Monday, December 31, 2012

Snow and Vision

Greetings friends and family,

Christmas is over, but that hasn't stopped the twins from saying good-bye to everyone with a, "Merry Christmas!"  People still respond politely, but we had to have a talk with them today with the new bit of guidance so they say Happy New Year.  They embraced the Christmas spirit whole heartedly and it shows in their enthusiasm to keep it going even after the day has past.

Kendra and I are reaching some decisions for 2013 as we work through our common and separate goals for the year.  I had to start back at square one to answer the question, "Who am I?" before I could even begin to develop a vision for work, family, or ministry.  Here's what I came up with...  This is the prioritized list of who I am according to the roles I have.  If something of lower priority conflicts with something higher, then the higher one wins.  Period.

I am:

1. A follower of Christ
2. Husband
3. Father
4. American
5. Employee
6. Friend
7. Outdoor enthusiast

I'm not providing advice for how you prioritize your roles and characters in life, but this is me.  If my employer asks me to do something that is contrary to my belief as an American, then I'll find a new job.  If my country enforces something that is contrary to my belief as a follower of Christ, then I'll suffer the consequences of staying true to my relationship with God.  If I have to choose between Layla and Kendra, Kendra will prevail.

I've never seen another father with such a defined order and list of what's important to them so I had no template to work from.  It's a work in progress and I'm coachable, but you have to put some stakes in the ground sometime so it may as well be now.

The other nagging question I need to answer is:  What values do I (we) want to pass on to the twins?  I know they will see our lives as examples and get some clues, but as they come of age to understand deeper concepts I will be very clear on what matters most and what we value as a family.  A couple of baseline ideas are:

1. We are blessed to be a blessing to others
2. We lead by example and through serving
3. We do not have a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.
4. Control your thoughts

there are many things in life which are out of our control, but each of us absolutely must take every thought captive or else our thoughts will control us.  These are just some fundamental pillars of what I'm working on.

Anyway, back to the daily life...  I'm still on vacation from work and this long reprieve from the office is incredibly refreshing.  I'm spending the days with the kids playing, alone time with Kendra, shopping, conversing with family, and many other highlights that I don't normally get in such a great quantity in a single day.  Little things like overseeing snack time is a real treat for me since I'm usually not around for it.  The twins are big fans of crackers with cream cheese and crackers with peanut butter.  They very specifically ask for three cream cheese and two peanut butter.  I respond with my common answer of "Why not?" and give them the exact order.

Ouma and Oupa took the twins for a special treat to tour the Jelly Belly factory.   The long ride there was enough to put Easton into a contemplative trance staring out the window.  Ouma commented on how mature he looks with his legs crossed, chin resting on his hand, and thoughtfully observing the world around him.

Put a Jelly Belly hat on them and they turn into jelly bean lovers.  pictures are not allowed inside during the tour, but Ouma stealthily took one so I could see what it was like in there.  The factory equipment wasn't running, but the educational aspect alone was worth the trip.

The 4 Webbs took an adventure trip to the snow in Tahoe.  We met our friends up there and spent a couple of hours tobogganing.  Easton and Layla were well outfitted for the nine degree weather and Isabella was a good friend for the twins.

We ate snow right off the side of the mountain, slid down the speedy slopes on our tube, and leisurely rode the tow rope up to the top for all eight runs.  that's all we had time for...

Megan and Kendra are making the most of our trip to Sacramento by hanging out as often as possible.  Megan and her family joined us for the snow adventure, which turned out to be a good experience.  The two snow bunnies were good mommies who kept the kids (and husbands) in order.

Easton learned how to make a snow ball for the first time and we had a memorable day together.

The toboggan was only designed for one adult and one child, but I have twins so we just took a picture like this while we waited in line for our turn down the hill.

By the end of the two hour window Easton was cold and done.  He was adamant about riding down all by himself like a big boy, but by the time he waited in line and finally rode the toboggan down he was so tired and done with the day.  He just laid there the whole way down.  

We left the twins in their head-to-toe pajamas the entire day.  The spiderman and Hello Kitty hats were gifts for Christmas and worked like a charm to keep their melons warm.  They both dozed off about 5 minutes before we arrived home, which is typical.

Layla had a special evening after the snow.  She and Kendra stayed the night at Megan's house for a sleep over.  Layla and Isabella are close of friends just like Kendra and Megan.  Two peas on a pod.  The evening was filled with riding Isa's scooter around the house, watching Tinkerbell, and going through princess wardrobe changes like it was a fashion show.  Pretty typical night for both of them, but together it was especially fun.

Easton asked me today if we can go home now.  I asked him why and he said, "I miss our house.  I miss my bed.  and Hootie the Owl misses me."  We'll be home soon enough, but when we get there I know he's going to say, "I miss Ouma and Oupa".  Such is life.

See you soon!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Extended Family Times

Greetings friends and family,

Christmas morning was a huge success!  Easton and Layla are highly blessed and very grateful.  Seeing their happy demeanor and hearing excited thank you's for everyone made the efforts worthwhile.  The anticipation leading up to the big day and experience of it turned into the best Christmas I've had in many years.  Especially considering I didn't open a single gift.  Disneyland is about four months away and we're going into full financial lock-down starting January 6.  Forgoing gifts for adults was a sacrifice towards making Disneyland a reality.  So back to the kid's...

Layla took a big step towards royalty with her new tiara.

Easton spent the afternoon convincing me he was ready to begin ninja training now that he has an official turtle mask and staff.

Easton's favorite gift is measured by what he played with the most on Christmas day:  The Jedi fighter.  It separates into two aircraft (one for Luke Skywalker and one for R2D2).

Layla's favorite gift is measured by the volume and pitch of her voice when reacting to unwrapping it.  The Easy Bake Oven is something she's wanted for months now.  Where did she discover her love for the oven? TV commercials...  congratulations, Easy Bake Oven's marketing team.  You successfully convinced my sweet girl that life will not be complete until she has one of these.

2013 will be the year of commercial-free TV viewing as a result of our commercialized kids.  Statistics say we are bombarded with 3,000 commercials or "marketing impressions" per day.  I want to do what I can to reduce that without putting horse blinders on the twins or keeping them in a cave.  When we are done with our DirecTV contract, the TV bill will go to zero and we will shift to 100% internet streaming solution.  The technology is here and Kendra and I are done with network TV.

Christmas morning we went to Aunt Susie's house for the annual tradition.  Easton received a new sweater as a gift this year.  He wanted to wear to the family function and guess who else had the same idea?  Brodie was dressed in the same exact sweater!  Owen (the photobomber) is Easton's favorite cousin because although Owen is older, he plays with Easton like a pal.

The 4 Webb's annual Christmas photo turned out well.  This shows what's important and how much of a blessed man I am to have a great wife and two healthy, happy kids.

Here's a way-back-when picture from the first year we brought the twins to Sacramento for the holiday season.  One of my all-time favorites:

We ditched the holiday outfits because they are all grown up now.  Same house, same tree, four years later...

We also captured a family picture of Ouma and Oupa's legacy.  Uncle Casey worked this day and was unable to make it for the festivities.  Uncle Logan and his fiance, Bree, round out the family nicely.

Kendra and Ouma joined Bree for a bridesmaid's fitting event (or whatever that's called) where the ladies gets together and figure out what dresses to wear for the wedding.  Layla was still sick so she didn't join them, but her dress was determined even without her there.

Here are most of Kendra and Easton's cousins from Ouma's side of the family.  Alexa and a few others are missing, but you get the idea.  Most are older than the twins, but there are a few youngsters coming up quickly.

Family get togethers are so much more enjoyable now that Easton and Layla can roam around the house without us having to constantly take care of them like when they were babies.  somewhere around age three life got a whole lot easier and more fun as a father.  Situations like this highlight how independent the kids are becoming and I'm glad to help them grow in this way.  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Birthday Jesus

Merry Christmas friends and family,

The birthday celebration is in full swing this Christmas Eve.  I talked with my family back in Missouri and had a dinner gathering of Kendra's immediate family.  We even heard Oupa share the Christmas story straight from the Bible.

The twins helped cut out homemade cookies and frost them.  Of course, they tasted the final products.

We talked them into doing their "I don't have a present" routine, which was loved by all.  Layla gladly jumps at the opportunity to perform, but I'm glad to see Easton was willing to step up to the plate as well this time.

Ouma joined the twins in a gingerbread house making adventure.  The result looks awesome in my opinion.  She claims they did most of the placement of the dots and she just laid down the icing as a guide.  Way to go!

We are happy to have GG spend time with us during the past few days.  She and Layla did some water color painting together.  I love it when the twins get to share these kind of moments with her.

My boss asked me to join him for a round of golf.  We talked about golfing during my recent trip with him to Mexico so he extended the invitation since we both have the vacation time off from work.  I asked Dad if he wanted to join us and just as I expected he said yes.  The past four days were cold, windy, rainy, and treacherous.  This morning we woke up to mostly clear skies and relatively warm temps.  We picked the perfect day to hit the links.  We sloshed our way through the muddy, squishy course and I had to avoid casual water many times, but it sure was better than working!  

I captured the moment the best I could with the cheesy iphone front-facing camera.  at least you get the idea.    

A few days ago Layla wanted to perform for the guests in Ouma's house.  She wore her Ariel princess bridal costume and shared her rendition of Away in a Manger, which she learned from school. We were all blown away by how well this four-year-old can hold the notes and keep pitch through the A Capella effort.    I'm a proud dad for sure.

I thought I posted these pics from Easton and Layla's play practice a few weeks ago, but can't find them.  Layla portrayed Mary and did a wonderful job based on what Kendra said.

She was all smiles and vibrant.  I doubt Mary was so happy to be in such a difficult situation, but Layla is a joyful girl who never be able to play such a sad, dramatic role in full character.

Easton was a shepherd who doesn't know how to pretend smile, but I'm OK with that.  When he smiles and laughs for real, it is very genuine.

The classmate is supposedly pointing at the star as the shepherds search for the baby Jesus.

Easton's acting skills came into play during this scene where they are searching for the baby.

I was working when the play practice was going on, but I'm glad Kendra was there to represent and witness the hard work they put into the play.

That's all for today, but I'm caught up and ready for the big day of presents and extended family time.

See you soon!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Space Museum with Space

Merry Christmas friends and family,

Easton and Layla are counting down the days and marking off the calendar each morning.  Each day that passes leads to a doubling of the number of times we discuss how many days until Christmas.  I'm more excited for Christmas this year than any year in the past 20 years.  The twins comprehend enough about what's going on to make this season enjoyable for all of us.  

Oupa took Easton to the driving range for golf practice.  Easton did great according to the coach.  Afterwards, the two of them arrived home and Easton crashed out on the couch cuddled under a blanket.  Layla wasn't home to harass him out of a nap so he made the most of it.  

Ouma gives Easton regular back rubs and that's her secret weapon to get cuddles.  He snuggles with her and rests peacefully like a kitten getting a chin scratching.

There are two water color painting sets and somewhere Layla got the idea to paint her own face.  Permission was granted by the women of the house and there you have it.  Not exactly sure what Layla claimed the mask represented, but we cheered her on none the less.

Not all adventures turn out perfectly, but we keep going on new ones without hesitation.  The Science and Space Museum turned out to be one of those events.  I didn't tell Easton and Layla exactly what we were doing because I didn't want to set the expectations too high.  The twins and I, along with Oupa and uncle Casey, arrived soon after the doors opened into a building where it seemed like a great start to a scientific adventure.  Real hissing cockroaches, a screech owl, and a tarantula.  We checked out the bat skeletons and squeezed the life-sized foam human brain.

After 25 minutes of interacting as much as possible with the mostly encased-in-glass displays we decided to look for the next section.  Then we realized...  there was no next section.   that was it.  Easton and Layla began wandering the halls loudly exclaiming "is that IT?  what else can we see?"  It was a let-down to say the least.  we paid $36 for 25 minutes worth of exploration inside a small museum.  and by the way, there were zero space-related exhibits.  It's called the Science and SPACE museum, right?  That's what I thought.  Anyway, I asked to speak with the manager and expressed my dissatisfaction about bringing my astronomy-loving boy to a space museum with no space exhibits.  They promptly returned my $36 and I felt like a heel for not giving them at least a few bucks for the value of our trip there.

You can't adventures unless you go adventuring.

Easton and Layla continue their artistic training and here are two such works of art.  Easton drew himself as the red balloon between Kendra and I.  The sun is out, everyone is smiling, and I have a beard.  His name is spelled correctly with an upper case "E" and lower case for the rest of the letters.  I know it's not like a common 4-year-old in France where the artisitic expectations are much higher, but I'm proud of him for the effort.

Layla started drawing first and that's where Easton got his idea from.  She added two sugar rush towers from the movie Wreck It Ralph.  The day before I drew a painting for Layla of a few balloons held by a girl.  Just goes to show you how much kids take what you give them and build their own world based on it.

We didn't go to church Sunday.  That's right...  we slept in until 9:45, which was glorious, and then we had a pot-luck soup lunch with Neill and Jenny's fellowship.  We are spiritually drained for 2012.  This reprieve from the church world is rejuvenating and relaxing.  Exactly what the doctor ordered.  The rain and wind is a welcomed change from our dry, desert life in Phoenix.  Easton was slightly disgruntled as we discussed the previous night's sleep over breakfast.  He said the rain woke him up, but the continual downpour was music to my mid-west ears.

See you soon!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Dovewood Court

Merry Christmas friends and family,

Today is my last day of work for a few days.  In 2012 I never took more than 4 vacation days in a row so this is a well deserved extended break from work.  Time to get the party started!  Tomorrow I'm taking the twins and Uncle Casey to the space and science museum for some exploration adventures.  I've been waiting for Easton and Layla to get a little older so they can enjoy it.

I found a half-price sale on a matchbox battleship for Easton.  He was excited to get it, but I made him wait until we arrived at Ouma and Oupa's house before opening it.  We're working on attack strategy as we fly around the house.  I had to explain how it's only possible to fire missiles forward, which means he has to be behind the bad guy to shoot him out of the sky.  Now he blasts me out of the sky so I spend most of my time floating in the ocean waiting on Layla to fly in the rescue helicopter.  Christmas arrived a little early for him.

Kendra and the twins spent the weekdays having play dates, shopping, playing at home, and continuing school.  The twins are starting to read sentences already!  Kendra's teaching methods are paying off.  Layla is picking it up a little faster than Easton, but he stays focused when she uses manipulatives to keep his interest.

We joined our friends for a tour of Dovewood Court Christmas lights.  It's an annual tradition when we are in Sacramento for Christmas.   Almost every house goes all out with their own flare including themes, music, and more yard ornaments than I've ever seen.  One lady said they have four sheds in their backyard to house the displays.

This one below has a volcano with red lights representing the flowing lava.  Easton's favorite display, by far.

One neighbor even had a live display... this dog.  He just roamed the yard accepting petting and love from whoever would pay attention.

Isabella and Carlo wandered the sidewalks with us as we continually directed them to stay between the drive-through traffic and the neighbor's front porches.

The display behind us in the next picture took the lady about 6 weeks of continual work to set it up.  I can't imagine doing this every year, but I'm glad they choose to participate and do it!  

 It's hard for me to grasp how quickly the twins have grown up when I think about just a few years of time have past.  Here is a picture from 4 years ago during their first trip to see the lights.  I'm glad they can walk by themselves instead of us hauling them around everywhere.  Those were the days...

Anyway, back to reality...  The kids' favorite display was not the one with the most lights or moving parts.  The wooden, painted Sponge Bob display invoked the most intense excitement.  God help us.

I'm done with work for the day so it's time to start the Christmas vacation officially.

See you soon!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

NorCal Adventures Begin

Merry Christmas friends and family

Just for fun I convinced Easton and Layla to take some pictures for the purpose of comparing their features.  I did the best job I could with aligning their chins and then everything else just lines up as good as I could.  The eyes are roughly the same, but as you can see everything else is completely different.  Oh what fun it is to have two totally different kids who are the exact same age.

We drove the battle wagon safely Sacramento to spend a few days with Ouma and Oupa.  Record travel time of 12h:15m from door to door.  We achieved this by not stopping for dinner or meals because Kendra packed a cooler, and the absence of construction.  This is the first time we didn't have to stop or slow down for a single moment of construction!  The twins asked every 15 minutes or so, "are we there yet" in various forms.  The DVD players were minimally used.  We played all kinds of games along the way including finding all the letters in the alphabet by searching the signs.  We made it from A to F.  We also played rhyming games where someone says a word and someone else comes up with a word that rhymes.  I'm surprised by how good they are at rhyming, but also by how quickly the words always turn vulgar.  We work daily to correct their vulgar words, but i know this is just a stage!

I thought about how much travel we've done with Easton and Layla over the past almost 5 years.  here's the summary version of where the twins have been:

Phoenix, AZ - Where we live
Tucson, AZ - Air and space museum
Payson, AZ - Ouma and Oupa and Kristi and Doyle vacation
San Luis Obispo, CA - visit Uncle Logan and Aunt Robyn
Sacramento, CA - fairy tale town and state capital
9 trips to Folsom, CA - visit Ouma and Oupa
Tahoe, CA - Sierra ski park for snow tubing
Oklahoma City, OK - visit Aunt Mary
2 trips to Springfield, MO - visit Nana and Papa Webb

2013 will certainly be an extensive year of travel so this list will certainly grow.

Anyway, back to the current adventures...  Uncle Casey came by for dinner, which turned into a Nerf gun war with Easton.  That kid has great aim!

I got a still picture of Casey in attack mode for those who don't want to access the youtube clip.  He is convinced every household needs Nerf guns no matter what age you are.  I agree completely.

I'll close out this blog post early because I'm still working this week and getting up extra early to ride with Ouma.  One more day and then... vacation time!  I can't wait.  There is an article I read and found the following quote that is very meaningful to me:

it is our job to create a heart of gratitude, selflessness and thankfulness in our kids’ hearts.

The reason it catches my attention so much is because it summarizes well what Kendra and I focus on with parenting Easton and Layla.  It's difficult to know whether a parent is succeeding or not, but to the degree this comment is measurable, it proves whether I am being successful or not according to my own criteria.  I want the twins to have these traits in their hearts.  I don't want them to behave this way because of fear or out of duty though.  i want them to truly have these characteristics in their hearts.  Then they will naturally flow out of them through their day to day life.  

See you...  tomorrow!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Gone to Mexico

Buen Dia friends and family,

Sometimes I use the Spanish greeting just for fun, but this time it's for real.  I spent 5 days in Guadalajara Mexico for work while Kendra held down the fort at home with the twins.  For my last meal before the trip down South we went out for half-price sushi.  It's the only way we can afford to eat sushi now that we have four sashimi (raw) fish eaters.  Easton skips the rice and soup and heads straight for the salmon. 

Layla is all about the tuna so she sat on Daddy's side of the table.  She wore her purple princess princess dress and sequened hair bow because...  she's 4 and can get away with it. 

After dinner we took a stroll along the pond next to the sushi restaurant.  Layla couldn't resist showing her peppermint and Easton didn't want to stop sucking on his long enough to show it.  I looked at this picture often while in Mexico.  Kendra looks as pretty in this picture as she does in real life.  Some girl's have beauty where 90% of it can be wiped off with a wet washcloth.  Kendra's beauty can't be wiped off even with a full day of

are showing off their personalities very well. 

Of course, I wanted to get my own mug in there with my sweet boy and girl.

I joined my two coworkers for the 3 hour flight direct into Guadalajara.  Even though we spent the day traveling, we went straight to the hotel gym for a workout.  Sounds odd, but it felt good to do some physical activity after sitting on my tail all day long. 

The first day of work we jumped into introductions and presentations.  Very little time for play or rest, but they let me in on their photo opportunity as a part of the Christmas decorating contest. 

I ate several new things, but don't remember the name of almost any of them.  This was a fried pinwheel desert covered in sugar.  seems like the name was Panella or something, but the week was a blur of new tastes and treats. 

The only noteworthy prior to the last day was playing basketball with the locals during an afternoon break. They knew we were going to play, but only one of them wore gym clothes.  These are middle-class guys very similar to us, but we beat them two games to zero.  I hit the winning shot both games so I earned some respect from my boss and coworker. 

We took a tour of the city on the last day of our trip, but because we started late I only had about 30 minutes of daylight to get decent pictures.  We drove downtown where the French architecture turned into Spanish architecture.  There is a central square where statues of important historical figures stand proudly.  The grounds were kept very clean here compared to the myriad of back-alleys where debris is common.  Must be very important to the local culture!

The streets are heavily packed with cars during rush hour, but very orderly.  I've been all over the world and seen situations where a 4 lane road has 7 lanes of traffic.  Guadalajara was way too busy for me to ever consider driving here, but I was never scared while riding as a passenger.  The Christmas decorations were amazingly well done and cover the downtown area.

This church below seems to be the largest and most ornate of all I saw.  We didn't have time to go inside, but they said it was inspiring to see.  Maybe next time... 

An older gentlemen I work with described how the Spanish conquered the French who originally settled here.  He showed quite a bit of passion and anger about something that happened so long ago.  Anyway, the contrasting architectures marked distinct sections of the downtown area.

We got a late start on the tour because of work so I didn't get many daytime shots.  However, we were privileged to witness a great sunset. 

There is an archway with a welcome message on it from the city.  The other side has a "thanks for visiting" message, but we drove by so fast I didn't get a chance to capture it.

There were a few large glorietas where traffic flowed. In the middle were large, well-lit sculptures like this one.

Another promenant structure was this bridge. We past over it and by it several times during the week. It was one of the few landmarks I could use to reference where I was.

I used Skype to keep in contact with Kendra and Easton and Layla each evening. Those few moments were very valuable for keeping me motivated. I missed them very much and couldn't wait to get home. The locals sent me home with coffee, caheta (so i can make flan sauce) and some other candy bits. Tamarindo comes in these little Pelon Mini push-up pops. The twins took a few licks, but didn't finish them. The idea of Mexican candy was much more interesting for them than the reality, but it's the thought that counts. I was proud of them for trying!

Time to pack up and spend some holiday time in NorCal.  Adios.