those two concepts have been running around in my brain lately.

Anyway, the relatively cool mornings bring new options for play time other than swimming. The pool is still officially open, but the twins don't last long in the water.

This morning I brushed the cobwebs off the Chariot and loaded up the twins for a trip to the neighborhood park. They still fit very comfortably even at 2.5 years old.

Easton asked me to go fast and swerve because he likes the whiplash effect when I make big, wide sweeps back and forth across the road. And of course he likes anything to do with going "super fast". On the other hand, Layla said, "I don't like it Daddy" so we just slowly wheeled our way to the park. There is a noticeable shift in their dare devil mentality. Layla is more cautious while Easton is more daring.

A new development in their comprehension skills is the idea of posing. I have a feeling there will be many more pictures where both Easton and Layla are looking at the camera. They understand what I am asking them to do (sit still and look at the camera) and sometimes they even obey my request!

The one additional step left to start making some great photos is to get them to SMILE while posing and holding still. Easton has this request down even more than Layla.

We attended Layla Ruth's (not our Layla, but our friend) birthday party with Neill and Jenny. They were such good sports to come along with us. Imagine 30 people in a house and they only knew the two of us... Luckily they are friendly and outgoing so they had no trouble fitting in. Dealing with so many new faces and keeping Uno and Dos in line made for a stressful event, but it turned out to be a great party.

It took a few tries for Easton to understand what it means to put your arm around someone. Even then it didn't last long, but here he is with the birthday girl who is dressed as Ariel the mermaid. I'm doing my best to teach him how to treat women (gentle hands). You gotta start somewhere, right?

You might be wondering why Easton has no shirt at an official birthday party with princesses. That is my fault... He drank some strawberry lemonade and then I rough-housed with him on the couch. He was giggling and begging for more. Then he sat up and barfed.

I reacted normally by holding him at arm's length while calling for Kendra. She ripped his shirt off and used it as a rag to clean up the mess. Thank God for leather couches... After Easton said repeatedly, "I choked, I chocked" he was back to normal and spent the rest of the evening shirtless.

Layla (OUR princess) was the social butterfly wondering from conversation to conversation spreading her joyous cheer. She had special front row seats for the birthday cake, birthday song, and present opening.

One of the many things Neill and Jenny have done for us in the past week was to buy Layla a castle, which she loves dearly.

It came with a few princesses so now she has duplicates of some. That may seem like a bad thing, but for anyone with twins you know this is a blessing. Duplication means less arguing and fewer times we hear, "mine!" in a day. Now Easton has his own Snow White who sits right next to the Woody doll.

See you soon!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Junior Bird Man

Hola friends and family,

The 4 Webbs are all healthy again, finally. Our back injuries are healed and no one has a fever or snotty nose. The timing worked out well because we are able to fully enjoy our guests, Neill and Jenny, as they join in our adventures.

A few days ago Easton asked for me to read his favorite book of all, the "Big Space Book"

This is certainly not 2 year old light-reading material and by no means comparable to Green Eggs and Ham. I found it at Barnes and Noble several months ago. I bought it because I grew tired of showing him poorly sketched planes in the children's books. I decided since Easton loves aerospace so much, why dumb it down and show terrible drawings of planes when I can show him pictures of real aircraft? He calls the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird a "fighter jet" and I don't bother to correct him even though its primary missions were global reconnaissance. It's the fastest jet-powered, crewed aircraft ever so I'm proud of him for recognizing the plane as the essence of awesomeness.

Anyway, I left the book on our coffee table and noticed Neill spent the better part of an afternoon reading intently through it. That's when the idea hit me... Let's take this to another level. Why just look at pictures when we can actually SEE the real thing? So the three of us guys drove to the Pima Air Museum in Tucson.

Viola! there it is in all of its glory. We actually TOUCHED it!

There are only 20 SR-71's left in the entire world and this one is less than 2 hours from our house. If you're really nerdy check out this map, which shows the location of all remaining SR-71s in existence.

We also saw 300 other aircraft on the premises as we toured the facility in a tram guided by a very knowledgeable war veteran.

On the trip down I asked Easton which airplane he wanted to see and his response was, "a big jumbo jet!" So here's Big Time catching some shade from the wing of a retired Presidential (Air Force One) jumbo jet.

My main goals of the trip were to be worth-while for Neill and enlightening for Easton. It is clear both of those goals were met and I had an excellent time along the way as well.

Easton's imagination still reigns over logic. I know this because tonight he said the airplanes needed to take a nap as he aligned them and turned them upside down. :)

Meanwhile back at the ranch we rotate Easton and Layla's toys every few weeks. I brought out the stuffed animal puppies, which move around and whimper at the touch of a button.

We get all of the benefits of teaching them how to be gentle, but avoid the messy paw prints and feeding expense. Easton put the pretend bone on top of the dog's head and told him to sit.

Maybe someday we will get a couple of real dogs, but right now it is enough work to keep up with the twins without the added responsibility of pets.

In other news, the novelty of sliding into the pool wore off so it is back in our living room getting more use than ever. Without a doubt this is the most used toy over the past year.

You can tell by their smiles we have many more trips down the slide in store before it loses the appeal.

As a special treat we took Neill and Jenny out to Malee's Thai Bistro for dinner which included their famous Tom Ka Gai soup with a flame in the middle of the soup bowl.

The best part about the evening was a break from the twins while sharing a quiet meal with Neill and Jenny. We spent the evening walking the streets of Scottsdale looking at art galleries.

We still have a few more days with Neill and Jenny to balance relaxation and adventures. I'm sure we'll make the most of it.

See you soon!