Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memorial Day Down Time

Greetings friends and family,

The three-day weekend was satisfying for all 4 Webbs.  We didn't spend much time together as a family because Kendra and I chose to give each other a break for time with friends.  Kendra hung out with her NYC friend visiting, I took a day trip to Sedona for mountain bike riding, and the twins had quality time with us individually.

Easton and Layla are so corny!

First time eating it straight from cob and they even learned how to shuck it!  They are 2% of the way towards becoming country farmer kids.  The other 98% of their make up is desert rat.  Here's a scene from Kendra's relaxing birthday afternoon watching the twin stay cool.

I put together a collage of Easton's pics just for fun.  He is very expressive and builds his reputation every day as a happy, big boy.

The weekend was jam packed with Easton and Layla quality time, but the best part of my vacation day from work is how I actually took a vacation.  David and I took a day trip up North to mountain bike ride.  Taking time to relax during the drive was awesome.  Sometimes I forget what it's like to just have an extended  conversation with a guy friend.  The three-hour heart pounding ride was incredible.  Perfect temperatures, no wind, and lots of scenery.

We did some serious trail riding for 11.4 miles of dirt and rock.  Felt like we accomplished something, but maybe we just burned off the hamburger calories?

I took the twins to the strawberry train park for one last trip to the playground before the summer hits.  Seems like there are lots of pictures where Easton and Layla are eating.  I know, but what you don't see is that they are rarely next to each other and still unless there is food involved.  Once the food is gone, it's off to the next adventures of playing and learning.

The height measuring scale at the train was useful to get a gauge for how close Easton and Layla are getting to the magic 42 inch mark for Disneyland.  Layla is close.

Easton is there already! He's been 1 inch taller than Layla since they were born and is still that way.

I'm proud of Easton for taking a more active role in leading.  Layla has such a strong personality that Easton doesn't have to step up, but he is voluntarily doing much better in this area.  They were climbing the slide together, but neither were able to reach the top.  Easton said, "I can do it!" and climbed ahead of Layla.  She gladly let him give it a try and sure enough he was able to conquer it.  I know the accomplishment isn't like winning the Nobel prize, but it's a step in the right direction and that's all I ask for at this age.

The sun was setting as we left the park and the train chugged by for one last trip of the day.   Their favorite part of the park trip was riding the train around while waving to all the neighbors.

Even through the summer we are continuing the consistency of bed time.  Every night at 8:00 PM we are both spent anyway and need the time together and chance to unwind.  They wake us up at 7:15 like clock work, but I'm happy with that.  There is no better way to start each day than with the sound of little feet coming into our bed room for morning cuddles.

See you soon!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Comicon and Symphony

Greetings friends and family,

The 4 Webbs snagged free tickets from my work to attend Cirque de la Symphonie, which they describe as, "The Magic of Cirque at the Music Hall" unfortunately they don't allow any pictures and since my iPhone - Picasa - Photoshop - combination will NOT allow me to rotate the picture and successfully upload it to the post, you get to see this one upside down...

We arrived early to get good seats, then asked around to find out what we can do to waste time.  With 4-year-olds it is a bad idea to sit down for an hour before sitting down for 90 of a show.  We noticed lots of bizarre costumed people wandering the streets, but I thought it was just Phoenix getting weird.  We found out Comicon was in town and free to go check it out!  I have no idea why there were so many zombies, wolfs, vampires, and other creepy costumes.

Too bad we missed seeing Wil Wheaton, but right off the bat we saw a great costumed Darth Vader who gladly held Easton and I captive with his litesaber up against our neck for dramatic effect.

I'm ashamed to admit I only recognized about one out of every 20 costumes.  I guess many of them are online gaming characters or TV shows I've never even heard of.  Luckily Easton and Layla recognized only the prominent ones as well.  Layla has a new superhero to add to her imagination.

And on the way out we were in a hurry, but Layla saw Jasmine across the room and I gladly took the time for her to get a picture.  Disneyland is going to be off the hook!  I know this because Easton and Layla's excitement for the random recognizable character brought smiles to Kendra and I.

We sat patiently in the symphony hall and when the lights went down, show time was amazing.  There were many children there and the dress code was ridiculously lacking (even for casual Phoenix).  It was an odd atmosphere compared to my experiences with the  symphony, but perfect for introducing the twins to the classical music genre.  We often listen to classical in the car and I make a game out of identifying the correct instruments playing.  This was a whole new level of interactive compared to my games.

The circus acts provided a good visual stimulation to keep Easton and Layla interested while the symphony played with excellence.  Easton liked the man and woman who flew through the air on what looked like drapes hanging from a rope.  Layla liked the strong men who slowly positioned themselves in extremely talented balancing postures together.  I realize most 4-year-olds don't get these kind of opportunities.  Most people of ANY age don't get these opportunities.  We are so blessed and grateful.

We arrived home satisfied from the energy-draining day of activities.  Easton filled his "fuzzy jar" through exceptional obedience (and the ability to get the largest available fuzzies from the storage bag).  His reward for good consequences sat enticingly in the den where he saw it every day for the past few weeks.  Now it's time to show him the magic of RC 4x4. 

I bought this on clearance from Radio Shack after Christmas and stored it away for this occasion.  He picked up the RC skills fairly quickly, but his small hands don't quite reach the trigger yet.  I would say, "He'll grow into it", but I know this thing will be trashed before the end of this year.  There is a price to pay for learning...  In this case it is $24.95.  I'd rather do it this way than buy him an expensive one and see it demolished.  :)

Some things haven't changed in the last few years including the entertainment value of hanging on my legs as I walk.  I need stronger legs...

Easton's Strep Throat is cured and we are all healthy for the long weekend with bonus vacation day Monday.  I can't believe May is almost gone already and summer is finally here!  Kendra's birthday is only a few days away.  She celebrated with a few different girl friends in different ways.  

See you soon!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Air Traffic Control

Hello friends and family,

In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."  As cheesy as that sounds I keep that nugget of wisdom in my thought process as I make decisions.

Kendra had plans to see a so-called friend who turned out to be not so good of a friend because of hurtful words instead of speaking life into Kendra.  There are very few things I dislike more than  someone hurting Kendra or Easton or Layla.  As a show of support and a chance to take advantage of an available evening I scheduled a neighborhood baby sitter for the twins and we went out for a gourmet dinner.  I chose one of Uncle Dave's favorite Italian restaurants because of the fond memories and we even ate Tiramisu, his favorite dessert.

The part I enjoyed even more than not having to tell someone "please eat your food" is giving Kendra my full attention in conversation.  What a breath of fresh air to sit for 90 minutes and be served.  It was worth every penny of the unscheduled expense and $20 for the baby sitter.  How much is Kendra's happiness worth?  A lot more than that.

After weeks of playing phone tag and busyness I finally nailed down a date for a tour of the control tower of a local Municipal Airport.  The last time I took only Easton to watch the planes fly, but for this trip I included Layla also.   I took a (really) long lunch from the middle of my work day and we had a great time.

The experience started with lunch on the outdoor patio of the Hangar Cafe, which sits directly on the tarmac.  We conversed with two pilots who started up their biplanes about 10 feet away from our table.

We climbed flights of steps up into the control tower, the tallest structure in town.  We met the air traffic controllers and spent 35 minutes seeing the flight patterns and watching them work.  Easton sat on shoulders so he could look down on the runway.  I could barely get him down because he was having such a great time.  Layla was happy to be there and very impressed.   However, I made the mistake of telling her she could get her picture taken while sitting in airplane once we finished the tower tour.  She begged me for the tour to be over so she could sit in a real plane.

As we walked across the tarmac I took a second to get a self-portrait.  I know the picture is poor quality, but trying to get two kids, my big head, and a flight tower all in a self-portrait was asking a lot.

The record heat was starting to set in as we took the really long walk across the pavement to the hangar where the several planes were.  An elderly pilot took an interest in Easton and Layla (big shocker) because of their friendly demeanor.  Layla burst out saying, "Can we get a picture in one of the planes?"  the pilot said, "sure!  You pick.  Any one you want."  Layla chose this one so I helped them climb inside.

They each grabbed the yoke between their legs and wrenched it back and forth in tandem.  The tail rudder lurched up and down, but since they were inside the cockpit they had no idea what was moving as a result of their actions.  I removed Easton and turned him to see the tail and he made the connection between Layla's motion with the yoke and the tail rudder movement.  Talk about light bulbs going off...

Then Easton wanted to choose a plane.  Of course I was more than happy to keep things fair so he picked this blue biplane.  The pilot flipped a switch to light up the dashboard.  I had to physically hold Easton's hands because he wanted to touch every knob and gauge.

Both of them wanted to stay at the airport longer, but unfortunately it's not an amusement park.  I just made it into a fun experience so they would enjoy it.  :)  Mission accomplished.  The car ride home was filled with the usual conversation, right on queue.  The twins both said, "I wish I could be a pilot".  My response, as usual, was, "You CAN be a pilot!  You can do anything you want."  Easton thought for a moment then said, "Yeah...  I can do anything I want."

I smiled and breathed a huge sigh of success.  It's about time he started believing the truth because I've been working daily since the day he was born to convince him of this.  Of all the recent adventures, this seemingly small response was my biggest success and reward of the year so far.

See you soon!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dance and Party

What's up friends and family?

The 4 Webbs just wrapped up the most action-packed day since I can remember.  My Saturday started off with an early morning bike ride because the scorching afternoon heat detracts from the enjoyment.  

Arrived home to pancakes and a shower to rinse off the crusty salt patches (yuck).  Easton and I suited up to celebrate Zander's birthday with a boys only back yard bash.  Just add water... and a slip-n-slide.  

Easton was the youngest of the bunch, but jumped right into the action.  Then they started sucking mud into the super soaker water guns.  Things turned messy quick, but the Dads just spectated, laughed, and encouraged.

Somebody said it smelled like a swamp, which Easton has never experienced.  He said, "Dad, is a swamp where Yoda lives?"  His assessment was right on, which means Mommy is exposing the twins to short, age-appropriate clips of the Star Wars movies.  Creating a mud pit, you are.

The other activities included a balloon toss where Daniel partnered up with Easton.  He did really well catching and throwing, but once he learned how much fun it was to break the balloons on the ground he lost interest in winning the game.  I gave him a 2 yard penalty for intentional grounding and end-zone celebration.

Allow me to introduce the titanium dragon pinata. This thing took serious abuse from several rounds of beatings.  No visible effects other than a missing hand.  I held my breath for each swing as the mass of boys stood dangerously close to a blindfolded, bat wielding wild child.  Good times.

We left the birthday party right after cake and presents so we could get ready for Layla's dance recital.  Layla was beaming as she sashayed through the house.

We walked into what I can only describe as controlled chaos.  Dancers, Mommies, and glitter everywhere.  I mean everywhere.  Easton grabbed my belt loop with a death grip because he getting pushed around like a mosh pit.

Layla was overwhelmed with excitement to be in this environment.  About 100 fairy princesses like her all fluttered around preparing for the performance.  The most awesome take-away for me was seeing the twins in the same environment, but having polar opposite experiences.

Layla was so calm and comfortable that she was able to give us a few eye flutters during posing.

And her school friends were all in the same mindset:  laughing, energetic, loving every minute.

Then it was show time.  Layla performed masterfully.  She was the star of the show.  Kendra and I were beaming proud parents, but the better indicator was the packed auditorium's response to her actions.  Hip shake and stiff-armed shoulder rolls...  Show it off, girl.

Talk about exuberant, she controlled the stage like a rock star.

I know her dancing talent is inconsequential because it wasn't a competition.  However, even the other dancers from different schools were watching Layla dance in the middle of the performance because she was doing so well!

Kris, Kylie, and Morgan were so kind to join us in supporting Layla.  Seeing them after the show really meant a lot to her.  I can't wait to purchase the video.

I expected the 90 minute performance to be boring and difficult for Easton to sit still.  My baseless expectations were proven completely wrong.  I really liked watching the groups of little dancers prance around and Easton sat in my lap and cuddled the entire time.  The only trouble I had with Easton was keeping him and myself quite because he tooted.  We tried to stifle our chuckles, but in the process he blew boogers out of his nose and we both lost it.  Luckily during a loud dance routine.

Several memorable experiences I'll never forget all in a single day.  These are the days where parenting is on a whole new level of exhausting, but worth every minute.

See you soon!

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Graduates

Greetings friends and family,

Our first summer in the new house is starting off well.  The near-record high temperatures are quickly warming the pool to the ideal temperature.  The back patio is heavily used.  Eating messy bomb pops on the rocking sofa after swimming really hits the spot. Layla is turning into a mermaid with her swimming abilities. Easton is turning into a water gun warrior with his soaking accuracy. 

Easton and Layla are still grasping the concept of just hanging out and talking.  They are both so active and playful that these resting times are still very rare.  If I have to bribe them with a bomb pop to have this time, then so be it. 

The big news story of the week is Easton and Layla's graduation from preschool!  I took some time off work to be with Kendra as we watch the first of many graduation ceremonies. 

The graduation was very different than I expected.  Usually the kid walks up to the front, is handed a certificate, and shakes a few hands.  Their school was impressively better.  Each kid sat on the teacher's lap as she showered them with accolades and memories.  She described the unique qualities of their personality, pointed out a few memorable moments from their photo album, and prayed for them.  Each one. 

Then the obligatory certificate and picture with the teachers.  Easton received the compliments well.  His confidence is starting to show.

Layla described her group of friends as "girl friends", which is appropriate.  However, Easton refers to his rough and rowdy crew of classmates as "boy friends", which doesn't go over so well.  Took me all year to change his description of them.  I'm not even going to bother explaining to him why though.   

Layla is without a doubt the happiest social butterfly in the class.  Smiling, encouraging, leading...  and waving at us the whole time non-verbally saying, "Hooray for me!"

After watching each child interact with the teachers and receive their certificate there is a noticeable difference in Layla's excitement compared to the other students.  Vivacious is still the best word to describe her.

Layla sure knows how to give and receive love from peers and adults.  Kendra and I were proud to cheer for her accomplishment and growth.

Next year is pre-school again, but with a new teacher and class.  The continuous education cycle is spinning already.  I went back to work, but Kendra was able to stay and watch Layla's dance class.  We paid the extra fee for Layla to participate in the dance class this year.  Money well spent in my opinion. 

She's teaching me these moves at home occasionally when we dance together.  I'm learning all the ballet lingo and techniques.  Quite a stretch for a nerd like me, but she is a great teacher already.

For the graduation gift I took them on a shopping trip.  Layla chose the 48 piece Dora princess puzzle as her gift. 

Easton found an F14 fighter jet with wings that move.  His cardboard box airport is still seeing occasional flight patterns.  Especially after adding a new plane to his fleet.

Layla and I took a special trip to the local drug store to get a new nail polish.  It's amazing how much mileage we got from $2 and taking time to paint her nails.  She sat on my lap so I could paint her fingers and then I sat her on the couch with legs over my shoulders so I could paint her toes too. 

After two coats of glittery polish Kendra finished the job with a clear coat of hardening stuff.  She is grateful for our time together and our efforts to make her feel special.  That makes me want to do it even more! 

See you soon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Loving Layla

Greetings friends and family,

The record high temperatures make daily swims a requirement.  Today the twins waited until I arrived home from work so I could join them.  Both of them quickly regained their progress from last season.  After dinner we sat outside and celebrated their achievements with a Bomb Pop.  Layla and I were discussing which of the three flavors is the best!

I've been searching for a special song for a long, long time.  There are songs about daughters, but most of them deal with following her through life and milestones.  One great example of this is Darius Rucker's song:

This is yet another song I must take out of my playlist because it chokes me up every time I hear it.  Just like Butterfly Kisses and Clark Richard's, "Red Robin". 

None of these songs have what I am looking for.  I want a song that expresses how much I love Layla right now just the way she is.  Not one which looks forward to special occasions in the future and also not living in the past of shared experiences.  The song must show how beautiful and special and perfect she is right now.  I want to sing to her in the moment and show her unconditional love with no expectations of what I think her life will be like in the future.  She has plenty of time to worry about weddings and college.  Right now I want her just to enjoy being my beautiful princess and all that childhood is supposed to be.

Since my search for a relevant song yielded no results I've decided to write my own song especially for Layla.  I sing to her every nigh.  However, Amazing Grace and Jesus Loves Me don't convey the expression of love I'm trying to get across to her.  The tune is already bouncing around in my head, but the lyrics are harder to write than I imagined.  My expectations of the final product are really low and luckily Layla is my biggest fan and the only one I hope likes it. Here's a part of what I have so far:

I have always loved you and I always will
Doesn't matter what you did
I will always find you anywhere you go
Doesn't matter where you hid

You are my beautiful princess
Peacock eyelashes surround your eyes
Fire glows in them, there is no disguise

All of this emotion and thought is a result of looking through this blog site:  It provides "Dad's tips for adding life to a daughter's years".  I'm plagiarizing shamelessly and probably won't bother giving credit to who quoted what so please forgive me.

Anyway, here are two lists...  One showing what I do successfully now and one that is setting the bar even higher for myself.

Tips which I already live out daily: 

1. There is no such thing as the perfect dad, but if you’re present in her life, apologize when you screw up, and shower her with affection, you'll get pretty close.
2. Protect her childhood. It’s the only one she’s got.
3. There is a direct correlation between a girl’s self-esteem and the physical affection she receives from her father. In case you’re wondering, now would be a good time to drop everything you’re doing and go give your daughter a big hug and kiss.
4. Be patient with her. In doing so, you will teach her that she’s worth waiting for.
5. There’s no better perch for observing the world than the lap of her father.
6. Sing to her. Every day. Even when you don’t feel like it. Do it often enough and the sound of your voice will become a permanent source of steadiness in her life.
7. She needs to learn how to accept a compliment. Give her lots of practice.
8. Bring her a cup of cold water every night before bed. If you ever wonder what she thinks about this nightly routine of yours, try skipping a night.
9.Never turn down an offer to dance.
10. Of all the ways to bond with your daughter, cuddling in bed might be the easiest. It’s not always the early bird who gets the worm.
11. Children become readers on the laps of their parents.
12. When a daughter puts her arms over her father’s shoulder and says, ‘Daddy, I need to ask you something,’ he is a pat of butter in a hot frying pan.

And here is my personal list of "in progress" or "needs improvement" tips:
1. The greatest thing a father can do for his daughter is love her mother. 
2. Never be the first one to break a hug.
3. Girls are complicated. The instruction manual that comes with girls is 800 pages, with chapters 14, 19, 26 and 32 missing, and it’s badly translated, hard to figure out.
4. Include her in major family decisions. She should always have a voice even if she doesn’t have a vote.
5. A little girl can, at times, seem a lot like a cake that came out of the oven too soon. Beautiful on the outside… gooey and messy on the inside. Your job is to help her finish baking.
6. Pick one song and sing it to her every night at bedtime.
7. Being a great father is like shaving. No matter how good you shaved today, you have to do it again tomorrow.
8. Be careful not to dismiss misbehavior when she’s a toddler just because it seems cute. What’s cute at two is not always so cute at twelve, sixteen, or twenty-one.
9. If you want to be her friend in adulthood, you have to be her parent today. This rarely works in reverse.
10. She will climb as high as you let her. Never impose artificial limits.

Seems simple enough, right?  Many of these apply to raising boys and girls, but this post and the blog I linked is about daughters...  Although I can't wait to see her as she blooms into a young lady, I'm completely content with her just the way she is today.  4-years-old and wonderful.

See you soon!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Riders on the Storm

Greetings friends and family,

Our front yard was maliciously vandalized by either really good friends of our, enemies, or possibly a mistaken address identity meant for the late-night party next door.  Either way, it was quite a surprise when I opened the garage door this morning.  The intent was to go for a bike ride around the neighborhood with the twins.  However, as we walked out into the driveway a neighbor jogging by laughed and said, "We've all been there..."  I had yet to see the disaster so her comment was very perplexing.  Then I looked surveyed the damage.  After my initial reaction of, "Oh my GOODNESS!  What in the world?" I started laughing.

Easton and Layla were completely baffled by the whole situation.  In between chuckling I did my best to explain what happened and why.  I must admit I had very few answers for them, but half of the fun in this situation was seeing their expressions as their brains attempt to comprehend what happened.  

Once they realized how I didn't think it was a big deal they were able to join in the fun of the moment.

They were both happy-hearted about helping with the cleanup effort and now the house is back to normal except for a couple of shreds of paper stuck high up on the Saguaro.

I boycotted the entire NBA season this year because of the selfish, greedy lockout which canned the first half of the season.  Tonight I turned on the game for the first time because my favorite team, the Lakers made it to game 7 of the first round.  GG, I know how much you dislike the Lakers, so feel free to skip this next part.  :)

Each year since Easton was born I suit him up in my extra long Lakers jersey.  Here we go through 5 play-off seasons.  During the first season Easton was just weeks old.

By the second season he was able to watch a few minutes of the game before losing interest.

By the third season he was able to stand on his own, but the shirt still dragged the floor.

By the fourth season he had the mental capacity to ask to take it off because it's obviously the wrong size.  You can see Layla in the background observing.

This being the 5th season, his toes are starting to show due to continued growth and his big-boy stature.  I had to make funny noises to get him to smile because he wasn't happy about wearing this at all.

Layla decided she wanted to give it a try because any time the camera is out she expects to be a part of it.

Luckily the Lakers won tonight to advance to the second round playoffs.  I don't give them much hope to win against the OKC Thunder though.  Maybe Aunt Mary should go see a game since she is so close to the OKC areana.  She can cheer for the Lakers in my place...

We experienced a tremendous storm a few days ago, which is big, big news here in AZ.  Since we have no natural disasters this is the most interesting weather we get.  The yellow-flowering tree in the green belt behind my house must die.  This is why...

My pool was an absolute mess after the high winds blanketed it with debris.  All I need to do is find a friend who has a chainsaw.  muahhahahahaha.

We sat on the back patio and discussed every sight and sound of the storm as it rumbled and flashed.  I told Easton and Layla to pretend to be scared for the picture.  Layla wasn't pretending and Easton was so thrilled to witness the storm that he couldn't even fake being afraid.  The perma-grin smile lasted several hours after the storm was gone.  

Layla went to school, but Easton stayed home since his temperature was still a little too high to expose him to the preschool population.  Kendra had the great idea of joining me for lunch.  The three of us ate together in the cafeteria at my work.  I really enjoyed breaking up my day like that because if they hadn't shown up I would have ate at my desk and kept working away.

Afterwards Easton wanted to see my office again so we stopped by for a few quiet minutes so he could look around.  I have his coloring pages of fighter jets pinned to my wall.  He was excited to see that I have them up!

All 4 Webbs are healthy once again, thank God.  Life is so much more enjoyable.  Another recent advancement I am excited about is self-buckling and managing the car doors. For 4 years I've had to load, buckle, and manage doors for Easton and Layla.  During the past month they became fully certified to open the door, close the door, clip in, and clip out when we arrive.  The twins are not getting easier per se, but there is more parenting going on and less dependence on us with each passing day.

See you soon!