Saturday, April 30, 2011

Serving in the Hood

Hi friends and family,

Kendra spent the morning at a ladies brunch and that gave me the opportunity to have some one-on-two time with the twins. Because of the challenging week I could have easily let them play by themselves or turned on a movie for a couple of hours. Easton is fascinated with tornadoes, earth quakes, and volcanoes so there is plenty of "learning" videos on NetFlix. Anyway, I'm not against those ideas, but they should be the exception rather than the rule when I have a chance to interact with them. Whether I intentionally spend quality time with them or not, they are learning from me. If I am distant or unavailable or uninterested in them, that will cause issues for them later in life. Kids need certain input from a father, which requires interactive quality time. I guess that's what my view of parenting boils down to: Interactive Quality Time.

The only thing that frustrates me more than seeing a child with an absent father is seeing a father ignore a child who wants the father's attention. The most egregious incidents I see usually involve a father with his face buried in his cell phone while their child is ignored or neglected. That gets me fired up because the father believes he is "spending time" with the child, but in reality he is distorting the poor kids self-image by non-verbally saying, "you are less important than whatever I'm doing on my phone".

I'll get off my soap box... kind of. I want Easton and Layla to know they ARE important to me. However, I also want them to know helping others is important also. For this reason Easton, Layla, and I joined Jeff and the folks at Big House Inc. for some volunteer community outreach.

We bagged up several dozen bags of bread and vegetables. The twins jumped right in and helped out as they walked through the assembly line stations to fill the bags.

Layla said, "I want the piece of carrot cake." Easton joined in by looking for something else to point out so he could stake his claim. I sat down with them and said, "we aren't going to eat this food. We are taking it to the neighborhoods and giving it away." They were OK with this answer, but I could tell they were still looking for some way to talk me into giving them some food. Then I said, "The people we are serving don't have any food to eat." Layla stopped and gasped loudly. The concept sunk in immediately and she said, "That's terrible!" I was happy to see she understood the reality that some people struggle with hunger.

After the food was bagged we drove to "the hood" (their words, not mine) and some folks knocked on doors of the run-down apartment complex to tell them we were giving out food. The twins and I stayed at the food distribution van and talked to people coming by. My biggest regret was not knowing conversational Spanish. Where's Joanie when I need her? I did some rough translations and the elderly Hispanic lady laughed at me, but she got the point of what we were trying to say and appreciated the effort.

The twins hit their limit so we went to Honey Bear's BBQ on the way home for tasty sweet potato fries and ribs. I felt a little bad because we just handed out crusty bagels and old cake a few minutes before devouring a great lunch.

Anyway, the morning was a huge success in my opinion because we served others. The twins not only saw me serving, but they were a part of giving to those who are less fortunate. I don't expect Easton will suddenly be grateful for snow peas, but the principle is being taught and caught.

Great Aunt Mary is known as GAM around our house. She came into town for a few days and spent one full day hanging out with the 4 Webbs. Kendra ran some errands and went to a salon for her hair cut so that left Mary with me and the twins. Since I took the day off work we had a few hours to go adventuring. Neither Mary nor Layla had been to the Museum of Natural History. Easton and I gladly volunteered as tour guides for them.

Before we even entered the building Layla was acting as if we discovered Jurassic Park. She was impressed with the little iron dinosaurs out front. Easton showed Layla how sharp the T-Rex teeth were.

We walked through the doors of the main entrance and both of the twins lit up like Christmas trees.

Layla was a slightly scared by the bones and some creepy lights and sounds, but other than that she did great. Mary and I reminisced about Uncle Dave taking me to the dinosaur exhibit in Kansas City. Those learning experiences were some of the most fun times we experienced together and I'll never forget them.

Easton and Layla even went so far as to build a dinosaur and ride it! I was proud of them for the willingness to jump on with me.

We spent a big portion of museum time in the outdoor section playing paleontologists as we dug through the mounds of shredded tires looking for fossils. I love how excited they were, believing they truly discovered dino eggs and bones.

On the way out the door we stopped by for one grand finale: The metal dino. Easton and Layla climbed up next to it and stood amazed by how big it is. I didn't get the head, but it's the best picture i have of the twins and they are what's important, right?

See you soon!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mattress Smells

Hi friends and family,

Rhino, where have you been on Skype and email? Are you rockin' the 14.4 baud modem in France or something? call me, dude.

The big news for the Webb household is the new arrival of our new bed. I could have bought a used car for the amount we spent on the bed. Since we already have two good cars and recently replaced the washer and dryer it seems like the logical next big purchase. The last bed was bought hastily the week after our wedding almost 9 years ago. I had a Uhaul, cash, and a new house with an empty master bedroom. We haven't regretted the bed we bought, but it's just getting old and saggy.

I read instructions online for how to break in a foam mattress. Supposedly, walking on it for 30 minutes a day in concentric circles for the first week will do the trick. Then I started thinking... I have a new mattress, Easton and Layla, and instructions encouraging jumping and walking on it. That's a great formula for a license to break the rules. So we did.

Kendra gave the green light for them to bounce around and all three of them had a ball. Then Kendra's legs started burning so it was my turn to join in the fun. We played Ring-a-ring-a-roses to accomplish the stated goal of breaking in the bed as well as the unwritten goal of wearing out the twins for bed time.

I took a short unscripted video of the twins valiantly fulfilling the call of duty. The bed smells horrific and that is a fact. I just can't believe the two of them simultaneously described the smell in the same way. I think the toxic fumes were so unfamiliar to Easton and Layla's nose they didn't know any other way to describe it. Hilarious...

The next picture of Layla is significant not because she is dressed as a princess fairy or playing with her phone. It is significant because of her unexpected grown-up response.

I called for her and didn't get a response so I went to go find her. I walked into the room and she was pretending to talk on the phone. I asked her to come to front room and she held up her hand with one figure and said, "just a second, Daddy. Can't you see I'm talking on the phone?" and then proceeded to pretend talking to Snow White. She was giggling and knew both of us had just entered a scene of some play or movie. She wasn't being rebellious and so I played along for a couple of minutes. She finished her call and said, "Snow White said to tell you hello. and by the way, you're supposed to say' excuse me' if you need to interrupt someone on the phone."

It's already started and she's only three? Life gets more fun every day with these two characters.

See you soon!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Twins Are Friends

Hello friends and family,

There is a theme or pattern I noticed over the past few years when Kendra and I meet other people. The conversation always comes around to twins either in casual conversation or because Easton and Layla are standing next to us. It's common for those who engage us in conversation to either have a twin or be a parent of twins. One of the questions Kendra asks is, "Are you still close to your twin?" or "Are your twins still close?" 95% of the time the answer is, "Yes!" and then the stories break off into descriptions of how close one twin lives to the other and how involved they are with each other's lives.

I like to hear those stories because I keep the belief and hope Easton and Layla will remain life long friends. For now they are off to an excellent start. Their couch TV chairs are right next to each other, but I walked into the living room to find Layla lying between the chairs because she wasn't close enough to Easton if she was confined to her own chair.

Easton didn't mind and I was just happy they had happy hearts. Speaking of happiness... Easton recently discovered his silly streak. Layla has always been expressive with her face and motions. The switch flipped for Easton and now he's making funny faces at the camera and looking at himself in the mirror just to see the changes in his expression. In the still shot it looks like a normal smile for Easton, but he was making silly faces.

And of course Layla often joins the silly face bandwagon. She does a great Albert Einstein impression without even knowing it. Maybe because I tell her she is the smartest girl in the entire city?

The daily trip to the mailbox was supplemented with a backpack full of picnic gear and tea party supplies. Layla insisted on wearing the heavy backpack to the mailbox and I couldn't think of any reason to say no. Not sure why I like this picture so much, but it really captures the essence of Layla.

The Mountain Dew can in the side pouch is mine. Easton and Layla have never drank soda in their life and we plan to keep it that way for as long as possible.

Another first annual Easter event was the egg dyeing. All of us put on our creative hats and had a great time mixing colors and drawing with wax on the eggs.

A special thanks to Oma and Opa for the Easter care package. Layla is putting the stickers to good use every single day. She's really good about only placing the stickers on acceptable things so that is a blessing. I have yet to find one on my glasses or in Easton's hair.

That wraps up the Easter week celebration for us and now it's back to life as usual with the exception of Aunt Mary arriving in town tomorrow for a few days. Never a dull moment around here!

See you soon.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Meaning of Easter

Happy Easter friends and family,

Today is the official day and this is my official Easter picture.

You may be thinking, "Hey, I thought this was the FOUR Webb's blog... What happened to the fourth Webb?" Well, we did take a lovely outdoor photo courtesy of a ledge and the timer on the camera. However, after the fourth Webb viewed said picture it was deemed unusable due to personal reasons. She didn't like it. I think it is a great picture, but you have to choose your battles and posting a picture she disagrees with isn't worth it.

The last time I wore a tie was... hmmmmm. I can't remember the last time I wore a tie. Maybe 9 years ago for our wedding? Anyway, this is the first suit I've owned in years and Easter is the best time I know of to break it in. Layla's dress looked so sweet on her, courtesy of Nana.

My favorite Easter picture is the one above because I'm in it and this is my blog so there you have it. However, the picture I will use on my computer desktop is this next one because the expression on their faces is much better.

The twins are at an age where it is important to know where stuff came from. They routinely point to something they own and say, "who bought this for me?" In today's case Layla asked specifically who bought her pretty Easter dress and I proudly told her Nana did. Easton looked very debonair with his hair styled and pressed shirt. Debonair is the word Kendra used to compliment him and I think it suites him well.

The timing of when to tell the twins about certain holiday stories is starting to come into question for us. Christmas was an easy one because they understand clearly what it means for the birth of baby Jesus. Easter is more difficult subject because it's dealing with Jesus' death and resurrection with lots of spiritual undertones.

We have NO intention of turning Easter into a Hallmark holiday about bunnies and eggs like many others have. Last night Kendra decided to give the twins a cliff notes version and I'm not sure how much they really comprehended. When it was my turn to say goodnight to Layla she repeated back the basics of Kendra's version. She told me the story as if I was hearing it for the first time. If only I had a camera then to capture her excitement and description.

For the past few month's I've been working with the twins on the concept of creativity. I'll have to get the name of the book we have which describes what it means to be creative. The book has pictures and examples and a kid-friendly explanation. After reading the book to them I look for opportunities to say, "you are creative!" I'm a strong believer in the power of words and if I as the father tell them something enough, they will believe it.

One such situation came up where Easton grabbed the dinosaur place mat off the table and put it on his head like a hat.

I said, "you are creative, Easton!" and he responded back saying, "yes, I am creative." His response wasn't a parroting of my words. It was a statement of fact and he honestly believes that about himself.

Layla refuses to be outdone so after convincing Easton to give her a turn she did the same thing. I told her she is creative also and her heart-felt response was almost too confident as if to say, "yes, dad. I already know that." Her actions and seeking approval is just another form of the same question she always asks, "Am I lovely?"

The weekend was a big success even though I didn't get Good Friday off work. I'll fix that next year with a floating holiday. Several other pictures and stories from the past week wait patiently on my computer and in my head. Unfortunately I've chosen other things like the Laker's playoff games and mountain bike riding.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter

Greetings friends and family,

Holidays and special occasions like birthdays used to one-day or even one-hour events. Life with twin toddlers presents a whole new face for what it means to celebrate. Birthdays last a month and every other holiday is at least a week. Easter is no exception. We've been celebrating all week including the mommy group egg hunt.

Here's a better picture of the ready-fire-aim group of kiddos as they wait impatiently for the great egg hunt to begin.

After the eggs were discovered and destroyed they turned on the splash pad and partied in the sun. Easton's favorite splash pad activity is racing his dump truck through the puddles.

Layla's favorite splash pad activity is the same favorite no matter what environment she is in: socializing. I can only guess what subject matter she was teaching or what obstacle course she was leading.

I came across a self-portrait of April and Kendra with their faces smashed together side-by-side. Rather than risk a comment such as, "I don't like that picture" I decided to post only the relevant portion to prove my point. They have the same eyes! That's cool...

Another cool thing is Easton's decision to take the next big step in potty training. We are almost finished with the process except for the night-time diapers. Part of his reward for taking care of business by himself on the big-boy potty was a ride on the mall train. He felt like a complete champion rolling through the mall.

Layla reaped some of the reward because that's what having twins is all about: share in failure and share in success.

Speaking of rewards... One of our big success stories is the use of the word, "consequences". A friend of mine shared the parenting strategy with me and I adopted it when the lights turned on upstairs for Easton and Layla. A couple of months ago I felt they were ready to handle the new paradigm. I introduced the concept of consequences by saying, "There are consequences for your actions. Those are the results of what you get based on what you do and how you act. It's your choice whether you get good consequences or bad consequences. However, there are consequences for everything you do." After going through this discussion a few times and them seeing real-time reaping and sowing it sank in. Now they get. I mean they really conceptually understand. Now when I say, "you are about to receive consequences..." they know the situation is critical and their choices will determine the outcome.

I like this concept because it prepares them for adulthood. That's the way real life works so why not teach them the truth now? There ARE consequences for every action (or inaction) and we choose the outcome based on our behavior. Anyway, to make a short story long it's working well and the desired behavior modification is occurring.

Meanwhile back at the ranch... My TV watching can be summed up in one sentence: I watch NBA playoffs. That's it. No shows, no sitcoms, no news, not even the music channel unless I'm hanging out for an extended time with the twins alone. This is the time of year where the TV is on about every 3 nights as I'm watching the games. Easton and Layla are completely uninterested. Out of boredom they arranged their chairs in the manner seen below and then sat in them arguing over who was touching who with their feet. I say arguing, but as you can see by the smile expression on their faces it's all in good fun.

What is Easton into these days? The next picture answers that question undoubtedly.

I told him to get two books for me to read in preparation for bed time and he grabbed these two. He insists I start at very beginning so I've been through the table of contents several dozen times recently.

One of the many things Kendra is teaching the twins is how to cook and bake. They sat intently waiting for the chance to pour, scoop, and blend the ingredients for cookie dough.

Part of their willingness to sit through the entire process with angelic-like patience is due to the reward or what we call the good consequence: licking the mixer beaters.

Easton and Layla are very unique individually, but then I see pictures like the one above where their head is tilted the same way, same expression, same hair color, etc. Makes me realize how alike they are. I make an intentional effort to treat them as separate individuals, but they really do look like twins. :)

Happy Easton and I'll See you soon!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Go Lakers

Hi friends and family,

Kendra and I laughed so hard when GG sent us a letter in the mail. She took the time to underline relevant portions of a newspaper clipping which described Kobe Bryants inappropriate comments last week. We were so impressed GG took the time to clip, underline, and send a note with the article in the mail to point out the mishap. I love her so much. :)

This will be the fourth Lakers playoff series in Easton's life and following the tradition of each year here's Easton's Laker jersey tribute. The first year Easton was barely a couple of months old and I had trouble just getting his arms to pop out through the sleeves of the jersey.

Then the next year he was big enough to sit up in my lap, but completely uninterested in staring at the TV for 3 hours through a game.

In the third year he was able to stand on his own, but still didn't show much interest in watching the game.

Now in the fourth year he's almost tall enough to walk in the jersey without tripping on it. Nothing else has changed in his lack of desire to watch the game, but I'm perfectly fine with that.

He'll sit for a couple of minutes and now he's aware the game on TV is basketball. However, he's much more interested in sliding down the slide and dunking his rubber basketball than in watching the big guys do it for real on TV.

See you soon!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

While You Were Away

Hello friends and family,

I'm safe and sound at home after a long, busy trip to Vegas. The work conference part was great, but unfortunately the work part lasted from 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM every day so I had just enough time to keep up on work and occasionally sleep. :) The comfy bed is calling me. No wait, that's Kendra. Either way, i'll catch up tomorrow with a good post of pictures and fun.

This is the picture I kept for myself from the last post and I looked at it often while I was gone. It makes me smile every time I see it. :)

When I hopped in the car at the airport I wanted to hear Easton and Layla tell me about what happened while I was away. Unfortunately they still don't have a solid grasp of time yet because Layla talked about going to the Princess Ice Skating show, which I was here for, and Easton talked about the real-time airplanes flying overhead as we were talking. Then Kendra and I were catching up and I never got back to the conversation with the twins. Kendra said she took pictures for me so I'll hear about the week as we look through pictures tomorrow.

See you soon!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Day Without Tears

Greetings friends and family,

People are starting to wonder about my well-being. My back problems had me holed up for a more than a week then I came down with the same snotty virus Easton and Layla have been battling. I cancelled almost all work and friend activities for the last 3 weeks or so. My energy levels sustained me for the basics of life and doing my part at home with Kendr and the twins. It's time to get back in the daily routine of things.

I'm planning a short trip out of town for a work conference and Kendra asked me what I look forard to the most. I quickly replied with a list something like this:

1. A day without tears. I can't remember if a single day passed since the birth of Easton and Layla where someone didn't cry. Other than my time away from home for vacations and work I'm fairly certain the answer is never. Hearing babies and kids cry doesn't bother me one bit and hasn't for a very long time. However, prior to having kids my reaction was similar to how someone reacts to fingernails on a chalk board. Now it's just a part of everyday life, but I am looking forward to making it through an entire day without hearing or seeing someone cry.

2. Enjoying meals. I won't have to encourage anyone to eat or specify in what order to eat it. I won't have to continually monitor and correct improper manners or behavior. Food will be fresh-out-of-the-oven hot instead of mildly warm because I spent the last 30 minutes helping the twins eat only to find my options are to eat cold food or nuke it.

3. Getting ready in the morning and for bedtime will take 12 minutes instead of 90. The routine each night of bath, books, bed includes many additional minutes not labeled in the "3 B's". Brushing teeth, refilling waters, lotion, pajamas, tracking down blankies, and dozens of other items on the agenda turn each night into a marathon. When I am gone it will take me 12 minutes to get myself from the front door into bed. That will be wonderful. When I am responsible for getting the twins ready for the day it honestly takes 90 minutes. no kidding.

4. working late without regret. Each evening in my daily life includes sitting at my desk trying to finish work early because I know Easton and Layla are waiting for me at home. Also, I know Kendra is doing her best to survive. These two factors lead me to go home as soon as possible when my must-do work is finished. Then I log back in once the kids go to bed and complete the left over work. When I am gone for my trip there will be no guilt or gnawing desire to close up shop early because I can't go home to Kendra and Easton and Layla.

5. Wiping only one nose: mine. As opposed to the past few weeks of wiping three noses all day. It sounds so minor, but I've spent literally hours of my weeks wiping noses so I won't miss that one bit.

Even with all of the things I'm looking forward to about my trip it will be short lived and empty satisfaction after the first day. I'll be missing Kendra and the twins terribly no matter how much fun I'm having. The flight home will be terribly long because I'll be more than ready to be home with my family.

So what's been happening around our house??? We are mattress shopping. Our king sized pillow top bed feels like sleeping in a hollowed out canoe after almost 9 years. Easton had the most fun of any of us by running up and down the aisles with his dragon.

Layla was more interested in the experience of lying on the beds and cuddling up on the contour pillows. She was as conversational with the sales guy as Kendra was. Big shocker there.

We didn't pick one out, but we are leaning heavily towards a foam mattress like the TempurPedic, iComfort, and Comforpedic. We're in no hurry, but eventually we'll squeeze out the huge hunk of cash necessary to sleep comfortably. Besides all of the shopping and purpose it made for a fun afternoon outing.

Then we went to the book store where Easton and Layla took over the childs area to hear Kendra test out an Olivia book.

Who'd have thought that a book about pigs would be so captivating?

I took the twins to the weeeee-bump park for some outdoor sand fun before dinner one night. The outing was much less fun because I realized after arriving at the park that the sand toys were in the garage! arrrrgh. We improvised and made the most of it anyway. Easton is coming into his own socially speaking. He invited the unknown boy to dig volcanos with him and they even spoke to each other a few times. Very rare for boys at this age from what I hear.

Lately I've sensed a change in maturity with the twins. For the past couple of years they are both go-go-going so much. It's rare for either of them, let alone both of them, to sit or lay calmly for any length of time. I took advantage of the moment and caught a picture of what that looks like.

I consider it a real treat when both of them rest on my arm as we talked about God knows what.

Ben and Trinity visited for a few hours at our house. Kendra and the twins were all excited to have them over. They are great kids and interact well with Easton and Layla. They brought rollerblades and joined in with Easton and Layla playing in the cul-de-sac. Kendra and I were talking today about how great it is to live in a cul-de-sac on a dead end street. Almost zero traffic and we feel very safe with them playing out there. I suppose owning a 5 acre ranch would be better, but we're content with what we have.

Inside, Ben helped Easton build a world-class course for Thomas and Friends. That'll remain up and running for several days until Easton gets tired of it. Then we'll put it back in the closet and rotate it in again later.

Kendra and the twins took advantage of the heat wave by getting wet at the zoo splash pad. Easton's new-found bravery led him to tackle the dark tunnel and run under some heavy water falls. It makes me proud to see him dismiss fears and gain self-confidence.

We still have the double stroller for one reason... The zoo. This is the only time when Kendra straps the kids in. she does this because it's insanely crowded at times and she want's to come home with as many children as she went there with.

The twins "helped" me wash Kendra's car. They grabbed a handful of soap bubbles from the bucket and smeared it on the headlights. Then they spent the rest of the time splashing in the puddles and running in the street. I joined them and have to admit it is as fun as they think it is.

We played hide-and-seek inside while waiting for dinner one evening. As much as we tell them not to play in Momma's curtains it is just too easy to hide there. They were wound up like a top and having a great time as you can see.

Then a funny thing happened. Layla was hiding behind the curtains and a random beach towel. I took a picture and when I looked at it I had serious flashbacks. I thought, "where have I seen that look before?"

I dug back through the archive and found this picture of Layla chewing on the ear of a stuffed animal dog.

Then I went back even further and found the original picture and realized there is definitely a pattern here!

Seeing those old pictures of Layla floods my brain with the sweet memories of her as a baby. Thank God I have a ton of pictures to look through. That's one thing I'll never regret is taking too many pictures. Never heard anyone on their death bed say, "If only I hadn't taken so many pictures of my kids". :)

See you soon!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Princesses on Ice

Greetings friends and family,

April kindly took pictures and sent them to me. I congratulate her on jumping to a whole new level of coolness in my eyes. Not many chicks are tech savvy enough to upload a batch of photos to dropbox and provide a link to them. Well done, fellow nerd.

While Easton and I were neck-deep in dinosaurs and natural history Kendra took Layla to see Disney on Ice - Princess Classics. The two of them along with April and Layla Ruth had a "magical" time.

Since I wasn't there I don't have many comments, but here are a bunch of pictures Layla and I looked through together. She described every princess and character as well as what they were doing and singing.

This is the "before" picture in case one of them got lost in the auditorium. I can imagine in a crowd like it wouldn't help to describe a lost child as "the girl with the princess dress".

Kendra said the set and stage were amazing. It was up to the standards of what they expect from Disney.

Bright-eyed Layla's attention was well maintained by the action on the ice. No problem with boredom or sleepiness when all of that excitement was happening on the ice.

Layla's favorites were Jasmine and Snow White.

For some strange reason Layla is singing "whistle while you work" every day lately.

I asked Layla what she was doing in this next picture. She said, "I was whispering a secret to Layla Ruth". She wouldn't tell me what the secret was, but I'm ok with that as long as she was enjoying the experience.

Just looking at the pictures makes it easy to see how the kids were overwhelmed by princess overdose.

And of course, the obligatory wardrobe change... Now I can expect the same behavior during dress up at the Casa de Webb.

I wish I were there to watch Layla enjoy herself and see what graceful ice skating is all about for the first time. At least I have pictures! Kendra's willingness to jump on the tickets when they were available is commendable. I like that she is willing to try new things and take some risks with out-of-the-blue adventures.

See you soon!