Saturday, July 30, 2011

Floatie-Free Zone

Greetings friends and family,

Hello from the land of heat and waterlogged swimmers. 105 degree high, 85 degree low, repeat for 3 months or until you dehydrate and collapse.

Waterlogged, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, is a condition where your fingers look like prunes due to overexposure to water. We get to that point almost every day and sometimes twice.

Easton and Layla usually start with floaties then badger me until I agree to let them "practice". That means we remove the floaties for a few minutes so they can swim a few feet from the step to me, then back to the step. This past week the term practice is no longer applicable. They swam the entire day with no floaties for the first time.

Wearing goggles helped them get more comfortable in the water. After a few days they preferred to swim floatie free all of the time. Neither of them tread water yet, but they can swim unassisted for 10 feet or so. That means floaties are just encumbering them.

The most fun they have is touching the bottom and pushing off towards the surface. Also, I throw Easton in the air and he swims to the steps. He's more of a daredevil in the water than Layla, but as long as they are able to swim I'm happy. We're seeing great progress!

Other than the pool we have zero outdoor activities. Ouma is joining in for indoor fun to make the most of her time with the twins. Pretend makeup is a big hit with Layla.

Layla played dressup with Ouma to show all the new dresses since Ouma's last visit. Here's her Ariel (i think) wedding dress complete with veil... and Bolt stuffed animal. She is a beautiful princess with or without the outfit. That being said, seeing her in a wedding dress freaks me out. I'm barely (and I mean bbbbbarely) able to send her off to pre-school in a few weeks. The thought of her leaving and cleaving through marriage is inconceivable.

Unlike Vizzini in The Princess Bride, I DO know what that word means.

I spent the entire day Saturday with Easton and Layla while Kendra and Ouma went out together. On the way to Daniel's birthday party the twins took a power nap. The significance of the double power nap is that Layla hasn't napped in months and she never falls asleep during the day in the car. Today they were already tired even before we arrived at the party.

The party was a swim/play party at an indoor aquatic center. The temperature was cooler than an outdoor pool and we didn't leave with a sunburn as a party favor. I was one of two dads who joined the kids and moms in the pool. I'm shameless when it comes to spending quality time with Easton and Layla.

The kids received a cupcake as is the standard "birthday cake fad" this year. Even the adults were offered a cupcake and of course I couldn't say no.

Thanks for sharing your cupcakes, Daniel! Here's the birthday boy with remnants of the frosted goodness.

Katelyn is Daniel's sister and she held her own very well as the mob of 4 year olds swarmed the playground. Those two are definitely related...

Easton played with Zander, but only after I convinced him I'm too small to fit in the small openings in the playground structure. He wanted me to play because he's so used to me actively participating in his playtime. This was a sad kind of moment for me even though it is necessary. While Layla was off playing with her girlfriends Easton needed encouragement to find some boys to befriend. He understood and found Zander as I hung back in the parental section.

On the way out of the aquatic center complex the birthday boy was available for pictures. Layla took advantage of the moment to share a big hug and smile.

Layla wore her ballerina tutu to the party and then for the rest of the evening. We stopped by the store to buy flowers for Kendra and Ouma. Layla noticed the fairy statue on top of the fountain. Easton noticed the fairy was drinking the water. I had to intervene before he attempted to copy the slurping fairy. Layla gladly posed for a picture with the statue.

Kendra's surgery is Tuesday, Ouma leaves on Thursday, and my Mom arrives on Thursday. Next week promises to be eventful. I'm already sad for Ouma to leave, but excited for my Mom to arrive. My feelings about Kendra's surgery are mixed. I'm believing her knee will be fully restored and she won't be in anymore pain. However, going under the knife is not a fun process no matter how great the end results.

See you soon!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Easton Learns the Hard Way

Greetings friends and family,

There is sadness in the 4 Webb's house as we mourn losing the Lightning McQueen remote control car. What happened to Lightning? Well, it's an interesting story of consequences and a model of success. I'm not bragging, just excited to have found a method of discipline which impacts Easton appropriately.

Easton bites. That is the problem statement. Since he was old enough to do it he's been a biter. He isn't malicious, just defensive. He doesn't run through the house like a lunatic vampire seeking victims. However, when his personal space boundaries are crossed (usually by Layla) get ready for teeth!

Yesterday Layla did some unknown act of annoyance inside Easton personal space and he bit her on the hand. very hard. She screamed and I enacted my well-thought-out solution. Easton is getting to the age where he understands good and bad consequences as well as obedience and disobedience. How should Easton be disciplined?

- Corporal punishment has no lasting impact and is proven not to effect behavioral change for Easton. Whether you agree or disagree with this method is immaterial... It simply doesn't work on him.
- Sending him to his room for quiet time is no good. He sees it as a reward! He would lie on his bed, suck his thumb and cuddle his blankie for hours on end if we let him.
- Time out is ineffective because he just squirms around not caring about anything besides getting off the cold tile floor.
- Taking away privileges (toys and treats) has its place, but the impact is minimal. Easton always asks, "When the time out is done do I get (whatever) back?" After I answer "Yes" he waits patiently and isn't phased one bit by the lack of (whatever).

Drastic times call for drastic measures... I declare today as the official last time Easton ever bit anyone. When the topic comes up in conversation years from now we can definitively say, "the last time Easton bit someone was July 26, 2011". How can I be so confident? Well, here's the secret.

I showed Easton the marks on Layla's hand, pointed out her crying and sadness, then asked for his side of the story. He wasn't able to tell me why he bit her or what she did to provoke him. I gave him a chance though... Anyway, I told him, "You disobeyed. Because of your bad choice of biting Layla you will get a bad consequence."

We walked to his room together and I told him the Lightning McQueen remote control will go in the trash. He picked it up and we walked to the side of the house where the dumpster sits. Then I explained again what happened and why Lightning has to go bye-bye. He reluctantly tossed the car and remote in the trash. A new era of obedience began in the Webb house. We went back inside the house where the real key learnings occurred. We walked over to his beloved box full of Thomas and Friends train tracks.

I squatted down to his level and put my hand on the box. I told him, "If you ever bite anyone again for any reason, this box goes in the trash." He responded with a quick, "yes sir!" For the first time I saw in his eyes he knew exactly what would result if he chose to bite again.

For the rest of the night any time Layla cried or gave the slightest whimper he ran over to me saying, "I did NOT bite Layla!" Kendra asked me if I planned to get the toy out of the garbage can. I can understand her thought process, but I explained how he would never learn the true concept of consequences if we just gave it back to him.

Discipline and punishment are necessary, but I abhor doing it. If taking extreme measures means I do it less in the future, then it's well worth the pain of watching Big Time struggle with the loss of Lightning McQueen.

The wonderful realities of three-year-old forgiveness displayed their full color only minutes after the biting incident. We went through the same ole' process we go through every time something like this occurs. Easton says, "Please forgive me for biting you, Layla" and she says, "I forgive you." They hug and then it's back to being best friends again.

Best friends who share, that is...

Progress is sometimes slow, but as long as we are creeping forward I'm a happy parent.

See you soon!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Even After 3.5 Years

Greetings friends and family,

Several times in the past week I found myself amazed by the products in our house which I didn't think we would need with 3 and a half year old kids. If you are buying gifts for a new parent, this is a shopping list if you want to be remembered for YEARS after the birth. The list and reasons why the items are still needed:

diapers - Sleepy time still requires diapers. Apparently there is a "level 6", which means kids don't require diapers at night. Not sure when this milestone will be reached, but until then we are still buying stock in Pampers.

Sippy cups - The twins continually spill when given an open container of liquid so we have cups with lids and/or straws to prevent accidents. I had no idea we'd be this far into raising kids and still require sippy cups. Some with straws and some with flip tops, but ALL of them leak.

Wipes - Baby wipes should be renamed to "Kid Wipes" because they are still required even after the baby stage is long gone. Especially when dining out or in the car or at the park or 1,000 other places. I can't imagine how we survived life without wipes before kids and we will probably keep wipes around until they go away to college.

Child safety locks - cabinets are still not safe and as the twins get older they get more curious. I image these locks will stay in place for years.

Nunu, mini-pillow, and blankie - These three items must be in hand at bed time or else there is whaling and gnashing of teeth. All three are original gifts from when they were born. The nunu used to be big enough to be used as a blankie:

but as the twins grew it became an accessory. Now the blankie covers them and they sleep with their head on the pillow while clutching the nunu.

These items are bed-time only items so we don't have to worry about Easton and Layla taking them to school.

By the way, we are gearing up for their first day of pre-school in a couple of weeks! I'm not ready for this... not even a little. Just a few months ago they were tiny babies in my arms or so it seems. We've been speaking positively about it since February when we visited the school. The twins know the teachers name and they are extremely excited because we describe it with that frame of mind.

It's easy to see how our words impact their own bias towards everything in life. If we talked about how terrible school is or how much we will miss them or some other negative slant then they would be carrying those expectations with them. It's almost like creating a reality for them. Kids are the ultimate science experiment. We're doing our best to do it right the first time because there isn't a reset button.

Kendra and I lost an entire day with a flu bug. That's the bad news AND good news. It was only one day and lucky for us, Ouma was here caring for all 4 Webbs at once. God bless her...

I'll get some new pics and thoughts up here on the blog again since we are no longer face-down in the commode.

See you soon!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Safe at Home Plate

Greetings friends and family,

The 4 Webbs are back home in AZ for the first time in 45 days. That's a long time to be away from home, but worth every ounce of difficulty required to make it happen. The trip to OKC and Sacramento provided the perfect getaway from the Arizona heat and opportunity to be with friends and family. Why would we want to travel that much and be gone from home so long? Several reasons...

1. Because we can. my job allows for me to work wherever, whenever I want. Who knows how long this arrangement will last, but I'm going to make the most of it while the option exists.

2. Family is important. We want Easton and Layla to spend as much time as possible with Ouma and Oupa and the extended family.

3. I'm doing my best to align with the Harvard Dad philosophy of raising kids. The longer I am a parent, the more I see these truths played out to be an advantage for the twins.

I'll finish up the review of our trip to the ocean. One of the most memorable and enjoyable occasion was the time spent with Logan and Bree. Ouma and Oupa took care of the twins so we could have some adult conversation. The fantastic views and chance to hang out was time well spent.

All of us drove up the highway a few minutes for a visit with Aunt Robin. Her new place in the hills is exceptional in many ways. We weren't able to stay long, but it was great to see her again and catch up.

There is something special about the ocean. Four of the five senses for me are completely drawn to it. The tasting sense is the one left out. yuck. I swallowed some ocean water and trust me it isn't pleasant or calming or desirable in any way. 4 out of 5 ain't bad.

Each morning the thick fog provided a perfect climate for us to enjoy. On the last day I took the twins for a walk along the cliffs. They are too young to really comprehend the extraordinary opportunity to absorb the moment. However, they will certainly remember this trip for a long time. They both remember last year's trip so each year we go will build on the memories of the past.

The 4 Webbs plus Ouma piled in the Pilot for the long night drive home. The trip was uneventful, but our internal clocks spun off their axis due to the 3:30 AM bed time. The readjustment period was only two days and all of us are back to normal life. We are finally safe at home once again.

Kendra suckered April into cooking dinner and hosting us at their house because none of us felt like cooking. She graciously fed our troops and hers some delicious meatball and sausage spaghetti.

Almost every day since we began our travels 6 weeks ago Layla will say, "I miss Layla Ruth". I'm sure Kendra felt the same way about April, but Kendra didn't verbalize it as much or stick out her bottom lip. Watching Layla and Layla reunite is pure entertainment.

They only took a few minutes of getting reacquainted before they were back to playing fairy princesses and dress up.

The 105 degree temperature every day leads to once or twice per day swim times. I invited Trinity and Ben over for an afternoon of semi-refreshing swimming with play time with Easton and Layla. The water temperature is 93 degrees so that's why I said "semi-refreshing".

I brought out the slide to add a little spice to the pool time. Both sets of twins filled an hour or more with water guns and showing off.

Easton and Layla's favorite thing to do is practice. That's the term they use to describe swimming without floaties back and forth between the steps. Both of them were also able to go down the slide and swim across to the other side unassisted. I can tell this summer they will make huge advances in their swimming abilities.

I took the twins to Lowe's for some home improvement purchases. Easton wanted to see the outdoor misters, which he called, "steamers". As we wandered outside the two of them checked out the fountains. I hope they weren't getting any bright ideas from this one:

Notice how the little boy is on his knees while the girl stands on his back to reach the fountain... If I catch them doing that someday at least I'll know where the idea came from!

See you soon.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Beach Life

What's up dudes and dudettes,

We are wanna-be beach bums staying in a very nice resort (thanks Uncle Logan!)for a few days of vacation. The six-hour drive from Sacramento to Pismo Beach was challenging, but managable thanks to Little Einsteins movies and the DVD player. Everything went as planned for my flight from AZ to Sacramento and for Kendra's effort to pack the car and pick me up from the airport. We jumped on the highway immediately with all 4 Webbs excited to get to the beach. Uno and Dos asked, "are we there yet?" dozens of times. Explaining time to three-year-olds is not an easy task. All I could get across was that we would see the ocean before the sun went to bed.

Because the trip is extra long and we traveled in the middle of the day we had time for another in-flight movie. Toy Story 2 is good, but not Easton's favorite. He dislikes Evil Emperor Zurg and hid behind his blankie through the intense scenes.

Easton and Layla needed to run their wiggles out as soon as we arrived. I was lucky to get one picture of them holding still.

They couldn't wait to get their toes in the sand. We walked down the steps along the cliff just outside our window and chased some waves. OK, the waves chased us...

The next morning began with Kendra getting a massage while the rest of us slept in. After breakfast we walked up the street to the surf shop where we rented wet suits and boogie boards.

Uncle Logan and Bree spent the day with us, which made the family time extra special. Easton and Layla have been looking forward to seeing the two of them for weeks.

We loaded up our gear and drove down to Pismo Beach where the locals said have the best waves of the day. The picture of Easton and Logan walking along the beach is especially interesting because they have the same walk and body posture.

From what I can tell Logan and Bree aren't big beach goers, but they subjected themselves to possible skin damage for the sake of spending time with us. Easton is a big fan of Logan because he's embracing the Uncle role very well.

The 4 Webbs don't do anything half-way. We brought a sun screen tent for the twins and a big popup shade for the adults. Easton asked, "where's the door so we can sleep?" I did my best to explain that a sun shade doesn't have a door so you can look at the ocean.

One of my hopes for our day at the beach was to get Easton and Layla in the ocean at least once and possibly even ride the boogie board with me. I found some Youtube clips to show them little kids riding with grownups on boogie boards. They were excited to try and Layla was first to volunteer.
Kendra and I rented wetsuits from the surf shop, but unfortunately they did not have wetsuits small enough for Easton and Layla. The water felt like 2 degrees above freezing, but the wetsuit is so awesome I could have played in the ocean all day long. Once my toes went numb I was fine. Not so much for Layla. I placed her on the board and then I hovered over the top just like I saw in the YouTube clips. We were in such shallow water that when I put my weight on the board to ride the frothy wave it turned over and Layla’s body was dunked for a second in the frigid water. She did great until that moment and the shock of cold made her understandably unhappy.

We dried her off and warmed her up as quickly as possible. In no time she was back to herself. Nothing fixes problems like a lollipop.

No matter what is wrong in the world, getting a lollipop reward as a good consequence makes everything right.
Boogie boarding is one of our favorite couple activities. There aren’t a host of activities we both enjoy, but this is one thing we would do together every single day if we could.

There are not many moments I can compare to when the two of us catch the same wave and ride it together. Looking over and seeing Kendra smiling from ear to ear while I euphorically relish the moment is by far the highlight of any beach trip.

As I thought through the error of my ways with Layla I decided to give it another try with the only willing victim left… Easton. He wasn’t paying much attention when Layla took her dunk in the water so he was still excited to give it a try. His interest grew even more after seeing Kendra and I riding the waves together. I decided to put Big Time on my back instead of in front of me. I tested his resolve by wading out into the waves. I gauged his jovial reaction as a green light to give the wave riding a try.

I gave him a brief lesson in how to spot the perfect wave by saying, “are you ready? Let me hear you say ‘I can’ if you’re ready.” He shouted a hearty, “I CAN!” like a confident general leading a brigade into battle.

Easton hung on my neck tighter than I’ve ever felt before and we lunged into the oncoming wave. His reaction vacillated between something like, “This is awesome!” and “I’m so scared”.

I stood up and he realized Daddy was still in control and keeping him safe. I gave him a few seconds to process what just happened. His mixture of laughter and crying subsided and I waited patiently for his response of what to do next. He said, “Again, Daddy!” and we made a few more successful attempts.

Layla was terrified and Easton was enthralled. Looks like I gained a boogie boarding buddy (Easton) and a challenge to overcome the bad experience (Layla) sometime in the future.

Moments like this affirm the twins entry into the fun stage of child rearing. I’ve been waiting for years to have joint experiences where they are not only with Kendra and I during adventures, but actively participating in them.
Our vacation was more for Easton and Layla than for Kendra and I. It certainly wasn’t relaxing. I didn’t publish a single blog entry and it wasn’t for lack of trying. It’s all worthwhile for the 4 Webbs to experience adventures. We are wrapping up Easton and Layla’s EIGHTH driving trip from Phoenix to Sacramento. They are excellent travellers and I’m grateful for their happy hearts. Their attitudes make it easy for us to broaden their horizons one adventure at a time.

See you soon!

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Hello friends and family,

Glorious. That is the word I use to describe Mancation 2011. What is a Mancation? The definition varies from one guy to the next. For some it is taking 10 guys for a surfing trip to Fiji. While I would throughly enjoy Fiji my definition is much less dramatic. At this stage in my life with three year old twins a mancation is any two consecutive vacation days where I am:

1. not working
2. not with my family
3. spending 100% of my time doing anything I want or nothing at all
4. free from plans and expectations. period.

Here are some examples of incorrect mancation ideas. Remodeling the bathroom alone for 3 days: Fail. Spending a week in Chicago for a work conference: Fail. Taking a missions trip to Haiti: Fail. Going golfing for 5 hours: Fail.

While these things are good, they go against the very idea of mancation. Every now and then a guy needs a few days, not just hours, away from responsibilites and family. This rare situation usually happens about once per year for me. If I want to sleep in then I do it. If I want to crank up some dance music and shake the windows then I do it. If I want to be gone for a day trip mountain biking and stay longer than planned, then I do it.

I'm in the middle of my mancation and being unproductive is the most incredible accomplishment I can claim. This picture was taken from the top of Cathedral mountain in Sedona during an extended mountain bike ride.

I took a short video clip to show the panoramic view from where we took a break. I would say it was breath taking, but I was already out of breath because we drug our bikes up 700 ft. elevation to get here.

After we finished the ride we drove up further North for lunch. The best part of the trip was the freedom from timelines. I did't commit to being home at any specific time and no one expected or depended on me to be anywhere.

On the way home we stopped at the Outlet mall for some shopping. I was still in my stinky bike riding clothes, but the ability not to care is a powerful thing. The spontaneous decision to just stop and check something out was refreshing.

Kendra and I are so involved in each other's lives we know where each other is at all times. We know what each other is doing and with whom. The information sharing is not due to lack of trust or concern. It's because we are interested in each others lives and depend on each other. Now with kids there is an additional need-to-know requirement because someone has to take care of Easton and Layla 24 hours a day. Either Kendra or me or a babysitter, but until the twins are old enough to be left at home alone then one of us must be there for them.

So that's my mancation status and part of the reason I've been AWOL on the blog lately. Earlier in the week we enjoyed life as normal in NorCal. Riding the tricycles has been very good for Easton. My decision to put him on two wheels may have been a bit premature. He's gained more confidence and strength in the past few weeks of riding the tricycle than in the past few months of riding his bike. Layla is not a happy camper though. She likes to lead and be first. However, Easton had a chance to get out in front so he took it. Who needs the Tour de France when I have this kind of riveting competition?

Layla cried because he took such a huge lead. I half expected Easton to cross a pretend finish line and throw his hands up in victory.

Somewhere along the way Easton learned the crab walk. It's become a favorite mode of transportation for him. Even more than that, he likes crawling around like a dog pretending to be Bolt the super dog. You should hear his super bark. it's deafening...

Unfortunately Kendra picked up the flu again. She needed Nyquil and I wanted to go for a walk to the store. My hope was for Easton and Layla to join me, but Easton had no interest in going outside. If Ouma would have gone then he would have jumped at the opportunity. Anyway, it gave me a chance to have some daddy-daughter time with Layla.

Part of the trail is right up against the street. As we walked she pointed out how I was supposed to walk on the side of the trail next to the street to protect her. That was one of those moments where my efforts in teaching and training prove to be paying off. Each time we go for a walk I explain how a gentleman (Daddy or any boy) is supposed to walk on which ever side of her provides the most protection. In this case I am supposed to walk closest to the street. She gets it and I am so proud to be setting the example and establishing her expectations of a man.

We paused for a minute so I could attempt a self-portrait. My new camera is so big and awkward I wasn't sure if a self-portrait was possible, but they turned out well. Layla is a Daddy's girl for sure.

She's the most active three year old in the world... or close to it. Each time we pass the rough sections of crosswalks Layla attempts to clear them with a long-jump style leap. Sometimes she succeeds. I see Olympic Gold in her future.

Even if she doesn't reach the Olympics Layla is reaching the age of timelessness. From this point on in her life I will always see her as my little girl and this picture captures what I'm talking about. When she gets older my mindset towards her will probably stay right here at three years old.

Layla tackled a new milestone: corn on the cob. Easton declined with a polite, repeated "No thank you, Mommy" because he really dislikes corn. Broccoli, cucumbers and hummus are right in his wheelhouse, but for some reason corn just doesn't do it for him. Layla took on the challenge with great success and a buttery, messy aftermath.

I'll keep this post short and sweet because I need to get back to doing absolutely nothing in accordance with mancation goals. Even this much probably set the bar too high. :)

I miss Kendra and the twins very much even after just two days of being away. Tomorrow morning I get to see them again and my MANcation will switch to a VAcation in San Luis Obispo with the family.

See you soon!