Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Family Portraits

Greetings friends family,

We rounded up the troops and headed down to the river... for family portraits!  Considering how we swim almost every day I bet you thought we were red-neck floating in the river.  We made the usual stops for hand-picked black berries and observing odd bugs along the way.  The picture of us holding hands is as impromptu as the others.  I used my standard technique of photography:  Take so many pictures that one of them turns out OK. Mom was kind enough to take on the photographer responsibilities.

Family photos where all four of us are looking at the camera are finally a valid expectation.  For years I've struggled with accepting 3 out of 4 Webbs looking at the camera.  Easton and Layla are able to sit still and look into the camera with a lovely smile long enough to take a few pictures...  finally.

More importantly than their ability to look at the camera and smile, they really are happy and carefree.  Layla's pose is completely her idea, but Easton's smile may be slightly contrived.

Since the first day we arrived and for the next seven weeks of living here it's Ouma time, all the time.  There is a certain peace I experience when leaving the house knowing the twins are taken care of by Ouma.   I don't feel bad about going to work or date night or any other spur of the moment outing.  They've had an awesome time just living daily life with Ouma and Oupa.

There aren't many pictures from the past few years of Kendra and I by ourselves.  We spend so much time together, but rarely have a third adult around who is interested in taking pictures.  I have a feeling that will all change when Easton and Layla get old enough to become real photographers.

One of the best successes of the portrait shoot is Mom finding her Facebook profile picture and actually liking a few of the pics.  Kendra is very much like her Mom in many different ways and I'm perfectly happy with that.

We stopped by GG's house the crown jewels of my family portrait day.  Capturing all four generations of lovely ladies was on the top of my "to do" list during this trip.  I didn't get much time with my Grandmas on either side and never knew my Great Grandmas at all.  I'm overjoyed Layla is able to have the three generations of influence in her life.

this one specifically is important because we have all four generations in order.  I'm excited to watch as Layla grows to fit into this picture as an adult.

We are ten days away from celebrating our 10th anniversary.  Watching 4 years fly by with Easton and Layla is one milestone to look back on, but realizing ten years have gone by since our wedding is hard to believe.  It feels like maybe 5 years have gone by.  I hear life is like a roll of toilet paper.  The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.  I'm excited for the next few days as we celebrate our accomplishment in style.

See you soon!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Spiders and Hearts

Greetings friends and family,

The lack of close friends, home repair, and church here in Sacramento is a true blessing when it comes to the amount of quality and quantity time I'm able to be with Easton and Layla.  Kendra took Layla to Megan's house for a sleep-over and Ouma was away for a time that evening.  I asked Easton, "what do you want to play?"  He quickly pulled out his wicker basket of Nerf guns and we had a blast.  Ouma's arm chair covers worked perfectly as camouflage hats.  Sorry about that, Ouma.   He's proficient at cocking the six-shooter and his aim would be painful if it weren't for those soft nerf darts and suction cup tips.  Thank God.  

For our boys night he wanted to eat at home so we had delicious leftovers.  He didn't want to eat out, get a treat somewhere, or go anywhere for any reason.  Just a rowdy night at home with just the two of us.  I'm conscious about how much adventuring we do outside of the house because sometimes Easton prefers just hanging out at home with just the two of us.

yesterday Kendra pulled out the paint and did some personalized art work on Easton and Layla's face.  This is probably the result of their face painting experience at the fair last week.  Layla requested Rapunzel and Kendra did a great job.

Easton is intrigued by spiders.  I mean really, really interested.  I have not idea why because Ouma and Kendra don't want to think about, hear about, or look at anything having to do with spiders.  Even so, Kendra granted Easton's request by painting a Black Widow on his face.

I arrived home from work to find the twins swimming in the hot tub.  They both asked me to join them.  Easton said, "but first you have to get your swim suit on...  hurry up!"  Just to be spontaneous I carefully placed my cell phone on the table and hopped in with my clothes on.

They were stunned by my willingness to just jump in with them, but I love shaking things up and getting them to think outside the box.  I'm not bound by age and maturity so much that I can't do something completely silly.  Kendra is wayyyyyy better than me at this, but I'm getting there.

The only deficient area of Easton and Layla report card from preschool was swinging.  So this was their summer homework in action.  That's right...  Of all the criteria tested, Easton and Layla had one area that I didn't even know they tested...  swinging.

Sure would have been nice if the teachers would have given us the report card at the BEGINNING of the school year so we could know more details of expectations.  Don't worry, I won't make that mistake again.  Before the first day of school when Kendra and I go to the "meet the teacher" night I will not leave until i have this year's report card in my hand.

We don't consider reading as one of the homework or school areas.  Reading is a benefit, pleasure, and good consequence for obedience.  I took the twins to the library to load up on books.

I had a serious talk with the head librarian at my request.  I said, "Look, kids don't give a crap about who is the author, so why are the books organized by author?  Please tell the great public library gods in the sky that if I can have just ONE wish it is for them to step into this millennium and organize by topic.  Do you think Barnes and Noble is a good business?  You might want to take a few pointers from them and reconfigure the entire building to be more user friendly."  She agreed whole-heartedly and I felt better getting that off my chest.  

Luckily, Kendra and Ouma showed up to provide the necessary library card to get out the door with our pile of books.  The pleasures of library visits are:  picking out the books, immediate gratification by reading a few while in the library, and then the gift that keeps on giving for days as we read at home.  No, Ouma didn't read the book on spiders Easton picked out.  That one stays hidden in the pile for Daddy to read later.  :)

The park adjacent to the library provided another chance to play outdoors before the sun baked us out.  on the route across the parking lot we crossed a lost rooster from the zoo.  This is as close as I would allow them to get because you never know how territorial a rooster can get.  Explaining to Kendra about our trip to the hospital involving a rooster was not on my agenda for the day.

Kendra did another round of face painting in the afternoon.  I grabbed the camera and pretended to chase Layla around.  I double-backed and caught her by surprise with the camera ready for the shot.

I would never attempt this with a point-and-shoot camera because 100 times out of 100 this would have resulted in a dimly lit blur.  I'm very thankful for my DSLR.  :)  Once we stopped chasing around she let me capture Kendra's handy work of several lovely hearts.

We are loving our time here in Sacramento, but starting to have dreamy longings for our own house and king-size bed.  Our days are numbered and we'll be back to some resemblance of normal.

See you soon!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Good-bye, 4 sleeps, Hello

Greetings friends and family,

Before I left for a long weekend in Phoenix without Kendra and the kids, I took Easton out for some father-son time.  I checked the wind conditions in the back yard when the idea of another rocket launch came to mind.  wind outside was zero.  nada.  not a single leaf moving on a tree.  Perfect!  I loaded up Easton and our model rocket gear, then headed for the hobby shop to replace the lost rocket.  Third time is a charm, right?

We found a "ready to fly" missile-looking rocket for a decent price.  I've had my eyes scan the city for a new launch site as we drove around town.  The best place I could think of was the local middle school football field.  We prepared the rocket and readied for launch.

Easton was so excited he could barely keep his hands off the ignition key.  The wind was probably 10 mph in the open field so I adjusted the trajectory accordingly.  5,4,3,2,1, blast off!

As soon as the parachute deployed the two of us took off in the direction of the expected landing site.  It drifted and drifted and drifted some more.  Ten feet before the bleachers I caught it like a rock star.  Easton proudly carried it back to the launch site with his faith restored in my ability as a Dad.

Uncle Casey happened to be practicing disc golf at the other end of the field with his buddy.  After the successful launch and landing, Easton and I made some paper air planes (at his request) and flew them down wind towards Casey.  He taught Easton and I some beginner disc golf technique with very good results.  Then...  dummm duh dum dum!  The sprinklers came on.  I sprinted 100 yards to save our cardboard missile, but by the time I arrived it was soaked.  The rocket is like what is leftover when you finish a paper towel roll so you can imagine the damage.

After the great catch and retrieval of the rocket we were spoiled again.  This time by the sprinklers.  Easton caught up with me and I picked up the wet, limp rocket from the grass.  I could tell Easton was holding his breath, keenly interested to see my reaction.  I broke out in a laugh out loud chuckle and the two of us shrugged our shoulders.  the only thing I said was, "Oh well, it's just a rocket and we can always get a new one.  Did you have fun?"  He said, "yes!"  I gave him a hug and a piggy back ride off the muddy field.  That's the best kind of ending I could hope for.  Sometimes things don't go as planned and I want Easton to know it's not a big deal.  We just adapt and carry on.

This coming Sunday I'll have Easton and Layla all by myself for the day.  This is one of the projects we will do when it gets dark before bed time.

It's a tornado for Easton and fairy pixie dust for Layla.  Win-win!

I flew home to Phoenix for 4 days of peace and quiet in my own home.  All alone.  No kids, no Kendra, just a complete lack of responsibility.  It was awesome.  Kyle came over to hang out for an afternoon.  I convinced him to help me create some welcome home signs for the twins.  I printed off a picture of them, stuck it to the cardboard and then drew like a 7 year old all over it.  Stickers, crayons, and markers galore.  We taped them to their bed room wall so they'll see them the morning after we get back.

A large portion of my free time was spent reading my PMP book.  This was a great opportunity to put some focus on it.  No, I didn't cook the crepes and eggs...  I ate out alone.

Another afternoon was shared with my friend David.  We celebrated his birthday by taking a 2 hour bike ride in the 100 degree heat.  The ride was almost perfect because he went over the handle bars and I ended up with some bacon on my shin from a rock that jumped out in front of me.  By the way, bacon is shredded, bleeding scrapes from riding because it looks like a piece of bacon.

Before I hopped on the plane back to Sacramento when my four days of bliss were over, I sent Kendra this picture to make sure I knew what to bring with me.

Layla hasn't said much about things she misses from our house.  However, several times she's given me the sad face and mentioned her fluffy white bear with the pink bow.  I pulled it out of my suitcase and Layla screamed with joy while squeezing the stuffing out of the bear.  I love being the hero for her.  

Our time here has been incredible, but it's about time for us to head home.  We are all looking forward to sleeping in our own beds again and getting back in school!

See you soon!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Am I Afraid?

Hello friends and family,

What are the key drivers of my decision making process as a father?  Do I do parenting this way because I'm afraid?  Fear implies a level of uncertainty, but I am absolutely certain of my purpose at this point in my life.  

My personality includes an insatiable appetite for continuous improvement.  I'm always asking questions of myself to identify "better" and then adjust accordingly.  I can be a better listener, better father, better time manager, better...  whatever.  You name it and I've probably done some sort of analysis to determine HOW to be better.  All things can improve and as we go through life every person does improve.  A key difference between people is what each one chooses to improve.

Some people are "better" at determining which bachelor will be chosen this season or which horse will win the Kentucky Derby.  There is no eternal value or personal benefit.  Even if there was value, certain times in life make more sense to pursue them.  Honing this type of skill is not as useful as understanding Easton and Layla's needs and desires.  For example, when I was single with a college degree and no wife or kids I played basketball for a couple of hours almost every night with my best friend.  Ah, the good ole' days!  Likewise, when Easton and Layla are teenagers Kendra and I can take up swing dancing every Friday night.  The time before parenting young kids and the time after our role lightens up are the appropriate time for these things, but not now.  

I am shocked when I consider how few minutes per day the twins will spend with us after they turn 16 and get their vehicular independence.  The shock comes from the fact that we have roughly 12 more years to teach and train and grow Easton and Layla.  I love them now and will love them then, but after they become independent all I will have is love and a few brief hours of family time occasionally.

The two words "intentional parenting" answer the question I analyzed about fear.  I don't practice intentional parenting on a daily basis out of fear, but because I understand very clearly what it takes not to be "that guy".  You know, the dad who spends thousands of hours playing video games or on the golf course every other day...  that guy.  The guy who spends thousands of dollars on his own toys or habits, but doesn't have money to buy sports equipment or school supplies for his kid.  I don't ever want to be "that guy".  My desire is to learn by observation from other's mistakes so I avoid them.  I don't have to touch the stove to learn it will burn me.  That is wisdom, in my opinion.  Wisdom is NOT living life and then looking back to identify where I wasted my time, talents and treasure.  Wisdom is using my time, talents, and treasures right now, today, to the best of my abilities.

We all strive for significance and in death the truth is revealed.  If the only thing people say about me when I'm dead is, "He was a good man", then I will have failed.  If people say, "He was the best father I ever knew" then my mission is accomplished.  I intentionally parent Easton and Layla for their benefit, not to impress others.  However, I know others are watching and form perceptions of me whether I like it or not.  This is a picture from last year I look at often because it portrays what I consider to be essential elements of what it means to be a good father:  Spending quality and quantity time down on their level giving affection and attention. 

The song by Phil Vassar titled, "Don't Miss Your Life" is my personal anthem. I'm so glad song writers like him exist because I struggle to express my inner most thoughts with such clarity.  

Some of the key lyrics are:

Hold on tight 'cause it don't happen twice
Fame and fortune come with a  heavy price
I made a ton of money and I climbed up the ladder
Yeah, I was supper man, but now what does it matter
I heard some words that hit me hard tonight
He said, "don't miss your life"

I am very capable of climbing the corporate ladder to a higher rung or running a successful business on my own, but at what cost?  What is the true opportunity cost of my personal success?  Opportunity cost is the cost of any activity measured in terms of the value of the next best alternative forgone that is not chosen.  Easton and Layla's formative years are "the next best alternative" to my own personal desires.  My roles in life ebb and flow.  Right now being the best father possible is the most important role I have, right behind being a husband.  

I don't always succeed, but in general this is my order of importance and priority:

Easton and Layla

Oder determines capacity!  When I get the priority right, life is richer and smoother.  If I'm ever forced to make a choice between any two of these priorities, I will diligently live by this order.  Very simple to list not so simple to live.

When Easton and Layla get out of high school I will not be judged based on my intentions.  Easton and Layla will judge me according to my intentional parenting, on which I am focused more than anything else I've ever done in my life.  There is no such thing as a perfect person or perfect parent and my life is testament to this.  I'm simply doing the best I possibly can today given my finite number of hours in the day and then tomorrow I'll choose to do it again.  

Am I afraid?  NO!  I've been given time, knowledge, authority, responsibility, and opportunity to carry out my purpose as a father.  There is nothing to be afraid of.   
See you soon!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Camping in the Pines

Howdy friends and family!  

The twins played their way through another week of summer camp with just as many smiles and stories as the first time.  They were both excited to go back for the half-day, week-long camp.  Most of the same friends who attended before were there again with them.  Easton's hair stylist (a.k.a. Kendra) worked some gel-magic to give him an intentional crazy hair day for a change.  Layla is enamored with Merida even though she will never see the movie.  I blame her excitement on commercials during cartoons.  Those darn marketers are getting verrrrrry good at persuading my kids. 

The twins missed the Friday summer camp finale because we had other plans...  The 4 Webb's first official camping trip!  When I say we went camping, I mean we slept in a tent, but didn't poop in the woods.  The camp ground Kendra chose has a pool, bathrooms, showers, putt-putt golf, recreation center, and several other amenities.

The pool turned out to be the saving grace of a record-setting heat wave.  After setting up our camp area we walked straight into the pool for a long swim.  

Ouma just identified a picture she feels is worthy of posting as her Facebook profile picture.   It's about time...  I've been waiting for months and taking picture after picture.  Here's the winner!

Easton and Layla have two great looking grandmas and I'm not ashamed to say it.  The twins are blessed to have such great genes passed down to them.

This is Ouma and Oupa's home for two days as they toughed it out on the hard ground.  Nothing but a sleeping bag and some egg crate foam thing.  Now, that's love and sacrifice if I ever saw it.

The camp site was pure dirt with scatter leaves around the pine and oak trees.  Clear canopies made it ideal for us to play Frisbee with the Aerobie.  Easton's accuracy and form  are outstanding.  And this isn't just my biased assessment...  Uncle Casey is a pro disc golfer and he calls him a "canon".  :)

Oupa joined the leisurely game of catch, which made for a good mix because the twins were able to go fetch the errant throws.  Lazy, I know, but it's about time we start reaping the benefits of having kids!

One of the promises I made to Easton was a daddy date to go for a walk deep in the woods.  Being Phoenicians, the twins have almost no concept of what thick, dense woods really look like.  We found 'em and did some trail blazing.  And we didn't bring back a single tick!

Our tent is labeled an eight man tent, but I can assure you there is no way eight men could sleep comfortably.  Kendra and I each had an air mattress and the twins had their own individual sleeping bag, air mattress combo between us.  This was the first time since they were a few days old that they slept between us.

Easton and Layla stayed up until 10:00 PM both nights.  Their bed time is 8:00 PM sharp and only varies by a few minutes 99% of the time.  However, these special nights they were up late after looooong days of adventures.  Did they sleep in?  Nope.  6:45 in the morning came really early thanks to those two.

Our meals were well planned and well executed by the great team of Kendra and Ouma.  One of the clever ideas they had for breakfast was pancakes in a can.

Day two was supposed to be a mix of relaxing and adventures, but you know how relaxing never happens with kids around a camp site.  The Putt-Putt golf course was rugged to say the least and we didn't even get score cards.  Not that we would have used them anyway, but the lack of even getting one is descriptive of the kind of shape the holes were in.  The fun-factor far outweighed the difficulties in quality.  Layla took some pointers from Kendra as she learned for the first time how to swing her new putter.

The two of them took off through the course screaming for joy every time the ball dropped into the cup.  Oupa made an astute observation of how Easton has the potential for greatness because once he develops a passion for something (like putting) he does it over and over and over.

That reminds me... I ordered a book on Amazon based on my sister's recommendation some time ago.  it's called, "Raising Kids for True Greatness: Redefine Success for You and Your Child".  I'm excited to get it in the mail and will use it like a carrot dangling in front of a donkey.  when I finish my PMP certification... This book will be waiting for me.

The few relaxing moments we enjoyed were relished like a hot dog.  Oupa had the "king's chair" with the pull-over shade.  Easton was happy to sit in Ouma's lap.  Kendra was happy nobody was sitting in her lap.  Win-win-win all the way around.

The pool was slightly chilly by the second day because the temps cooled down.  Layla took a breather from recovering diving sticks by resting on the warm pavement in her owl towel.  As always, she welcomed the conversation and attention from Oupa.

The splash pad was one of the most outstanding aspects of the camp grounds.  Isabella and Megan joined us for the second day and night.  She was already a best friend for the twins so the moment she stepped out of the car they were off to races.

Layla claims Isabella as her friend and gets a little selfish towards Easton.  At one point she whacked him in the back and told him to leave so they could play princesses.  never thought I'd have to say, "share your friend, Layla..."  I ask them to share many things, but now "friend" is added to the list of expectations.

To cool down in the warm afternoon sun we stopped by the on-site general store and bought a round of ice creams for all of us.  Sticky mess with sherbet dropping on their clothes and on the ground.  It felt great not to care!  We were camping and all the rules of the house were out the window.

Rules like "no guns" also were ignored.  I brought our air soft gun for Isabella and the twins to fire off a few hundred rounds at a paper plate target.  Isa showed no fear and did really well holding it steady.  Very calculating kind of girl.

Layla pulled the trigger and is more of a shotgun kind of approach.  Just keep shooting until the bullets go where she wants them.  If she ever goes into battle, I want Layla as my gunner.  The girl has a way with weapons.

 Easton was delighted to meet the neighbors in the camp site next to us.  They were very cool, friendly kids and the yougest, named Panchito, became Easton's buddy for the rest of our trip.  Panchito made a bow and arrow out of twine and a stick.  He willingly gave it to Easton as we were leaving the camp site and that was one of the most touching moments I've seen of a selfless act of giving.  Easton appreciated it too!

With Easton out of their hair, the princesses devoted their full attention to what they do best...  be princesses with wonderful imaginations... and personalities.

Easton described "the woods" to the girls and they took a break from fantasy land to go exploring with us.  We wandered down some single-track trails and popped out by the RV campers up on top of the hill.  They were howling like coyotes.

The sun finally went down, which meant time for s'mores.  I say finally because the twins asked us, "is it time yet for s'mores?" every hour for the entire day.  We had all the ingredients and marshmallow roasters to make it all successful.

The three amigos were amazed watching the marshmallows catch on fire and ooze down the roaster stick into the fire.

The next morning we had enough time to run around in the play ground with our neighbor friends while we packed up.  Isa and Layla had happy hearts considering they were overly tired from the late-night fire side fun..

 The neighbor boys were a little too unruly.  throwing handfuls of wood chips at each other and shoving each other around was not acceptable.  When Easton joined in to be a part of the crew I rounded up the troops and headed for the packed cars.  Even though we were relaxed on the rules, there are certain behaviors I won't tolerate even in these circumstances.  As you can see Easton had a blast up to that point.  They crossed the line and then he crossed the line.  I had the opportunity to explain to him WHERE the line IS!  That lesson is what makes Easton and Layla better than average on the well-behaved meter.

I hope the twins are old enough to have the memories we made for the rest of their lives.  These family adventures are the stuff relationships are made of.

See you soon!