Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Funeral

Hello friends and family,

I may take down the picture of Easton, depending on whether Kendra thinks it could be incriminating evidence to his disadvantage when he seeks college admission. He was deep in thought about how he can get his diesel truck out of the package. I told him he could open it when he "uses the potty" so he's been begging to go sit on it. Unfortunately he hasn't made good on his end of the deal so the diesel remains in the package where he stares longingly into the packaging.

Better luck tomorrow, Big Time.

I'm a half-hearted fan of the $1 store. I'm starting to dislike it because every time we go there I see all of the cool stuff that looks like a great bargain. Then I get it home and realize it wasn't even worth the dollar I paid. For example, the blow up chair:

The chairs looked awesome on the packaging, but when we blew them up we were sorely disappointed with the size and cheap air hole stopper. It wasn't even worth the $1. The chairs were so small Easton and Layla thought they were booster seats and put them on the couch!

Easton's chair lasted two days compared to Layla's which lasted only one. She chewed a hole in hers like a puppy dog. :)

And now for the intended purpose of our trip to NorCal... Uncle Jeff's funeral. Certainly not a party atmosphere, but turned out to be a very positive experience. It was a family reunion of sorts because so many relatives came into town including Logan. I finally got a picture of him with Casey!

and Logan's girlfriend Bree made the trip for moral support in the same way I did for Kendra's sake. What a great girlfriend.

I wasn't able to attend the actual funeral because Uno and Dos needed looking after. After it was over we showed up for the reception and the twins shined a little light in the otherwise (appropriately) somber atmosphere.

The twins took advantage of the brief gathering to enjoy some much desired cousin time. Here are their cousins, Abbey and Rowan giving Layla some love.

I took Easton and Layla for the full day and part of our adventures led us through a playground next to a swamp area. I introduced them to cattails.

The slight breeze made shredding the cattails exceptionally fun. Easton wiggled his back and forth just enough to cause a constant trickle of falling fluffy seeds to float through the air. Layla ravaged hers threw massive wads of seeds against the wind resulting in the appearance of being tarred and feathered.

See that boy in the middle? His name is Fisher. I know this because Easton and Layla both introduced themselves to him at the park and asked, "what's your name?" He shyly said, "Fisher". Layla replied, "Nice to meet you, Fisher! You wanna play chase?" He replied, "Let's roll down the hill!"

Easton and Layla looked at each other and Easton said, "I don't know that". I encouraged them and told Fisher to go demonstrate. He rolled like a log all the way down the hill tracking freshly mowed grass bits all over his clothes. The twins looked up at me for approval. I shrugged my shoulders and said, "why not? Go for it!"

Easton turned one revolution over like a log and then stood up. He asked to go swing instead. I had to wait until Layla finished two full trips down the hill and off we went for another round of swinging.

That evening we kicked our costume making into high gear to prepare for the halloween events on Sunday. Part of Kendra's costume called for blue satin ribbon. As soon as Layla saw it she knew exactly what to do with it. Tie up her hair! So Kendra obliged with a tie up to match her princess dress. I can't remember why she was hugging on Easton, but any time one of them gets a "boo boo", the other is quick to give comforting words of, "I'm so sorry" and a hug.

It's times like this we know our consistency and purposeful displays of affection are making progress in how they are growing up.

Halloween was close to a perfect evening because of how well it went from the beginning all the way the sugar-induced jittery end. I can't wait to share the stories...

Friday, October 29, 2010


Greetings friends and family,

Many parents, me included, make statements such as, "Someday he/she will be able to (blank)". Even though I've always made a special effort to live in the moment once in a while those thoughts cross my mind about Easton. I mask it as being hopeful for his future or wanting him to have something I didn't have. No matter how my attitude is masked there should always be a chance to step back and not be focused on "someday".

In many ways I wish Easton didn't growing up. This is the age where the connection and minutes we share are as strong and enduring as they ever will be again. Someday Easton won't ask to hold my hand as we walk down the sidewalk.

Someday Easton won't be excited seeing a garbage truck go by and want to tell me all about it.

Someday Easton won't be amused by a simple act like pushing his belt outside by slipping it through the door jam.

Someday Easton won't play "Dragons and heros" with me where he pretends to be a warrior with a foam box helmet and pool noodle for a sword.

When all of these small things are considered, which will inevitably change when Easton becomes more independent, my desire to get there quickly fades. These intensely short toddler years are critical and precious. I prefer to look back even as recently as yesterday and know I was immersed in that moment and didn't take the time for granted.

It doesn't make me any better than the average father or give me any bragging rights. I'm not comparing myself to anyone past or present family or friends. This is simply recognition of my desire to parent intentionally sacrificing whatever is necessary to engage Easton in this critical stage of development. My journey through parenting is only between Easton and I. It isn't about anyone else. It isn't even about me. It's about Easton and focusing effort no matter what anyone else has done or is doing around us. Being the best father just takes a conscious effort to make time and to make the time count. Those aren't equal, but they ARE equally important concepts. Some people like to argue whether quantity or quality of time is most critical. The answer is: both are critical. One without the other will have adverse effects and there's no way around it.

We've been giving M&Ms for using the potty for months now. However, the whole concept of reward and consequence is finally palatable by Easton and Layla. I took them for an hour-long walk to the grocery store and back. They agreed to the deal where if they obey in the store then they will get a cookie. Lucky for me the bakery lady was still on duty with a free cookie for each and lucky for them... they obeyed.

Kendra decided to have a pumpkin carving contest between the four of us adults. I let them go first so I knew what kind of competition to face.

There is a top-notch space shuttle so Easton was ecstatic. Then you have a princess crown so Layla felt special. Then you have the ever-strong family name pumpkin.

I decided to go a different direction. My soon-to-be-famous creation is called: Pumpkin Pi

Oh, come on... you have to admit it is clever. :)

Here's a random picture of Layla. It caught my eye because it captures her personality particularly well and also show's her bright eyes and big smile. She's always on the move and happy about it. The flash on my camera is set to always fire because otherwise every picture of Layla would be a blur.

Oma accompanied the 4 Webbs to the local pumpkin patch for a romping good time. Easton clings to Oma like a teddy bear even when walking from the parking lot into the pumpkin patch.

Hey, wait a minute. How did I end up as the donkey's...

Oh well, I don't mind. It's only an insult if it is received as such. Either way the picture made for a good one even though Kendra and I had to hold each of the twins up without grimacing.

The pumpkins at Fog Willow were appropriately oversized for the season. Neither of them could stay on top of the slick, smooth skin. Maybe they should stick a rubberized shower mat on top so kids won't slide off? Oh, that's right... The farm probably didn't want kids climbing on the pumpkins in the first place. Ooops!

Easton had a crowd of parents watching as he nailed a dismount from the big-boy slide time after time. I was really proud to see him show off a bit and gain some much needed confidence in himself. Not that seeking approval in others is a measure of self worth, but for so long he has hid behind a curtain of “I can’t” so I’ve been working with him diligently so he changes that to “I can!”

The petting zoo portion of the farm was excellent, but Easton and Layla were scared of the aggressive goats once they stepped into the pen with them. They were gentle with nibbling the food out of my hand, but because they were jumping up on me neither of the twins were interested in feeding them. Instead Easton preferred to pet their nose from outside the pen.

Layla was in the port-a-potty during this time and succeeding at the potty training venture. She's almost there!

Easton and Layla are undoubtedly city kids, but the inner farmer may come out some day so this could be valuable. Especially considering how Silas already grows tomatoes so well.

The redneck feel of the place was personified by the hillbilly trampoline. Basically they took bed mattresses, covered them in a big blue tarp, and surrounded them with hay bales.

The best part of it is Easton and Layla didn't notice or care. All they cared about was the bounciness and permission to jump around like crazy monkeys.

We sat at the photo opportunity station with the scarecrows and hay bales, but by this time Easton and Layla were worn out and ready to go home. Guess we better make this the first stop next year...

Easton's favorite part of the experience was the hay ride. The tractor steered the loaded trailor of people through a really deep mud pit. All of the kids screamed with excitement as the tractor slowly churned its way out of the sludge. I didn't go (and consequently didn't get any pictures) since Oma and Kendra already met the one-to-one parent-to-child ratio. I just watched from a distance as they chugged through the farm.

Some toys were made for twins and the dual-seater springy plane is a perfect example. It's so nice when the twins are able to simultaneously enjoy something they both like.

Sharing and taking turns is good for lessons about life, but occasionally I love the relief of duplicity or things like the airplane which are built for two. And here is another example. Kendra is "built for two".

It won't last long because at some point they will grow so big that she can't hold their weight or size, but until then she's just perfect for riding around the living room.

Opa and I took a walk with Easton and Layla down the old familiar bike trail next to their house. To my surprise Layla asked to take a break and sit down. In this rare moment I knew they were finally tired and would most likely sleep in the next day. Easton is starting to show some signs of independence and it is visible in this picture. We told him to sit close to Opa, but he wanted his own space and seat. It's not good or bad, just feels like a new chapter in Easton becoming his own little person.

Layla shed a few tears when Oma and Opa left the house for a few hours without her. She has such a strong attachment, which we are happy to see.

This is an extra long post because so much has been going on for the past few days. Halloween is just around the corner and Layla reminds us every day about her costume hanging in the closet. I know it will be an excellent weekend of adventures!

See you soon.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Road Trip to NorCal

Greetings friends and family,

We travelled through the night crawling across the bland desert chasing the sunset. Once we broke through foggy central california we arrived at Oma and Opa's house early morning.

But before I get to that here are some highlights from the past few days. The weekend was a whirlwind because of the short time we had to pack and prepare for the trip. I encountered one of those "it's TOO quiet" moments while hanging out with the twins. Come to find out Layla spent several minutes in deep observation of... herself.

She was very fascinated by the funny faces she could make. At one point she tried to bite the mirror and I'm not sure why.

The twins asked to go see Ariel the Mermaid in the fountain so we walked around the murky in-ground tank and I did my best to keep their hands out of the dyed water. Their double smiles really are contagious.

Easton is turning into quite a Romeo. I ran the twins through the freshly-watered park area and Easton came across two lone dandelions shooting up from the ground. He picked them both and said, "these are for Mommy".

I got stuck carrying them home, but he checked regularly to make sure they were safe. We floated them in a cup of water just for presentation impact to Mommy and she was very appreciative.

It has taken a couple of days to get our sleep schedule straightened out. I laid my head on Kendra's lap while we zoned out to watch some TV. Layla wanted to join in the restful place next to Mommy and of course I was happy to comply.

As you can see Easton and Layla wasted no time immersing Oma and Opa into the play-time frenzy.

Opa took the opportunity to attempt teaching two-at-a-time to catch. Since he deals with teaching large groups of kids how to do this kind of thing every day, he was right in his element with the twins. Time to start working on Layla's golf swing!

Layla is seen here attempting to squeeze Oma's ear plug in Easton's ear. Oma and Opa may snore, but we have been so wiped out the past couple of nights that both Kendra and I have slept like undisturbed logs.

We are all finishing up the work week early in preparation for Uncle Jeff's funeral and family time so there should be a lot more large group interactions coming up in the next couple of days.

See you soon!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I figured it out

Hi friends and family,

Before I forget, Easton and Layla are about 2 years and 8 months old. I'll have to get the LilyPie ticker back up on the blog soon... Right now I should be finishing my presentation for Monday, but I just couldn't resist posting tonight because I finally had a break through and can't wait to share.

Here is our Happy Birthday wish to Ma from the 4 Webbs! We threw an early party for her during our trip to Missouri earlier this month, but she deserves an official virtual applause. We called and sang her the standard birthday song. This is the first year all 4 of us joined in the singing and we sounded awesome if I do say so myself.

What (and who) I am today matters much more than what I want to be. When the twins are older and look back on my role as a father I will be known for what I was, not for what I wanted to be. This is the basis for all of the parental fine-tuning and self-assessment captured in the blog.

Now I know the question I am supposed to answer! A child's behavior around their father all ties into the God-given need for approval, attention, and affection. They are acting out (good and bad) in an attempt to have that internally-driven question answered. My response to their behavior is received by them as either "yes" or "no" to the question. Not once, but with every interaction, every hug (or lack thereof), and every comment directed at them. Here is the question:

Girls ask: "Am I lovely?" I learned this one a long time ago and posted a blog entry dedicated to the revelation. No matter what I see or hear from Layla, I am continually cognizant and intentionally interpreting her through this need which I must meet. When she says, "Daddy, do you want to play princesses with me?" I hear her say, "Am I lovely?" When she purses her lips, folds her arms and refuses to sit down for lunch I hear her say, "Am I still lovely?" Every second of every day I spend with Layla is interpreted through this filter. I am doing my very best to make sure she knows my answer to her question is a resounding, "YES!" even through the discipline other unsavory parental responsibilities.

I realized boys ask a different question. Ever since I discovered Layla's question I've been perplexed by Easton. Not because he is atypical, but because I didn't know the generic question boys need to have answered. I finally figured it out.

Boys ask: "Do I have what it takes?" Or to put it another way, "Do you approve of me? Am I valued? Are you proud of me?" When Easton waits all day for me to come home so he can tell me of his accomplishment I see this question. When he shows off I see it. When he acts out defensively I see it.

Exhibit A: We bought Easton a race track and showed it to him months ago. We told him he will get the race track when he goes #2 in the potty. When I came home this evening he immediately stumbled through a sentence detailing his accomplishment. TaDa!

Do you see it? Can you see him asking me, "Daddy, do I have what it takes?"

This revelation happened in discussions with my counseling / mentoring / character training group. Reading through the material for the class lead me down the path of digging into my childhood. I'm required to take a full assessment of the good, bad, and ugly for my past and present. When I examined my life it turned into a huge emotional journey, which I am still in the middle of. I need to sort things out in my past in order to understand why I am the way I am. These findings are important to Easton becuase I have a strong desire to build on my Dad's parenting skills and be even better than he was. I'm running out of time to make the necessary adjustments because Easton is growing up right before my eyes and asking me this question daily. I will shift my filter for Easton to always view his behavior in the context of his masculine question, "Do I have what it takes?"

Here's a picture of my brave warrior accompanying me with his trusty Buzz Lightyear flashlight on a walk through the neighborhood.

He's always been enthralled with outer space and airplanes. He saw an airplane and got so excited to point it out for me that he dropped his flashlight. You can see it is literally mid-air and falling to the ground in this picture.

Layla has her princess flashlight and matching girlie outfit. Her facial expressions are becoming more and more young lady like and less "baby" like. For some reason Layla looks incredibly mature to me in this picture.

Sharing between the twins is getting better every day. Not good... but better. They shared an office chair as we chatted on Skype with Oma and Opa.

Then Layla decided to give Easton a big hug. Although he likes hugs, he also has a valid level of expected personal space, which Layla regularly violates.

Today Easton and Layla logged their first hour of volunteer work. We joined our church to rehab the local Salvation Army facility. Their specific contribution was painting a tractor tire in the playground. After eating Cheez-its for snack time, of course...

It's hard to explain the concept of volunteer and helping others, but we tried. None the less, it's better to show than tell so I'm happy. Even though Easton and Layla didn't participate much I'm still proud of them for joining in with the effort and leaving their mark on the world in some small way already.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Uncle Jeff

Hi friends and family,

The week is shaping up to be a huge lesson in emotional strength and flexibility. Kendra's uncle Jeff passed away unexpectedly which has been really difficult for Kendra. She was also trying to recharge her batteries after back to back late-night soccer games as well as fighting the dreaded swollen tonsils. She swears that is the harbinger of sickness. Here's hoping she sleeps well and avoid the bug.

I don't have any recent pictures of Jeff because he is usually running around chasing his own grandkids during family events. I respected him very much and appreciated his passion for family. This picture of Easton and Layla with Uncle Jeff is a good trip down memory lane and will suffice for this edition of Way Back Whensday.

As a side-effect of the timing for Uncle Jeff's passing, Oma and Opa will not be visiting us here in AZ. Instead, the 4 Webbs are planning a road trip to NorCal for the funeral. Not exactly the best circumstances to have a family reunion, but I'm certain we'll make the most of the difficult situation and find the silver lining.

Speaking of silver lining, we are in the midst of a cool down, complete with overcast skies and raindrops every few days. Tonight I took charge of the twins so Kendra could take the entire night off to do whatever she likes. The sun is going down noticeably early and that means trips to the park will be darker. Those mean looking clouds on the horizon weren't a concern at all for Easton and Layla. They requested to go barefoot into the playground area and as usual I saw no reason to deny their request so the motion was granted.

Thanks to a neighbor kid making sand-angels and throwing sand everywhere I had to clarify that undisciplined behavior like that isn't allowed. However, screaming and giggling while launching down the weeeeeee-bump-bump slide is perfectly acceptable and encouraged.

Layla's new stretchy pants that look like jeans were the perfect slickness to fly down the slide and skid out onto the sand.

I figured out why we spend so much time at all the different parks. After spending time in Missouri with my family I noticed their backyards are enormous compared to the cracker-box lots we have here in Arizona. In Missouri we just walked out the back door and played. However, we don't have that option at our house so the only way to get outside and have the space to run around is to go to the park.

Anyway, I decided to give grocery shopping alone with them one more try. The last time we tried this feat of Biblical proportions it ended with the entire store staring at us as we ditched the cart of food and I dragged them out to the car screaming and crying.

This trip was much, much better. It might have been the promise I made to give them a Life-Saver if they behave. They were laughing and bonking heads (notice the red spot above Layla's eye), but at least we made it through the checkout and to the car without anyone crying.

The other day I had the chance to play with Easton and Layla in the cul-de-sac. Neighbors (myself included) all come out of summer hibernation this time of year to get reacquainted with the idea of playing in the street during the day. Easton is getting good at kicking the soccer ball around, but he has a desire to pick it up and throw it so we'll need to work on that aspect of the rules.

I helped Layla recover her ball from the neighbor's yard and came back to find Easton took over my chair. He sure knows how to relax and take it easy...

On the other hand, Layla is all about achievement. She was so proud of herself for finally going solo with the tricycle. She finally "got it" for how to propel herself. Now she is mobile so I expect she'll start asking for her driver's license any day now.

Lookout world! Here comes Layla with her sparkly princess shoes cruising the streets.

The next few days will be crazy as we prepare for the trip, but more than anything I'm hoping everyone stays healthy. I'm sure Kendra could use additional comfort beyond what I can give, but after what I went through with my Uncle Dave I can sympathize more than most.

See you soon!