Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Golf Beginnings

Greetings friends and family,

This is obviously my last post for 2013.  I can hear the fireworks and neighbors even as I write this.  I'm still way behind on the Christmas adventures, but I've been mostly off work for 2 weeks now.  Lots of family time, date nights, and one-on-one time with Easton and Layla.

Dad and I went golfing, which is not out of the ordinary.  What makes our recent outing memorable is that Easton joined us for his first round on a real golf course.  Oupa spent several hours over the past year or so with him on the putting green, in the back yard, and at the driving range.  Now it was time to give him a taste of what all that practice is for.

He hopped in the golf cart with me and screamed with excitement as we sped down the pathway towards the first hole.  He was so elated and excited that as we passed the outdoor patio where a dozen or so golfers were eating, they all looked up and smiled as we rode by.  I yelled out "it's his first round!" and they clapped and cheered.  

We chose an executive nine-hole course, which is shorter than a full length course.  He teed up on his first tee box.  After a few practice swings and misses he made contact to send the ball scooting along the grass towards the green.  I was as proud as could be.

We had several lessons along the way that every rookie golfer needs.  Such as, don't kick other people's ball off the tee, don't step on the hole, don't pick up the money on the green because it is being used as a ball marker, and don't yell during someone's back swing.  He received instruction well and by the end of the round was managing his etiquette very well.

Easton has three clubs:  driver, pitching wedge, and putter.  During every ride between holes I would say, "do you know how to be a great golfer?  Drive, pitch, putt."  He recited the mantra over and over again.  On one of the shorter holes he hit his tee shot long and straight, for a five-year-old.  He pitched the ball up on the green close to the hole.  We didnt put any pressure on him as he putted for par, but I was on pins and needles thinking, "Easton is putting for par during his first time ever on a golf course!"  He missed the cup, but then went over and tapped in for a bogey.  I've seen other kindergartners play Chopin on piano and memorize huge amounts of information, but I don't put those kind of expectations on Easton.  These little victories and accomplishments where he is passionate and happy mean much more to me than those where a child is forced to perform.

Another memorable outing was when Ouma and I took the twins to the duck park.  The relatively cool day (high of 60 degrees) led to wearing jackets and Minion hats.  The leaves on the ground indicate fall is finally hear for us Phoenicians.  

We brought bread to the duck park to make friends with the locals.

These two can go through a loaf of bread in under five minutes.  They are very giving when it comes to feeding the hungry.  Easton and Layla edged their way to the water more and more as the bread throwing went on.  Their shoes and hands were a little muddy, but that's just part of having adventures.  It's been a long time since we've been to the duck park, but we've been going here since they were two years old so it's familiar territory.

One of Easton's gifts was a marshmallow gun.  We took the gun and a bag of mallows down to the greenbelt for some fun.  After each round of shooting, they would take a handful of marshmallows and shove them in their mouth, then put a few in the tube for shooting.  At one point they used the gun to shoot marshmallows directly in each other's mouth.  The green belt looked like a snow drift from the bag of spent bullets.  Playing tag was a big hit too. Especially if you were tagged with one that stuck to the shirt and could be easily eaten.

Oupa golfed four days out of five.  I think that's his record for number of golf outings in 2013.  We went with Dave, a friend from church, and had a great day of windless, 70 degree sunshine on the course.  I had two birdies and the best 9 holes of golf I've seen in the past decade.  Maybe Easton is rubbing off already on me.

I'm excited for 2014, but a little sad to see 2013 go.  Easton and Layla will never be five-years-old again.  We've had such an incredible year of adventures and growth...  all of us 4 Webbs.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Merriest Christmas

Merry Christmas friends and family,

Our house was and is full of guests, presents and life.  When our neighbor isn't in the sleigh as Santa, he leaves the sleigh open for people like us who take pictures on our own.

Christmas morning was nothing short of magical because of the enjoyment from watching the twins.  Expectations were set early on Christmas eve that we would sleep in on Christmas morning, eat breakfast as a family and then open presents.

We pulled in their little couch seats so they have a place to sit during the excitement of opening presents.

The time between breakfast and presents looked like this:

Full of anticipation like horses locked in the stalls in the starting gate waiting for the gates to open. Aaaaaaaand there OFF!  wrapping paper and bows were flying around like the Tasmanian Devil were spinning through the room.  All the gifts were perfect and awesome this year.  The official Jedi light saber is a first-rate version of what he's had and loved for months.  Now his real Jedi training can begin.

The microscope and accompanying specimens will make for good science projects coming up.

His new favorite book is the one with images from the Hubble space telescope.

Layla reacted happily and with a grateful heart for every one of her gifts.  It sure makes it more fun when I know they are not spoiled brats.  The apron will come in handy as she does more and more cooking with Kendra and Ouma.

Their school backpacks were upgraded to heavy duty ones with more zipper pockets and sturdier zippers.  Trust me, they need heavy duty with the amount of daily use and abuse their backpacks have.

Logan and Bree gave us pictures from their wedding in a big frame.  Kendra already has just the place for such a wall decoration.

immediately following unwrapping the last gift we played the rest of the day with all the new toys and gifts.

Layla has a "dream journal" where she asked several of us to write our own page worth of words.  I don't think she quite gets the concept of a journal for her own personal dreams, but we were happy to write kind things in there to encourage Layla.

Easton had a Lego-filled Christmas.  He is excited to build and play with anything Lego related.

Even Layla jumped into the Lego world with her "friends" Lego set.  I sat down with them for an hour or so and jumped back and forth between the two of them.  I just supervised and helped them past the tough pieces or when they would make mistakes.

Layla is still working on her set, but Easton finished his big Space Shuttle set with no problem.  He was so happy to play with it that he set it on his dresser with the astronaut working on the engine through the night so it will be ready to fly in the morning.

The four of us guys played disc golf at a local course.  The sunny, calm day made for almost perfect conditions to get schooled by Casey, the pro.  It was free, active, and fun.  Turned out to be one of the highlights of our time together with Kendra's brothers.

Uncle Casey played Go Fish with Star Wars cards, which was right up Easton's ally.  I expect this will be an often-requested game in the future even after Casey is gone.

Uncle Logan had Easton and Layla's undivided attention as he showed them some games on his tablet.  He's a serious console gamer who the twins idolize now because of the cool games he has on his tablet.

One of the outings we've been planning for weeks is a family trip to watch the Disney movie Frozen.

Inside the movie theater they had a display case of some of the figurines.  Easton and Layla both enjoyed the movie and characters.

There were several parts of the movie that I felt sent a very bad message to kids, but i'll save that conversation for a separate post so I can express my views with data points from other animated movies to explain my line of thinking.  Besides the improper messages for kids which are woven through the story, it was a fun outing I'm sure the twins will remember for years.

Kendra and Ouma cooked in the kitchen for four days straight.  They were sick of cooking by the time Kendra's brother's left.  Not because it was bad or difficult, it was just often and time-consuming.  We decided to eat out as little as possible because of costs and a desire to feed everyone healthy, home-cooked meals.  One of our meals was an early dinner outside.  The temperature and weather cooperated nicely for us to have an Arizona Christmas dinner the "right way".

Christmas is officially over now for the 4 Webbs, but we continue to squeeze every last drop of enjoyment from Ouma and Oupa visiting through New Year's Day.

See you soon!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Oh What Fun

Merry Christmas friends and family,

Today is the official Jesus birthday celebration, but we've been sharing in family adventures for days.  Ouma, Oupa, Logan, Bree, and Casey all showed up at the Casa de Webb for a memorable Christmas time together.  This was the first Christmas time with the entire Burgess clan at our place.  For the past 12 years the 4 Webbs travel up to Sacramento, but we were happy to host at our place for a change.

We walked through our neighborhood to look at lights several times this season.  Ouma and Oupa know how to get into the spirit of the season even with real snow or cold weather.

We took our standard Christmas tree pose this year as we have for the past several.  I'll have to go look through the archives and put together a time-lapse of how we have (or haven't) changed.  Easton and Layla certainly have.  They are sleeping and eating more than ever, which tells me they are in the midst of growth spurts.

One of these outings included our friends and their family.  The blow-up snowman behind the kids in this next picture has some sort of mechanism in it that bounces around making it look like the snowman is shivering.  The twins and Kayla did their best to act cold.

Easton is becoming more conversational as time goes on.  It also helps that Ouma is a good listener.  She does well to show interest in him and give him a voice about even the simplest things.

Easton is also growing into a handsome young man.  He's a momma's boy.  I am proud of him for that though.  There are good things that come from a boy who knows how to give and receive love from his Momma.

I don't know of too many pictures we have of Kendra and Ouma together where they are ready and made up enough for them to feel comfortable for me to upload the picture to the blog.  For this reason I will take this rare opportunity to say how great it is to have Kendra as my wife and her family as my family.  Our house was so full of Christmas cheer and decorations and food that they are squirting out the windows.  That's a great problem to have.

From the moment Ouma walked in the door it is the same as it has always been with regard to Easton and Layla's desire to be around her 24 x 7.

The whole clan went bowling for a good family outing.  Easton did well for a five-year-old.  We cheered him on as though he were an olympic champion.  His reactions show the feedback loop for positive reinforcement.

These two pictures below of Ouma and Layla were taken separately, but I merged them into one image to show the humor in how similar they are in their celebratory dance.

Ouma and Oupa bowled with us through two games.  They set a good example for showing love and PDA in public.  I"m used to my parents being the same way, which is comforting in many ways.  I feel sorry for married couples who don't have the love or freedom to give hugs and be close in public.

We were especially happy to have Logan and Bree's first Christmas as a married couple in our house.  Sure has been fun getting to  know her better as my sister and have fun times with the brothers.

Casey's beard is epic according to most any standard.  Easton gladly sits under the shadow of Casey's beard.  Casey's girlfriend wasn't able to make it down, but according to his assessment of their relationship it is likely we'll see her again soon when we are in Sacramento.

During our Christmas walk it was 50 degrees or so.  We all bundled up because there is no reason to be chilly and uncomfortable if you don't have to.  Bree borrowed Kendra's full length leather and fur coat Aunt Mary gave her a few years ago.  Logan and Bree were naturally kid-friendly to the point where Easton and Layla accepted them whole-heartedly.  They are naturals when it comes to being around kids, which will prove itself to be true in a few years when they have kids of their own.

Uncle Casey jumped in the sleigh with the twins for one of my favorite pictures this season.  The twins are having a great time and we hope Casey did during his time with us.

This is the only picture I have of the ladies in the Burgess lineage.  It's silly and not too serious, which is awesome because I'm much more fulfilled by living life to the fullest rather than being stuffy and serious all the time.

We took another picture in the neighborhood walk experience.  The goal was to pretend to be cold, but we just busted out laughing instead.

All of us went to our church together for the Christmas eve service.  Because we are consistently gone during this time to Sacramento, it was a real treat to be a part of the evening.  Ouma and Oupa had all of their kids in the same church service together.  No one could remember how long ago the last time was when this happened.  This is also the only time in the entire 5 days of Christmas (for us) where everyone is made up and dressed up enough for pictures.

I wanted to take some real family portraits together, but we've spent the entire vacation in our pajamas and sweats.  No complaints though because this is the season where we all need to take time to relax and wear whatever for a few days.

We still have a few days left together and a few adventures to go before everyone heads home, the twins head back to school, and I head back to work.

See you soon!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Our Minion

Merry Christmas friends and family,

The world celebrates the birth of Jesus with every vacation day, present given, and turkey leg eaten.  I'm proud to be a part of a global recognition of the moment when time itself was split into A.D. and B.C.  Along with the true reason for the season, we are whole-heartedly participating in as much family togetherness as possible.

Our pastor's wife gave us gingerbread man cookies as a gift.  The twins knew exactly what to do with these.

decorate them with icing and eat them!  Layla did as I requested by going easy on the green sprinkles.  I gave her free reign to put chocolate chips wherever she likes.

Easton chose chocolate icing and then dumped the green sprinkles by turning the whole container upside down over it.  the sprinkles made a mound that covered the entire cookie so that it was not visible.  The three of us busted out in laughter.  I dumped the sprinkles back in the container and he ate mr. gingerbread man like a dinosaur devouring a goat.

That situation could have easily turned into a shameful, angry, loud reprimand because of Easton's carelessness of the green sprinkles.  That didn't happen though.  I've had enough shame to last two lifetimes and I made an inner vow a long time ago not to do that to Easton or Layla.  They are learning.  He knows what he did was not correct, but I know he will do it differently next time because he learned what happens when he turned over the sprinkles instead of gently tapping out a little bit.  Anger is ok until it is used to change the behavior of someone.  Then it's a sin.  plain and simple.  I've learned what battles to fight and a mess resulting from green sprinkles is not one of them.

When Layla was a baby she did not enjoy being fully wrapped like a burrito with both arms in.  Easton loved it, but Layla always found a way to get an arm out and up over her head.  It started just a few days after she was born

and continues even now.  I check the twins every night.  I mean every single night without fail.  It makes Kendra feel better and I cover them up because they kick off the blankets early on in the evening when it is still too warm in our house.  I went in to check Layla and took a picture because I love capturing these moments that I can remember her by.

Matthew is one of the many friends we've made over the past few years.  He comes over for dinner every couple of weeks.  We've shown him kindness through some tough times in his life.  He adds "peace" to our house in a way Kendra and I can't.  He stopped by to say hi and gave us Christmas presents. hand-crocheted hats that look like Minions from the movie Despicable Me.  We have had such fun and warmth wearing these lately.

This is my favorite picture of 2013.  These two are the most loving, good looking kids I could ever have imagined.  And here they are growing up right before my eyes.  

I won't get in many pictures until the twins get proficient with their camera.  Until then I've always got the ability to take a selfie.

Easton and Layla pulled them down over their eyes and rode their Y-bikes around the driveway.  Probably not the safest thing to do, but we had some good laughs from it.

Matthew joined us for our family walk around the neighborhood and down the canal trail.  There are only a handful of people I feel comfortable with to be so close to my kids and Kendra.  Matthew is in that small number and we love the goodness he adds to our world.

and...  wait a minute.  who's that?  It's OUMA!  Her and Oupa came into town for a couple of weeks of family time.  Our house will be full of people and full of adventures over the next few weeks.

Kendra spent an evening at church last week with a huge group of ladies who showed up for a pajama party and movie night.  Kendra was set on winning the best dressed award.  She went all out with getting leopard print full-length pjs and wearing matching cat ears.  No need to do things half-way!

How do I get Easton and Layla to eat healthy things like celery?  Easy.  Just call it "ants on a log", add some peanut butter and craisins.  and the last part is that I eat the same thing with him.  He's growing and eating like a teenager.  His clothes aren't lasting very long before he grows out of them, and I can barely pick him up for any length of time anymore.  And his legs are long and skinny.  wonder where he gets that?

See you soon!