Friday, August 30, 2013

Logan and Bree's Wedding

Hello friends and family,

I officially have a new sister, Bree!  She's stuck with me and Casey as her only brothers. :)

The wedding included all 4 Webbs, Oupa as the officiator, Ouma sitting front-and-center, and the happy couple in the joyous occasion.  I'm happy to report there were no major party fouls during the ceremony or or AFV worthy moments to mar the happiness.

The hours before the wedding were spent differently for the boys and girls as you can imagine.  Kendra and Layla were in the luxurious bridesmaid suite getting $100 hair and makeup pampering.  They came out to the second floor balcony to see us boys getting our pictures taken.  I wanted to call out, "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!"  My two special ladies were the most beautiful of the wedding procession.

Easton felt really comfortable all suited up for the big game.  He asked, "Why do we have so many clothes on?"  shirt, vest, and jacket was two layers more than he ever wears in Phoenix.

This picture of Casey, Logan, and Easton will be in the back of my mind to pull out when Casey gets married and then again when Easton gets married.  To see the way he will grow is sure to be a good picture comparison.

As a gift to Layla for being the flower girl, Bree gave Layla an embroidered cloth.  It says:

You don't know it now
but someday, somehow
you'll be a beautiful bride
down the aisle you will stride
so here's something for you
to be old and be blue
to hold on the day
your dad gives you away
Love Always
Auntie Bree and Uncle Logan

That is a very sweet memento for Layla.  I was on the verge of tears several times thinking about Layla being a bride someday.  Reading this was almost overwhelming for to consider.  I have several years to get my act together for the role of saying "her mother and I".  several...  years.  In the mean time I'm glad to have Layla be a part of such a well done ceremony.  During the bridesmaid pictures I caught this one over the photographer's shoulder.

I gave the camera to a groomsman to take a picture of Layla and I.  This is such a funny picture because in the moment I was saying "please take three pictures", but Layla was saying, "only ONE!"  She is such a negotiator.

Easton and I ran into the girls in the hall before all of the fanfare.  I wanted to get one last hug and kiss from them.

Logan's gift to the groomsmen and Mr. ring bearer was a new pair of Chuck Taylor Converse shoes.  The formality of the wedding was classy, but the Chuck Taylors were just the right touch of coolness.  I wasn't so sure of the black and white only color scheme of the wedding, but after seeing the pictures I really like the way everything turned out.  I thought it might be too bland at first, but it's easily my favorite wedding colors of any I've seen or been a part of before.  

Almost game time!  We all lined up for the ceremony and the twins were ready for the spotlight with rings and flowers.  They are the perfect age to still be cute and child-like, while at the same time able to obey instructions to pull off such key roles.

Quick picture of Casey and Ashley behind over my shoulder before we marched down the aisle.

Uncle Gordon held my camera and kindly took this shot of us looking down the aisle at Bree and her Dad.

Afterwards when the family was taking pictures I took a common selfie of Layla and I where I spin around and hold the camera at arms length.  Turned out well!

The reception was a few steps away from the ceremony.  Bree and Logan decorated with a video gaming related theme. Kendra and I had our seats saved with these personalized tents.  I was Link and she was Zelda.

We took a break from the reception to run back upstairs for sunset photos.  My camera was setup properly to capture the colors, but they still turned out well.  The 4 Webbs are proudly posing and happy to be a part of the wedding weekend.

Of all the pictures I hoped for, this is the one I vowed to get.  Four generations of the linage of the ladies in my life.  Layla, Kendra, Mom, and GG.  Layla is blessed to have such great genes and heritage flowing down to her.  

And on the Burgess side, we were happy to have a few brief moments with Grandma Burgess.  Kendra's good looks are split right down the middle between both sides of her linage.  

And here is the Four generations on the men's side of the equation.  Oupa and Grandpa Burgess round out are building a legacy of honor to stand the test of time.  

At the end of the ceremony Kendra and I were the last bridesmaid and groomsman to walk down the aisle.  We paused when we stepped together and gave each other a big kiss in front of the audience.  Felt just like on our own wedding day, but even better after 11 years.  The sunset kiss is more than just a show of affection.  I know couples who take these pictures, but hate each other.  I feel sad for couples who have to pretend to be in love in public.  For us, it's all we can do to be civilized and keep our hand off each other in public.

 Back inside we got the party started. It took many of the guests a few drinks to get their boogie on, but the 4 Webbs weren't about to wait for an alcohol buzz to get our groove on.  This picture of Layla summarizes the reception.  She danced her legs off!

During the money dance I gladly threw my yuppie food stamp into the awesomely decorated money box so that Layla could experience a dance with Uncle Logan.  

And of course Kendra waited for her turn to dance with her brother.  

The most impressive part of the reception was Logan and Bree's first dance.  Unlike Kendra and I in our wedding, they were busting out spins, dips, and moves I hadn't seen before.  That was one of the things I wish we would have done differently for our wedding, but not much else.  Each wedding reflects the unique character and nature of the couple being married.  I liked ours as much as I liked Bree and Logan's.

Our Honda Pilot just passed 100,000 miles.  Even though it's never given us any problems, it's getting old and stuff is starting to break.  While in SLO the air conditioner busted.  Driving during the day into 108 degree temperatures was not an option.  So after the reception we packed up the car and drove through the night to get home.  We arrived at 6:30 AM tired, but content with how well everything worked out.

So many great memories were made from this road trip, ocean-front wedding.

See you soon!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

SLO Going

Greetings friends and family,

I'll probably get in trouble for saying this, but I have more fun being in other people's weddings than my own.  My wedding was a life-changing event combined with the stress of wanting everything to be perfect for Kendra as well as concern for our hundred closest friends and family.  My wedding was wonderful and I'm content with how it turned out, but this past weekend with Logan and Bree for their wedding was much more relaxing, social, and celebratory.

We spent as much time as possible with Ouma and Oupa.  During our free time we took walks downtown San Luis Obispo and along the beach.  The disturbing gum wall was entertaining for us and mesmerizing for the twins.  

The beach-front resort we stayed at was more like cliff-front because only a small seaweed-filled, rocky beach is accessible from the hotel steps.  Oupa, Easton, and I took a walk the first morning while the girls shopped and prepared for the big day.  Easton was interested in every rock, shell, and moving thing along our trek through the beach.  We reached a huge, barely-submerged rock area where many different organisms thrived.

Easton touched, picked, and threw out to sea everything he could get his hands on.  The poor snails and crabs had no chance with Mr. Investigator discovering life.  The snails and crabs were piled on top of each other in some areas because they were so thick.  We spent an hour dropping snails into the mouths of ocean anemones.  Their tentacles would quickly envelope the shell and we hypothesized the anemones would suck the snail right out of the shell.  How's that for a marine biology lesson during boy time?

Having these experiences with Oupa made it even more special.  I'm glad the two of them have so many points of interaction.  Easton is getting an opportunity that I never had.  He has a grandpa who is alive and makes time to pour into him for the self-less purpose of building Easton's character while providing a consistent, stable foundation of love and authority.  That's a long sentence, but you get the point.

The temperature was perfect even though the water was cold.  We soaked up some rays to add color to our skin for the wedding pictures.  We built sand castles, chased waves, and found sand in every crack and crevice in our bodies.   Totally worth it for moments like this.

I taught Easton and Layla how to capture sand crabs (a.k.a. Pacific mole crabs).  They were small, but fun to catch.  We would wait for the wave to flow back out to the ocean and dig up a big scoop in a bucket.  Then sift through the bucket and throw the sand crabs into our holding tank.  All of those little round things are sand crabs.  Unfortunately there is no value or usage for such small creatures so we threw them back in the ocean before leaving.

This is Bree (in the white shirt), my new sister and Jamie her sister.  Layla quickly found her way into everyone's heart with her charming personality.  During the rehearsal dinner several people shared stories or comments.  Layla jumped right in with some well-spoken encouraging words.  Unfortunately I was taking Big Time to the bathroom, but I did get a video of her repeating her comments to Bree's friend.  Maybe i'll upload it even though it's tough to hear.

The reason we drove 9 hours, took two vacation days, missed church, and skipped two school days was to be as much a part of the Logan and Bree's big weekend as possible.  mission accomplished!

The next day Easton and I went back to the ocean.  This time we took uncle Casey and Cousin Heather.  Easton was so excited to show Layla the ocean anemones and snails.  I had to carry them away from the area when it was time to leave because they were having such a great time exploring and experimenting.

If money were no object we would have a house on the beach where we could play in the sand and surf every day.  The twins are as smitten by the ocean as Kendra and I are.

One of the more humorous moments was watching uncle Casey and the twins run from the waves.  The three of them ended up fairly wet, but it was worth it for the amount of smiles and laughs produced.

The adventures from the wedding weekend seemed to overlap from hour to hour because there were so many new experiences for the twins.  It was almost time for the wedding and the twins' debut in the public eye!

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cucumbers, Monkeys, Wages

Greetings friends and family,

We are safe at home after our San Luis Obispo trip for Logan and Bree's wedding.  I have a new sister!  Last night I sat down to blog with a plethora of pictures to edit, but a massive haboob rolled through Phoenix.  I shut down the house electricity because the lights dimmed twice in a minute indicating power surges or outages.  I'll get back to the California wedding tomorrow, but this is what's on my mind right now.

There's been an infiltration of "fairness expectations" among the ranks of the 4 Webbs and society at large.  Part of this is cultural and part is our own parenting practices.  The "that's not fair" situations are usually accompanied by pouting, crossed arms, and a comment such as, "...but Layla has 4 crackers and I only have 3!"  My only response so far has been "life isn't fair!"  Easton asks, "but why?"  I had no answer until now.

I stopped in my tracks the last time this occurred and stared at Easton with a perplexed looked.  I traced back in my mind to figure out where this attitude came from.  I'm still a long way from figuring it out, but if I think back to my own childhood there are several occasions where I felt wronged by my Mom and Dad because something wasn't fair in my eyes.  I'll ask them for forgiveness of my wrong-thinking next time I get the chance...

I'll try to tie together cucumbers and the Bible as a starting point of unraveling this mystery. Here are the two scenarios to compare and contrast what is "truth":

The video clip shows how a monkey reacts when getting rewarded with a cucumber while his neighbor gets a sweet grape.  It shows how monkeys have an expectation of fairness.  The monkey receiving a cucumber is content until he finds out his neighbor is getting grapes.  

The article uses a parable from the Bible, which describes how vineyard workers were paid unfair wages.  They exhibited the same ungrateful response as the monkeys who were "paid" unfairly.

Let me start by saying humans are not monkeys!  There are animals who eat their young (hamsters), kill their mate after mating (spiders), and rape females (lions).  Just because we find a trait in certain animals doesn't negate our responsibility to live rightly.

The difference between humans and animals is that humans have intelligence.  The intelligence aspect is what sets us apart all species on Earth.  Some people think humans suppress these animal instincts, but I am convinced we have a God-given ability to choose what is right.  I almost added homosexuality in the list of animal instinct behavior, but I don't want the government visiting my house with guns and tanks for stating my beliefs.

Anyway, what I learned from the article (not the youtube clip) is that I need to focus on what is right, not what is fair.  If I decide to bless Layla with an extra cracker, then so be it.  If I accidentally spend 5 minutes more with Easton than Layla, then no apology is necessary.  There is a huge amount of freedom from getting this revelation about where to focus my efforts.

I can bless whoever I want, whenever I want, however I want and there is no need for me to justify or rectify an imbalance.  My time, money, and talents can be given however I (we) decide.  Whew, that feels empowering.  I hope you choose to break free from the bondage of "fairness" in the same way I am choosing.

I'll add a single picture from our SLO trip just as a teaser for tomorrow.  This is one of my favorites.

See you soon!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Double Sicko, Hello SLO

Howdy friends and family,

I may have jinxed the twins.  A few nights ago I recounted the blessing about how healthy Easton and Layla have been since birth.  They rarely get sick.  The comparison I have is personal conversations and Facebook posts of parents who announce their child's sickness as frequently as I change socks.  Not so at the Webb house.  Even so, I knew going into kindergarten would increase the risk of sickness because it is a petri dish breeding ground of kids coughing and snotting all over the classrooms and each other.  At least, that's my impression.  We took no precautions or preventative measures such as bulking up on vitamin C because life happens and kids get sick unless they are placed in a bubble.  There is never a good time to be sick, but Thursday morning both Easton and Layla woke up glassy-eyed, feverish, and coughing.  We were leaving town the next morning for Logan's wedding.  Kendra kept them home to rest all day Thursday and that seems to have done the trick! Layla's highlight of the day was finger painting in the bathtub.  She made the palm tree and started in on butterflies before I had to leave for errands.

Easton pulled out his puzzles and went to town being constructive with his time.  He still hasn't figured out that it is best to do the outside edges first and then fill it in, but Nana is coming in a few weeks to provide expert instruction .

This morning we woke up insanely early at 4:30 AM.  that is not even a valid time on my clock or Easton's.  We sluggishly drug ourselves into the Pilot and headed out of town.  We started driving and the twins started asking questions about the darkness and how it gets light.  Then it hit me...  the twins have never seen a sunrise!  Their consistent schedule and our blessing of having Kendra stay home with them since they were born means they have not needed to be up early enough to catch a sunrise.

They leaned around their car seats to see the awesomeness on display behind us.  We watched the colors fill the sky and the sun poke up above the horizon while explaining in great detail how our solar system works.

The 9-hour drive was taxing, but the twins are super travellers.  We stopped as soon as we reached the coast for a stretch break and go for a walk along the beach.  

That quickly turned into getting our feet wet while running from the waves and each other.

We stared out across the ocean for several minutes just enjoying the smell and visual amazement that never gets old.  Layla said, "I smell an Orca whale tail!"

Easton stood frozen for a few minutes just staring out into the vastness of the ocean.  We called several times when it was time to leave, but he didn't hear a word we said.  I had to go over and physically pick him up and carry him like a briefcase away form the waves.  but not before capturing a genuine smile from the two of us.

We had a bit of a "challenge" as we walked away from the beach.  Kendra thought we walked through tree sap, but it turned out to be pure sludge OIL!  There were three off-shore drilling rigs on the horizon.  apparently it is common to find big globs of oil that wash up on the shoreline.  Anyway, we all were disgusted with the black gooey mess coating the bottom of our feet.   I laughed because it's just one of those things that happens when you go adventuring.  Kendra was not laughing at all because she had to scrub and scrape our feet enough to get in the car without getting everything in there gooey.

The rest of the trip to SLO was uneventful and we arrived on time as expected.  The rest of the day has been a blur and I have no idea how my eyes are still open this late considering the early departure.  The weekend will be filled with many picture worthy moments and I can't wait for the 4 Webbs to celebrate with Logan and Bree.

See you soon!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

High Low Conversation

Greetings friends and family,

I asked Kendra if she is glad the kids are going to public school instead of home schooling.  I figured it would take a few months for us to see how well the twins are adjusting and for her to sort out her feelings after spending every day for the past five years.  However, after watching the twins blossom and Kendra gladly enjoying hours per day of free time the answer is clear:  yes, she is glad they are going to Kindergarten at a public school instead of home schooling.

The question has never been "can Kendra homeschool the twins?"  We've both known for years that she is capable and could do it.  The question we've been asking is, "What is the best scenario for Easton and Layla to achieve?  We came the correct conclusion that Kendra has a higher calling than teaching the twins and the twins are getting way more out of the public school experience than we could provide them at home.

I taught Layla how to tie her shoes.  She learns so easily it amazes me.  I showed her one time and she spent the rest of the week showing off at school how she can double knot her shoes.  Layla's teacher requested Kendra to consider her for the gifted classes.  My response was, "well, duh?  of course she is gifted! sign her up!"  Layla took the test and we completed the necessary paper work to get the process started.  I don't think Layla will graduate college before she turns 12, but I'm not ruling it out.

Kendra asked Easton's teacher if she believes Easton should be in the gifted program.  His teacher said something like, "He's very intelligent, but should wait until next year to be involved with the gifted program."  I'm OK with that answer.

The first week I tried to figure out how to spark conversation with the twins about their schooling.  Nothing seemed to work.  Then I recalled a movie called The Story of Us staring Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer back in 1999.  I only remember one thing about it.  That is how they did "High Low" during dinner.  I tried it and it's working great!

I start of by saying, "Let's play high low".  Now they know that means, "Tell me about your day by describing the worst thing that happened and the best part of it."  It's becoming habitual already so they jump right in while doing their best to not talk with their mouth full of food.

The most surprising impact of kindergarten on Easton is his enjoyment of music class.  His "high" each day is usually the songs he sings or music he gets to hear.  I would have never guessed that because he is not known for joining in when I sing or the music is playing on the TV.

Layla got in trouble yesterday.  Her "low" was being talked to by the teacher.  Her infraction of the rules was...  wait for it.....  skipping!  Apparently there are rules that state all children must walk in a single file line to and from classes.  I was furious inside when she told me because Layla doesn't know HOW to just walk.  She flutters!  She's humming and singing and skipping or shuffling or marching everywhere she goes.  and I love that about her.  but now she has to conform to a bunch of bogus rules that I hope will not crush her spirit.

I didn't say I like everything about about public schools, it's just that the balance of good outweighs the bad.

Anyway, one evening Kendra went to zumba class and I got to spend the evening with Uno and Dos.  After dinner I turned up LMFAO's Party Rock Anthem song.  We boogied our butts off together three times through the song.

We are thrilled about how they wear school uniforms.  Although they are turning out to be the only clothes worn by the twins.  When they get home after school their shirts are covered with dirt, paint, and cheetos stains from other kids wiping their hands everywhere.  Since their uniforms are already dirty we don't see the need to have them change into other play clothes just so they can get something else dirty.  Anyway, they are comfortable and low maintenance.

I dropped Easton and Layla off at school one morning so Kendra could sleep in for a change.  I parked at the curb and they jumped out quickly after giving me hugs.  Watching them comfortably walk together through the mass of tall, elementary kids was surreal.  I know they are five years old, but the whole independence idea is a two-edged sword.  I see them less than I ever have since they were born and the time we spend together is less about me caring for them every day that goes by.  I still don't have any context to measure their awesomeness against other kids because I don't see anyone else, but I'm convinced they are on a whole different level than other kids their age.  This moment of watching them walk away made me proud and sad at the same time.

The twins wanted to go for sushi one night for dinner.  I took them to a place with cheap happy hour deals because sushi can get expensive quick when taking two sashimi lovers like Easton and Layla.  Easton's eyes lit up when the chef made a special version of the dragon roll for us.  The head is made from a cucumber and the top is eel and avocado, by the way.

Layla posed with her best dragon impression.  Her favorite sushi is the raw salmon nigiri.  They are adventurous and well versed when it comes to eating different types of food.  This is becoming more pronounced as I hear stories of the unhealthy and repetitive foods kids bring in their lunch bags at school, God help me.

We paid the bill for the twins to start soccer in a few weeks.  Kendra put both of them on a boys league.  She talked to the coach and from what she says that is fairly common for a girl to be in a boys league for the first year or two.  Going to the games and practices will turn Kendra into an official "soccer mom".  I know she will be proud of that title.

See you soon!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Smarty McFarty

Greetings friends and family,

Friday night I had to break the bad news to Easton.  He's excited to go to school Saturday morning, but I had to tell him he doesn't get to go back for two days.  The disappointment was visible on his face.  This makes me the happiest parent of a kindergartner that ever lived.  Easton and Layla both have an excitement for school that is rooted in our parenting choices.  We chose to prepare them by describing the classroom experience as interesting and awesome.  They start each day with high expectations and that's their perception of school.  I know our job is just starting, but if these first two weeks are indications of what is to come then I say, "bring it on!"

Easton was comforted somewhat when he figured out Saturday was the birthday party for his friend.  These church kids are quickly become very close friends and I love to see it.

They went to see the movie "Planes", which I know will be right up Easton's alley.  I expect a fairly detailed description when we see him after the party is over.  It's Arizona in the summer time and there is an excessive heat advisory in effect for the next 48 hours so the possible Birthday party options are limited.

Unless you're a mountain biker who just bought a new bike.  Then it's a perfect time to go for a two hour ride in the blazing hot sun.  Luckily I conned a few buddies into enduring the heat with me.  When I pressed my helmet against my forehead, the squishy padding poured sweat onto the dirty trail like a faucet.  Well worth it!    

I've been watching Craigslist for a good deal on a used bike for the past several weeks with no real intention to buy.  then I ran across a half-priced deal on a virtually new dream bike.  I went to test out the bike and was greeted by a guy in a wheel chair in his garage.  He bought the bike new and then tragedy struck three months later.  He wrecked on another mountain bike he owned by going over the handle bars and hitting his head on a rock.  As a result he is permanently paralyzed from the waist down.  Talk about a sad story...  Sure made it difficult to talk him down on price, but I know a good deal when i see it so there wasn't much need to try.

It wasn't the wisest financial decision I've ever made, but after talking it over with Kendra I paid cash for it.  There is no other hobby or activity available here in Arizona that brings me as much pleasure as mountain biking.  At least, that's my justification for spending such a big chunk of change on a silly bike.

Anyway, we are preparing for Logan's wedding.  Kendra is on a crash diet and exercise regimen even though she already looks great.  I decided to shave my beard.  This is what I sent to the bride-to-be in a text message:

Bree, you are about to become my sister in two weeks!  Thank you for allowing me to be in your wedding.  You will have to live with my mug in your wedding party pictures for the rest of your life.  The wedding is about you, not me.  I consider your desires and happiness above my own because I realize the wedding pictures are important to you.  The question is: What facial hair do you want me to have on your special day?  Beard, goatee, or clean shaven?

She said shave it so here's the new (old) look!

While Easton is with his friends we invited the birthday boy's sister to come hang out with us.  Kendra set up a princess tea party complete with personalized place mats and real flowers.  I told the girls to give their best princess smile and this is the result.

Dancing in the living room followed, then swimming and lunch.  The atmosphere certainly shifted when we traded Easton for a second princess!  Having two girls would have been fun, but I like the balance of the Webb house when Easton is around.  I've been taking selfies for a decade, which is before they were even called selfies.  This used to be just me taking a picture of myself because usually I was alone.  Then came Kendra.  This is the first known self portrait of us two.

Times have sure changed, but the fulfillment in life is even greater as a family.  I call this picture "Smarty McFarty".

We are very cautious to avoid name calling and teasing.  We expect (and get) encouraging words and comments toward each other and everyone else we meet outside the home.  However, There are occasions to bend the rules and not be such a stick in the mud.  The twins affectionately call me "Captain Underpants".  I have no idea why that's funny to them, but the name came from Wreck-it Ralph a few months ago and just keeps coming up.  Kendra called Easton "Smarty McFarty", presumably because he is intelligent and flatulent.  We started calling each other that name and I captured the humor of the moment.  Being silly together as a family provides some of the best memories they will ever have.

Easton asked me, "Why do you take so many pictures of us"?  I answered, "Because some day you'll want more than just your perception of childhood to rely on as the truth of what life was like for you."  He agreed, but with a limited understanding of what I described.  Someday it will make sense to him.  This blog of our family will hopefully aid in explaining the realities of childhood that are missed by kids when they are in the midst of living it.  I'm finally starting to understand why I do this.  The purpose seems more clear with each passing year.

See you soon!