Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Multicultural Kids

Greetings friends and family,

We happily visit friends with dogs because Easton and Layla enjoy playing with them.  We also happily declare our house as "pet-free" because we don't want to deal with pancreatitis, allergies, puke, or the cost of shots, food, replacement shoes, and furniture repair.  I imagine our feelings towards enjoyment of dogs to grandparenting.  Yes, we love dogs!  and we love to say good-bye and go home to a clean, quiet house.  

Our friend Matthew moved to North Phoenix and invited us to hang out for lunch.  He has a puppy the twins wore out playing together.

The puppy was pooped, but the twins never run out of energy.  ever.  So Matthew brought out his bongos to play on.  Layla is learning self-control.  The phrase "pianissimo" is not in her vocabulary.  She only knows one speed: Forte Fortissimo! (music; as loud as can be played)

Easton jumped into the fray with his own style of finger drumming.  Their melodies were frantic at best, but everyone starts somewhere.

Matthew gave them some basic training and played some examples of what it should sound like.

We also experienced a rare occasion where we truly just hung out.  We talked while sitting in the shade looking at the hills around his house.  The light breeze and perfect temperatures made it a perfect occasion to just chill.  Easton and Layla don't do this much.  I know it's our own making because they are never bored or required to just... be.  When there is a lull in the action at home they build a fort and play kitties and puppies or grab crayons and color.  Kendra says all six-year-olds have trouble sitting and doing absolutely nothing.  It may be normal, but it's not good.  We converse over dinner and during car rides with no problem, but just sitting and doing nothing is a foreign concept.  I'll search for solutions of how to build the skill of doing nothing, but i doubt there is a book for teaching six-year-olds the art of nothingness.

Another developing story is Layla's teeth that won't come out.  See those two big teeth behind the row of baby teeth?  Yeah, that's a problem.  Come to find out, Kendra had NINE teeth pulled out.  Layla is setup to spend several trips to the dentist over the next couple of years.  She'll have to get the front two teeth pulled out to make room for her adult teeth coming in.  I'm hoping for some good video of the trip home from the dentist.

And now we get to the multicultural event at the twin's school.  The first 20 minutes was just a bunch of kids hugging and talking.  It's not like they saw each other 3 hours earlier.  oh wait... they did just spend the entire day together.  The atmosphere was more like a 20 year high school reunion.  kindergartners are so funny to watch interact.  This is one of Layla's friends who I can't remember her name.  All I know is that she had both puppies on her head claiming she had "puppy ears".

After the 3rd grade class did a cheesy song and dance we wandered the halls where each class displayed their artwork and crafts associated with the country they studied.  Layla studied the Netherlands.  The windmill to her right with the rainbow colors is hers.  no surprise there.

They also had tulips with their picture hiding behind the petals.  I'm not sure how tulips are related to the Netherlands, but it was cute to see anyway.

Layla also learned about Van Gogh.  She did a great job of coloring the stenciled copy of his famous starry night painting.

I'm happy to see their school is giving them a broad view of the world and valuing other cultures.  The world they work in will be "global" in ways we never thought possible.  That reminds me... they better get to learning Spanish soon.  After viewing all of the contents of Layla's classwork we perused Easton's class.  They studied Russia.  He colored this Matryoshka doll, which was stuck to a toilet paper roll to add depth.  It's art!

His masterpiece was this picture with facts about Russia.  The picture he drew was of a rocket because, well, everything is measured by space travel according to Easton.

He brought this gem home school this week.  It says, "when i grow up I want to be" with a blank line.  he wrote:  a astrnot.  Then, at the bottom, the text says, "because" with a blank line.  He wrote: I want to go to mars.

Kendra and I looked at this and realized his fascination with space travel is more than just a fad of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or a superhero phase.  Whatever lights his fire!

See you soon.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Golf and Goat Pee

Greetings friends and family,

Summer is officially here.  I don't care what the calendar says.  when the 4 Webb's pool is 78 degrees, it's summer.

This video clip is random and funny.  Easton swims like a fish!  The end is especially humorous when Layla tells me my hair is turning white because I'm getting old. Truth comes from the mouths of children!

I have a golf tournament coming up and a new set of clubs to break in.  I'm ready to make the jump from my 18 year old set of Big Bertha irons to Dad's set of Ping clubs.  I can't believe it's been 18 years of golfing with the same set of clubs.  Dad bought me that set when I was still in college!  I certainly got his money's worth out of them.

I took Easton to the range to hit a bucket of balls.  We ate a burger in the golf course restaurant while watching a live PGA tournament on TV.  As you can imagine, Easton had a dozen questions for every stroke and commentator's comment.  Nothing gets by this kid.  We hit 100 balls together.  Check out the flex on that driver!

The three guys behind Easton in this next picture paused to watch him hit.  Their encouraging compliments were well received.  He may be getting a little cocky...  He declared this as "the best day ever" as we drove home.  Mission accomplished, Dad.

We had a whole Saturday with nothing to do.  By nothing I mean, no appointments, no visitors, no ministry, no travel, no nothing.  We sat Friday evening staring at our calendar and saying, "there must be some mistake?  We have nothing?"  No mistake though.  it was true!  Kendra and I and Layla slept in Saturday, which hasn't happened since the last blood red moon.  Notice I didn't include Easton in that. Mr. Happy Sunshine is waking up earlier and earlier because of the sun's pattern.

We had breakfast as a family, then went to the movies to see Rio 2.  The dust storm was blowing through with high wind so we were happy to enjoy some time indoor together.  After the movie we share a plate of hummus and vegetables at the Pita Jungle.  Not sure how many other six-year-olds cheer when Mom and Dad say, "we're going to have hummus and veggies for lunch!" but ours do.
The weather cleared up enough to go to the zoo for a 2-mile stroll through the animals.

We stopped by the Scarlet Macaws exhibit to see and hear the actual birds portrayed in the Rio 2 movie.  Easton and Layla had an "ah-ha!" moment when tying the movie and real life together.

Lovely Layla picked flowers as we walked along the paths between animal cages.  She tucked a flower inside another and said it looked more artistic this way.  She's got an eye for beauty as always.

The twins took a rest in a carved-out tree trunk.  I told them I wanted to take a picture and they posed like this.

Then I sat with Kendra to do our best to recreate the pose.  They really are mini-me versions of Kendra and I.  My favorite part of the zoo trip was holding Kendra's hand as we walked along the path together.  Casually watching Easton and Layla run between cages is a much more enjoyable experience than pushing them around in a baby stroller.

This is as close to farm equipment as they get since we are raising urban city-kids.  I like this picture of the twins though.  It is a real joy to watch their personalities and imaginations develop.

We also stopped by the petting zoo to pester the goats.  Layla found this one to claim as her own.  A lady near by noticed the goat had a plastic bottle lid in its mouth.  I calmly grabbed the goat's face and pried his mouth open.  The lady was attempting to get the lid out of it's mouth, but wasn't courageous enough to stick her hand in there.

The zoo keeper saw me across the way and yelled, "Hey! what are you doing to the goat?"  All eyes of the 40 or so bystanders glared at me in disbelief.  I wasn't thinking about it at the time, but it probably looked like I was abusing the poor goat for no reason.  The zoo keeper walked over to give me an ear full, but then noticed the plastic lid I was trying to keep from going down the goat's throat.  The zoo keeper grabbed the lid out it's mouth and her demeanor changed quickly when she realized I was trying to help.

She never announced my heroism to the bystanders so they probably still think I'm a goat abuser, but Layla thinks I'm a hero and that's all that matters.

By the way, as a "thank you" when we were leaving, the goat peed on Layla's shoe.  She's a princess, but not afraid of a little goat pee.  She didn't freak out or cry.  She simply said, "Can you explain this to Mom for me?  I don't think she's going to be happy about this."

I used this as teachable moment for Layla.  I said, "even when you help someone, they may pee on your shoe, but you know in your heart what you did is right and that's all that matters.  We help others no matter what they do or don't do in return"  That's sound advice for any kindergartner!

See you soon.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Braids Abound

Greetings friends and family,

The 4 Webbs are having a weird experience right now.  The past 4 evenings were spent at home.  I know...  big whoopitee do, right?  Well, for Kendra and I to have this much free time to choose what to do or not do with this many evenings in a row is almost bizarre.  One evening Kendra and I went to bed at 8:30 and read books before we drifted off to sleep before 10:00.  It was magical.  I hope to repeat that wonderful experience more often over the next few weeks and months.  Easton asked one night, "are you and Mommy going to sleep now too?"  I was happy to respond with a big head nod and a firm, "yes! We are going right to bed very soon."  

Kendra and Layla are getting deep into the hair braiding stage.  At Layla's request, Kendra braided her hair in a style similar to the princesses in the Disney Frozen movie.  I was highly impressed and Layla was on cloud 9 showing everyone in sight.

The fun doesn't stop there though.  Now it's Layla's turn to braid Kendra's hair as often as she'll let her.

Easton received his report card and it looks like this:

while there are some areas to work on, I'm really proud of his scholastic aptitude.  I'm sure we'll have a happy graduation time and preparation for 1st grade over the summer.  Never stop learning!

Easton missed a day of school because of his fever.  He was perfectly fine after school, but then came into our bedroom crying and shaking and on fire with a high temperature at 3:00 AM.  We gave him a hot bath, he snuggled in our bed for about 30 minutes and then went back to bed.  The next morning he woke as cool as cucumber and back to his normal, happy self.

Kendra kept him home for one day to make sure he was not contagious.  I was at work, but from the picture and both of their responses they had a great time together.

The twins have a wall-art frame hanging by their rooms.  It contains a collection of all kinds of art and memorabilia.   Some from school and some from playing around the house.  Kendra made the art collector by inserting the cork board into the big frame.  Once the school year is over we'll clear the decks and start over fresh again.

We had costume dinner night.  As I filtered through Layla's dresses with her to select the perfect evening attire I came across this gem:  Easton's first space suit.

It is way too small for him to wear anymore, but I don't think I can part with it... ever.  If he decides tomorrow that space stuff is uninteresting and never talks about it again, I'll still have all these awesome memories in my head of seeing what passion and dreaming and imagination were meant to be.  I don't want him to live out my dreams, but I want to support him in reaching his own as long as he is interested in pursuing them.

Easton can't understand why Layla doesn't have a desire to learn and talk about space.  I said, "well, you don't share her enjoyment of princess stuff.  it's OK that you have your own passions and delights.  We celebrate that around our house!"

he agreed, but I could tell he is so enthralled with the universe that he can't imagine anyone, especially Layla, not loving it as much as he does.

I'm excited for a fun weekend coming up and spending time with Kendra and the twins.  Only two weeks left.  Only a couple of more weeks until Kendra leaves me with the twins so she can have some free time in Sacramento with her friends and family.  It is shaping up to be a monumental week for her and us too!

See you soon.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sports Activities Galore

Happy Easter friends and family,

We've been making the most of the last spring weather days before summer.  Our greenbelt is ripe for games of chase and the toss game.  Layla is working on coordination and timing.  Her approach includes a few practice swings back and forth before flinging in across to the other side.

Easton's coordination is smooth, but he's working on controlling his strength to avoid overshooting the bars by several yards.  standing behind the structure is a sure-fire way to get smacked.  I said, "whoa, dude!  take some mustard off that hot dog."  Then, he repeated the phrase and followed it with copious amounts of laughter.

Guess who is a member of the  United States Golf Association?  Nope, not me.  Easton.  He's a card-carrying member thanks to a super cheap deal I found online.  The welcome package in the mail included this hat.  It's a little too big, but I know he'll grow into it.

I took Uno and Dos out for a day of fun.  We went to the library where we checked out a new batch of books about the Mars rover and princess ballerinas.  Our waitress asked, "are you two twins?"  They still have that friendly attraction and similar size that leads to people asking.  Usually people ask me if they are twins, but at some point they started asking them directly and skipping the parents.

After lunch we went to the driving range.  This was Layla's first time.  On the way there Easton said, "I'll show you how to swing, Layla."  He is so confident in his own golf skills that he thinks he is a teacher.  Layla agreed to be open to instruction and correction.  I had to set those guidelines before we went to the range.  Otherwise she would get one good swing and then inform us that she is an expert who doesn't need anymore training.  The range was full of people.  Some of them became a visibly frustrated because when Layla had a good hit she would cheer.  loudly.  That's not a part of the golf culture, but Layla is learning and I had plenty of grace to teach her the fundamentals and etiquette.

Easton smacked the snot out of the ball several times and caught the attention of our neighbors, not because of his exuberance, but for his technique and skill.  

Then we spent 30 minutes on the green putting.  Layla's first time was comical because there are rules and etiquette that we take for granted.  She whacked the ball across the entire green.  Her ball cruised by 4 holes and 4 golfers.  That was embarrassing, but then she followed it up with a sprint across the green.  She stepped on a stranger's ball, a stranger's foot, and two stranger's line between them and the cup.  She picked up her ball and sprinted back through the gauntlet while smiling and waving at the audience of golfers with their hands on their hips.  This was one of the many occasions where a harsh word would have done more harm than good.  She simply didn't know any better!  who's fault is that?  certainly not hers.  If anything, it is my fault for not giving her a clear understanding of the expectations prior to going to the driving range.

They were having a great time playing closest to the pin.  I informed them it was time to go home and they were sad to leave.  Their melancholy mood displayed in this next picture is a result of telling them we had to leave.  Until next time, golf buddies.

Layla's teacher asked her for a picture of her ice skating.  I looked back through the months of pictures and realized I don't have many that are light enough and clear enough to print.  I took my trusty camera this past week to Layla's lesson to fix that.

Layla's private lessons are quickly coming to a stop because they cost a small fortune.  Her teacher, Jaime, is well worth the price, but unless she were planning to be in the olympics I don't think we can justify it.  Group lessons were less pricey, but with the closure of the local facility there are no more group lessons available close to our house.

I drove her out to Gilbert where Jaime teaches during the remodel.  Layla has a blast learning from her.

I caught their attention on one of their rounds and as you can see they are all smiles all the time.

After her lesson was over I stayed around for another hour while Layla skated around on her own.  Well, she was sort of on her own.  She's so friendly that she met a new skating friend named Annie.

Within a couple of minutes they were skating hand-in-hand and talking up a storm.

Even after Annie was off the ice and Layla completed 90 minutes of ice time she was still beaming with smiles while practicing her moves.  It's hard to say no to her request to skate after witnessing this much joy coming from her.

We had a happy Easter.  Unfortunately I haven't downloaded the pictures yet except for this one I took by our front door after church.  It's my new favorite picture of the 4 Webbs because Kendra looks hot like always and the twins look 3 years older than I think they should.  I am proud of us as we soak in the last bits of their kindergarten age.

See you soon!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Javelina and the Moon

Greetings friends and family,

There are very few pictures of Kendra and I together that make it to the blog.  For one, somebody has to take the pictures and secondly, Kendra and I have to be together.  Those two things don't coincide often enough. Part of my goals for the next 3 months is to experience more of these moments.

My work place has give-aways and I won tickets to go see the AZ coyote's play some hockey.  Two tickets for $175?  yeah, they really are that expensive and I would never pay that amount of money to go watch hockey.  however, I will take free tickets and pay for gas and parking and a babysitter.  We even extended our time together by having dinner out before the game.  Sitting across the table from her and then right next to her at the game was a breath of fresh air for me.  It was also a breath of cold air inside the arena.

If you can't trust your wife with a 40 caliber Glock, then you married the wrong woman.  At least, that's the way I look at it.  Kendra has always been cautious about guns because she hasn't been around them much.  However, after she completed the Concealed Carry Weapon class, she is much more open to the idea.  We are planning a night out with Jacob at the shooting range so that Kendra can dump some rounds.  He thought it would be best to have gun lesson 101 at our house instead of trying to explain everything with earmuffs and loud guns blazing at the shooting range.  I was happy to have his expertise and explanation to get Kendra even more comfortable with handling a firearm.

That same night was a cosmic hat-trick.  I've been keeping tabs on what celestial events to bring Easton into.  This was a biggie.  1.  the full moon  2.  Mars was closer than it has been since before Easton was born  3.  lunar eclipse with blood red moon, which hasn't happened in my lifetime.

My friend Scott was kind enough to let us borrow his telescope.  I set it up before sunset so that we wouldn't have to work through that hassle in the dark.  I wanted to keep it a secret from the twins so they wouldn't get all fired up before bedtime, but their inquisitive minds were no match for my clunky secret skills.

Easton is usually asleep within minutes, if not seconds, of his head hitting the pillow.  Not so much this night.  He didn't sleep a wink.  He kept coming to the back door to see watch us talking on the patio.  Finally I gave in and invited him out to see the sight of a lifetime.  Before we started star-gazing he went in to wake up Layla, but she was not interested in the slightest bit to wake up and join us.

We saw the moon in all it's white glory and then zoomed in on Mars.  Instead of a tiny dot as seen with the naked eye, it was a big dot in the telescope that kept moving out of view.  Easton was super excited to have seen such a sight.  I sent him to bed and he quickly went to sleep.  Then I went back in around midnight and woke him up to see the red moon.  it looked like this:

He was only awake about 5 minutes and then I sent him right back to bed.  He is convinced he didn't actually see it, but  I promise he did and loved it.

One evening we had our friends and their pre-teen kids over.  I needed to go back to our geocache to get the coordinates corrected so I took Easton and Layla and TT and Ben.  We headed down the trail and up the mountain.  something trotted out a bush a few yards away.  We stopped in our tracks and watched as four female Javelina walked by.  I've only seen a couple in 10 years of hiking and riding on South Mountain, but this day we saw four females in a pack.

Then, as we climbed higher after validating the coordinates of the geocache we spotted two male Javelina with tusks.  again we watched carefully and quietly as the wandered away from us.  The adventuring on the mountain was the highlight of my week as far as time with the twins is concerned.  we had a great time together and adding in the other two kids was a real bonus because they are good with kids.  You can see Ben her pointing out some thing in the trail as we headed back down from the mountain.

The downside of the geocache experiment is that I found out park rangers are disallowing geocaches inside the park.  arrrrrg!  So now we head back to the drawing board to find a new home for our container.  So much to learn and many more adventures to be had!

See you soon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spend It All

Greetings friends and family,

We are in a short weird season of Arizona where the days are too hot to play in the park, but too cold to swim in the pool.  It only last for a couple of weeks, but happens twice each year.  We are playing inside more than normal, which includes bringing out some toys from the closet that haven't had much visibility lately.  The Wacky Wigglers is one such toy.  It is still above their level of independence to build these contraptions, but with a little Daddy-supervisor oversight we created this monstrosity together.  Once it is built they can play with it for hours all by themselves.

Easton is into gears and wheels.  Layla is into art and life.  I am so happy that my job as a Dad isn't to make her like gears or make him like art. My job is just to train them up in the way they are designed.  Her school did a project where they put a few beans in a bag with a paper towel and water.  The beans grew to fill the plastic bag and then were sent home to do whatever they like.  Layla and I planted hers into a cup with fresh soil.  I'm not sure what this plant will become or how big it gets, but we're on the journey of growth together!

Another area of growth is with money.  Easton and Layla are continually driven towards the "give, then save, then spend" model of money management.  They never really knew what the spend container was for until now.  They put the first money into the give container, which then goes to church every Sunday.  They give that happily to the tithe's and offering.  Then they put the next money in the save container, which never gets touched. ever.  Then, what's left they put into the spend container.  Once in a while we would take a few bucks out to spend at the dollar store, but I decided it was time to really have some fun.  They emptied the coins and bills on the table then counted out the dollars.  Then we stacked the coins so I could explain comparisons of how many pennies make a dime and how many nickels make a quarter.

Once we had an accurate count of how much each one had I said, "let's go shopping!"  They responded half-heartedly and asked, "for what?"  I informed them we were going to Toys 'R Us to spend their money, up to the amount they have, on anything they want.  They were stunned while looking at each other to see if the other person understood what I was saying.  Layla said, "wait a minute.  do you mean we can buy anything in the store we want as long as it costs less than the money we have?"


Their minds were blown.  I could tell by their expression that I just unlocked a whole new world they never even considered.  We loaded up the van and headed to biggest toy store in our town.  As we walked inside, a man invited us to participate in their promotion of the Lego movie.  We just happened to arrive within the 2 hour window of the promotional event.  Easton and Layla each received a bag of Legos and instructions for how to build a car or plane.  Layla jumped right in and had her car half-way built before Easton a chance to get his out of the packaging.  

Guess which one Easton chose between the car or plane instructions?  I know... silly question.  the plane of course.

It was like watching Forest Gump assemble a rifle.

Easton and Layla finished and looked around like, "that's it?"  Their minds are thinking about a 2005 piece space shuttle with 189 steps.  This moment was priceless for me because it was the visible example of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. who said, "A mind, once expanded by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions"

The previous event when we went to see the Lego movie was equally fun for them to build things, but they weren't able to take home their creations.  They were both happy to have correctly assembled their vehicles and even more happy to take it home with them.

Then we went shopping.  I turned them loose in the store (one at a time) where we price checked hundreds of items to find one that fits into their budget.  As a father I could have given into their request to buy the items that were a few dollars more than their budget, but I didn't!  I could have easily given in, but instead used it as a teachable moment to explain debt and credit.  If the money isn't in your hand, then you shouldn't buy it.  If you don't have the money to pay for it then you don't deserve it.  Even more than that, the blessing of finances can quickly become a curse or burden.  I want to pass on the blessings and that only happens when they are taught.

Of all the things in Toys R Us under $35.88, Layla chose a princess pet salon and Easton chose an F22 Raptor fighter jet.

The joy of earning their own money and spending to buy what they choose brought in a whole mindset for the twins.  I foresee several new opportunities for making money and keeping account of their spend container much more closely.

Even though their spend container is virtually empty, the save container is full to the top and ready for a trip to the bank to open an account.  Not sure what the age limits are on these, but I want them to manage their own accounts as soon as legally possible.  I remember Lori Page in the 3rd grade had her own check book. Not sure why I remember that, but it always stuck with me as one of those moments where I said, "that's really possible?  hmmm."

Anyway, I have a bunch of other new adventures and stories to share whenever I get the time to sort pictures and post them.  Our first geocache creation project is almost published.  It'll show up here when it gets approved:  Lion's Cave Geocache

See you soon!