Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Great Outdoors

Greetings friends and family,

I'm taking a break from my work day to blog because this is the only break I have lately.  Through my own choices of accepting an extraordinary amount of challenging work I'm now officially in over my head.  When I add up the amount of time I take for Kendra, the twins, career, ministry, exercise, and food it leaves me with about 6 hours per day to do that other task called sleeping.

I've been expecting Q1 to be a write-off quarter as far as social fun and relaxation goes.  what that really means is that from January 1 to March 31 I set an expectation that I'll have almost zero time for myself.  That's OK.  it's only temporary.

I still have time for the twins even though no matter how many hours per day I spend they are still asking for more.  Even when I spent all day every day for two months with them during my sabbatical it was never enough to satisfy their desire to play and be with me.  I'm fine with that.  There will be a day not too many years ahead where it will be uncool to hang out with Dad.  For now, I gladly give my time and energy to be with them as much as possible.

After school we had a little sunlight left now that the winter equinox is past.  We played golf and croquette in the greenbelt.

Instead of calling in golf practice I say, "who wants to hit Dad with the practice golf balls?"  They jump at the chance to hit me as I stand in front of them like a carnival game.  We lost Easton's chipper somewhere along the way so we'll be focusing on the driver until we find it again.  He is more than happy to share his club with Layla because it means getting to watch me get pelted with the practice balls while he laughs.

Layla is developing a pretty good swing as well.  Although when I attempt to take pictures she shifts her attention to posing and smiling instead of swinging and concentrating.

Easton connected with a couple of the practice balls and sent them over into the trees behind me.  I'm proud of him for connecting with the ball so well.  He's happy to be better than Layla at something.

Layla skate-walked through her third ice skating lesson.  She is starry-eyed watching the wide age range of girls and ladies glide across the ice.  She is one determined girl who I know will get to that level.  She dislikes being anything other than number 1.  The great part is that she realizes it won't happen over night for this sport.

Layla can dance her boots off even if her boots have a blade on them.  This was her favorite part of the lesson.  imagine that?  In her just-woke-up haze this morning I told her "tomorrow is ice skating day!"  Her eyes popped open, a big smile appeared and she clapped her hands like a monkey with cymbals.

Last night I told Easton I found a web site that describes when the International Space Station is visible in the night sky.  I wasn't sure how well it could actually be seen, but told him, "if you don't go adventuring you can't have adventures!"  He agreed to wake up bright and early.  I walked down the hall at o' dark thirty this morning and he bounced out of bed with a loud whisper, "is it now, Dad?"  I'm not even sure he slept a wink last night...  Anyway, we went outside and stood on top of the hot tub gazing in the direction the website described.  Easton pointed and said, "there it is!"  I had no idea what to look for and thought he was just chasing ghosts, but there it was in all it's brightness glory.  The space station flew overhead at 20-something thousand miles per hour.  That gave us roughly 5 minutes of visible time as it arched across the night sky.  It could be mistaken for a really bright airplane if someone didn't know any better.

The night sky was so dark that i couldn't get Easton to stare at the bright flash on my camera as I took a picture.

Easton was excitement times 20.  He relived the moment continuously for the next hour while they got ready for school.  I hope he doesn't get in trouble at school because he is probably still talking about it all through class today.  I didn't want to get up early, but if it's important and interesting to him, then it better be to me.  I keep this in the front of my mind at all times because if he shares these little moments with me now, then he'll want to share the big ones with me as he gets older.

still planting seeds almost six years into this parenting adventure.

See you soon!

Friday, January 24, 2014

First Night Alone

Greetings friends and family,

There are no words or pictures to describe the seemingly insignificant moment.  As insignificant as it might be to most everyone else, this is a big deal.  Layla is staying the night at her friend's house for a sleep over birthday party.

this is the first time in her life to sleep at someone else's house without us (other than Ouma and Oupa's).  Kendra or I kissed her good night, read books, and sang songs every single night of her almost 6 year old life.  until now.

She's been counting down the "sleeps" for the past two weeks and now here it is.  I didn't let her see how much of a struggle it is for me because I want her to have the best time of her life celebrating her friend's birthday.  I trust the parents in the house where she is staying.  that is non-negotiable.  Even so, the thought of her not being in my protective care is a big step for me.  I'm not sad or afraid about Layla's absence.  I'm just working through the letting-go process one step at a time... reluctantly...  because in my mind this process shouldn't start for another 6 years or so.

This morning before school I said in a poughty voice, "Layla, I'm going to miss you very much tonight.  Who will sing you a song good night?"  She put her hands on my face and said, "don't worry Dad.  You can give me TWO kisses and TWO hugs before I leave".

Tomorrow morning at home will be different than any morning in the past several years.  Layla usually crawls in bed with Kendra and I to get morning snuggles.

This is certainly not the last time she will be in someone else's care over night, but it is the first.

Easton was looking forward to today as well.  Not because he wanted Layla out of the house, but because we made plans for some daddy time.  I took him for the longest bike ride of his riding career.  we rode the canal trail several miles past a golf course, a power plant, and train tracks.  There was no opportunity for pictures while riding, but this was one of the many adventures that no pictures are necessary for us to remember it.  He had his first cherry lime-ade at Sonic.  That's big in my family lineage.  Easton and Layla never have soda; not even on special occasions.  But like many rules and guidelines, it's not the end of the world to break them occasionally.  We share a cherry lime-ade (with sprite in it) once in a blue moon.

Before bedtime we played some golf with Tiger Woods.  I found Xbox Kinect Masters Golf game really cheap and couldn't resist.  Our Xbox room is big enough for him to take full swings and not hit anyone or anything.  The disappointing part is that we can't play two-player against each other, but it's good to have him see some basics and play against the greats like Jack Nicklaus. Swinging golf clubs inside is prohibited, but under adult supervision it's fun!

Another guideline we've followed since the twins were babies is to never sleep in their bed and never let them sleep in ours.  When I say never, i mean never.  Neither of them have slept with us since they were 6 months old or so.  Those first two years were a blur so I could be way off.  What I know is that at some point we drew the line and said, "sleep in your own bed".

Easton asked me several times over the past few weeks to sleep in his bed with him.  We planned to do that tonight and I'm glad I did.  I expected him to want to stay awake talking or making fart noises, but that didn't happen.  he cuddled up against me as I sang his good-night song.  Then he took a few deep breathes, popped his thumb in his mouth, and said, "this is the best day ever." Within a minute he was fast asleep and didn't notice as I slipped out the door.

It was a good day in the Webb house.  Maybe one of the best.

See you soon (and Layla tomorrow morning).

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

God in the Desert

Greetings friends and family,

After graduating from college I moved from Missouri to Phoenix two weeks later.  I packed my car with clothes, my computer, and my golf clubs.  That's it.  All my earthly possessions fit in the back seat of my car and everything in there was bought for me by Ma and Pa.  I still have the same set of golf clubs 18 years later.

Pa sent me his golf clubs in the mail the other day and I am excited to use his nicer clubs and take care of them until Easton gets tall enough to swing them.  Easton was happy to get the clubs, but because they are of no use to him right now, he turned his attention to the big box used to ship the clubs.  He said, "Can we use this for a space shuttle runway?"  Why not?

As the twins and I constructed a runway Layla's marker accidentally caught my arm as I was moving to draw the control tower.  She held her breath and stopped to see my reaction.  This was one of those critical moments.  Sometimes these happen where I sense how insignificant the situation is to me, but how important and character-shaping it is for the twins.  Her response to what happened was as important as mine.  If she immediately started to cry or apologize or worry then I would know my reactions are out of line with the character a good father should exhibit.  In other words, her expectation of my reaction is more telling about my parenting than my puffed-up impression of myself.

To my delight she responded with a sheepish smile and a "sorry!"  I responded casually by saying, "Layla, look what you did!  You better fix that by creating something beautiful out of the accident."  I held my arm out and she went to town drawing this masterpiece.

What could have turned out to be damaging ended up being freeing for her to express her creativity in a way she never has before.  I don't want her to become a tattoo artist, but my response of "accidents happen!  let's make the most of it"  shaped the atmosphere and Layla's image of herself in the same way my anger or reaction would have.

I'm sharing the story to brag on myself.  I've reacted out of anger before and saw the impact on their life.  I know, it's just a pink mark on my wrist, but many times I see parents blow things out of proportion.  two morals of the story:

1. perfection (or the expectation of it) is the enemy of excellence.  I don't expect Easton or Layla to be perfect.  They can only be excellent if perfection is not expected.  As Bob Ross says, ""We don't make mistakes; we just have happy accidents."

2. anger is not wrong.  anger becomes wrong when I expect the behavior of others to change as a result of expressing it.

I found a couple of other pictures from my camera.  Our rock climbing adventure is still brought up in conversation daily because of how much the twins enjoyed it.  This shows the degree of incline of the rocks we scrambled up.

The most proud moment of our hike was the part where God spoke to us.  Yes, God speaks.  Yes, five-year-olds can hear from God... probably easier than an old guy who has known God for decades.  Ever read that verse in the Bible that talks about "faith like a child"?  This is why.

Kendra and I regularly talk about hearing God's voice and expect to hear Him.  At the peak of our rock climbing I gave instructions to lay down on the rock and listen for God's voice for one minute in the midst of the silence.  It was really quiet up there.  one minute might not seem like a long time, but to a five-year-old with a view of the city and rocks to climb that could feel like an hour.

Anyway, as we lay on the rock I began to explain how God speaks in pictures, words, and senses.  Layla stopped me mid-sentence and said, "Shhhh...  God's talking to me."  I raised my eyebrows and shut my mouth.

After the minute was up we talked about what God said.  Easton heard God say he was proud of Easton for being a good brother and helping Layla.  Layla heard God say she is a warrior.  Sounds like things God would say.  Some people read a story like this and don't believe it.  There's a different verse for that.  It says: as he thinks in his heart, so is he.  That means if you don't believe God talks to you, then you're right. If you do believe God talks to you, then you're right.

Faith like a child.

See you soon!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Seeing Themselves In Utero

Greetings friends and family,

Almost 6 years ago we welcomed Easton and Layla into the world.  Because twins is considered "high risk", Kendra had ultrasounds every few weeks throughout her pregnancy.  It bothers me when couples say "we're pregnant!"  No, dude, you aren't.  If you die tomorrow SHE is still pregnant.  It's simple logic...

Anyway, we've been hanging onto the ultrasound videos waiting on the day when Easton and Layla would be old enough to understand what they are.  Well, today was the day.  After a lazy morning with just the 4 Webbs we ate breakfast and then had a few minutes of down time.  I ran across the ultrasound vidoes the other day and was waiting for just such a break.  This is Phoenix.  We don't have the proverbial "rainy day" to wait for these kinds of things.

I explained what the video was before we started and they were fascinated.  The screen shows "Twin A", which represents Layla.  Easton kept asking, "Where is Twin B?"  he waited patiently while Layla saw her own face from the inside of Mommy's belly.  She ran up to the TV to point out the heart, ribs, feet, and her angelic face.

At the end of this one they did a 3-D model for each of them.  The image is of Layla, but Easton was amazed to see Layla's sweet baby face in 3-D.  His 3-D didn't show up as well because Layla's foot kept bothering the imaging equipment as it scanned his face.

The only color in the ultrasound was the blood flowing through their heart.  They were amazed when they saw the blue and red flow of blood as their heart pumped.  Layla kept asking about each body part, "was my heart OK?  was my brain OK? was my leg OK?"  She was so concerned, but I reassured her every time that she is perfect and healthy and has been since she was growing in Mommy's belly.

I took the twins out for a rock climbing adventure.  The perfect weather shouldn't be wasted inside.  We'll have a whole summer of indoor activities, but right now it is time to make hay while the sun is shining.  We went to the trail where we sometimes hike, but instead of doing a cross-country hike along the trail we diverted off the side of the trail and went straight up the mountain.  The rock climbing was difficult enough that they had to scramble with their hands and feet to make it up the face of some huge boulders.

As we explored Easton noticed a car-sized cavern formed within some rocks.  They asked to climb inside so I gave my typical response of, "why not?"

They were a little overly confident in their ability to climb the big rocks, but I gave them guidance and boundaries.  Both of them said this was the best hike ever.  We jumped across some small gaps between the boulders and their balance was sufficient to avoid injury.  I consider this to be a successful outing.

On the trail they stopped to play in the sand.  Some parents and the earlier version of myself may have scolded them or disciplined them for picking up big hand-fulls of sand and letting it sift through their fingers.  I'm a lot more relaxed these days.  I stopped short of encouraging them to eat it.  They are kids and we live in the desert.  no biggie...

I took off work Friday afternoon to hang out with Easton.  He and I attended his school-mate's birthday party at Peter Piper Pizza.  The gaggle of six-year-old boys ran chaotically around the facility playing chase.  No tokens necessary.  Of course it eventually went that route though.  This is Easton with the birthday boy, Aiden.  He gave him a lego jet airplane as a gift, which put him in good company with the other kids.

I had a flashback and could not believe how much things are the same today as they were when I was 6.  Legos, Star Wars, and Matchbox were the three most common discussion topics and birthday gifts.  same as when I was 6...

The cake was delicious though.  the parents throwing the party were cool enough to order plenty of pizza and bring a huge cake to include the adults.

Before the party Easton had his first official golf lesson.  Oupa's instructional times were much more beneficial, but Easton had a great time at this place.  Big-kid lessons don't start until 7 years old, but for age 4-6 they have a 1-hour group lesson, once per month, for $5.  It was worth the trip.  The kids were split into groups of 5 and an instructor guided them through 4 holes that were 30-yards long each.  The clubs had huge plastic heads and the ball is essentially a tennis ball.

Easton's form went out the window because of the distracting new friends around who were even less disciplined than Easton when it comes to golf etiquette.

He did really well with hitting the ball in spite of the chaos.  Occasionally I would look away or check my phone while sitting in the pile of parents.  Easton was quick to call me out and say, "are you watching, Dad?"  I cheered him on consistently while the other parents sat silent.  Once in a while one would smile at me or get frightened as I blurt out encouraging words for Big Time.

The main coach is willing to give Easton private lessons for $20 an hour.  We might do a few of these next month if Easton's interest continues.  For now he is happy to play around while playing "a round" of golf with his new-found friends.

Layla and I didn't have any one-on-one time this weekend.  Even so, we shared several hours together with family time.  The thing she was most excited to tell me after school on Friday was that she earned an A+ on her first spelling bee quiz.  stars and smiles all the way around.

We are in our second week of listening to the Suzuki piano CD every day.  Layla is still interested enough to want lessons.  Easton asks when we can turn it off.  :)  So much fun having such different personalities and gifts for these two.

See you soon!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Rockets and Princesses

Greetings friends and family,

I'm back home safe from a three-day work trip to Sacramento.  My days were full of meetings, presentations, and project work, but completely absent of good-night songs, hugs, and child-like laughter.  Since I have no new material, here are the pics and the video of what I mentioned in the previous blog post.

Easton and Zander were very patient to learn how to launch and prepare the rocket each time.  They were excited, but self-controlled enough to get the rocket ready.

Easton experienced some sad endings to our rocket launching days of the past because sometimes the rockets end up in trees or back yards.  Not today though!  we recovered every launch and are ready for next time.

Easton asked me for a Hubble Space Telescope to interact with his space shuttles. I searched briefly online for a toy, but couldn't find a sufficient one with the size and detail I wanted.  I had this random thought of "maybe we can build one together?"  I went online and found this awesome website with directions and a pattern sheet. I printed off the materials list and we went to the hobby store.  I expected the build to be more kid-friendly, but it was not.  tedious is the most appropriate word I can think of.  Easton and I and even Dad, before he left, contributed over the course of 9 days!  Our kitchen table was a wreck.  Waiting for glue was biggest time delay.  Each tiny piece was cut with scissors from the stock paper and glued together.  Each day we would tackle a little bit and then wait for it to dry.

The results were worth it.  Easton was content to have it and I was proud to have built it.

Check out the level of detail and proportional size of the pieces! and the boys in the background lifted off from the launch pad with a destination of Hubble.

The Lego men worked on replacing the primary mirror (Easton's words, not mine) and Zander knew enough about space walks to carefully bounce along the edge of the shroud.  The model is sturdy and hangs from his fan light, but I'm not sure how many days it will survive before turning into a pinata.

Kendra took a couple of pictures of the girl's experience at the Disney on Ice performance.  Special princess cups were exorbitantly priced, but worth it to see their smiles and give the full experience.

Their seats were close and somewhat inexpensive.  I don't think the experience would have been twice as awesome if they were 10 rows closer where the tickets were twice as expensive.  There is a fine line between spoiling and treating a child to a good experience while keeping costs in mind.  The prince and princess left happily ever after.

Joya and Layla were both grateful for the special treat.  That makes it more likely to do something similar again in the future.  Gratitude goes a long way with kids and adults alike.

I'm going to sleep in my OWN bed! (hooray) and will be bright eyed and bushy tailed tomorrow morning for work.

See you soon.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I just want to blog!

Greetings friends and family,

I'm lonely, sort of, and I just want to blog.  I'm 700 miles from home so I miss Kendra and the twins.  I left my glasses at home so i'm slumped over my laptop with my nose a few inches from the screen.  I logged into my computer to blog and realized two problems. First, the images I uploaded from my computer at home didn't save to the blog file.  Second, this is the first time since rebuilding my laptop that I've attempted to mess with pictures.  Had to install paint shop pro, image resizer, and the jpeg lossless rotator for my iphone pics so they post properly to the blogger site.

Now finally i get a chance to share a little of the good stuff.  The weekend was terrifically busy because of church stuff and helping where we can.  Our pastor friends from church helped with the new building project all day Saturday.  We gladly offered to have their kids hang out with us for the day because Easton and Layla enjoy their company.

I took the boys outside for some fun in the sun.  We launched Easton's rocket 5 times at a local soccer field.  By the fifth one they repacked the rocket and prepared it for launch all by their selves.  It gets blurry because my DSLR is not very good at videos.  It wasn't really made for that, but here's a clip of their launch and recovery.

This is us being manly with our roar of accomplishment.

Meanwhile, what would Kendra do with two lovely girls for the day?  I threw out the idea of going to see Disney on Ice, Rockin' Ever After  Kendra agreed and the girls were ready to go in a flash.  It's amazing how quickly Layla can get fully dressed and ready to go when the destination is and ice skating performance.

I have several other pictures, but I only have my phone.  Sunday was a blur.  Monday morning at 5:00 am (that's right... AM) I headed to the airport for a flight to Sacramento.  We flew over my house and I took a photo just about the same time Kendra was leaving to drop the kids off at school.  Through the magic of wifi on the airplane I sent her the picture and said how much I miss her already.

the great thing about being in Sacramento is that I'm tackling my temporary "new job" with great results.  it's not any more difficult than my previous job, but the visibility and penalty for failure are both higher.  Also, as a bonus I get to spend a couple of evenings with Ouma and Oupa.  I'll be back home in no time, but for now I'm focused on work while getting paid to spend time with family.  can't beat that deal!

See you soon.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Layla on Ice

Greetings friends and family,

We have a whole mess of new adventures in process for the 4 Webbs.  The twins have a small electronic keyboard they've been banging on for a couple of years.  They play on it every few weeks, but now it's time to get serious about learning.  We went to our friend's house for a special occasion.  Cisco and Anna invite one lucky family each year to enjoy turkey tacos with their family.  We were the chosen family and gladly joined them for an evening of dinner and conversation.

After dinner they are only good for a few minutes of adult conversation.  Then they get antsy and look for something to entertain them or occupy their time.  Layla noticed a piano off in the corner.  Easton was uninterested, but Layla asked to go play around.  She gently played a random tune of jumbled notes.  As we were getting ready to leave the oldest son, Jacob, opened the piano seat storage and pulled out this book and these CDs.

To our surprise he offered to give them to us.  Layla graciously accepted the curriculum and his instructions on how to successfully learn to play with the Suzuki method.

We know it works because he is one of the pianists at our church.

That's proof enough that whatever Suzuki is really works.  The first step is to listen to the hour-long CD of piano music every day for 14 days.  Then, find a teacher who applies this method and get some lessons.  Easton is almost completely uninterested in instruments, but he will learn to play something or sing whether he likes it or not, in time.  It's important to learn music, but it's so much more enjoyable when a child finds an instrument they choose to learn.  We'll see how it goes with Layla's piano playing.

The other new adventures revolve around skating.  Kendra took the twins to the skate park with her friend and her friend's kids.  She didn't get any pics of that, but I also went with them.  They had such a great time that they begged me to take them the next day.  They skate on their three-wheel scooter.  They didn't care that other kids have the Razor scooter or skateboard.  they were just happy to roll around the park.

I invited my friend, David, and his son.  He is a long-time skater so I trusted him with my most precious kiddos.  He offered to do a tandem ride to give the twins a sense of what it feels like to ride a skateboard through the park.

They smiled and giggled with excitement.  When they experience something like this they believe it is possible.   That's the first step towards accomplishing anything.  I am not a big fan of broken bones or hospital trips.  Luckily, neither are the twins.  They also aren't adrenaline junkies so I'm not worried about this turning into X-games danger level.

Back at home they are too big for their bicycles and too small for the mid-sized ones we were given by a neighbor and our church friend.  They are in this in-between stage where training wheels are still required because they are too scared to ride without them.  Yet they aren't big enough to handle the 20 inch wheeled bikes yet.  At least they have their Y-bikes to fill the gaps.  They show off for neighbor kids by riding backwards and through the rocks.  Nothing wrong with enjoying what you have and being proud of it.

They are getting more adventurous at the playground now.  Thank goodness times have changed to discontinue metal slides that burn your skin off as you slide down.  There is still some element of danger though as they climb plenty high to hurt themselves if they were to fall.  I gladly let them climb!

It's good to give them the freedom to take chances and learn.

Speaking of learning...  guess who started ice skating lessons!  This girl.

I skipped out on a late afternoon work meeting so that I could enjoy Layla's first day on the ice.  As we were signing up, the lady helping us said, "I've never seen a girl so excited to skate before!"

We showed up early because I didn't know what to expect for getting her signed up.  She went straight out to the ice where kids were twirling and skating.  She stepped out onto the ice and befriended three other little girls who were not rookies. They asked me, "can we teach her how to skate?"  I agreed and off she went.  By "off she went" I mean she hung onto the side railing and monkey-walked her way down the row.

She came back slowly so I could get her picture and cheer her on.

Then it was time for her real lesson.  It is supposed to be a group lesson, but the 4-year-old on the right of this next picture was the only other person in her newbie group.  He was bundled up like the stay-puffed Marshmallow Man.  He cried non-stop until his mom finally gave up and left.  Worked out great for Layla!  personal one-on-one lesson with a very nice teacher.  They practiced falling as a skill in the foyer.

When Layla learned to properly fall they went out for a first run across the ice.  Layla was not scared one bit, but she just had no skills to draw from.  She started exactly where every olympic skater in the world starts:  at zero.

Ten minutes into the lesson Layla was already on her own!

Layla was continually facing side-to-side so I didn't get many direct shots.  However, her smile is so big in this next picture that there it is visible even from the side.

She was in heaven.  Her own little magical world of success; one glide at a time.  Layla stopped to wave when she saw me watching her on the other side of the glass.

Layla sometimes gets the "I'm an expert" attitude about 10 minutes after taking on a new sport or capability.  Not so, on the ice.  She was attentive and followed instructions very well.  I could see, without hearing, enough to recognize her focus and willingness to learn.

Towards the end Layla's teacher spun her around in circles so that she could feel what it is like to spin on the ice.  That made her day.

Afterwards I met with the instructor to find out what gear we need to buy so she can be successful.  She said we have everything we need and then commented on Layla's enthusiasm.  She said, "I've been teaching for over 15 years and I've never seen a girl so enthusiastic about skating for the first time."  I take that as a compliment.

We added her weekly lesson on the fridge calendar.  She checks every morning to notice how many more sleeps until she gets on the ice again.  I'm not sure how far she will pursue ice skating, but I'm certain she will last through the 8 weeks of lessons.

Next week is Easton's first golf lesson.  'Tis the season!

See you soon.