Friday, May 31, 2013

Goodbye Springfield

Greetings friends and family,

The last few days in Springfield were no less memorable than the previous week's worth of adventures.  I only had a few desires of what I hoped for in Springfield.

1. be with family collectively and individually
2. Eat Andy's frozen custard
3. tour a cave

Nana and Papa turned that hope into reality with a trip to Fantastic caverns.  As we waited for our tour to start Easton found the wall of fossils in the gift shop.  The big one behind us is an Ichthyosaurus.

We loaded up in the tram and headed down 150 feet into the cavern.  The tour guide paused at the photo shoot spot.  Here's us ready to see the natural wonders.

Layla is still overly cautious about every hint of risk because of the painful Tower of Terror incident at Disneyland.  She sat right across from me so I could reassure her.  We held hands as we descended into the darkness, but after about 10 minutes she was too excited about the things we were seeing to be fearful.

One of the reasons I wanted to do this is because some of my favorite memories are from when we went through Carlsbad Caverns during one of our vacations.  I think the twins will remember this forever.  Pictures don't do it justice, but this is one of the grand features we passed.  The formations take hundreds of thousands of years to form.

Even though Easton and Layla have no point of reference for what "hundreds of thousands of years" means, I know they were amazed by the cave experience.

Joanie's family joined us even though she and the boys had already seen the cave in the past. Trinity and Daphne were first timers along with the twins.

Our tour guide is in the next picture (off to the left), which gives a good perspective and measure regarding the size of these formations.

Easton was a happy boy who really "gets" the awe and wonder of scientific marvels even though he doesn't realize the amount of time it took to create them.

Layla kept asking if the tour guide was going to turn on the lights for the next section.  Her flashlight on a light-sensitive panel activates and deactivates the sections of the cave.  Each time we would approach the end of a lit section Layla would ask to make sure she illuminated the next section.  She's a born leader who likes to make sure everyone is doing their job.

On our way out of the gift shop Easton realized the fossils could be purchased.  His eyes lit up like fireballs and he asked kindly to pick one out.  He chose a trilobite, which is about the size of an egg.  Since then he's been asking all kinds of questions about the creature frozen in time.  We even had to ask him to remove it from the table during dinner.  that is not a welcomed guest no matter how old the fossil is.

The jeep behind us in this next picture is one of the early models of the tour jeeps they have on display inside the gift shop.  I figured it would be a good background for my 4 Webbs highlight reel.

 and here is Nana and Papa with all of the grandkids except Lexi.

We celebrated survival of our journey underground by eating at McAlisters.  The sticker on the back of Trinity's seat is highly accurate.

The afternoon temperatures were comfortable and warm enough to take a dip in the pool.  Daphne and Layla had matching princess swimsuits with tutus.  They were fluttering around and playing so much I couldn't get them to stand still on dry land long enough to take a picture.  had to settle for this one of them in the water as they swam like fish.

Silas connected the foam noodle up to the water jet and turned it into a fire hose.  Sounds like something Easton would do, for sure.

Joanie's house is always entertaining for adults and children alike.  Silas found a turtle alongside a road somewhere.  Easton and Layla were fascinated with the live creature.  Especially as they fed it cherry tomatoes.  I didn't know turtles like them, but apparently they do!  So much to learn.

Star Wars is enjoyable across all ages.  Eli and Easton had walkie talkies and Star Wars guns.  That's enough to keep any two boys happy for a few hours.

Joanie's boys were such a great influence on Easton.  The playtime with them was priceless.  Easton is already expressing sentiments of missing the cousins in Springfield.  In all my 16 years since moving away I've never had a desire to move back and this time wasn't any different.  However, I am already looking forward to the next opportunity we will have to visit.  hopefully next year again instead of waiting two years between visits like we have traditionally.

Our week there was by far the most enjoyable time in Springfield since I was in college.  We packed up our stuff and hit the road!  next stop... Tennessee!

See you soon.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend

Howdy Y'all,

I've had Mama's sweet tea and a wide variety of family time every day since we arrived.  On Sunday we went to church.  I got to sit next to my mom and sing hymns, which is a super throwback to the good ole' days from the entire 21 year I lived at home.

After church we joined in the church-wide picnic.  Some of my favorite memories as a child are from these type of events.  I sure hope Layla and Easton filled their memory banks with these good times.

Easton didn't know going down the slide head-first was not allowed.  He's not a rule-breaker, but sometimes he does break the rules when he doesn't know them.

Layla slid down properly and had a blast going several times.

The bounce house was a bit rowdy and had some older kids, but I let them jump in the ring and go a few rounds with them.  Easton jumped across the entire floor landing on each row precisely once.

Layla jumped, turned, and screamed as she displayed her acrobatic talents.

After meeting lots of new people and seeing some i've known for years we went to Joanie's house for a dual-purpose birthday party.  Trinity celebrated her 3rd birthday and Kendra celebrated her 34th birthday.  The place was decked out in Hello Kitty everything, which Layla loved as much as Trinity.

Kendra even had her own cake and candles to blow out.

Cake and cupcakes!  I know that's not what birthdays are about, but these two sure do enjoy that as one of the highlights of the event.

Nana's backyard had a lot of exercise this week.  Anytime there was a gap in excitement the twins would head out back to play.  We don't have the luxury of sending them into our backyard unassisted because of the pool so it was nice to have the confidence they wouldn't get into any trouble here at Nana's home.

I'm looking forward to the age where we can send them out to the greenbelt to play and not worry about them getting into trouble.

Sunday night was a quiet night out with Kendra and Joanie and John.  One of the key reasons for my tour of the mid-west was this specific time together.  This made the entire trip worthwhile even if we went home the next day.

Speaking of the next day... Memorial day is supposed to be about honoring military men and women.  The trouble is that everyone has the day off work so getting together for family time is just too easy.  Dad grilled his famous ribs as we played games and conversed.  My best friend since high school has always been Ryan.  Even when he was halfway around the world for two years or if we haven't talked for months I still consider him my best bud.

My friendship with him and Matt are the only two things I kept from my high school years.  My 20th high school reunion is coming up next month, but I have no interest in going because I haven't seen or heard from or talked to a single person outside of these two guys.

I'm really proud of him and I for our focus on being good husbands and dads.  Seeing our two families together is very special occasion.  I've been waiting for years to have this get-together.

One of the bonds that we'll always have is the fact that my Dad married them 13 years ago and I was in his wedding party.  I really wished we lived closer together.  Since they are back in the states Kendra and I are already scheming up a plan to get them to come visit us.

The next morning Dad, Easton, and I took a trip to Pom de Terre lake for Easton's first fishing trip.  The three of us launched from the dock amidst ominous clouds and gusty wind.  five minutes later we were getting dumped on as we motored across the lake.  Dad didn't care for it much, but Easton and I loved every minute of it.  Easton was screaming, "I'm taking a shower in the rain showers!"  He finally had the experiential discovery to understand why they are called rain showers.

The shower ended quickly and Dad taught Easton the basics of minnow fishing.  Within a few minutes we caught a couple and let Easton reel it in.

Mr. Science boy wanted a detailed biological explanation of what a Crappie is and to have his fingers on every part of the fish.  He was amazed by the live specimen on the end of the hook.

Dad gave him the time-tested Zebco 33 rod and reel to take his own stab at fishing.

he wanted to try his hand at casting so I gave him a 10 second tutorial.  He cocked his arm back and whipped the line out there.  By "out there" I mean 20 feet into the trees past the shoreline.  This boy has an arm for sure.  Since I didn't want to bleed Dad's tackle box he didn't get to cast his own anymore, but we'll have plenty of time for that when we get to the lake house in Texas.

We caught over a dozen smaller fish and created some excellent memories for all three of us.  He was very patient and interested in fishing.  I thought he might get bored after 15 minutes and ask to go home, but he lasted over 4 hours.  Then he said the phrase no parent in a boat wants to hear:  "I need to poop!"  Luckily he has enough control to give us time to get back to shore.  Thank God for the little things in life.  Easton was brave enough to hold one of the fish and gladly tossed it back to watch is swim away.

One of the biggest unexpected joys of the Missouri leg of our trip was the amount of time my brother spent with us.  We went to a whole new level of understanding each other and Kendra enjoyed hearing more details of his past, present, and future.

Family dynamics is a funny concept. I'm happy to have made such great reconnections with my siblings.  That's about all I can say here.

Still have a few days of catch up, but I'm getting close!  Each day brings new blog-worthy material but I'll get ahead of the wave by tomorrow.

See you soon!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ozark Cousins

Greetings friends and family,

First things first.  Kendra's birthday was, in fact, happy according to our bedtime discussion.  I love her with all my heart.  She is my teammate and best friend who I would be lost without.  We went out for dinner tonight and were glad to have my brother join us.  We've never had the opportunity to spend her birthday with my family before so this evening out with him was icing on the cake.

The greatest, longest vacation in the history of the 4 Webbs is in full swing right now.  It's been over 30 days since I was last at work.  I sleep in almost every day and have no idea what day of the week it is.  Sounds a lot like a retired person, from what I understand, right?

Our time in Springfield is intently focused on being with my family.  Layla, Daphne, and Lexi are within 6 months of each other in age.  The cousin bonds were quickly established even though these three haven't played together in a memorable way ever before.

The weather is park-perfect with a little wind so we've been outside as much as possible.

Easton's biggest enjoyment is from getting to know Silas and Eli, his two cousins.  We are both very pleased with how much he has interacted with them.

Silas and Eli are 10 and 12 so the age difference is really pronounced, but not as a detraction from their relationship.  Easton seeing how these two cousins are friendly, gentlemanly, and adventurous has been an enlightening experience.  The group posed in front of a flower display with the butterfly enclosure behind them.

we were allowed to tour the butterfly enclosure where the kids saw caterpillars, foliage, and a variety of butterflies.  They even saw a butterfly lay eggs on a leaf!

The park was huge with several walk-through gardens and even a gazebo.

We took the scenic opportunity to capture a picture of the four of us together because photographer Joanie was around to take a good one.

We walked a little further across a bridge and looked at the creek below.  I recommended the kids take off their shoes and wade in.  We don't have any place to do this in Phoenix so I encouraged the adventure.  Everyone gladly joined in the shoeless, refreshing creek walk.

I joined them as well because that's what involved dads do.  We find what our kids are interested in and do that with them.  I know, it's a novel concept...

Silas is quite the outdoorsman.  He had our crew hunting for crawdads in no time!  He showed us how to turn over the big rocks, looks for the claws, and trap them with our hands.  The twins weren't skilled enough this time to trap our own, but they thought it was the coolest thing ever to just hold the ones he caught.

The rocks were a little jagged, which made walking around a little painful for these Arizona, flip-flop wearing pansies.

Silas brought one to shore for Layla to hold and inspect.  She had no issues holding the critter as its tail flipped around.

One of the things I miss about living in Springfield is Andy's frozen custard.  They make the most delicious ice cream in the world.  My family gladly joins me on my quest to eat it everyday possible.  Andy's is a side-benefit to spending time with my Mom and Dad.

The twins are also beneficiaries to the frequent trips to Andy's.  Since they get more on their face than in their mouth and we are on vacation I let a lot of this abnormal stuff slide.

We cheered for Silas at his baseball game.  Kendra and I watched as the girls turned into Silas' cheerleading squad.  when he wasn't up to bat the girls played under a big blanket.  They stopped just long enough for me to catch this picture and then they went back to giggling and playing.

We had more quality time with Lexi than I expected given the circumstances.  I was pleasantly surprised and satisfied by the time spent with cousins as well as with BJ and Joanie.  The twins played with Lexi by jumping between the huge hot tub, the pool, and the splash pad with a water umbrella.

Easton and Layla stayed the night at Joanie's house.  That was an odd experience.  Kendra and I went to bed totally at peace and comfortable not knowing anything about what they were doing or where they were.  As long as they were at Joanie's house, then everything was fine.  With the three princesses we knew she was taken care of and having the time of her life.

The boys had a living room campout set up for bedtime, but not before Easton was treated to a Lego and Star Wars filled evening.

The next morning Kendra and I woke up on our own without a single giggle or cuddle or cry from the twins.  It was very pleasant to say the least.  Yes, we missed them, but having a night and following morning away from the twins was one of the many highlights of our Missouri trip.

I'm still 5 days behind in blogging, but I'll catch up with daily posts for the next few days as we hit the road again.  Here's one last picture I really treasure of the twin with Joanie's kids.  The only cousin missing is Lexi!

See you soon,