Wednesday, December 29, 2010

End of the year

Bye bye 2010,

The 4 Webbs thrived (not just survived) through the terrific two's (not terrible two's). We are 6 weeks away from being the proud parents of three-year-olds and such a momentous occasion deserves a year-in-review recap. Parenting consists of the moment by moment interactions with the kids which snowball into days, months, and years. I can summarize my year of work into 5 or 6 major accomplishments, but it is very difficult to summarize a year of parenting. I'll do my best.

We dealt with only 6 or 7 sicknesses all year, no broken bones, and no trips to the hospital. Those are major accomplishments considering our adventures and how frequently Easton and Layla interact with other sick kids.

Potty training proved to be more elusive than I expected, but we are certain to reach this milestone for Easton and Layla in 2011. Layla is already taking care of business intermittently and I expect she'll be in her big girl bed within a couple of weeks once she masters the consistency aspect. Easton is on deck right behind her.

Layla kicked the pacifier habit, cold turkey, and hasn't taken a single nap since that day. Talk about bitter-sweet... I consider it a partial success because although we limited the bad effects pacifiers have on her teeth and pallet the hour break sure was refreshing.

We made three trips to Sacramento in the second half of 2010 for a combined total of 13 weeks out of 26 (50% of the time). We could almost claim partial California residence if there was any value. I'm afraid California may start taxing us for each week we stay in the state. We also took one trip to Missouri for vacation and we are already planning our next trip there for some time in 2011. We hope 2011 is "year of the home bodies" but I'm certain we'll take a few trips here and there.

As for the past few days I finished up 14 days straight away from work. The last time I took that many days off in a row was 7 years ago during my first sabbatical. Needless to say I've spent more time with Easton and Layla than ever before, which amplified the blessings and challenges of my normal week with them.

The most noticeable change is Easton's growth in confidence and maturity. Now he steps up to unknown situations without hesitation or fear. He's first to try a new slide or figure out a new toy (whenever Layla doesn't beat him to it). Opa and I took him to the artificial turf soccer field because it was the driest place in town to try out the new stomp rocket. He blasted it up in the air, ran to recover it, reloaded and repeated about 30 times.

Dress up at home is more exciting because now Easton has his own gear to pretend. He and I put out the fire in Layla's castle and saved the princess. What a hero! By the way, his hat is not turned to the side as a gangster style. It's just the result of a work related hazard. Saving princesses is tough on gear.

Alexa spent an after with the twins at the park and home playing together. She became the favorite cousin of the trip because of her willingness to jump in participate in their world.

Occasionally we pretend Easton and Layla are babies. I say, "awe... do baby Easton and baby Layla need their bottles?" They start whimpering like little babies and suck their thumb. Layla says she's sucking her thumb although it is really her index finger. They respond by saying, "Waaaaaah, I need my bottle." Then I pick each one up and cradle them like babies while rocking back and forth.

Because of the incesant rain we did several other indoor activities over the past few days. I took Layla and Easton to the Bounce O' Palace. The same one where Easton and I went last week without Layla. They wore each other out running and sliding and jumping. Layla went down the slides so fast my camera only shows a pink blur. She literally jumps off the edge of the slide and speeds down the slick plastic. As you can see by Easton's smile he was satisfied with the average speed limits of a body in motion.

The extended family (almost all of them) went bowling just for fun. We showed up at the last frame to say hello and go to lunch. The cousins were kind enough to give up a turn for Easton and Layla to try it out. Cousin Kelly lovingly showed Easton the basics. The ball took about 30 seconds to reach the end of the bumper where the pins were and then plopped into the gutter. We still cheered him on and gave high-fives for the effort.

Oma helped Layla aim and release down the lane. She watched intently as the ball slowly rolled towards the pins. She picked up 4 pins and cheered as though she'd won an olympic gold medal.

Oma and Opa made it most of the way through a game of Candy Land. Easton and Layla's attention span didn't even make it to the Chocolate Mountain, but they basked in the fun up to that point.

Layla received her beautician license for Christmas, or so one might think, given the number of make overs and time spent pretending to put on makeup. All of her tools are properly positioned on the couch for just the right combination.

I do my best not to overthink parenting, but I'd rather be accused of caring to much than not caring enough. One such example is the correct use of compliments. Here are two compliments:

You look beautiful in that dress!
That dress looks beautiful on you!

Are they the same? 99.99% of the world would say yes, but I say no. I believe the first one leads to Layla only feeling beautiful if she has on the right clothes or the right makeup or the right whatever. The second compliment is more appropriate in my opinion. I don't want Layla to get her self-worth though material things and the first compliment sows the seeds of exactly that. I don't want her to feel the need to do anything or wear anything in order to get my compliment about how beautiful she is. Maybe I'm crazy and need to lighten up, but that shows how conscious I am about every word that comes out of my mouth around the twins.

Logan's girlfriend Bree has a collection of necklaces like the tight black one Layla is wearing. Layla even referenced how she looks like Bree in this picture as we were looking through them together. :)

The twins have been healthy throughout the many adventures of the past few weeks, but it looks like the bug caught up with Easton who is running a little fever. He's normally mellow and cuddly, but when he gets a little under the weather those traits are amplified. The silver lining of the cloud is that I get more cuddle time where he sits on my lap to read about the "hot lama" (hot lava) in his new volcano book.

Kendra and I agree New Year's Eve celebrations are less attractive every year. We hit the point where a successful celebration is when we are able to stay awake long enough to see the New York rockin' celebration come to a close at midnight. It's not that I care less. I just learned to focus my "care" on what's important and where to burn my calories. Here's to the new year and more adventures with the 4 Webbs!

See you soon.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Day

Merry Christmas friends and family,

The most enjoyable part of Christmas this year was watching Easton and Layla discover the meaning of Christmas and the thrill of presents.

Opa told the Christmas story and the twins were able to understand the basics of why we celebrate.

However, because they have no memory of opening Christmas presents they were excited but had no idea why or what they were about to experience.

We had a leisurely wake up with breakfast and time for Uncle Casey to come join us. I thought they might be chomping at the bit to dig into the presents, but that wasn't the case. Next year though...

I don't have many candid pictures of Layla where she has a somber (non-smiling) look. She looks like a perfectly shaped, cute doll to me. A doll that gets taller and bigger by the day.

She sleeps in a Pack-N-Play, but this will be the last time we can rely on them because even sleeping diagonally she stretches from end to end.

And now for the presents! We are extremely grateful for the presents they received. The wrapping paper was ripping and tearing so fast that I wasn't able to get many pictures. Easton unwrapped the rockets and was excited even though he thought they were just a toy to play with inside the house. The next day we shot the rockets off in the park and he was amazed.

The fireman outfit was a big hit as well and I haven't even shown him how the fire extinguisher is functional when filled with water. We'll save that revelation for another day.

During our visit to Missouri last fall Daphne let Easton play with her Sonic Drive-in binoculars. Easton let out a little scream of enthusiasm when he opened Daphne's gift. What a thoughtful, kind thing to do!

For Christmas day we joined Oma's entire family at Aunt Suzies house, which is quickly becoming a tradition. Layla and Easton both fit right in with the cousins who included them in the playtime fun. Abby and Alyssa found Layla's joyful spirit particularly interesting.

Since I don't have a panoramic lens on the Canon S90 this is the best I can do for showing the family togetherness. Here's one half of the people gathered around the Christmas tree for round two of opening presents.

We saved Layla's chest of princess dresses as the gift to open at Aunt Suzies. It would be impossible to go wrong with such a gift. As you may expect she dove right in! Now instead of one princess dress, she has enough for wardrobe changes throughout the day.

Easton opened his John Deere Excavator, which will be awesome for the sand parks back in Arizona.

During a lull in activities all of the kids gathered in a back bedroom. I went in to see why the house was orders of magnitude quieter than the previous hour. I found them huddled around 7 inch screen of a DVD player watching Despicable Me.

A few other cousins had really nice cameras flashing all day so I didn't take too many pictures of the adults. I did capture one of Kendra and her cousin Brian. She thinks very highly of all the Thomas cousins and has lots of great memories growing up. This is part of the reason she wants Easton and Layla to experience cousin time so much.

Casey wins the "most fun relative" award based on how much Easton and Layla laugh and play around him. Here you can see Layla after a wardrobe change into the Sleeping Beauty outfit. By the way, Layla vehemently declines all nap time or quiet time. The Sleeping Beauty outfit has nothing to do with the sleeping and everything to do with the beauty.

We took time during the family get together for the official 4 Webb's Christmas 2010 picture.

and just for fun here is the Christmas 2009 picture in front of the same tree

and the oh-so-cute Santa and Ms. Clause picture from Christmas 2008.

Kendra and I had a conversation about what was different this Christmas compared to the past two. We unanimously agree this year was ten times easier and more enjoyable. The reason is because we were able to let the twins wander around the house with their cousins and no parental interaction. We didn't have to worry about them falling down or getting hurt or needing our attention. We were able to have actual conversations with the adult relatives instead of 30 seconds of comments followed by 5 minutes of focus on the twins, then repeat for 4 hours.

To make a short story long, parenting is noticeably easier and much more fun over the last six months or so. Taking this many days off from work in a row and staying with Oma and Opa really gave me a chance to reflect. Seems like we are so busy that all of my spare brain cycles are spent taking care of the present while planning for the future. The past doesn't get much attention, but occasionally I spend some time on it. I'll do a year in review post in the next few days to wrap up 2010!

See you soon!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snow Tubing and Scooter Boards

Merry Christmas friends and family,

After weeks of preparation and countless dollars spent on gear we finally introduced Easton and Layla to the snow for the first time ever. How deep was the snow? Well, this is a Cadillac buried in snow twice as high as the car itself. Someone dug out just enough snow to see what kind of car it was.

Layla didn't really grasp the concept of a car buried under all of that snow, but it was fun to see. The trip up was fun and short. We only made it through a few Christmas carols and half of Kung Fu Panda before arriving at the slopes. Easton's reaction while looking up at the big, snow covered mountain is worth every penny and every minute spent getting them here.

The ski resort was packed to over flowing with people so I took a "before" picture in the parking lot just in case one of them wandered off.

The next picture describes the weather we experienced, which is nothing short of perfect. Zero wind, lots of sun, and temperatures cold enough to keep the snow fluffy, but not so cold our noses were frozen.

A special thanks to Oma and Opa for being a part of our adventures and making the time together so much fun. They were good sports about walking up the mountain over and over again.

Opa was a real trooper as he pulled himself and the twins up the mountain.

Easton and Layla loved every minute of the experience and part of the reason is because we were hauling them up instead of forcing them to mush through the snow. They have a rope tow mounted, but we happened to visit on a non-operational day due to inspection licenses or something.

At the top of the run we had an excellent panorama view of the resort with all of the trees and resort. Easton was overwhelmed, but asked to go tubing again and again.

I took one video of Easton and I as we were going down the mountain. The camera work was a bit tricky because I was filming, holding Easton, and guiding the tube at the same time. Not bad for someone who doesn't multitask well.

This is the official 4 Webbs album cover for the Great Snow trip of 2010. The twins were bundled up with so many layers they walked around like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

The snow run was well groomed, Opa was in control, and Easton was giggling all the way down to the bottom every time.

There were a few oddities at the resort including the random placement of two huge plastic play houses next to the admission hut. Layla took a break long enough to go inside and realize it was equally as cold IN the play house as it was outside.

Also, a bounce house sits next to the bottom of the run. Not sure why though? Maybe just in case your kid isn't thoroughly worn out from 2 hours of tubing? Whatever the reasoning Easton and Layla made good use of the bounce house. The background looks like a fake or picture, but it really is the view of the mountains from inside the bounce house!

By the end of the tubing event the adults shed our layers and were comfortable in just a sweatshirt and gloves. No one was more surprised than I about being "warm" while slogging through the snow. Coming from an Arizona boy that is a real paradox.

One final story for the snow trip of 2010: I gave Layla permission to scream as the two of us zipped down the mountain. She took me up on the offer, but didn't know you are supposed to stop screaming once the tube stops at the bottom. Kids standing by were lightened by her joyous run down the mountain, but they became concerned because she continued screaming as we exited our tube and walked away. I had to tell her, "It's ok to scream and have fun, but you need to stop now that the ride is over." No big deal, but I had to keep from laughing because she's so full of excitement sometimes she doesn't know when to tone it down.

Speaking of Layla's enthusiasm... Opa had the great idea to spend a rainy day in the gymnasium riding scooter boards! None of us knew what to expect, but the twins were completely hyped about going. Once we arrived and Opa showed us how to ride them the twins had a blast. Layla's core strength and athleticism is off the charts.

Opa broke a serious sweat pushing Easton and Layla around. I did my best, but the picture is a little blurry because they were rocketing across the floor too fast for a good shot.

Everyone joined in the fun including Oma, Judy, Megan, and Kendra. Josh did as well, but I didn't get any pictures of him because he was zipping around the gym like Flash Gordon. GG came to hang out, but declined the invitation to ride a scooter. What would be wrong with that? She rode a motorcycle just a few years ago, so I wouldn't have been surprised one bit to see her roll across the wood floor.

Remember all of the hard work lugging the twins up the mountain in the snow? It's payback time... Kendra's knee is still in the healing process so I did my best to keep her from exerting too much effort.

And in other news... My Grandma Suzie passed away today. I never really knew her or spent time with her, but it still makes me sad. I'm most grateful Dad was able to reconcile their relationship. I would be even more sad if there was no closure or reformation of the bond between them. Death of a family member always causes a person to stop and reflect on life. I'll have to think about this a while and capture a few thoughts later, but for now I'm staying focused on the blessings of close family and vacation.

See you soon!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lite-Brite, I can!

Hey friends and family,

We are finding creative ways to keep things interesting for the twins during this oh-so-rainy trip to NorCal. The only frustrating part is playing in the living room right next to the Christmas tree full of wrapped toys. The kid in me keeps thinking, "If they only knew what cool stuff was in those gifts we would tear them open and play with them right now!"

However, the adult in me prevails and we play with what we have without touching the gifts. The combinations of toys Easton comes up with is getting more creative by the day. I mean, what's so strange about a shark on a 4-wheeler?

GG made our week extra exciting by loaning us her original Lite-Brite. Not just any common Target version either. It's the old school kind, which is probably 30 years old, but still works great! Some of the paper patterns were already filled out and that actually worked really well because Easton didn't have to figure out which color goes where. I just told him to stuff the plastic pieces in the already-poked holes and we had a blast. Luckily, the Choo choo train was ready to go so we plugged away at the picture (with the light off) until the grand finale.

And two interesting things came from the Lite-Brite story: The first thing Easton said after seeing the glory of the lights was, "Can I show Oma?" That is very telling of exactly where he gets his approval from. Also, we're still working on behavior modification to change Easton's "I can't" thought to "I can". It's not easy, but I'm continually listening for him to say, "I can't" and I immediately correct him and assist if necessary while telling him to restate his claim. My expectation is not only for him to say, "I can", but to say it LOUDLY and boldly with confidence. That's why he screams it at the end of the video.

After Layla saw the glorious Choo choo chain Lite-Brite creation she was amped to join in the fun. Kendra refereed as the twins cooperated to create the magnificent sailboat.

We caught a lucky break in the rain just long enough for the puddles in the park to dry up. I took full advantage of the moment and even asked them which park they wanted to visit. Easton requested the zoo park, so off we went. The chickens picked a poor time to mill around in the parking lot because the twins took off after them attempting to communicate by screaming, "be-gock, bock, bock, be-GOOOOOCK!" Poor chickens were freaked out by their friendly attempt.

On another rainy day I took the twins out for some shopping fun. Most people avoid the stores for the entire month of December. Not only am I crazy enough to go in the crowded stores, but I take Easton and Layla with me just for an extra challenge. Actually, I take them just to be social and a chance to see new things. I asked where they wanted to go and their answer put me in a difficult position. Layla's attitude is far from angelic and discipline followed the conversation resulting from this clip. However, it was just too funny not to pass along.

Layla wanted to go to Best Buy and Easton wanted to go to the pet store. We went to both so everyone is a winner.

Here's the cutest number SIX I've ever seen.

I connected the foam squares as an enclosure and the twins turned it into a dinosaur safety zone where dinosaurs (Oma and I) couldn't get them as long as they were safe inside the pin.

The foam squares are in our standard toy rotation and provide about 20 minutes of amusement at a time. Thanks to Neill and Jenny we have a set to leave here at Oma's house.

We were itching to get outside on a cold, rainy day so we did one final test run of our snow gear before the big tubing event up North. Easton and Layla's boots are officially declared water-proof!

I switched to YouTube for video uploading because Blogger uploading just hangs and never succeeds. It's time to publicize the twins to the rest of the world anyway. :) Wait 'til they get a load of Layla's energetic version of Do-Re-Mi!

See you soon.