Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Way Back Whensday

Greetings friends and family,

Kendra and I were feeling a little down today because it seems like our efforts to guide Easton and Layla's growth is like talking to a brick wall. She says, "don't touch the blinds" and they immediately reach up and grab them. We KNOW they both understand what is being said and what they shouldn't do. It would be different if they were just babies and can't comprehend, but they are way too old and smart to fit that category. It feels like a willful act of disobedience even though we know they are really sweet toddlers with happy hearts and great character.

Then once in a while one of them will do something that puts a BIG smile on my face and displays their ability to do good and right. For example, Easton and I were walking to the car together and we passed a random bush with flowers on it. Easton stopped in his tracks and said, "can I pick a flower and give it to Momma?"

Moments like those (almost) make up for the repetitive, consistent teaching, discipline, and training we do day after day after day. I felt really bad for Kendra having such a long, rough day while I was at work. The best I could say was, "Sorry you had a tough day of disobedience... Just keep correcting and reinforcing as consistently as we are and it will eventually sink in."

This calls for a Way Back Whensday post so we can see just how far we've come with the twins. Two years ago this month:

Easton and Layla fit comfortably on GG's lap and were satisfied by books with one word on each page.

They fit in sleep sacks and didn't move when placed in Papa's chair.

Kendra let me dress them in matching pink and blue outfits. This is one of the things I miss most about the twins growing up. Guess what I want for Father's Day next year??? Easton and Layla in matching pink and blue outfits... and shoes.

Layla had yet to find her dominant trait and was still a sweet little peanut without any opinion or personal tastes.

Both of them drooled incessantly and only had 2 teeth each.

They weighed next to nothing and I could carry them for blocks at a time with ease. Opa can still do that because he's Mr. Muscle Man.

Some things are still the same as they were back then though. Easton still has the same bright smile and gentle heart.

Layla is still expressive and adventurous

Scott and Marisue are still holding twins (but now they have their own set of boys).

Easton and Layla still enjoy parks, feeding ducks, and being close to Mommy.

It's hard to believe 2 years have gone by since these pictures were taken, but I must admit the twins are even more fun to be around all the time. Some people say, "it gets easier as they get older", but I disagree. If anything toddlers are more difficult and energy-sapping than babies. However, with the difficulties come greater rewards such as voluntary acts of love and more interactive fun playtimes.

That's it for this edition of Way Back Whensday. See you in December!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

dress up

Hi friends and family,

I'm trying to figure out what happened to the year 2010. Where'd it go? How is it possible we are already closing out the year? Anyway, my plan to keep Kendra's parents here by disabling the alarm clock was thwarted by the battery failing in the smoke detector just outside of their room. It beeped non-stop from 5:00 AM on so I had no chance of keeping them in bed through the flight departure time.

They are gone, but we'll see them again in 3 weeks when we visit Sacramento for the Christmas holiday. In the mean time we're continuing the daily training and teaching. Layla has completely given up on naps and instead moved to developing her leadership skills while Easton sleeps. The neighbor boy came over with his battery powered 4x4 and Layla led him around the court as though she were a General leading soldiers into battle. "Follow me!" she demanded.

I keep taking "gifts" Kendra buys for the twins and opening them early. These items aren't sealed in wrapping paper, but rather lying around in various closets and cubby holes around the house. An example of one such failure on my part is Easton's space man suit.

I thought Kendra was keeping it hung up because Easton didn't fit in it yet. I took it out and sized him up. "Looks like he's grown enough to fit!", I thought. He was so excited to wear the space suit I could barely get it unzipped fast enough. The backpack is just big enough to hold a few of his dinosaurs. I mean, you never know when you might need to pull out a plastic dinosaur during a space mission, right?

We also bought him a big toy rocket (from the Little Einsteins show). Kendra found it for a couple of bucks at a 2nd hand store and Easton doesn't know any differently or care. He just knows it takes him on (pretend) adventures to the moon.

Just so you know, I dressed up in my Buzz Lightyear costume from Halloween to join in the playtime excitement. Sure is fun to be a kid again! Layla looks a little like Kym Karath (Gretl) from The Sound of Music.

Here's a picture of Kym from The Sound of Music and a more recent shot.

Maybe the looks are a true match, but Layla did a great acapella rendition of "Do-Re-Mi" for the people in line at Costco. That's a true story and one I expect will occur frequently since she received such encouragement as they clapped and smiled for her.

Layla is finding her motherly instincts recently. She cares for Baby Joy and Baby Grace. By "care" I mean she swings them around like a slingshot and throws them into her crib, but occasionally she sits a baby in a high chair and feeds it ketchup.

Then she pushes the baby aside and roars like a dinosaur with Easton as Buzz Lightyear saves the day.

It's relatively chilly here in AZ, but we were still able to go for a walk down the street to look at neighbors newly hung Christmas lights. The twins are very good about holding my hand and staying on the sidewalk.

Each day brings new challenges, but seeing the twins grow and show such happiness makes it all worthwhile.

Time to get the work week started again in T minus 8 hours.

See you soon!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

Happy Thanksgiving friends and family,

As Quincy from Little Einsteins would say, "I cannot beLIEVE it!" Well, if you ever questioned whether our adventures are without limits, here is proof of a resounding "YES!" Kendra willingly jumped out of a perfectly stable airplane and plunged 13,000 feet to the ground ending with a soft-slide landing

Before I get into the wonderful story of Kendra's skydiving I'll fill in the gaps from the past few days. Oma and Opa are adding their usual colorful presence to our home, which I am extremely greatly for. The twins are all about Oma and being away from her for even a few minutes results in sorrowful questions about where is Oma and when is she coming back? Opa is a close second in the pecking order. It's one thing to talk about excavators and tractors:

Opa takes it to a whole new level showing how to dig like one:

Thanksgiving day was a whirlwind. Oma and Kendra spent several hours cooking an excellent turkey dinner in the kitchen. Opa and I took care of the twins with outings to the park and outdoor fun.. I didn't get a picture of the spread on the table, but as you can see we ate on the back patio basking in the warm AZ sun.

Afterwards we made some family calls to catch up with other relatives on both sides of the family. Our lives are not filled with excitement from start to finish every day. We do have those mellow hang-out times. Easton and Layla were so bored at one point they started stacking the little rocks on top of the big one stuck in our front yard. No idea why they thought that was cool, but what else are they supposed to do in a front yard full of rocks and "desert landscaping"?

The boredom ceased when we drove all the way across town (half a mile) to Jason and April's house for dessert. Easton and Layla were dressed up in their special Thanksgiving day outfits. Easton took his jacket off in the same way Superman sheds his shirt to reveal the big "S". It's turkey boy!

Kendra helped the twins make their special shirts earlier in the week, which turned out to be a big hit. Here is my favorite Thanksgiving picture this year:

Skydiving Mommy:

On Wednesday night I told Kendra I made a reservation for her to go skydiving on Friday morning. No special occasion, just one of those weird quirks about me. I really like being spontaneous and I love surprising Kendra with gifts. You may be wondering where the hair-brained idea came from, right? A few weeks ago my coworker told me about the place where he goes skydiving. That made me think about how much fun it was when I did it at 21 years old. Then I thought about how Kendra hasn't had the experience. I also considered how she might not WANT to do it, but I took a chance and scheduled it anyway. The reason the timing worked out is because her parents are here and I wanted them to be included in the experience. Also, I'm on vacation and the weather is perfect.

I sprung the plan on her on our date night out during dinner. It took her a full day to commit to it. I made a point to tell her very clearly that she didn't have to do this and all I did was arrange the opportunity. If she chose not to, I wouldn't have been disappointed one bit or hold it against her. More than anything I wanted to make sure she knew it was her choice to commit, her choice to get on the plane, and her choice to jump out at 13,000 feet in the air.

This morning we loaded up the fan club and headed down south to Eloy, AZ. The twins were fully aware of what Mommy was going to do because we showed them the VHS tape of my skydive video. I just love seeing how excited they were for Kendra.

I felt the same way and it was obvious I was more excited than Kendra was, but only due to her understandable fear of the unknown. We took our infamous self-portrait by the official sign for SkyDive Arizona.

Her instructor was a very seasoned veteran who obviously knew what he was doing, which put my mind at ease. He gave her basic training of instructions for how to properly do the tandem jump. The suit was definitely necessary because it's cold at that altitude no matter where in the world you skydive.

As Kendra continued the lesson I took Easton over to see the plane. We approached cautiously and the pilot was cool enough to let us wander through the cargo area and even up to the cockpit. Easton was overjoyed by the chance to stand in the real-deal airplane.

My dad taught me that if something is worth doing then it is worth doing RIGHT! For this reason I chose the full skydiving package for Kendra complete with a T-shirt, certificate, video, and still pictures.

Kendra is scooting forward quickly as the rest of the jumpers are bailing out of the plane quickly.

She steps out onto the edge of the plane and without hesitation launches off the edge with the instructor.

In case you're interested to see her point of view as she stepped out of the plane into nothingness, here you go.

and then she had a picture perfect landing with a serious smile and adrenaline rush.

Isn't that amazing? I am so proud of her for going through with this. Skydiving is one of those "binary" things. You either have done it or you haven't. There is no half-way jumping or kind of doing it. This is the epitome of full commitment and overcoming fear.

She just jumped out of an airplane. Can you believe that just happened? Easton and Layla sure can. They couldn't wait to give her a hug and congratulate her on the accomplishment.

Layla said, "When I be older maybe I will have a parachute and jump out of a plane." I responded with, "you can do anything you want, princess!"

Kendra's parents were very understanding and tolerant of the whole idea. I give them credit for not squashing my idea from the first moment. I wouldn't have been surprised or upset one bit if they threw cold water on my plan, but luckily they were cautiously supportive. And their reward is a daughter safe and sound at home and memory to last a lifetime.

Then, 2 hours later we are back to normal life at home. Life is so funny that way. One minute I'm watching my wife plunge out of an airplane towards Earth at 122 mph and the next I'm cheering with the same level of excitement for a plastic dinosaur taking a bath in the water table.

In these moments I fully appreciate the adventures life has to offer and the simple things with the same level of enthusiasm. Both of these two extremes are important for me and I wouldn't miss either of them for the world.

If your idea of Black Firday "excitement" involved a toy store and a half-price coupon, don't fear... There's always next year!

P.S. Dear Oma and Opa, I secretly disabled your alarm clock so you'll miss your flight home and have to stay an extra few days. We'll see if my plan works.

See you soon.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bubble Wands

Gobble, Gobble,

The Thanksgiving vacation is in full effect at our house. I'm off work until Monday and Kendra's parents are sharing the holiday spirit with us for a week of fun and adventures.

Kendra is working with the twins on very specific concepts each day and they are both making serious strides in learning. For example, one day will be all about the letter "D". That's it. how it sounds, how it looks, words that start with "D", songs with "D" in it. I came home to find painted dinosaurs stuck to the fridge and the twins saying, "duh, duh, dinosaur" with great enunciation skills. I'm not sure how Kendra chooses a letter or number on which to focus, but I know there is a method there somewhere.

One day was circle day and now Layla shows off her circle drawing skills every chance she gets. Just look at those circles on the chalk board!

We bought huge bubble wands over a year ago knowing someday the twins would be able to use them. Well, that day has finally come. I put bubble soap in a paper plate and let them have at it. Easton squatted down to refill his bubble wand just in time as Layla swished hers over his head.

The next time we do this I'll have TWO paper plates with bubbles so they each have one. This will avoid the close-calls and potential crying from being whapped in the face with a bubble wand. I caught one such close-call on video and you can hear Opa and I gasp as Layla swings the wand millimeters from Easton’s head.

We took a trip to The Farm restaurant for lunch and had an awesome time wandering around. The food took so long to be ready Easton and Layla almost started eating the potted plant on the table.

Opa took the opportunity to teach them patience and self-control. We'll be working that concept deep over the next few weeks. We turned Easton and Layla loose on the outdoor area while waiting for the food. Several other kids meandered through the rocks and shrubs. It sure beat drawing on a placemat like other restaurants.

After consuming the food we took a walk through the farm to see where it was produced (right on site). I'm really happy with the way this picture of the 4 Webbs turned out. One of my favorites in a long time. Thanks, Oma! The illusion of the disparity between Easton and Layla's height is somewhat due to the terrain, but Easton really is taller than Layla. It's becoming more obvious all of the time too.

We paused just long enough to take some pics and then continued the charge through the trees. Here's the three generations of women in my life. Each one I owe a level of gratitude for producing the next lovely lady in the family tree.

If the gene pool were absolutely fair then Easton should be a split mixture between Opa and myself. Unfortunately it looks like Easton is going to end up with my skinny legs. Sorry, Easton... Nothing is fair in life. :) He did get a blend of our dashing good looks though so I have high hopes for Big Time.

One evening I ended up at the supermarket and happened to find helmets on sale. Knowing the twins are finally self-propelling the tricycles I bought a Princess helmet for Layla and a Buzz Lightyear helmet for Easton. The elbow pads are more cosmetic than functional, but every little bit of protection helps. Both of them love showing off for Oma.

See you soon!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Once in a Blue Moon

Greetings friends and family,

Sunday night presented a rare opportunity to experience the fabled "Blue Moon" referenced in the old adage. Here is the real story behind the phrase "Once in a blue moon" in case you're curious about the facts.

Opa and I took the twins for a walk in the brisk fall evening. We found an actual use case for the princess and Buzz Lightyear flashlight beyond shining it in each other's eyes.

The moon was so bright that when combined with the neighborhood street lights Easton and Layla gave me their flashlight because they were unnecessary. On the way home we had to pick up the speed to double time once the rain started. As you can see Layla was none too happy about getting wet.

You have to keep in mind they have only been in the rain 3 times in the past year. As far as they knew rain causes one to melt. Not sure where they got that impression from though... As we approached the house I asked if they were (finally) tired and Layla said, "No, I don't want to go to bed"!

Her energy could be the result of our fun and games from earlier in the evening. I feel it's my duty to prepare the twins for the real world. Each day I do my best to give practical, useful advice. Today I chose to teach the all-important skill of how to play Chubby Bunny. Easton doesn't like the taste of marshmallows so Layla and I were left to battle it out with the bag of mini-mallows.

The idea of the game is to put an increasing number of marshmallows in your mouth and try to say the words "Chubby Bunny" comprehensibly. Layla made it to 5 mini-mallows and we were laughing so hard it was difficult to keep them in our mouth.

Now that's a skill for life. I feel I've done my fatherly duties for the day. We spent Sunday afternoon at the excellent church picnic. The BBQ ribs were good, but not even close to as good as my dad cooks them. The weather was somewhat uncooperative with the high wind and below average temps. Easton and I stayed bundled up in our wind breakers.

Layla and Oma did the same. However, the twins worked up some body heat by running around the play ground with the other kids. The only option we had for involvement was flag football so Oma were out of luck there. Instead we just cuddled and savored the moments of Easton and Layla relaxing with us.

I just couldn't resist posting this picture of Layla because it shows her beautiful presence and big flower bow, which is really Kendra's. I just can't believe how quickly my little baby Peanut grew into an awesome, sweet girl.

I'm teaching Easton some basics of life in lieu of Chubby Bunny. I'm teaching him how to trade stocks through the computer. Buy low, sell high. It's that simple.

He told me the price/earnings to growth ratio for Disney stock shows it is over-valued. I mean, seriously? What kid shorts a toy company stock? I sure hope he's right... His college tuition is riding on it. Easton sure seems confident and calm about that last trade. Time for a potty break!

I can't even begin to describe how happy I am to have Kendra's parents here. I've become a second class citizen in Easton and Layla's eyes, but I don't mind one bit. Right now the world revolves around Oma and Opa, which is fine with me. Turkey day is around the corner and I'm looking forward to vacation days, home-cooked meals, and family togetherness.

See you soon!