Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cow Parade and Funderland

Hello friends and family,

I've been working all week to save my vacation days for the upcoming trip to the coast. That means I miss out on all the day time fun. Kendra took the twins to Funderland Amusement Park in Sacramento. The twins courageously braved the roller coasters and were rewarded with a special face painting.

Layla's lady bug is complete with grass, flowers and blue sky. Too bad the hot day melted the art a little before they arrived home.

By the time I arrived home from work the paint smeared across her face. I was happy Kendra took pictures so I could see it well.

Easton requested a shark, which doesn't surprise me at all. I like the two little fish on his nose swimming away from the toothy sharks mouth.

Silly boy thinks he's funny by sticking his tongue out. When he does this it is hard to keep from laughing.

I wish there were pictures of the roller coaster rides, but my paranoia of Kendra managing the new camera and the twins without me was too much. I'll get over it... just takes time.

We joined in the local small-town fun with my friend Craig and his two kids at the parade and cattle drive. Here is Layla making friends (again) with his daughter Kayla.

It wasn't a July 4th parade because the purpose is to kick off the rodeo weekend. However, many wore red white and blue costumes and there were plenty of flags flying.

We were happy to have GG with us to celebrate. We're lucky to have such an active, fun Grandma for us and Great Grandma for the twins.

Each time a new set of parade participants passed by, Easton and Layla would vigorously wave their flag and smile. Many of the folks riding in the cars and carriages and on horses would intentionally wave and smile back because the twins were so happy and excited that they stood out in the crowd of people.

Ouma took advantage of the opportunity to cuddle with Brodie, her Niece Heather's son. If that meets Ouma's baby holding desires then I'm happy with that because Kendra and I have no plans for more kids. :)

The parade was short, the herd of cattle passed in about 60 seconds, and the entire experience took only an hour including traffic. My new camera did a great job capturing moments like this where Easton and Layla have bonding experiences with GG.

That makes the entire trip to NorCal worthwhile. As a bonus, the twins had their first experience driving battery powered quads on the street. Coming soon to a blog near you.

See you soon!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wildlife and death of a camera.

Hello friends and family,

My trusty Canon S90 camera is... dead. What's a blog without pictures? When I wield my pen (or computer keyboard) it is not mighty like a sword. More like cutting with a Popsicle stick. Because of my lack of writing skill I rely heavily on pictures to get my point across.

Yesterday I took the twins for a walk on the trails by Ouma and Oupa's house. A park bench is strategically placed to provide a quick rest for sick three-year-olds who are getting healthy. I asked them to sit next to each other and act like best friends.

Layla normally walks on the retaining wall, but this time Easton joined in with his ever-increasing confidence and balance.

We walked the long way around the path and as we passed the shopping center Layla and Easton simultaneously said, "I'm hungry!". We just ate an hour prior to our walk, but they are growing kids and I had nothing but time to hang out with them.

Our snack of chips and beans and cheese hit the spot. When I say, "show me your cute face" the twins used to respond by tilting their heads to the side and smiling. Layla followed directions with a Pavlovian response. Easton broke ranks and lunged forward with a subdued T-rex roar.

On our nature walks we've seen beetles, hornets, squirrels, birds, ants, and many other critters. Now we can add lizard to the list. This poor guy didn't know what hit him. Normally Layla charges feet first with a stomp aimed directly at whatever vermin is in the spotlight. I convinced her to walk sloooowly up to unsuspecting creatures because we can get a closer view.

and then... tragedy struck! We passed by the flower bed in front of Ouma and Oupa's neighborhood entrance where I imagined a sweet picture of Easton and Layla sitting next to each other with copious amounts of colorful flowers in the background.

Easton and Layla sat down with a smile. I grabbed by camera to take the shot quickly before something shiny passed by. Layla dug both hands into the flower bed dirt and Easton yelled, "beetle!". I fumbled around with my words and camera trying desperately to get the twins out of the dirt. My camera fell right out of my hands lens-first on the sidewalk. It's dead. power no worky worky.

I can do without a camera for a few days, but I've been blogging and taking thousands of pictures for almost 3.5 years. The thought of being without a camera for a month while it gets fixed is terrifying to me. We have some awesome adventures coming up in the next few weeks and Ouma's point-n-shoot just won't cut it for me.

One of the things Uncle Dave taught me was to always buy the extended warranty on things that have a good chance of breaking. Because of his sage advice I always get the longest most comprehensive warranty possible.

My Canon S90 has about 5 months left and luckily I had full coverage (including dunce moves like dropping it on the pavement). I could have just bought the newer model of the S90 and called it a day. Then I saw the Canon Rebel EOS T3 DSLR on sale. Considering I take about 7,000 pictures per year it was easy to justify the extra dollars required to step it up a notch.

Now, if a guy like me proves I can't handle a camera like an S90 without dropping it, what should I do? Ah, of course... go buy a more expensive camera because I have such a great track record. duh. Here's the box of my new toy.

I can't very well take a picture of my camera since I only have one so you'll just have to take my word for it and see the box instead.

The day after getting a new camera it rains. in June. all day. The silver lining to the cloud is that I found the perfect subject to capture with my new camera. It's a snail and everyone knows there is nothing slower than a snail.

I had all the time in the world to play with the adjustments as the snail slowly puttered across the sidewalk. The macro mode worked perfectly and the quality of the image is stunning to say the least.

Poor Ouma caught whatever nasty virus Easton and Layla contracted so she isn't feeling well. Even so she had enough energy to play with the twins for a long time after dinner so I could do silly things like take pictures of the action packed household.

Kendra and Oupa went to Neill and Ginny's for Bible study and social time. The cool, gloomy day was a rare treat for NorCal in June. I was so happy to see the clouds and walk around outside with the rain steadily coming down. The view from Ouma and Oupa's backyard shows the ominous fog and dreary day. It may seem strange for me to be so excited about a day like this, but living in Phoenix turns these opportunities into a novelty.

The other novelty is my chance to train with the Korean Government's Taekwondo demonstration team. Their master had an EOS Canon DSLR similar to mine so we had a conversation piece right off the bat. He agreed to take a picture, which is the only picture of me with my black belt since I first earned it.

There it is. Proof I'm the real deal, certified, practicing black belt in Taekwondo. I'm not bragging, just proud of myself for sticking with something and continuing the journey to improve my skill and knowledge. This gives additional meaning to the phrase, "seeking balance in life".

And now, a moment of silence for the dead S90 camera. RIP.

See you soon!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sick and Happy

Hello friends and family,

The twins are feverishly sick, but kids are too naive to know it. They still want to play and run around even though I hear "tissue, please!" every few minutes. Today Layla sat next to me at lunch and a sneeze caught her by surprise. It caught me by surprise too because she sprayed snot and food all over my newly served salad. Not much a person can do about that other than wipe her nose and get a new bowl of salad.

Easton discovered his battery powered race cars run on the tile even better than on the plastic track. Ever since then he and Layla have them zooming all over the living room until the batteries die.

It's hard to know they are sick when they want to play chase and run around the house all the time.

That's a difference between toddlers and adults. If I were as sick as them i would be in bed with a TV remote and my laptop moaning about how much I need Kendra to take care of me.

The only side benefit to the sick kids is the increased cuddling and loving. I've had more hugs and book reading time in the past two days than I normally get in two weeks.

Easton is stepping up the intelligence building like I've never seen before. The twins were reaching to get the string on their Red Robin balloons. Easton realized the futility in their attempts. He went to the bathroom, brought back the step stool, and stood right up to grab his balloon by the tail. I call that good problem solving skills.

Layla wanted to check out Ouma and Oupa's backyard so walked out in our pajamas. She immediately noticed the tiny frogs hopping around. She grabbed one and pet it firmly with her finger. I could see the frog squishing with every not-so-gentle stroke of Layla's finger. Poor frog. Then she noticed another one and scooped it up for Easton. He reluctantly stuck his hand out and then dumped the frog into Oupa's fountain after the frog shifted around on his hand.

Before I could reprimand him Layla tossed her frog in as well. The twins giggled as the frogs swam around jumping to get out of the deep hole.

We kept them at home as much as possible, but can't resist their requests to go do something outside of the house when they are sick. They have happy hearts even if their temperatures are a little above normal.

I planned to visit the library with the twins, but it was closed by the time I arrived. My backup plan was play time in the park. Things worked out relatively well. Easton and Layla both like the baby swings still, but occasionally will give the big-kid swings a try. I do my best to keep them from leaning too far forward. If one of them takes a digger by plowing their face through the wood chips, then that will set me back several months in their comfortableness with the big-kid swings.

On another day I took the twins for a morning outing to the cat tail park so we could watch the co-ed soccer games and run around in the grass. Layla twirled around like a royal dancer with her cute pig tails.

Easton convinced Layla to pretend to be an airplane while chugging along the train tracks. The playground is outlined by a wide cement border which Easton pretends is a train track. After taking the picture I joined in right behind him and several parents laughed or gave me strange looks for acting like a three-year-old.

I convinced a random Mom to ignore her kid for a few minutes and take a picture of me with Easton and Layla.

I was happy to get a decent picture with both kids looking at the camera. I had to bribe them with a fruit rollup, but I'm not above stooping to the level of bribing when it comes to taking a picture with the three of us.

See you soon!

Friday, June 24, 2011

NorCal summer

Greetings friends and family,

100 degree heat sounds hot to some folks, but when you compare that against 115 degrees in Phoenix, 100 sounds fairly cool. You mean you can feel a difference between 100 and 115? Yes. And that's one reason we chose to be here in NorCal this time of year. The nights and mornings are downright cold. So chilly that I had to roll my window up on the way to work this morning. I'll take that any summer day.

With a few spare hours of free time I took the twins to play at the castle park. There are three huge tractor tires just the right size for Easton and Layla to play hide and seek.

We started playing in the wooden castle structure and Easton pointed out the extraordinary number of spiders and spider webs. None of them looked like Black Widow webs so I said, "Ok... Don't touch them! have fun."

How's that for NOT being an overprotective, overbearing father? I make a consorted effort to seek balance in parenting. I'm not bragging, just pointing out the intentional steps I take.

Ouma and Oupa had plenty of new toys and puzzles waiting for the twins. The two of them are really stepping up their skills in solving puzzles. The faster they solve the puzzles, the less time it keeps them occupied. :)

The hot days make for a refreshing pool temperature. The twins voiced their excitement for swimming with Oupa many times over the past few weeks. The thrill of actually doing it met the level of hype Kendra and I described.

Easton stole the show by swimming unassisted for about 12 feet from the steps. He also requested to do a flip because he saw some other girl doing flips off the side. I held him up in a plank position above the water then flipped his legs over backwards. Then after the flip he regained his composure under water and swam a few feet to Oupa. He's turning into a real fish in the water. We also had a great fan club relaxing pool-side.

Kendra heard her mommies group talking about Vacation Bible School. We agreed and signed them up for what we called "camp" for Easton and Layla. Each morning M-F from 9-12 they went to camp and had a great time.

By the second day when Kendra dropped them off they barely even bothered with a "good-bye" before rushing off to join their new friends. Kendra experienced the feeling of leaving them similar to what some parents feel on the first day of preschool. I completely understand what she described. I'm glad I was at work and didn't have to go through that, but I'm also very relieved to hear their stories of extreme fun.

The best thing about camp is the break for Kendra. This is a vacation week for her because she was able to rest every day for a few hours, which is heaven for a full time Mom.

Layla and I went for a long daddy-daughter walk one afternoon. I thought her little legs would wear out after only a few hundred yards. When I said, "it's ok if we don't make it all the way to the shopping center" Layla said, "come on, Dad. I know you can make it!" with an encouraging voice.

We did make it all the way there and wound up sharing chips and beans at the Mexican restaurant. She even held my hand during part of the walk home and I'm soaking up every time she offers to hold my hand. I don't know how much longer I have for her to ask to hold my hand, but I'll never turn her down.

She wanted to go look in the fountain so we walked up to check it out. She pointed out the bugs floating around and it was all I could do to keep her her from reaching in to grab some. I took a picture and it's one of my favorites in the past several months.

I can't believe this is my little baby girl. She looks so grown up and lovely. It doesn't seem to matter how much time and effort I focus on the twins... they keep getting older every day. We're making the most of it, doing our best, and loving every minute along the way.

See you soon!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

OKC to AZ to Cali in 2 days

Guess Who?

The 4 Webbs of course! This was one picture I held back from the OKC science museum just for fun. We filed into a dark room and stood against the wall. A strobe flashed and Viola! Our shadows were captured briefly on the wall behind us.

An interesting side effect of the twins watching Peter Pan is that Layla became very concerned that her shadow was "captured" on the wall. After a short explanation of reality she was fine with it, but I had a good laugh long after the shadows disappeared.

We arrived home safely in AZ and everything was back to normal. The monkeys were climbing the walls and having a good time playing with their best friend.

Two days later we were packed and ready for the 13 hour drive to Sacramento for a visit with Ouma and Oupa. No moss growing under OUR feet! The drive was uneventful. We stopped at our usual spots for gas and food including the old Denny's on the Cali/AZ border. A little play-dough and a crayon helped pass the time until the grand slams arrived.

We showed up at 4:00 AM to Ouma and Oupa's door, slept for a few hours, then zombie'd our way through the day. Then on Saturday we joined in a birthday party for cousin Abby who turned 5 years old. The party was held at Wacky Tacky, a huge indoor playground. There were enough interesting things about it that adults and kids alike played non-stop for 90 minutes. We stopped Easton and Layla just long enough to pose for a picture with Kendra. Then they were off again running.

Layla's favorite part was the face/body painter lady. Layla asked for Tinker Bell in pink on her arm (surprise, surprise).

Then she jumped right back in line to get a second painting of a butterfly on her cheek. The lady had stencils and a powder brush so it was very basic, but very rapidly applied. Three year olds don't care about artistic creativity or accuracy of the hand painted face so the quick painting worked very well.

Layla looked at herself in the mirror for several seconds. Smiling and batting her eye lashes as if she were dressed up for a beauty pageant. Watching her admire her own beauty was one of the sweetest things I've seen in a long time. She honestly believes she is a beautiful princess and I gladly take a lot of credit for her excellent self-image.

The twins asked Kendra and I to join them on the long, bumpy slide. We are corny enough to slide down with Easton and Layla on our lap and I even took a picture as we whoooshed down.

After we were forced from the play area, we herded into a big room with table seating for 30 kids and bench seating along the edge for the parents. The twins did very well handling the open cup of lemonade and pizza.

Then came the ONE, true reason Easton and Layla wanted to go to the birthday party... cake! They passed out individual, small cupcakes, which were perfectly proportioned.

Less than 48 hours after we arrived in Sacramento Easton was already transformed into an Ouma's boy. Any time she leaves the room we are guaranteed to hear a frantic, "Where's Ouma?" from Easton. I've turned into Mr. Cellophane, but I'm perfectly happy to assume my role in the hierarchy of grandparents first, then parents as the twins' order of preference.

The mornings and evenings are cool and sunny with a slight breeze. perfect for taking walks. Or in Layla's case, taking runs. Her motto really is, "go, Go, GO!"

On the way home Easton and Layla were equally tired from the walk/run. They don't normally hold hands as they walk, but they did so with a single request from me so I could take a picture. :)

Ouma and Oupa kept the tricycles from last trip. The twins were excited to ride them and hear the honks and beeps from pressing the buttons located on the dash of each one. I tried to get them to ride on the sidewalk between the condos, but they preferred the street and driveway.

I'm certain a witty caption would go well with this next picture of the twins looking at each other, but unfortunately I'm drawing a blank. Maybe you can help me out with this one with a comment?

During our Father's Day meal we all said what we like about our Father and Oupa. Kendra asked Easton, "What do you like about Oupa?" He said, "I like when Oupa chases me" and then he giggled for a few minutes just thinking about it. here's a picture of exactly what Easton is talking about.

Kendra is doing her best to take care of Ouma as she recovers from surgery, but Ouma's instincts to clean and play and interact with us is stronger than the Force from Star Wars. Follow the doctor's orders! Everything will be fine and back to normal in just a few days.

See you soon!