Sunday, October 28, 2012

Longest 2 Weeks Ever

Hello friends and family,

I would use the term "under the weather" to describe my situation, but it's beautiful outside every day this time of year.  I'm really under some form of flu bug or other disruptive sickness plaguing me.  Easton yacked a few nights ago and is mostly over it, but still coughing a bit.  Layla yacked 2 nights ago and was restricted to home all day.  Kendra is worn out physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I slept in until 10 AM, which is unheard of.  Then I slept through the afternoon and plan to get to bed early again tonight.

Kindergarten Readiness night
College friend dinner
Young adults party
Church building project (2 nights)
leading parts of the day-long church conference

Just to name a few of the areas where chunks of time were allocated.  As you can see nothing in the list is inherently bad or wrong, but it's easy to over-commit and end up in one of these cycles where everything hits at once.  We are going to dump some responsibilities as soon as we can.

OK, that's all of the whining and health talk I can stand.  I'm starting to sound like a grumpy 90 year old man complaining about health issues.  Anyway,  these past two weeks were the most productive and stressful of any 2-week period I can ever remember.  I sifted through memories of moving houses, juggling my Master's education, and caring for new born twins.   Hmmm....  Nope, nothing comes close to the last two weeks.

The most difficult aspect for me to tolerate is how the busyness is 100% our own doing.   In our marriage we have a continual assessment of whether we are staying within our comfortable balance of life and responsibilities.  These past two weeks we crashed through that barrier into the area of overload.

We finally found our boundaries of what is considered too much.  Easton and Layla were still a top priority, but the other areas that suffered most was time with Kendra and my work out schedule and the blog.  There were 4 days straight where I never even spent 5 minutes alone with Kendra.  If I had, we would have discussed upcoming plans.  At one point I stopped what we were doing after the kids went to bed and drug her outside on the back patio.  I set the timer on my phone for 5 minutes and said, "No talking, just let me hold you and rock on the patio sofa with no distractions."  How refreshing...

Even in the fight to take care of our commitments during the past two weeks I still shared a good amount of quality and quantity time with the twins.  We took another trip down the greenbelt to do some owl watching. Easton brought his binoculars and Layla waited patiently to go play princesses and superheros in the playground.

Our young adults party was a success.  I neglected to post the full crew of who all came over.  One of the guys mentioned how he was reluctant to gather as young adults in a persons home because the previous situations involved cramming into small living rooms unable to breathe.  After a few weeks holding at the Casa de Webb he felt comfortable enough to tell me he is happy to hold the events at our house because of the layout and space.  I'll take that as a compliment.

The cost of attending the off-road racing event at Firebird raceway for four people is somewhere around $150.  I won a drawing at work and was given tickets for the whole thing.  Entrance fee, parking, and food for two.  I invited my friend with a son the same age as Easton.  Kids under 5 were free so we made a day of it with zero expenses.    

OK, maybe it wasn't a day...  More like 90 minutes worth of racing before Easton and his friend were begging to go home.  We all had a great time taking in the sights and sounds and smells of the event.  I'd be upset if we had spent $150 for 90 minutes of entertainment, but under the circumstances we did really well.  Easton saw the race winners hold up their trophy (he called the Piston Cup) and their check.    

Layla was none too happy about me taking Easton for a Daddy date, but she enjoyed the one on one time with Mommy as a consolation prize.  I could have taken her also since she is under 5, but she is still not feeling well and I didn't want to hold the two of them on my shoulders at the same time to see the races.  Boy time is important!

Layla is my mailbox partner.  Each day I give her a piggy back ride down the street to the mailbox cluster.  She picks dandelions from our neighbors yard and we take turns making wishes while blowing the top off them.  I'm amazed by how quickly kids get into a routine and build expectations around it.  If we don't go one day she is quick to mention my oversight as I tuck her into bed.    

There is a free blood pressure machine at my work.  I have no idea what the numbers even mean because every time I go to the doctor's office they take my reading and then say, "you're blood pressure is great!"  For what it's worth, here are my numbers.

I spent one of the evenings with my college friend during our two weeks of stress.  I haven't seen him since the day I left college, but it was important and worthwhile to catch up with him.  He lives in Ohio.  That doesn't allow much opportunity for friendship.  Even so, he was a really good friend during college and I still consider him a friend even though we only communicate through FaceBook.  If we lived in the same town Bill would easily be my best friend.

I discovered a very useful list of "life hacks" here:  One of the coolest ideas was to use a cell phone picture of stuff people borrow WITH their face in the picture.  I loaned two movies to Chris and took this picture to store away in my newly created folder for similar pictures.  I get tired of loaning things and then forgetting who borrowed it and when.  so much to learn.

Thank God these past two weeks are over.  This is certainly not the happiest, positive post I've ever done, but this is real life and we take the ups and downs together.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says “...My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

This is why I brag about (boast in) my weakness.  The things I consider hardships are minuscule first-world problems when compared to things others in history dealt with and those around the world today deal with.  I pretended I didn't have any weakness for a long time.  Even when I was confronted with it, I still chose to hide it.  Those days are over and I am experiencing more freedom now than ever before because I not only admit to weakness, I brag about it.

See you soon!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Costumes Abound

Greetings friends and family,

We aren't celebrators of Halloween for the wizardry, whitchcraft, and death.  However, it's tough this time of year to keep Easton and Layla away from the negative influences of this season.   They are taking the commercials and marketing in stride.  we walked into the grocery store and there was a creepy ghost looking guy and a full-size skeleton.  

After we returned home I discovered our house has it's own ghosts who wander through the halls laughing and bumping into door knobs.  

Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head come out to play occasionally.  Layla grabbed two sets of lips and and we pretended to talk like the Potato Heads.  We were laughing so hard it when we looked in the mirror it was difficult to keep our lips behind the plastic ones.

Easton wanted in the fun so I let them look in the mirror together and share in the giggles.  They were entertained for at least 5 minutes just making funny faces.

Kendra did a great job setting up and hosting the party at our house.  The group of young adults from our church came over for a costumed evening of dinner and games.  Easton and Layla did very well with their first grown-up type party with costumes.  They greeted the guests and fit right in with all of us for dinner and conversation.  At Kendra's request I was Buzz Lightyear again even though i have a full spiderman suit in my closet.  She prefers for me to save that for Halloween day so I can surprise Easton.

 The twins didn't get to stay involved very long because of bed time.  I helped get them ready for bed so they could make their rounds saying goodnight.  Kyle, dressed as a banana, made us all laugh so hard.

Easton was not feeling 100% during the past two days.  We've been taking it easy as much as possible, but he still is feeling well enough to go along with the day to day activities.  I won tickets to go see the live performance of Clifford the big red dog.  I can't believe they are $25 each!  I know I wouldn't have paid $75 for the 90 minute show.  Since it was free I enjoyed it more than anyone in the entire theater.

The show was perfectly fit for 4-year-olds, but it was nothing special compared to the Toy Story 3 on Ice we went to a few months ago. The show was a musical with 6 people and a two man team who portrayed the big red dog.  The twins asked me each time a scene would end and lights go dim, "is it over now?"  They didn't want it to be over so each time I reassured them it was just a break in the action.

We arrived home tired from the forever long drive (a whole 25 minutes) and the excitement of the show.  I laid down for a nap and Easton agreed to nap with me on our bed.  We crashed within a couple of minutes and slept for about an hour.  We were awakened by the real princess Rapunzel!  Layla was dressed and ready to go to their friend's Halloween party.  Easton zombied his way back to his room and suited up again to represent the superhero power.

Elliot is one of Easton's favorite buddies at school.  They both like similar toys and characters, but it's really easy to find common ground for a couple of four-year-old boys.  

The last time Easton spent the day at Elliot's house he expressed interest in Elliot's marble maze toy set.  apparently he's still excited about it because he played with it again this time around.  Kendra and I put this at the top of our list for Easton's gift list this year.

Time to go wrap up the busiest week of our entire year with a good night's sleep and full day of excitement tomorrow.  I can't wait to have a chance to do nothing for a change...  rest is coming, just not yet.  :)

See you soon!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Garage Sale Rewards

Howdy friends and family,

We gained $250 from our garage sale where we sold about $3,000 worth of stuff.  Not exactly the "buy low, sell high" philosophy, is it?  I know it's just stuff and I know it decreases over time.  That's why we call it stuff instead an investment.  Anyway, we couldn't even give away some things, but I consider the day as a success.

The night before the garage sale we hosted a small group discussion with the young adults group.  We took on joint leadership of the church group for people aged 20-30.  Seems to fit us well because we are still young enough to relate, but old enough to pour some wisdom into their lives.

One of those young adults, Rebekah, is selling everything she owns and moving to Australia.  She'll attend the Hillsong school there and find her place in ministry.  She earned refrigerator rights a long time ago.  that means she can come in our house any time she likes and eat whatever she wants out of the fridge.  There is a certain level of friendship one must attain in order for refrigerator rights to be established.

Anyway, she felt led to give all of her Earthly belongings away during our garage sale and accept only donations of whatever people decided to give.  That's a big step of faith.

Even though we were up late with the house guests we woke up at 5:00 AM to get the garage sale ball rolling.  That may be normal for some, but for the 4 Webbs that is really, really early.  Easton and Layla slept in and missed almost half of the action.  They were amazed by the concept of laying all our stuff on the driveway.

They found all kinds of toys and books.  They suddenly became interested in the items which languished on their shelves for the past year without even a second glance.  No mercy though!  We stuck to our guns and held nothing back.  The proceeds from our sale went straight into the Disneyland fund.  We are working towards fully funding that trip next spring.  The best vacation is the one that doesn't follow you home (in the form of credit card bills).  We are committed to sacrifice whatever it takes for us to be financially responsible and have the time of our lives at Disneyland.

Easton and Layla are both blossoming socially.  They are learning to love every person who walks through the front door of our home.  It is important for children to be in an environment where they can receive love.  Easton and Layla are a step beyond this.  They know our home is safe place and they are free to give love.  Our friend Kyle stretched out in the recliner to rest and Layla climbed up to give him some cuddles and hugs.   He returned the hug and Layla said "I'm not your nu-nu!" She was referring to her little animal safety blanket, which she cuddles with every night.

Easton and Layla gave new meaning to the word Twinpact.  They both jumped up into the chair with Kyle at the same time and the recliner fell over backwards.  That didn't stop them from continuing the rough housing though!

Another of our friends came through our house for the first time since we moved in.  I'm not fond of real estate agents at all, but he is a friend who I trust and value his opinion.  Anyway, his unfiltered, untainted assessment of our house was, "This is a safe, comfortable place.  The kids and you two have such love for one another and it shows in how you treat each other as well as the atmosphere in the house."  I wasn't even fishing for compliments so this out-of-the-blue assessment was welcomed as an encouragement to keep on doing what we're doing.

See you soon!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Learning at Home

Howdy friends and family,

It's haircut time at the Casa de Webb.  My shaggy look was not developing into a respectable hair style.  That left me with only one Dave Ramsey approved option: Let Kendra shear me like a sheep.  I conned Easton into joining me for the shearing.  He was hesitant, but I saw him make the transition from timid to courageous.  I know we're only talking about getting a haircut, but every journey begins with a single step.  His body language suggested he was intimidated and scared, but something switched when he saw me take my shirt off and get hyped up about it.  His teeth were still slightly clinched, but when I asked, "are you with me, Big Time?"  He nodded his head and duffed his shirt.  

I don't think Easton and I have ever posed together with a profile shot so this is a different view of us.  I don't see the similarities, but everyone else can clearly see he is my boy.    

We sat in the bath tub like helpless farm animals being led to a slaughter house...  or so it felt.  No blood was lost by either of us and he gained a little more courage to draw from for the next challenge he faces.

Layla did not participate in the sheep shearing.  Her hair must never be cut.  ever.  She had no hair until well after her second birthday.  That's why I'm excited for her to have long hair.  Besides, I have them both convinced boys have short hair and girls have long hair.  I don't want Layla dating a hippie so it's best to start early with setting her perception of "normal".

She grew into another one of Riley's hand-me-down dresses.  When I came home she wanted to show me how it twirls when she spins around.  Layla floats, dances, trots, skips, and hops everywhere she goes.  The only thing she doesn't do is walk, but I like that about her.  

Many times I'll follow her through the house skipping and hopping just like her.  Prior to Layla in my life I can't remember the last time I skipped.  This is my second childhood and I plan to make the most of it.

Here's a blast from the past.  Easton and Layla at 15 months old in their double stroller.

The time has come for us to sell the stroller.  Kendra cleaned it off in preparation for the Craigslist pictures.  The twins were outside with us and requested one more push around the driveway.  I can't believe how fast they grow.  Nothing brings out that mental disconnect more than seeing picture comparisons like these.

Easton inherited several costumes as hand-me-downs from Jaden.  The Superman outfit isn't his favorite yet, but he's still new to the idea of a flying superhero.  Spiderman, Leonardo TMNT, and Flash just run around and swing from webs so this will take some getting used to.  Layla is happily representing the ballerina princess saved by Superman.

Now for the learning portion of my stories.  Kendra is doing regular home schooling on the off-days from their pre-k classes.  I'm using every learning opportunity possible and creating some of my own.  I don't know what, exactly,  Easton and Layla are doing at school from day to day.   We talk about their day during dinner and they tell me stories, but nothing specific enough for me to know which letter or skill they focused on that day.

Anyway, Kendra is using what's available to teach them.  In this case she used Easton's plethora of planes and cars to teach some counting concepts.

I wanted to teach them about opportunity costs and order.  Not exactly pre-k curriculum, but if they understand it, then who cares what age these concepts are supposed to be introduced.  I wrote down their "to do" list for the evening activities after dinner.  I tore them into individual items and laid them out on the ground.  The three of us talked through what needs to be done and ordered them.  I helped them understand we have to clean first to do what NEEDS to be done, then we will have fun and do what they WANT to do.  Layla suggested bath after bed, but Easton corrected that logical issue quickly by pointing out we can't take a bath after we go to bed.  Clean room was first.  Then after we finished a task I moved it to the right and continued down the list.  Paper airplanes was their agreed-upon choice for play time with Daddy.

Layla threw in a curve ball because she wanted to play superheros.  I walked the twins through the process of choosing between books and superheros.  That's the opportunity costs lesson.  They chose superheros so I removed books and added the new task in its place.  By the end of the task list we gave each other high-fives while reveling in the feeling of success and completion. Job well done.

Layla created a bouquet of flowers out of K'nex.  She gave them to me and smiled really big waiting for my hug and kiss as a display of gratitude.  I bet any boy her age would like to receive flowers if they are made of K'nex.  I gave them back to her for the photo opp. and she gladly posed to show me some love.  I asked her, "Can I always be your superhero forever?"  She smiled and said, "yes, yes, yes, of course!"  She knows how to make my day, but doesn't know how easy it would be to get her way with anything she wanted after a response like that.    

This stage of life is getting easier and more fulfilling each day.  See you soon!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Farm Fresh

Howdy friends and family,

The 4 Webb's eat exclusively at home unless we have a Groupon or a coupon.  We're on track to have the best financial month in the past 4 years.   We will have a full review of our month expenses during the "family budget meeting" on Tuesday night.  Hooray for us.  

We used a Groupon to eat a "The Farm at South Mountain".  They have their own farm on the property including chickens, melons, and vegetables.   Last night I watched "Food, Inc." by myself this weekend and I'm overly informed and utterly disturbed now about what we are eating and what we should be eating.  Yikes.  Ignorance isn't bliss in this situation...  Ignorance will lead to 1 out of 2 people living with diabetes.  Anyway, here's quick rundown of what happened at The Farm:

Lettuce show you how we love one another.  

Easton is such a fun guy.  No, not fungi.  those are wild mushrooms and probably poisonous so don't eat them!

Nothing but the sweetest berries on the vines.

Cage-free animals roam the property.

The food is so fresh you'll throw up

your kids into the air.

If I ever get so mature that I'm no fun, somebody send me this next picture and ask, "what happened to THAT guy?"

It is joyous to get down on their level and make them feel special doing what they like to do, with them.  Nothing wrong with that, but I am Easton and Layla's father, not their friend.  Many parents attempt to be either equal to kids in friendship or authoritarian and dictatorial.  Neither of those are the right balance.  The twins understand and accept we are the parents who set boundaries.  If one of them crosses a boundary there are bad consequences.  Kids get choices and options when we say they do, not when they whine or argue enough.  Sounds a little harsh, but we are building their moral and societal compass, which will guide them when they are older and out on their own.  

There will be a time for friendship after they move out of our house.  It is crucial to understand that the parent-child role has an order!  I've seen people try to be friends with their 4 year old and then parent them when they turn 24 years old.  Doesn't work that way... Not that I have all the answers, but I listen, read, and observe well.  :)

Talk to you soon!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Guidance System

I am Easton's guidance system.  To go along with my last post about Layla, here is the latest eye-opener for how being a father to a son is playing out for me.  Easton is strongly influenced by those around him.  This is a positive personality characteristic now because I am able to pour into him and see instant results.  Then again...  as he gets older and other people start to influence him that's where I get a little concerned.

He chuckled as he told Kendra and I in the car that he was crossing swords with a friend of his.  We were clueless so inquired further.  He described how he and his friend go to the urinal at the same time and then cross the urine streams as they pee.  We covered our mouths to keep our composure, but we both wanted to bust up laughing.

I got in trouble for the exact same thing in first grade, but I still made a point to express how it is not appropriate to do that and he will get bad consequences if he does it again.  He is so much like me.  Every day is another similarity.  My influence on him is epitomized by the ongoing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle saga.  The twins watched a cartoon episode of TMNT on Netflix.  Easton told me the premise of the turtles as though I'd never heard of them.  I played along and then joined in the gleeful description.  His excitement grew to match mine as we discussed.    Easton and Layla sat with me as we watched select portions of the 1990 TMNT movie.  Easton laughed so hard at the part where Leonardo sliced the pizza in the air and one piece landed upside down on Splinter.

Now he IS Leonardo.

The yellow cape is the closest thing we have to a turtle shell and the wooden sword is what he chose to buy at the Goodwill store with his "Spend" envelope money.  We've been battling it out all over the house since then.

I talked them into "Ninja training" and had them learning Kenpo Karate from P90X.  They believe they really are Ninjas in training.  "...for as he thinks within himself, so he is"!

Layla jumped in and played along because Easton and I were having so much fun.  Since there is no girl TMNT she will hence forth be known as Sparkle, the little sister turtle.  This story shows the extent of Easton's intellect and passion.  When he takes a liking to something, he's 100% in.  He not only imitates and copies me, he takes whatever I do to the next level.  Quite a big responsibility and opportunity I have to help build his guidance system of life.  In some ways I see Easton as a rocket and my main job is to point him in the right direction and stabilize his guidance system through his low-Earth orbit.

The 4Webbs are half way through our first month of official allocated spending plan adherence.  We are doing very well, but I'm not having fun.  Saying no is not fun.  Saying no to the twins to save a few bucks is even less fun.  A small part of me wants things to go back to the way they were when Kendra didn't have exact targets of what to spend when and where, but I know that's not possible.  We're attending Financial Peace University and made it through 6 of the 10 weekly classes.  I'm very proud of Kendra for taking the bull by the horns regarding our finances.  For the first time in our marriage we are intentionally paddling our financial boat in the same direction.

Part of our sacrifices this month is due to choosing (together) to get another yearly membership to the zoo.  The kids love it and I'm certain we will get our money's worth out of it based on the number of expected visits.  Let's get this outdoor season of the year started already!

Easton is still very interested in owls.  The twins were able to get up close and personal with a few spectacled owls. I've been hearing owl sounds around our house continuously since then.  At least he hasn't taken up flute lessons yet.

The temps are cool enough to enjoy animal watching, but warm enough to still play in the splash pad.  They are making the most of this season.

Kendra's new financial mindset is evident in her choice of how to decorate our house for Halloween and fall. She could spend $500 on Pottery Barn decorations, or she could spend $100 on Target decorations.  OR she could spend $0 and use the construction paper and markers we have around the house.  Good choice and way more educational!

The ducks who starved all summer due to lack of park patrons are probably stuffed beyond belief now that life is flowing back through the city.  Layla is getting brave on the monkey bars.  maybe a little too brave?  I'm so protective of her and want to keep her from hospital visits and pain as much as possible.

Easton spends his duck  park time wandering through the tunnels and playing TMNT.  What a happy boy we have.

He hasn't lost his love of Spiderman yet (as you can see by his choice of shirts).  He knows he'll be Spiderman for Halloween this year, but he doesn't know Daddy is getting an adult-sized Spiderman costume (for free) to join him in his crime fighting adventures.  I can't wait to see his face when he sees us dressed up together as Spiderman together.

An entire playground and 3 acre park is waiting for the twins to explore.  Yet, they are within two feet of each other as they scamper around the jungle gym.  Nothing wrong with best friends doing what best friends do best.

And to prove my point even further, they are sharing a pretend duck ride to nowhere and enjoying every second of it.  They look alike, but it's clear Layla is a mini-Kendra and Easton is a mini-me.  People comment regularly about how closely tied their looks are to ours.  I cannot deny they truly are my own!

See you soon.