Saturday, November 30, 2013

Turkey Shoot

Happy Thanksgiving friends and family,

The twins and I started our 5-day vacation from school and work on Wednesday.  The only outsiders we've had contact with is Kendra's cousin, Megan, and her fiance's family.  it's been wonderful.  We haven't purposefully excluded or ignored people.  It was just an unintended consequence of us not reaching out and inviting people over.

i took Easton to the hobby shop to buy a model rocket that we could build together.  We passed the model section of things to build that are just models as opposed to the model rockets we shoot that really fly.  He spotted a space shuttle orbiter and requested we buy and build that one instead of one that launches.  I offered to buy him others such as motorcycles, cars, planes or battleships, but he was set on the orbiter.

I agreed and we went straight home to start on our first model building project together.

The most difficult part was getting him to follow the directions from step 1 to the end, in order.  I guided him through the process and we came away with a very well built model.  The hour after this was spent flying missions around the house.  it was a good day.

When it came time for Layla's playtime with Daddy we brought out her tub of pet shop toys.  The great room was filled with sets.  Most of our playtime was dedicated to setting up the structures and Layla explaining every pets name and what they play.  That was fine with me as long as we were doing what she wanted, then I consider it a success.

i took the twins to In-N-Out for burgers.  I left them at the table while I loaded up on ketchup and napkins.  When I came back they both had red marks on their foreheads.  I asked what happened and they said, "we were giving each other a head-five".  Not sure where it came from, but instead of giving high-fives, they bonked heads and cheered, "head-five!"  I said if they were to continue doing that they need to be more gentle.  They slowly moved their heads towards each other and cheered, "head-five!" This is the kind of stuff I don't think parents of different-aged kids get to see.  Easton and Layla are on the same level with age and size so there are some fun moments that occur just because of that.  

Easton was a great helper for day-1 of our home decoration strategy.  I bought 20 boxes of lights and accompanying hardware two years ago in an after-Christmas sale.  Easton helped me assemble the tile roof light hangers.

I even let him climb the ladder a few steps up to see how it feels to be tall.

We are about half way done and it's looking great.  Here is the view from our front door of the roof lights, path lights, and cactus in the Arizona sunset.  A few beads of sweat rolled down my cheek as I worked in my shorts and t-shirt hanging Christmas lights.  only in AZ...

Kendra taught the twins how to play wall ball against the garage and four square.  Our driveway is set up well for the school playground games.  It's good to get them a head start on these because someday soon they'll be challenging their classmates.

Kendra made a full Thanksgiving Day meal for just us 4 Webbs.  homemade rolls, turkey in the oven, and stuffing.  it was the biggest meal in the history of just us chickens and it turned out wonderful.

Since we had no one else at the house to take pictures of us I was the only camera man around.  We went for a walk to work off the extra food we consumed.  We walked through our greenbelt hand in hand naturally.  I held Kendra's hand and the twins followed suit without a word being spoken to ask them to do that.  We walked towards another group of neighbors and it felt a little odd as if we were walking hand in hand to pose for a music album cover.  Even so, it is the most natural thing in the world for us to hang onto each other in the happiest and saddest of times.

In the backyard the twins decided to lay out on the pool chairs to feel the warm sun on their backs.  They asked when the pool will be warm enough to swim in and were disappointed to hear it is still several months away.  It took some convincing for them to understand how important it is to just enjoy the season we are in now and not wish their life away.  When the heat comes, we'll get pool time, but lose park time and outdoor fun.  It's a trade off so just enjoy today to the fullest!

This was the best picture we could get of the 4 Webbs with a camera on a tripod with a timer.  I'm completely content with my family and our life.  I'm blessed beyond anything I could have imagined a few years ago.  If I never get another blessing for the rest of my life, I would have enough goodness to last me forever.

And what event with the 4 Webbs would be complete without a little humor and silliness.  Kendra bought these hats for us as a joke.  We laughed at each other and the pictures of ourselves.  Happy Thanksgiving to you!

See you soon.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

So Long, Soccer,

Greetings friends and family,

Just because we don't have snow here in Phoenix, ever, doesn't mean we can have snow flakes.  I did step 1 and 2 of effective teaching.  I folded up the paper, cut out some sections and unfolded a hand-crafted snowflake for Easton and Layla. Now I know how David Copperfield feels.  Their belief of me as a superhero is further ingrained.  

The idea behind effective teaching is:

1. I explain
2. I show how to do it
3. You explain
4. You do it

This is my own version of the idea so maybe I should copyright it.  I'm just kidding.  I know there is nothing new under the sun. This is just a peek into my brain to understand what works for me as a parent.  Uncle Dave taught this way, but never documented or told me this is the process he used. He taught me many things, including how to teach.  When I follow those simple steps it appeases the auditory (Layla) and kinesthetic (Easton) learning styles.  If I don't explain it then they don't understand the "why" of what I'm doing.  If they don't explain it, then I know they aren't ready to do it.

Tomorrow is step 2 and 3... with kid safety scissors.

The soccer season is officially over.  We went out with a party instead of a final game because of the rain.  Our party plans were supposed to involve backyard games, the hot tub, and a soccer cake.  However, we settled for McDonald's playland and chocolate lava cake.  Easton is still recovering from his persistent cough and runny nose.  It's been 2 weeks and he's still carrying tissues in his pocket.  Doctor gave him antibiotics so we are praying he'll be back to full health soon.  His cheery demeanor is still prevalent, even in the pictures.

Layla is excited to wear sweaters, leggings, and everything else in the "winter" half of her closet.  Kendra curled her hair for the soccer party and the team recognized her princess royalty right away.  They were used to seeing her as one of the guys with her hair pulled back and jersey on.  This was the first time they saw her in another environment.  We are happy for Layla to be flexible and multi-faceted.  If we only give her Barbie dolls and dresses then she'll be stuck in thinking of herself only as one-dimensional.  I'm glad she's not afraid to get physical on the soccer field.

They received trophies with their picture in it.  They'll probably keep these through their senior year of high school and then toss them out as they move into college dorms somewhere.  That's just a guess based on how they occasionally pull out their trophy from participating in a girlfriend's backyard birthday party games.  It probably cost 20 cents to buy and has their name written in sharpie marker on the bottom.  If that means a lot to them, then these will be like gold to them.

Here is the Panthers team.  Seth, Ty, Zane, Easton, Layla, and Tunoa. They won one game, which just happens to be the only game Kendra coached.  Kendra is in denial about being an awesome soccer coach, but it looks like next season she will be the coach for Layla's team.  I'm excited for Layla to get used to winning.  Easton and Layla scored three goals each, over the course of eight games.  We are proud parents!

Layla can't wait for the all-girls team next season.  Easton can't wait for golf to start.  This Thanksgiving will be unlike any other in the history of our marriage.  We have no travel plans and we have no visitors coming.  It'll just be the 4 Webbs for 4 days of family fun.

See you soon!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Singing to Layla

Greetings friends and family,

I recorded a typical bedtime with Layla because I want her to see this 15 years from now when she's taking the world by storm.  Nobody, including Layla, knows what she'll be doing at that age, but I want her to have a memory on video to remind her of these days when we share bedtime songs every evening together.  When she was 2 years old she wasn't aware enough to understand my songs.  When she is 20 I don't think she'll be excited for me to hang out in her room for 30 minutes at night singing.  However, I take full advantage of these special opportunities to fully enjoy these moments.

It's harder to sing a cappella, pianissimo than you think.  My vocal talent is not the highlight of our time together.  Even so, she thinks I sing better than her music teacher.  That's all the encouragement I need to put myself on Youtube.  She does a lot of explaining and singing of her own before I give it my attempt.

The video is for Layla's benefit to refer back to as she gets older.  It's also for my benefit so I can see her as my beautiful five-year-old princess as she matures into my beautiful (whatever age) princess.  She will change, but my memories of her may be stuck in this kindergarten age for many years to come because she's so amazingly sweet and innocent. I can't keep her this age forever, but that's one of the many benefits of modern technology.

I'm excited for Layla's progress in singing her part of the Butterfly Fly Away duet.  Our harmonizing is terrible because I haven't sang a two-part duet in years, but we are working on it every night.  Maybe we could use some lessons from my nephew, Silas?

See you soon!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Just Be Kids

Greetings friends and family,

After our lessons in bad parenting by not taking the twins to the dentist during their toddler years I'm overly cautious about preventative measures.  My sister mentioned her daughter's eye care as an issue she wishes they would have found earlier.  Kendra scheduled their first annual visit to the eye doctor.  The twins had no idea what to expect, but I'm happy to report everything is well with their vision and they had fun.  I've never through of the eye doctor visits as fun, but from Kendra's description they did different tests than I normally do.

You can even see Layla's smile behind the optometrist equipment

Not sure what the test is, but they wear these 3D looking glasses and tell the optometrist what they see.  Easton has a slight astigmatism, but nothing to worry about.

He can spot an airplane in the upper atmosphere so I know his eyes are working well.

I dug through Kendra's iphone cache of photos and found several where I had no context of the story or situation.  Like this one with two parrots behind them.  The look on their face is one that says, "please let me turn around to see the birds instead of looking at the camera."

Rain isn't a big deal.  It's just rain, I know.  But in Phoenix the number of days it is rainy per year is so few that it causes people to take days off work, avoid driving on the streets, and stare out the windows. For us it is a license to get soaked and go for walks.  After school the twins changed into play clothes and wore their winter coats for a walk with the 4 Webbs.  We jumped in every puddle between our house and the main street into the neighborhood.

I didn't bring my DSLR because rain and electronics don't mix, but I brought my point-n-shoot to capture the moment as best I could.

Layla had to hold her sweat pants up for the last half of the walk because they were so drenched.  Her snow boots from last year barely fit anymore, but they held water inside just fine.

Layla's boots were a little too small.  A blister formed on her ankle so Kendra carried her by the canal.

We ended up in the greenbelt, which doubles as a pond during the heavier rain each year.  Notice I didn't say rains (plural) because it's usually just an annual phenomenon.  This is one of the cutest pictures of the twins being silly I've seen in a long time.

As cautious as we are as parents we want Easton and Layla to be kids and enjoy childhood.  Kendra told some parents of our plans to play in puddles to the point of being soaked.  Some of them had never even thought of the idea, which is fine.  Every parent is different, but why not let kids be kids?  We walked behind them holding hands while talking about how blessed we are that the twins are having such a great childhood.  Their laughter and free spirits were on full display as they charge down the hill into the mini-pond created by the constant rain.

Layla's blister was hurting, but not enough to keep her out of puddles.  We removed her boots and she took off through the marsh.

Easton and Layla are learning to share and deal with their own personal space issues, but they are best friends who get along so well.  They may not remember these moments forever, but I know when we provide these environments to just have fun that they will look back on their first memories fondly.  

Together, we braved the Costco crowds for bulk food shopping.  Kendra came across these full body pajamas with the feet in them.  Easton's are a little too small and I doubt they'll last through the winter.  He's in a growth spurt, but keeping a one-inch lead on Layla as he has since they were born.

Layla's princess pajamas fit perfectly with her height and personality.

This next picture is a bit of an optical illusion because Layla is closer to the camera so she looks taller.  I told them to hold still so i could take a picture and they immediately threw an arm around each other.  I couldn't see the patterns of their pajamas well enough as they were squished together in a side-hug so I asked them to stand apart so i can see their pajamas.

They are full of energy and full of life.  So much that it's tough sometimes to get a picture without a blur.  Parents ask where kids get their energy from, but that's a silly question.  It's obvious they suck the energy from parents!  I'm glad to have enough left in my tank to take care of what I need and want to do.  The way I recharge is through sleep and spending time with Kendra.  This week was much more balanced in our time together.  We were able to just hang out and be together for more than 2 minutes at a time.  That's a victory because the balance had shifted too far in the wrong direction over the past few months.

As for Thanksgiving, we have zero plans, which is completely fine with us.  We thought about having a few people over, but everyone else already has a place to go.  We will have 4-5 days of fun and productive time together.  I'm looking forward to the vacation days and cleaning out our garage!  finally.

See you soon.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Daddy Time and Church Time

Greetings friends and family,

This is the weekend review edition, one day late.  I'll summarize Sunday because that's the easiest and I have no pictures.

8:00 am - teach church membership class
10:00 am - attend church service
12:00 pm - provide lunch for and facilitate mentoring group
3:30 pm - prepare for Freedom Ministries
5:00 pm - teach the 8th and final Freedom class for this session
8:30 pm - basketball
10:00 pm - bed

Can't get much fuller than that unless I decided to forego meals and bio breaks.  I knew Sunday would be booked so I spent Friday and Saturday with the other three Webbs.

Friday night was Daddy-Layla time.  We ran a few errands and then shared a sushi dinner on the outdoor patio.  She wore her princess dress, makeup, and all the accessories she could wear and carry in her purse. The smiles from other patrons and comments by people walking by were well received.

She asked if she could pick out my shirt and I gladly agreed.  She chose the only purple shirt in my closet because it matched her dress.  Afterwards, we took our time watching the fish swim in the aquarium.  The only disappointment here was that there was no Nemo to go along with the Dori fish we saw.

Some day she'll ask to do something different than wander through the Disney store, but not today.  We made a bee line for the happiest store on Earth.  They have a big mirror that plays video clips of the princess who's apparel is waved around the mirror.  She waved Cinderella's wand and that's who's story clip plays on the mirror.  

I always notice a huge shift in her attitude before and after our Daddy-Layla time.  She is super sweet by nature, but doesn't hide her feelings well when her love bank becomes overdrawn.  I do my best to never let the balance of her love bank get that low in the first place.  She's starting to learn I really mean it when I offer to do anything she wants and go anywhere she wants (within reason).  

I'm taking every opportunity to be interested in the little things where she lets me into her world.  When I came home from work the first thing she did was offer to show me everything in her purse.  I sat down excitedly and expressed amazement about every shiny rock and quarter and bracelet she revealed.

An activity we did together at home was what I'll call "poverty prevention".  Studies show the common difference between people who live in poverty and those who don't is... (drum roll) ...  a calendar.  That's right.  Poor people don't know or care what day it is and don't have a plan for the days/weeks/months ahead.  that's why they are broke.

I printed off November and December templates from the ole' internet.  Then we marked key dates coming up such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the day Ouma and Oupa arrive.  The three of us decorated the border, crossed off the days already past, and hung them on the fridge.  Each morning Easton gets to cross the day off since he is always the first one up.  Mr. sunshine...

The biggest adventure we shared together was a hike and picnic lunch.  Kendra opted to stay home and clean because it is 10 times easier to clean the house when the Tasmanian devil duo is not there to make messes faster than they can be cleaned up.  

When we get in the car we make plans.
First, we'll get to the mountain.
Then we'll climb to the third peak.
Then we'll eat lunch.
Then we'll hike back down to the car.

We even discuss who will lead each peak and the order of the other two.  Not for fairness reasons, but to set expectations.  I am teaching them to plan because it is a great tool in life to understand as early as possible.  make a plan, give it your all, and finish the task.  No matter what career or field of work they go into that will be a key advantage if I continue to show and tell them how to plan.

At the top of the third peak they were starving (or so they claimed).  We ate the entire contents of my backpack and they were still hungry.  That was a good motivator to focus them on getting back down to the car.

I offered to take them for a hike on the flat trails, but they begged me to take them up.  Exactly as I had hoped.  I want them to see the city and think from above, not below.  There are some sad stories of kids in the inner city who only see the world from the streets looking up at the tall buildings.  Easton and Layla have an advantage by viewing Phoenix, the largest metropolitan area in the country by square miles, from up high.  I've never heard of a king taking his son to the darkest, lowest point of a jungle and saying, "This is your kingdom to take dominion over".  It just doesn't have the same effect.

The clouds above were unusually fluffy, which makes this next picture look like a green screen, fake background.  The sky really is this blue and the clouds this fluffy.

It takes twice as long to go down as it does to go up because their motivation for getting to the top is lunch and they are too winded to be funny on the way up.   They joke and sing silly made up songs all the way down.  Here's a short video clip of us wandering down the mountain.

For unknown reasons they stand with a foot on either side of the trail and say "puffy pants".

I have no idea where that came from or why they think it's funny, but their joyfulness about the simple things in life like this is exactly what an old, boring guy like me needs in his life.

Kendra and I spent many, many hours together over the past few days, but most of it was ministry related as teammates or co-workers.  The short breaks at night where we cuddle and watch TV before crashing is about as much of a date night as we've had lately.  Luckily, Thanksgiving week is coming and we'll be taking full advantage of the holiday days off.

See you soon!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Playtimes at Home

Greetings friends and family,

Our Sundays are usually completely full from 8 AM to 8 PM.  The small break we get in the afternoon of a few hours is sometimes the only chance we have to do chores, relax, and play.  We invited two friends over for Easton and Layla.  That may seem like more work, but it's actually less.  The girls play together and the boys play together, which means Kendra and I can do whatever we want.  The twins play well together on their own every day, but it's nice to bring in a new element or two so that each has their own gender.  Layla doesn't play star wars toys with Easton and Easton doesn't play dress-up with Layla.

Kylie is more than happy to though.  I gave them makeup and free license to dress how they want. Then I thought, "I sure how Kylie's parents are OK with makeup."  I asked afterwards and luckily they were fine with it.  Watching Layla put on makeup was a little surreal.  Isn't this my little baby who crawled around my feet and played peek-a-boo with a blankie?   Why yes it is, but she's a young lady now.  No matter how much time I spent cherishing every moment possible with my princess it wasn't enough and probably could never be enough even if I spent every second from the time she was born.  

None the less, here she is applying makeup and talking with her friend.

And the made-up princesses felt royal.  Layla regularly wears the veil and covers her face when I come in the room.  She's unknowingly preparing me already for the day in the future when she gets married.

I heard Layla calling me from across the house.  They set up their tea party in Layla's bedroom.  I walked in and Layla said, "can you serve us, please, King Daddy?"  I proudly accepted their request.

I cut out cheese in the shape of a heart and then added banana slices to complete the fruit and goodie dish.  I served them with this carrying tray and they were appreciative with their requests for more raspberries.

Easton and his friend were hard to capture in pictures because they were a blur of noise and toys running around the house saving the universe.

Easton convinced Josiah to sit long enough to read his book and tell the story of how the space shuttle Challenger exploded during take off.  I came in the room and heard him describing the tragedy and in the same breath expressing his desire to go up into space.  Talk about no fear...

One morning last week after the dual alarm clocks cuddled in bed with us for a few minutes, I zombie-walked into the den where Easton was sitting quietly on the couch reading his library book about Mars.  I was thinking, "give it a rest, dude!  we haven't even eaten breakfast yet."  but what I said was, "that's awesome, dude, tell me how the Mars rover lands?"

Easton likes Lego building, but until now his interest was only to follow the exact instructions in the booklet to create exactly what they booklet shows.  He's finally branching out with his imagination and creative side to create whatever is in his mind to create.  We sat down with the crate of Lego pieces and the first thing he said was, "help me find wings, Dad!"

This next picture of Layla is about as descriptive of her personality as I could ask for.  She's getting her groove on with Xbox Disney Dance.

Then she invited her friend, Kayla, to join in the fun.

Her enthusiasm turned into encouragement for Kayla's mom, Betty, who danced right along side Layla.  

I went with Easton and Layla to soccer practice so that Kendra could do her Zumba thing.  We arrived early to the field and made the most of our time together by running our own three-person drills.  I forced them to stop running long enough to get a quick picture of them hanging onto the soccer goal.

I took a few short video clips during the practice, but this is the only one that turned out well.  Layla and her teammate ran out after the ball.  the one who gets the ball is supposed to turn it around and score on the goal while the other person defends.  Layla squeezed the ball between his legs and scored.

That's it for now.  See you soon!