Friday, September 28, 2012

Father's Day in September?

Hello friends and family,

Today was a special day for the twins and I.  Father's Day is traditionally in June when school is not in session.  Their school shifts the celebration day to late September so we can have a daddy day together.  They were extremely excited all week.  I was the first Dad to walk in their classroom when the doors opened.  They greeted me with the usual enthusiasm of a roller coaster ride.

All the Dads filed in and were treated to a couple of A cappella songs.  I captured one on video and enjoyed the other one because I don't feel the need to record every single moment, but instead chose to enjoy it to the fullest.

and just in case the video doesn't load or gets taken down, here's a picture of them singing their hearts out.
The big surprise of the day was sharing brownies they made and ice cream.  For me it wasn't much of a highlight, but everyone else seemed excited about it.  Each Dad sat up front with their kid in their lap.  Or in my case, two kids in my lap.  Each Dad described their career and then whatever fun thing they like to do together with their child.  Most Dads said wrestling or camping or legos.  I chose a slightly different approach  because I am not normal.  I chose to describe what I like about each of the twins and the time we spend together.  
For Layla, I love the moments we spend together at bed time.  I fill her spill-proof cup with ice cold water and kneel next to her bed.  She chooses a song from my ever-expanding portfolio and then lays on her tummy so i can rub her back while singing in the glow of the nightlight.  Our time always ends with a hug and kiss and covering her with her special blanket.  
We swung together in the playground outside where she proudly showed me her skills.  A few times i thought she might go all the way up and over because she was swinging so high.  

For Easton, I love the moments we spend together in the morning.  He wakes up at 7:15 AM with greater accuracy than England's Big Ben.  I hear his little feet patting across the tile floor into our bedroom as my alarm ringtone.  He crawls into bed with me and cuddles up close.  The first words out his mouth every single morning are (in his whispering voice), "Daddy I'm hungry!"  I act surprised as if I had no idea he would say that.  then we get up together quietly and go into the kitchen.  Sometimes we share a single bowl of cereal and a single glass of OJ while sitting at his little table.

What I noticed most when the Dads shared in front of the class was how every one, except me and one other guy, focused entirely on what they DO together.  I struggle with that because we are human beings, not human doings.  I want Easton and Layla to know I love them and want to spend time with them no matter what we DO together.  The most important aspect of my relationship with the twins is not what we do together; it's that we spend quality and quantity time together.  

During Daddy Day at school Easton pushed a huge bull dozer across the playground, digging a big pathway through the sand and tree bark.  I followed close behind with my oversized dump truck.  The other Dads congregated under the shade checking email on their phones, but it took a while for me to notice I was the only Dad getting dirty in the sandbox.  I'm amazed by how odd "normal" for me feels when I'm around other Dads like that.  I wasn't doing anything to make a statement or stand out or just for show.  Easton asked me to join him in playing with construction toys, but he knew I would do it.  He didn't come to me begging or expecting rejection.  He expects me to be an active part of his play time and I always am.

I'm not degrading other Dads.  I'm just trying to describe the contrast between what I live as "normal" fathering and how out of sync I am with what I see in other Dads.  Luckily I don't aspire to be like anyone else or compare myself on a competitive scale.

Every parent has heard the Golden Rule, even the Godless ones.  However, not many realize there is a passage before it that applies to parents:  “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you"

I want Easton and Layla to ask me expecting a "yes".  Especially when it comes to being a part of their playtime and through the ups and downs in life.  If they make a bad choice, I want them to share with me so I can comfort them and say, 'I love you no matter what'.   I see some kids shy away from asking their Mom or Dad for their time because they feel rejected or have a warped sense of what is expected of a father.  If I say "yes" to being a part of their world now, then they will continue to ask me to be a part of it as they get older.  

To prove my point, here is a picture from yesterday.  Kendra and the twins came by my work to drop off a paper.  I climbed in the car and said, "do you want to go play in the park?"  They said "yes!" and we spent my lunch hour playing Star Wars and climbing around in the playground equipment.  My work was still there when I returned from lunch, but someday soon i'll turn around and Easton and Layla will be heading off to college...  and my work will still be there.

See you soon!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Record Breaking Party

Greetings friends and family,

The older I get, the more I value other people's time.  It means more than ever when people take time to be a part of my life by spending time together and phone calls and emails.  Relationships are dynamic.  That means if two people aren't building their relationship, then it is degrading.

When I get a free hour after doing things I must do, I spend it doing things I should do.  That list of "should do" never gets to zero so I rarely take time to do what I want to do...  at least, not without a twinge of guilt.  Thinking back to my childhood I remember entire days where my only goal was to improve my bicycle tricks and hang out with my friends.  I remember being bored now and then too, which is a foreign concept as a father.  Others tell me time management is even more crucial and stressful when kids get into sports and extra curricular activities.  Until then I'll continue to love life for what it is today.  Part of the realization came about when the 4 Webbs joined our friends to watch their son play soccer.

We had the time and flexibility to go see Ben's game, but their family (and others with school-aged kids) are busy almost every single evening of the week transporting and spectating. Easton spent part of the game playing a race car driving game on my iphone.  He's like me in that he'd rather participate than spectate.

Layla assumed her usual role as miss social butterfly and head cheerleader.

I sat on the edge of the field to work on my photography skills of action shots.  Easton and Layla asked to take pictures.  I gladly let them (individually) sit in front of me and get a photography 101 class.  With the strap securely around my neck I let them hold the camera, follow Ben through the view finder, and take copious amounts of pictures.  Easton had a slightly better grasp on the aesthetics because the camera angle and tilt were good.  He was able to find and track Ben up and down the field pretty well.  Layla's pictures were crooked and blurry as she swished the camera back and forth.  They both did very well for their first time.  My favorite part was watching their faces as they reviewed the picture they just captured and realized "I did that!"

The twin's dental hygiene and health is improving dramatically.  twice daily teeth brushing (by mommy and daddy) and they have some fluoride mouthwash stuff.  They swish it around in their mouth while counting to ten with their fingers and humming for each number.  

Our house hit a new record this past weekend.  We blew the top off the old records for number of people in our house and number of people in our pool.  We hosted Marisue and Scott's celebration of their twins' 2nd birthday.  They both have large families and we loved having them over for a few hours of partying.  Here's most of the attendees during dinner prayer time in the greenbelt.  

After bellies were filled we did NOT wait 30 minutes before swimming.  We're rebels like that.  I didn't take time to count the number of people in the pool.  I was too busy swimming with the masses and making sure nobody drowned.  Layla swam like a fish as she darted between the older boys pounding each other in the face with beach balls.  

Easton took a more offensive position with his water gun.  He was sliding down the slide or attacking from up high in the hot tub.  I like his strategy tactics!

The party was a raging success from what I could tell.  The house, pool, and greenbelt accommodated everyone well.  These events are exactly what we envisioned as the primary reason we moved here.  Did we want more space?  Absolutely, but not just for ourselves.  "We are blessed so we can be a blessing to others", is probably the closest thing I can get to a family guideline.

Yesterday I slept in a whole 30 minutes (whoopity do).  I stumbled into the kitchen and found Snow White and Jake (from the Neverland Pirates) chowing on chocolate chip pancakes.

Just a normal day in our wonderful life, if you ask me.  I love seeing Easton and Layla use their imaginations.

See you soon!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Daddy Runs?

Greetings friends and family,

My 40 year old, sedentary friend has a goal of running a 5k in 18 minutes.  We all think he's crazy, but support him in his quest for such a goal.  Last night while sitting around talking I decided to spontaneously run a 5k and time it just for fun.  The last time I ran a timed 5k was 16 years ago in college where I clocked a time of 21:30.  I've ran less than 20 times since then because I really dislike it.  Running is boring and slow.  All I keep thinking about is how much more distance I could cover on roller blades or a bicycle.  Anyway, I took off in the 101 degree heat and kept a good pace where I was breathing hard, but not on the verge of hurling my cookies.  My time was 23:10.  Not bad for a 37 year old guy who dislikes running.  I have no aspirations of ever doing that again unless I'm being chased by a wild animal or the police, but you never know...

Easton's my adventure boy.  They had a camping day at school where they made binoculars out of toilet paper rolls and a safari visor from construction paper.  He was so excited about the gear that he's probably still wearing it in bed.

Even though Kendra has arachnophobia, Easton has a squishy spider toy and now a spider ring which he proudly wears.  Ouma would not be amused, but I love how Easton isn't phased one bit by the screams and expletives when a real creepy crawly thing is discovered.

He seriously has an interest in animals and everything in the world.  We ate at Arby's and he asked, "why do they put the little black seeds on top of the bun?"  I had NO answer.  Easton said, "Ask your phone?"  I told him it (Google) probably wouldn't have the right answer either. Then he insisted we ask the "baker" in the back to tell us.  We stood at the counter for a couple of minutes while the cashiers served the people in line.  Then Easton asked one of the cashiers who stared at him like a deer in headlights.  She turned around and screamed some Hispanic name I can't remember.  Apparently he was the boss.  He walked to the front expecting to deal with some disgruntled old lady.  I know this because he was very hesitant until Easton blurted out his question.  By this time the entire staff of Arby's was asking the question of each other and all they could come up with was a collective shrug of the shoulders.  Oh well.  I guess there are some questions that just can't be answered.  His Pre-K teachers have their work cut out for them to satisfy his inquisitive nature.

Our coffee table in the great room became the lounge for Easton and Layla.  We don't allow them to climb on furniture as a general rule, but this table is more a part of their playground equipment than our usable furniture.  It works so well because it is out of the viewable area of the Xbox Kinect sensor, but still close enough so they can watch as Kendra plays Disneyland.  They looked so sweet and best-friend-like I had to grab the camera for a picture.  Nobody said, "make a silly face", but since I neglected to say DON'T make one, this is how it came out.

Our minuscule free time this week is focused on getting the house ready for the Smith boys' birthday party on Sunday at our house.  We are excited to host their big celebration!

See you soon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Greetings friends and family,

Although we miss our extended families spread across the country, life is going so well I almost don't want it to change.  The last time I had this familiar feeling was when Kendra and I were first married.  Aunt Mary and Uncle Dave were just down the street and our weekly cadence of DINK living was pretty awesome.  Outside of our personal issues leading to marital clashes, I wanted time to stand still and nothing to change.  We had 5 years of that until Dave passed away and I'm grateful for that era in our lives.

Now I sense a similar level of comfort and contentment.  I'm more in love with Kendra than ever before.  Easton and Layla are the joys of my life.  Work is smooth and still putting money in my account every couple of weeks.  Kendra and I are leading and loving on others in ways we never dreamed.  Life is certainly not perfect, but it is extremely meaningful.  I came home from work to find Princess Aurora and Flash taking a break from the action while joining Dora for some cartoon adventures.

They greeted me with an immediate invitation to join their superhero team.  Without hesitation I jumped in my phone booth and donned the Buzz Lightyear costume.  Apparently "Martial Arts Daddy" isn't as welcomed because I don't have a mask or helmet to go along with it.  At their request, we ate dinner in our costumes.  I couldn't think of a good reason to say no; especially since Kendra was gone this evening spending time with her friend.

We chased imaginary bad guys around the house and answered tons of rapid-fire "why" questions.  We played hide and seek a few times.  My favorite moment is when I'm counting.  "4.... 5.... 6...  what comes after 6?" from the back bedroom in unison I hear "7! Dad don't you know by now?"

The twins are becoming more proficient by the day and I'm pushing the limits often.  Now I can say, "go brush your teeth, rinse with mouth wash, put on your PJs, and get some books to read."  about 20 minutes later they trot into the den with books all ready to go!  I feel like a drill sergeant and I think the power is going to my head a little.  They are highly disciplined and obedient compared to other kids I see taking direction from their parents.

Easton's room turned into a space shuttle launch pad with petshop toys.  it's a stretch, but in his creative mind the story went together well.  Anyway, his room was completely cleaned up (by him) before bed time.     

Kendra gave the twins a chance to paint in on a piece of paper in the bathtub.  Layla took her up on the offer, but Easton isn't interested in art at all.  Layla stripped down to her undies and drew this masterpiece:

We might go ahead and frame it now so that it's in mint condition when she becomes a famous artist.

See you soon!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Give Save Spend

Greetings friends and family,

The time has finally come to teach finance 101 to Easton and Layla.  The lesson today put them ahead of probably 95% of all people in the world... including adults.

They both have a piggy bank in their room.  Easton's is a fire truck he painted and Layla's is a pink elephant given as a gift.  Since they were about two years old and could hold a coin we've excitedly encouraged them to put the coins in the bank.  When they find a coin around the house or at the Wal-mart parking lot they instinctively put it in my pocket and then at the earliest convenience I take down their piggy bank and let them place in in slot.

Today I expanded their horizon at an astronomical level.  First, we emptied the coins out of the bank into a ziplock baggy.  Their expressions as the money came pouring out into the baggy were priceless.

I jumped in on the action as well with my change bucket.  We've been emptying change into this thing for years and I wanted to turn it into dollars so we can add it to our Disneyland trip fund.

Then I put three cups in front of each of them and labeled the cups:


Easton and Layla sorted the entire contents of their bag into three cups by placing a coin in each cup.  They repeated over and over, "give, save, spend...  give, save, spend."  I felt like Mr. Miyagi yelling, "Up!  Down!  UP!  DOWN!" as I chanted along with them.

Mr. inquisitive jumped in right on cue with his questions of why we can't just put all the money in the spend cup and why we have to save before we spend.  Talk about teachable moments.  Easton practically throws me a softball every time.

Layla picked up the pattern within 5 seconds and she was off to the races sorting and learning.

The exercise of sorting the money was strictly for the purpose of helping them understand the order of finances.  We loaded all the money into baggies and headed to the closest Coinstar location.  Once inside I let each one dump their money into the coin collector and then retrieve the voucher certificate.  The customer service person gave them the cash in large bills totaling about $40 each!

The grocery store bank was kind enough to break the large bills so they had a stack of 40 $1 bills to take home.  We went home for dinner and step #2 of the process.  I had each of them count out the $1 bills again into three piles.  "Give Save Spend", they chanted again.  The spend pile ended up with $13 in it.  They were speechless when I said, "Let's go SPEND your money at the toy store!"

On the way there we had an open discussion about what to buy and I convinced them they didn't have to spend every one of the dollars.  We walked into the Dollar Store and I loved watching their eyes light up as they slowly headed towards the toy isle.  Their entire concept of money and spending and toys was just blown up with dynamite.  They felt so empowered.  Easton kept asking, "Dad, what should I buy?"  I put the responsibility back on him by convincing him it is entirely up to him what he buys and how much.  He grabbed a motorcycle hotwheels toy and then said, "I want this, but can I also get the airplane?"  I wasn't sure how far they would go, but didn't care if they spent the entire $13.  They ended up getting three items each.

We approached the cashier where they placed their items on the conveyor belt.  Easton opened his baggy of money and handed the guy three dollars.  His smile was worth a million.  Layla's whole concept of buying toys was turned on its head.  The toy isle became the most incredible wonderland of items on the planet.  She said (and I quote), "This was the best day ever!  Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!"  I said, "You're welcome, but the money you spent was the money YOU saved.

The joys have only just begun because they are going to start earning dimes every day based on their ability to complete chores and tasks around the house.  Here's the foundation of my finance lessons and work expectations: "But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another." Galatians 6:4

If only the rest of America would get these basics (with the correct order) we would be much better off economically.  Give, then save, then spend.  Doesn't get any easier than that.  
See you soon!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Tent Dancers

Greetings friends and family,

Some days changes in the Easton and Layla are very noticeable, while others don't show a bit of progress or growth.  yesterday I turned on some music because I downloaded a blast from the past song just for fun.  The twins climbed inside their tents and started dancing around.  Their creativity is going to the next level right before my eyes.  I got such a big kick out of watching them dance around that it was hard to hold the camera still and not laugh.

We found Hootie again!  The evening temperatures are more conducive to bike rides and park trips so we dusted off the training wheels and took the bikes for a spin down to the green belt.  As soon as we arrived we heard the "whooo, who, who" sound and Easton lit up like a Christmas tree.  We walked over to the fence and saw him (or her) in the nest way up in an overgrown palm tree.  we also saw Hootie has a friend, another owl, in the next tree over.  We stayed and watched them move around in the nest until Layla convinced us to go back to the park for more play time.

An unintended consequence of our search for Hootie left huge bug bites on Layla's legs.  Easton and I walked through the tall grass unscathed, but Layla is itchy itchy.  More and more I see the similarities between Easton and I and between Kendra and Layla.  It's a pleasure to observe and be a part of their growth.  Even though I can't imagine life without the twins, Kendra and I could really use a date night and some time away!  Maybe next week...

See you soon!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Passing it on

Greetings friends and family,

Layla and I took time for a daddy date while Easton was at his friend's house playing.  We do this every couple of weeks, but need to have more consistency in the timing.  I'm considering setting aside a dedicated time/day each week for one on one time with each of them.  Even though we are hyped for daddy dates it feels so odd to have only one child.  Inevitably the one I'm with will say how much they miss the other and wonder what they are doing.   We reinforce verbally how they are best friends because their view of each other in friendship will carry with them through life.  Anyway, I took Layla for a sushi lunch where she shined like a star for the sushi bar guys.

In the same way I take care of my baby, she takes care of her baby.

Layla is spending more and more play time caring for her babies, Grace and Joy.  Kendra's motherly instincts are clearly passing on to Layla.  I smile while watching her cuddle and feed and love on her dolls.  Although it is natural and normal for girls to become mothers, I'm proud to see her with such a positive outlook on childhood so she can pass that on to her own real babies someday.

New saying for the 4 Webbs --> Adventures may hurt, but monotony may kill you!

See the brave one diving off the edge?   That's Layla!

My involvement as a Dad is to help her become more of who she already is through encouragement.  Her "can do" attitude is one of her greatest traits so I look for opportunities to cultivate it.  Parenting is becoming more enjoyable every day.

See you soon!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sunday Dinner

Greetings friends and family,

Growing up there were some very stable things in life I counted on.  Which house we lived in was not one of them, but I learned a house doesn't equal a home.  However, I could count on Sunday.  We would wake up to blueberry muffins, go to Sunday School, and then church service.  I was always cold during church because I've always been skinny.  Afterward church, we climbed into our car that had been sitting in the warm sun.  I would press my face against the window and rejuvenate my chilly extremities. Those few moments of warmth are my "happy place".  when someone says you should close your eyes and go to your happy place, that's where I go.

The other part of Sunday I could count on was a big Sunday dinner.  In Missouri dinner is lunch, at noon.  We would walk into the house filled with aromas of whatever Mom had simmering in the crock pot for the past few hours.  There is just something special about enjoying a big family meal after Sunday church.

Kendra wasn't raised that way so our traditions are significantly different for Sunday noon meal.  it's an adjustment, but marriage is about compromises, which we are both getting very good at making.  Today we invited about 20 friends over for football, an open grill, and pool volleyball.  Kendra worked her tail off to make the event a smashing success, but I know we won't be doing this on a regular basis because we were both drained by the end of the day.

Easton and Layla were entertained by Ben and TT, but Layla also provided her own entertainment for the guests who stayed around.  I turned on some Mozart ballet music and she danced her heart out.

Arizona is an odd place when it comes to weather.  When the sun is out we stay inside because it's 108 degrees.  when it rains we put on rain gear and go splash in the puddles!  We had enough of a storm come through where the rain was something measurable and the twins had enough time to go play in the rain before it quit.

Pre-K is going really well for Easton and Layla.  Sounds like Kendra is leaning towards sending them to public school next year, but I'm entirely uncomfortable with the whole idea.  We have so many things to work out of what we are going to do with their schooling, but these next few months will fly by so we better get to some decision points pretty quick about home school vs. charter school vs. public school.

See you soon!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mr. Inquisitive and Miss Danger

Greetings friends and family,

Back-to-school is in full swing at pre-kindergarten and at home.  Kendra is doing some supplemental work to keep the twins ahead of the curve.  I came home from work to find our house covered in letters.  She cut out squares of paper and taped every letter to the walls in capitol and lower case.  Their scavenger hunt was to find every letter, which they did successfully.

I know, Easton is still in his pajamas.  That's a nice benefit of having Kendra stay at home with them!

At the library Easton and Layla's top request was for books about the human body.  I shined a flashlight in my eyeball after reading through the section about eyes.  They were almost speechless watching my pupils dilate.  Another section Easton took an interest in is the intestines.  Dear God, why must everything revolve around bodily sounds and excrement?  He's as interested to know how food gets from the stomach into the small intestines as he is to know why owls like the taste of mice.  

Yesterday as Easton and I were playing dog fights with airplanes he asked, "What do you like about me, Dad?"  He wasn't being insecure though.  it was just a real, honest question, but I was surprised to hear it.  I ask him sometimes to describe what he likes about his friends at school because I want him to see others for their positive attributes.  I told him that I like how thoughtful and kind hearted he is.  I like how handsome he is (kind of a compliment to myself at the same time).  I like how he is funny and silly.  After I went through my short list about him he jumped right back into play-mode and off we went to gun down the bad guys with our airplanes.

We spent an afternoon swimming and playing with Ben and TT, our friend's set of twins.  The older twins dove through the hula hoop.  Layla's motto should be "anything you can do I can do better" because she told me raise the hula hoop up higher than they had it.  She also asked us to chant "USA, USA!" while she prepared like an Olympic diver.  Her tolerance for danger and risk is much higher than I prefer, but I encourage her none the less to spread her wings and flap as fast as she wants.

Easton was happy just to jump through it even though he knows how to dive.  They did repeated for about 30 minutes.

The summer is waning slowly and I can't wait for park-friendly weather, but I'll miss our pool time.  See you soon!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Stay-cation Holiday

Greetings friends and family,

I spent the four-day weekend at home with mi familia.  Many people traveled, some people went to local resorts.  I had the ultimate Stay-cation where because we STAYED at home most of the weekend.  Kendra was able to run errands, window shop, and go do things for herself to make the most of my time at home.  I took the twins to run a few errands and grab some lunch.  Layla asked to wear a princess outfit as usual.  I agreed as usual.  People don't jump into a conversation with us like they did when the twins were babies, but they still draw nice compliments and greetings as we wander through crowds.  They are still close enough to the same height that people recognize them as twins.  However, the real sunshine they bring is solely based on their manners and smiles and friendliness.

People notice things like the way they share or their good table manners or their kindness.  On this particular day Layla walked through the crowded restaurant like a home coming queen riding in a convertible through a parade.  She smiled and waved.  People complimented and she kindly thanked them.  During lunch Easton walked around to my side of the table.  He gave me a big hug and loudly exclaimed, "I love you, Dad, ALL the time... just because."  The table next to us let out a big sigh and "aweeeeee, how sweet."  Easton was only slightly embarrassed after realizing other people heard him say that.  In those moments I'm making mental snow angels to fully enjoy it while they last.

The twins have always been good sleepers and continue their pattern even now.  8 PM to 7 AM, just like clockwork.  They could set the Big Ben clock to Easton's snore and Layla's drool.  

I don't sit around in their rooms for hours watching them sleep or anything creepy like that, but I do take a few minutes occasionally and just watch.  They are so peaceful and innocent.  Their eyes and ears have not been exposed to 3,000 commercials and marketing impressions PER DAY like the average person in the US.  They haven't witnessed evil unless you count Captain Hook and Mother Gothel.

Easton asked one of his notoriously deep questions last night because we regularly tell them, "You are gifts from God!"  He asked, "Why did God give us to you as gifts?"  My answer is, "Because God knew we would do our best to keep you safe and protect your minds."

The biggest realization from watching them sleep was noticing how their blankets don't cover their feet anymore.  They used to fit easily under their Nunu, then we switched to the embroidered blankets and then to the ones they have now.  The seasons of change regarding their growth are marked by the requirement for a longer blanket to cover them.  The blankets are like rings of a tree and how those are used to calculate the age of the tree.  We'll keep their blankets through the years and find a way to display them.  Not sure how much they will appreciate the thought, but watching them outgrown each new blanket sure means a lot to me.

See you soon!