Saturday, June 29, 2013

Vacation Waning

Greetings friends and family,

Those few nights in my own bed were heavenly, but the rest we are getting by taking advantage of grandparents living in the same house are even better.  The longest vacation of my life is almost over.  I can't believe 70 days has come and gone.  However, I don't feel any regret of wasting this time or missing out on anything.  The family bonding time is irreplaceable.  Also, I feel well rested and almost ready to go back to work.

We took a family walk on the neverending bike path that runs through town.  Taking walks, working out at the gym, and being active is at the top of my list.

Layla's flower girl dress arrived.  She did a fashion walk through the living room to show it off.  such a sweet princess.  I can't wait to see the 4 Webbs in Logan and Bree's wedding.

While shopping at some department stores the battery on our Pilot died.  I went to rescue Kendra, Ouma, and kids.  Then Dad came to rescue me with tools and a Costco card to replace the battery.  Anyway, Easton was so excited to show me what Kendra bought him.  real astronaut food!  Ice cream, no less...  After dinner he shared his incredible gift with all of us.  I couldn't believe how excited he was about eating the same food as real astronauts, but I'm glad he is passionate!

My week has been ultra-low-key.  Like, I don't even leave the house or see any other person outside our family some days.  This is exactly what I want for my last week of total freedom before starting work again.  I've been able to sleep in as well as interact with the kids as much and as often as I like.  I even talk on the phone with Easton sometimes.  You know...  ring, ring, ring, banana phooooooone!  Easton...  I am your father.

Kendra got all dressed up.  That's not a huge deal, but it rarely happens because of me.  Usually she's going out with her girlfriends or to a church event.  But this day she dressed up just for me because we went on this thing called... uh, a date.  yeah, I remember now what it's like to go out with just her and I alone.  it's a little late in the year to be making new year's resolutions, but if I had one it would be to spend an entire evening out at least once per month.  I'm blessed to have such an attractive wife.

One of the many things Easton was looking forward to this trip is golf time with Oupa.  Easton started back at the basics of putting and chipping.  He picks up concepts really easily.  I was impressed with his stick-to-it attitude.  In many other areas he loses interest easily and defaults to an "I can't" attitude, but with things he is interested in there is no deterring his focus.

He did well at chipping, but preferred putting.  Those are some good fundamentals!

The reason I have so much about Easton is because Layla and Kendra stayed the night with her friend Megan and her daughter Isabella.  The Mommies are great friends and the girls are best friends.  Layla has talked about seeing Isabella for months.  She would randomly bring up Isa and say how much she misses her.  All I could say was, "we'll be there soon!"  When we arrived she begged to go Isa the very next morning.  I was glad for them to spend an evening together.

We had our own fun at home though.  I found a recipe online for how to make homemade applesauce.  Easton and I jumped into the kitchen to make it.  We realized how we were in over our head and Ouma came to the rescue.

The applesauce turned out well, but because Easton is so used to the pre-packaged junk he wasn't amazed by it.  He liked the fruit sushi though.  I peeled a banana, rolled a fruit rollup around it, and cut it like sushi.  I'm a terrible chef, but Easton didn't care or notice.  I'm still in the superhero category with him because he doesn't know any better yet.  I'll enjoy my status as long as he allows it.

We invaded Aunt Joan's pool like we do every summer.  The high wall provided a good jump point for the twins.  The solar heater produced a 90 degree pool in 98 degree heat, but it was still refreshing.

These two make life extremely interesting and fulfilling.  I can't imagine fewer kids or more kids and I can't imagine being a single parent.  I appreciate the life and opportunities I have.

One of my goals is to live a life of no regrets (or as few as possible).  I've never met an older person who says, "I wish I would have worked more at my job" or "I spent too much time with my spouse and kids".  I won't be on the wrong side of that conversation when I get old.  These are the days we remember.

See you soon!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Daddy Weekend

Greetings friends and family,

I saved a few special outings with the twins for a rainy day, but since we live in Phoenix there was no better time than the present.  It's hot outside and there can only be so much time we can spend in the pool before we reach an official state of waterlogged.

The three of us missed Mommy, but knew she was busy preparing for Bree's parties.  Having just the three Webbs was not fulfilling as a family, but as a Dad and his kids we had an amazing time.  I continually teach Easton how to be a gentleman.  One way he practice is by helping Layla out of the car.  He gets out and goes around where Layla usually has the door open and is waiting for him.  He offers his hand and she steps down like a princess.

We hold hands when we walk together.  Easton is on the traffic side, Layla is in the middle, and I'm on the inside.  They both understand that the man protects the woman and puts himself in harms way in selflessness.  If Easton forgets to fill his role Layla is there with a stern yell saying, "Easton!  Be a gentleman!"  I have to temper her expectations by saying, "Layla you can't make a guy be a gentleman.  you have to let him choose to be one."

During a previous birthday party at Peter Piper Pizza we had to leave early.  I pocketed the remaining coins for a later date.  Well, this day was "a later date" so we had a full day of Peter Piper Pizza and games.  Skee ball was where we dumped the largest percentage of our free coins.  Easton figured it out quickly and had great results.  I chased several of Layla's skee balls on the other lanes and across the floor behind her.  She kept on going though and I didn't make a big deal about the errant balls because it wasn't my house or my stuff!

It is of the utmost importance that Easton and Layla know they can fail and still be loved without shame or fault.  That doesn't mean removing bad consequences that result from bad choices though.  It just means when accidents happen and they are learning that grace abounds.

We ran out of coins and headed for the exits.  The twins both stopped and asked for us to eat pizza there instead of going home for sandwiches.  I agreed and we ate our money's worth of the buffet.  Our bellies were full, but somehow they had room to lick the lollipops they won with the skee ball tickets.  Who'd have thought they still had room for lollipops?  

Easton is a sharing boy to the max.  He graciously offered his lollipop so I could pose in the picture with Layla.  Such a sweet, considerate kid and he did it with no prompting from me.  kudos to Big Time.  Layla and Easton both know that we don't necessarily always eat the whole treat whether it is ice cream or candy.  I want them to know it's ok to have a few bites of something and then throw it out.  The depression is over and I refuse to instill in the twins the hoarding and "you must eat all of your food whether your tummy is full or not" mentality.  so, after a few more licks these massive suckers went in the trash and we went on our merry way with content hearts for what we were able to enjoy.

With Daddy doing three meals and two snacks per day we had an exceptionally well balanced diet (if I do say so myself).  Well, I DO have to say so myself because there wasn't another person around to see my meal preparation skills in action.

Fruit.  We ate tons of fruit.  For breakfast I made my oft-requested eggs, cheese, and turkey omelette along with a variety of fruit bites.  Hair is combed, clothes are on right-side up, and food prepared.  My day was successful based on this one picture.

On another day our outing included returning library books and strength training.  Well, it's technically called AirWorx, but it's just a big warehouse with wall to wall trampolines and bounce houses.  They were strength training whether Easton and Layla know it or not.

We arrived early, which meant there was no one else around to play with for the first half of our visit.  No problem! built-in playmates...

They climbed and slid and jumped without stopping for an entire hour.  Some other kids their age showed up and the two split up with their new friends for girl time and boy time.  Then occasionally they would join forces again and play like best friends do.

We walked between businesses and I noticed a cicada walking across the ground.  We've talked about them for months, but they hadn't seen one alive until this one.  Layla held her hand out and requested I let it crawl on her finger.

Then she asked, "does it bite?"  Her question should have been asked before allowing me to place it on her finger, but I guess that's good ole' fashioned trust in her Daddy.  Easton verified with Layla that her finger was not being eaten off by the little critter.  Then he asked to hold it.  Atta boy.

We spent every waking moment together for four full days and then we had a new challenge to tackle:  Driving to Sacramento without Mommy.  The hardest part of this challenge was packing because for the past 5 years Kendra has been the one to make a list and check it twice.  I did OK with the packing, but still forgot some basics like Easton's swimming suit.

Anyway, we hit the road at 8 AM sharp across the desert.  We stopped in LA at a poorly chosen exit and wound up at a denny's-like restaurant in Glendale, CA.  I took a quick selfie and we hopped back in the car.

The 12 hour drive was flawless when it comes to gas, food, and pee break synchronization.  We didn't have to make a single unscheduled stop!  We hit some rain showers along the way, which broke up the day a bit.  A few minutes before arriving at Ouma and Oupa's house we were treated to a double rainbow.

Rolling onto the driveway felt like crossing a finish line for me.  I wanted to hear some Chariots of Fire music and have an award hung around my neck for not only surviving, but thriving in the midst of very unfamiliar territory for me.  I was Mommy and Daddy for just a few days.  Although everyone can endure something for a while I have more respect than ever for single parents who do this for years unending.  God bless them for having to fill both roles.  I am grateful for the way Kendra and I are able to be a team for the twins.

And now...  time for adventures in Sacramento with Ouma and Oupa.

See you soon!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Daddy Week

Greetings friends and family,

To recap our previous few weeks, I've been off work now since April 25 (roughly 8 weeks).  Kendra and I attended a conference in Dallas, the 4 Webbs joined Kendra's family for a week in Disneyland, and then the 4 Webbs took a tour of the midwest for 30 days.  Talk about a once in a lifetime opportunity!  Being away from home was everything and more of what I envisioned when we planned my sabbatical several months ago.  However, even with the best of plans there are limits and drawbacks because of opportunity costs.

During the last week at Aunt Mary's house Easton and Layla both were missing home to the point that they expressed it daily.  Their longing to be back in their own rooms and familiar environment had nothing to do with Mary's.  The longing was due to the long absence from their bed and toys and day-to-day life.

When the day finally came to fly home, the twins were excited and ready.  Our departure was delayed, but eventually Southwest came through and gave us a plane to board.  Seeing our plane taxi up to the runway was cause for celebration.

I sat with Easton and Kendra sat with Layla.  Even though we checked-in online and printed our boarding passes within seconds of the availability window we were still way far in the back for boarding.  There were no three seats together like when we flew to OKC.  There weren't many two seats together either.  Easton wasn't able to get a window seat, but there are worse things in life than missing out on the views afforded by a window seat.

We arrived home safely and slept like bears in a coma, tucked into our own comfy beds.  Watching the sunset over our big Saguaro cactus was a sight for sore eyes.

There was one picture I neglected to post from our OKC trip.  This one of Easton and Layla.  It is significant because of the expression conveyed in it.  As I walked with them between businesses in a shopping area I purposefully stood behind them with guidance for where we are going.  I pointed in that direction and said, "go ahead, I'm right behind you."  They walked hand in hand abiding by the street crossings and people traffic patterns.  Easton lifted Layla's hand and kissed it just as I took this.

Two things expressed here.  One is that I'm giving them a chance to lead more often and quietly observing their behavior without correcting them unless it is absolutely necessary.  They are headed into Kindergarten in 6 weeks so their internal guidance systems need to be given more room to navigate through life without Kendra and I involved.  Two is that Easton is taking care of Layla more and more now.  Not in a co-dependent way, but in a big brother way.  I'm glad to see him stepping up and acting like a gentleman on his own prompting and choices.

After two short days back at the home sweet home Kendra flew to Sacramento.  that's right, she left me alone with the twins for five days!

I was excited for her to have kid-free time with Mom and her Bree, her future sister in law.  She threw the wedding shower and bachelorette party for Bree.  That means her vacation from the kids and me wasn't really a vacation, but at least it was a chance to spend a few days away after being around us for 30 days straight.

The twins and I had a great week together.  It was fun to be responsible for all meals, schooling, and adventures.  Well, it was fun for a few days anyway.  Not sure I could do this full time, but I can do anything for a few days...

First stop after dropping Mommy at the airport was a trip to the grocery store.  The fridge was bone dry from being gone 30 days so i had to replenish it with enough food to last us 5 days.  I gave the twins a chance to push the cart just for fun.  They didn't hit anyone and kept it between the shelves.  They gotta learn how to drive sometime, right?

Back at home I realized there was nothing to eat (just a joke) so we went to sushi.  happy hour prices make it reasonably priced and eating healthy certainly has a cost.

With one of them on each side of me we chowed down and conversed with the sushi chef since we sat at the bar.  Easton likes all the same sashimi (raw fish) I like.  big surprise, huh.  If only i can get him to like carrots and tomatoes....

 At home we had full days of playtime and school time.  After getting out of the pool Layla put on her Snow White attire and exclaimed, "my hair is black when it's wet so I need to wear my Snow White outfit because her hair is black."  Makes sense to me.

Out of five days I only included two people (Jacob and Kyle) for a total of four hours.  I could have packed my days with having friends over to hang out, but I intentionally kept the front door locked and my phone off.  I wanted the twins to have my full attention and daddy time.

We went to Culver's for an ice cream sandwich treat after swimming.  Mint Chocolate Chip is their new favorite flavor.  Smash it between two big Oreo cookies and you have a tasty treat.

While we were touring the midwest our friends used the pool to keep from melting in the AZ heat.  Chris discovered the deflated orca whale and blew it up.  The last time the twins saw the inflated orca whale was last year, but it was too scary then.  They decided to have some fun playing on it.

I gave them a lot of independence during our Daddy week.  One example of this was the freedom to choose their own clothes.  I did my best to give them responsibility for the morning and bedtime routines.  Layla came out wearing her special dress made by Ouma.  She was ecstatic about wearing it.  Ta Da!

I stumbled on a coupon for Jamba Juice so one of the days we went to cool off and get some berries with protein.

Layla saw my sunglasses on my desk and tried them on.  She looks uber cool, but her reasoning as to why she had to have them is because they match her dress.  She's so observant.

We had some form of schooling each day.  Kindergarten is coming up quickly so we need to start ramping up the learning.  We took one morning to learn about one of my favorite topics:  money.  Until this day they saw all coins as equal value.  However, now they can argue over who's stack of coins is worth more as well as who has the most coins.  greaaaaaat!  Easton was most interested in the quarters with state emblems on the back.  I was asked to read from which state each and every quarter came from.  He was smart enough to ask me if these quarters are worth more.

The money learning exercises led to earning some of the coins.  That led to the reintroduction of the Give, Save, Spend containers.  Each time they earned coins they loaded up their containers in the proper order.  There was some seriously good behavior going on as they filled them up.

Each day I made a list of ways they can earn money.  I kept this handy so I could watch for good behaviors resulting from right attitudes.

I searched the clearance rack at Target and found Easton a gem:  Angry Birds pajamas!  He is a big fan of Angry Birds and also had a real need for new pajamas that he could fit in.

The sunrise to sunset regimen was not stressful or taxing, just long.  It was worth it because I felt more connected to Easton and Layla than any time in their lives.  Their excitement to spend time with me and include me in everything was very fulfilling.  They invited me to see every bug on the sidewalk, every pirouette, every new Xbox discovery.

I accepted their invitation and paid attention because I believe that if I am interested in their lives now for the little things, then they'll continue to invite me to be a part of the big things when they get older.  This is all just theory because I've never parented teenage kids, but based on my own experience and observation of other families I'm sticking with my theory.  Many parents ignore their kid's request to be involved in the little things.  I've seen how those kids turn out.

There are many things I keep in the front of my mind when it comes to being a father, but few are more front-and-center than this one belief Easton and Layla need more than just my presence in the same house or park or restaurant.  They want my attention, affection, and approval.  I don't want them think they are the center of the world, but I want them to know they are the center of my world, after Mommy.  As I review my list of priorities I'm content with how I'm living that out day to day:

Easton and Layla

By the way, church is included in the "others" section.  That means the only person on Earth more important than Easton and Layla is Kendra.  I don't want to tell them that...  I show them.  To me that defines the nature of a parent-child relationship.  If they don't feel important then they aren't.

This last section was just me writing out my thoughts.   Notice there was no "thus saith the Lord".  I'll have to chew on that a little more to discover the truth or lies in there.

See you soon!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Visiting Aunt Mary's


We concluded the driving portion of our 30 day midwest tour by staying with Aunt Mary.  The whole vacation went by quickly and especially the last few days spent in OKC with her.  After so many days and weeks of extraordinary adventures and being around so many different people it was nice to just rest and relax.  I revamped her entire technology setup with a new iMac, printer, router, and internet connection.  The twins were happy about the new printer because they inherited a new hideout.

Getting a PC user to switch to Mac is not an easy process, but she transitioned well and likes the simplicity.  Shopping with someone else's money is always fun.  unboxing a new iMac is an experience all by itself.

I took the twins for a walk on the trail behind Mary's house.  Within the first few steps Layla spotted a lizard.  It was either sick or dying.  I know this because Layla bent down to pick it up and it didn't skitter away like most of them do.  instead he just let her pick him up.  

Easton saw the little guy was safe and wanted a turn to hold the lizard.    Mr. Scientist gave him a slight squeeze to see what would happen.  The lizard's eyes almost popped out, but luckily Easton is learning some restraint when it comes to his strength.

One of the outings we took with Mary was to Moore where the tornado ripped through town a few weeks prior.  As we drove through the devastated areas I explained to Easton and Layla what it means for people to lose their homes and jobs and whole neighborhoods.  We stopped in a residential area where 90% of the houses in this subdivision were completely gone except for the foundation.

The trees were sucked clean of their leaves and branches and houses were reduced to a big pile of rubble.  Not exactly a happy moment, but we are happy in spite of the circumstances or situations surrounding us...  even total destruction.

A few houses were still standing.  barely.  We walked in the garage of this one and saw stuffed animals and trash littering the open hallway into the house.  Brick and mortar was scattered around like legos.  Very sad to see, but I was glad the twins saw with their own eyes the destructive force of nature, which some people face.

On the way home Easton asked, "Does Jesus create tornados?"  Hmmm...  Such a deep question for a five year old, but he deserved an answer so i gave it my best shot.  I won't bother trying to recreate my theologically debatable answer, but just know he was satisfied and understood.

After the tornado-created death tour we continued by visiting the graves of our relatives.  Here is Easton Troy at the graveside of his great grandpa, Troy.  The man and legacy he was named after.  My dad's middle name was named after him too so it really started with great grandpa Troy.  Anyway, he had a hard time grasping how the body of his great grandpa rested just 6 feet below where he sat.  I think he got it, but the lack of emotion associated with his normal, happy jumping around leads me to believe it didn't really sink in.

We also saw his great Uncle Roy Dale and great Uncle Dave.  When Mary explained how this was her gravestone where she would be buried when she dies they just accepted her statement and went on about their merry, smiley way.  childhood is so innocent.

I checked online to see what events were going on in town.  I found two possibilities and took the twins out for one of our few outings during the OKC visit.  the first place we went was the Museum of Osteology.  I had an idea of what to expect, but it was a risk taking two 5-year-olds to a museum without knowing the content or atmosphere.  Turned out to be one of the highlights of the week.  Here they are at the beginning when we walked in the door.  the big thing above Easton is a whale skeleton.  Tough to get an idea of the size, but it was enormous.  They were taking in so much interesting stuff that I had to order them to turn around so i could get a good picture of them.

Not much was interactive in the museum, but there was an elephant head and tusks to touch.  All of these animals they've seen in zoos and movies came to life in a new way when they were able to see how their bones define their shape.

Easton only requested one picture.  This next one of the owl.  He was impressed with this little display more than anything in the museum.

I hate how pop culture and cartoons shapes their view of the world.  Many times when I would say what animal a skeleton belongs to they would chime in with the character they relate to it.  For example, I say "platypus" and they say "Perry!" from Phineas and Ferb.

The museum took about 90 minutes to walk through both floors.  After the success from that adventure we still had time to try out one more.  I read about the Non-Pro Cutting Horse Event at the fairgrounds.  I had no idea what to expect, but read that it was free.  can't get better than that!  We drove up to a virtually empty parking lot and fairground.  However, once we stepped inside we saw cows, horses, cowboys, cowgirls, and a competition of some kind where I had no idea what they were doing.

Then we met Leah.  She came over and sat by us after noticing Layla's enchanting personality and Easton's inquisitive nature.  She had on cowgirl attire complete with spurs.  Her cowgirl hat was in her truck waiting for the next event.  Leah explained the competition and which horses were related to her company.

She left and then came back a few minutes later with a gift for Easton and Layla.  She gave Easton a cowboy hat pendant on wrist-band and Layla a horse with wings.  They were about the size of a Monopoly playing piece.  The twins were very grateful.  I was blown away by her generocity of buying these for us total strangers.  One of the core values I teach and show is that we must be kind to every individual who crosses our path.  They approach each stranger with this expectation.  Seeing their smiles put smiles on other people's faces is one of my favorite things about taking them out in public.

One lazy afternoon I heard a disturbance in the force.  It sounded like this...  (silence).  that can mean something is wrong, but when i went back to check on the twins I found them stuffed in the box with a soft blanket reading a book together and eating bananas.  Nothing really special about this other than it was just one of those moments I'm glad I was around to witness.  they have a huge house to play in, but they are so close and enjoy each other so much that cramming into a box together was the most desirable thing for them to do.  

Kendra and I went out for a date night.  Throughout our 30 day midwest tour we didn't have a single evening of alone time.  We chose to spend our time with family and I'm glad we did.  However, Mary was willing to take care of Uno and Dos for an evening so we jumped on the chance.  Dinner at Deep Fork and then desert at The Metro Bistro.  Kendra asked several times for me to go see Superman with her so afterwards we watched a midnight showing of Superman together.  The movie was just OK, but my favorite part of the night was spending time with Kendra.  I can be happy doing just about anything as long as we can do it together.

Mary's exercise trampoline was worked over by Layla.  Her interest in gymnastics appears to be increasing as the days and weeks go by.  Our plan is to get her into and introductory ice skating class, but we'll see if she really like ice skating or just the idea of ice skating based on watching Disney on Ice one too many times.

Every day at Mary's included pool time.  The twins are great swimmers and one of their daily requests was for Kendra and I to join them for family swim time.  They only had one day with their cousins, but we made the most of it.  Layla is closest in age to Abby so that's who they hung out with the most.

Aunt Mary doesn't grant my request for pictures of her very often, but I knew she wouldn't pass up the chance to have all of the cousins and Easton and Layla in the same shot with her.

We took time for lots of meaningful conversations and I'm glad we were able to spend this week with Mary.  Now she is set up on Skype and Facebook (my hidden motive for getting her technology revamped) so I expect we'll hear and see more of her.

The midwest tour turned out even better than I hoped and planned.  I'm sad it's over, but the memories we made will be with us forever.  I'm glad we waited two years after my sabbatical eligibility date so that Easton and Layla will remember as well.

More vacation awates us.  See you soon!