Thursday, July 30, 2015

Legoland for the First Time

Greetings friends and family,

Easton and Layla woke up on Legoland morning not knowing what we were going to do.  I let Chip, Ouma's cousin's husband, break the news since they are the ones who made it possible with a free place to stay and free tickets to Legoland.  The twins cheered and hugged like the moment when Miss America is crowned as the winner.  Wish i had the video camera rolling, but I was too busy enjoying the moment.  Meanwhile, in beautiful downtown Burbank... I mean, back at the Webb house, Kendra spent a week with her long-time friend, April.  She stayed for a week and they had an amazing time together from what Kendra said.  They slept in and left the house whenever they wanted to without caring for the kids or me.

I arrived at Legoland bright and early as the park opened.  We walked into the main gates and the twins were overdosed on Lego goodness from that moment on.  I'll cut to the chase and list out every attraction and ride we enjoyed.  The age-appropriate rides fall into several ranges based on height.  48 inches is the sweet spot because they can ride every ride in the park.  Although some rides like the Knights' Tournament require an adult to ride with them under 55 inches.  Also, the Knights' Tournament requires the removal of all earrings.  For this reason, Easton rode and Layla watched because she didn't want to take hers out.  Anyway, here's the list:

Splash battle
Captain crankys challenge
Royal joust
The hideaways
The dragon
Beetle bounce
Star Wars display
San Francisco miniland remote control boats
Kid power towers
Driving school
The big test - show
Skipper school
Bionical blaster

One of their favorites was the Driving school.  A large Lego "city" with streets and a real driving experience.  They both did great on this and rode it twice in a row because the line was so short in the morning.

There are massive Lego sculpture like attractions all over the park like this big shark.  I love their scared faces.

The Bionical Blaster is like the teacup ride in Disneyland.  I rode it with them and no one puked.  I call that a success.

There is a Lego Friends area of the park that we didn't get to spend much time in, but when Layla saw all these lifesize figures she wanted a picture with them.

The boats were another cool ride where Easton and Layla were the captain of their own ship.  I could have rode with them, but they were willing to steer their own separate boat around so I agreed.  Layla was in a traffic jam making friends as they motored around.

Easton was completely focused on staying between the bumpers and avoiding other boats.  He said, "slow and steady wins the race, right Dad?"  as he puttered by.

The bathroom signs across the park are Lego people with funny body postures.  I convinced the twins to mimic the boy and girl on the signs.

Not many pictures with me in them because I was either participating in the ride or capturing pics and video of them experiencing the magic of their first time there.

That brings me to the big "ah-ha" moment or revelation I had from these two days of adventures.  I capture the first and the fun adventures, but I never capture the last.  I love seeing their minds expand and their hearts soar as they experience life adventures.  However, for every first there is a last.  I can't remember the last time Easton spit up and needed burping when he was a baby.  There was some change that made that particular aspect of daily life no longer necessary or acceptable.  I can't remember the last time the twins took a bath together.  At some point we figured out they were too old for that and it stopped.  Or the last time Layla did the hot-dog dance from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.   She's too coll for that now and there is no picture or blog to commemorate the loss of the hot-dog dance.  I'm not sad about it, just a realization that for every "first" and blog-worthy adventure there will also be a "last".  My greatest joy is being involved in the moment without taking it for granted.

See you soon!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Queen Mary Tour

Welcome aboard, friends and family!

The 4 Webbs...  I mean... three of us, without Kendra, drove south from Sacramento to hit the East side of the LBC.  That's Long Beach for those of you who didn't grow up with Warren G.  Kendra rested peacefully at home during her two-week marathon of joyful alone-ness.  Along the way we stopped to gas up and wash the bug guts off of the windshield.  The twins jumped out of the van and begged to help wash.  How very helpful of them.

The trip there was uneventful, but the anticipation was so thick in our van because they had no idea where we were going.  We pulled into the port at Long Beach and Easton looked out his window.  The massive smoke stacks of the Queen Mary cruise ship caught his eye and he pointed out how real it looked to Layla.  I had them watch a documentary on Netflix the day before so they knew what it looked like.  They began questioning what it was and I wish I had that moment on video.  We stepped out of the van with furrowed brows as they tried to figure out how the thing off in the distance looked so real. I informed them it was the REAL Queen Mary and they burst into loud screams of disbelief and excitement.  Once they settled down long enough to turn away from the ship I took this.

We went aboard the ship and Easton noticed a sign that had the word "Lego" on it.  This was another surprise he had no idea about, but I did.  It's the biggest Lego ship in the world and it's a replica of the ship it sits in.  Easton was beside himself.  Layla was impressed.  The worker lady mentioned there is a Princess Leia Lego minifigure onboard somewhere.  We spent the next 10 minutes finding the Princess...

Here's a short video clip of the first few moments when we discovered the hidden treasure of the Lego Queen Mary.

Once we exhausted the worker from the twins' relentless questions we did an audio tour of the ship.  These are the guns that were added when she hauled troops during WWII.

The bow was massive and amazing.  It's hard to describe the magnitude of this thing, but anyone who's been on a big cruise ship already has a correct mental image.

I asked Layla to climb up on this for a picture and she immediately struck a pose like a princess.  I guess 5,000 pictures per year has an effect on how comfortable a kid is in front of the camera...

One of the long walkways inside the ship contained massive models of other ships.  The first thing Easton said when he saw the hall of models was, "where is the Titanic?"  and he sniffed it out.

Exposing the twins to new, mind-expanding concepts is one of my favorite things in life.  It's just a ship, but I love these moments where they comprehend the size and scale of something so much bigger than them.

The haunted tour was included in our Groupon package and was supposed to last 45 minutes.  Layla made it for 4 minutes.  When they shut the lights off over the first class pool and turned on the spooky lights and screams of a little girl, it was all over for Layla.  She cried and cuddled next to me asking to leave.  I quickly motioned to the tour guide and he showed me to the chicken exit.  We popped out into the light and I felt horrible for a few minutes as Layla recovered.  Easton was not phased one bit.  I was most proud of him for comforting Layla with hugs and reassuring words that everything is OK.

We joined the historical tour and listed to the boring old dude drone on about useless facts.  Luckily, the twins were mesmerized by their surroundings that we didn't have to depend on the zombie-like guide to keep us entertained.  The ship was more than enough.

Easton asked to see the engine room repeatedly so when we got there we spent a while in awe and wonder taking in the size of one of the fastest cruise ships ever built.

There wasn't much to touch or do on the tour.  It was entirely historical and visual, but occasionally the twins found something legal to climb on.

My last surprise of the event was dinner aboard the Queen Mary.  We ate at Chelsea's Chowder House.  They thought they were royalty.  It's possible to stay the night inside the hotel portion of the ship, but we were content to just share a nice dinner together.

We drove on down the coast to Carlsbad where we stayed the night with Chip, Ouma's cousin's husband.  Her cousin works at Legoland and she offered us free tickets to Legoland and a place to sleep for free.  There's no way I could pass up that kind of an offer.    The sunset over the ocean is a rare background for these two desert dwellers.

See you soon!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Summer of Love

Greetings friends and family,

The 4 Webbs are reunited at our home and ready to get on with life as just the 4 Webbs once again after four months of amazing help during Kendra's healing process.  I have a lot to catch up on so the next few days will include all the adventures and excitement from our waning summer days before starting school in a week.

I haven't made it into very many pictures with the twins lately.  I've been the one behind the camera capturing life as it happens.  Ouma was kind enough to get this one for me on request. It's completely staged and posed, but the part I like about the picture is how Easton and Layla are both able to climb up in my lap and hang out with me.  Their perception of the past two weeks together will never match mine and that is perfectly fine.  They spent all day with Ouma and Oupa while I went to work like normal.  The evenings and weekends were full-throttle daddy time though.  That part we will agree on.  We've spent many days and nights together as just the 3 Webbs without Mommy, but there hasn't been a single outing where we didn't miss her terribly.

Aunt Joan's pool provided a private resort for us to get away and have fun together with cousins and other family.  I wasn't there for many of these trips to swim, but their faces show the silly fun we all had together.

Our last night in Sacramento was a grand finale of cousin time at Aunt Susie's house.  Her pool and back yard are plenty big to host all of us comfortably.  All of the Thomas cousins were present except Heather and her family.  The twins were over stimulated by all the family buzzing around and splashing in the pool.  They jumped right in as if they were locals though.

Here's the cousin pic of 2015 because there won't be another one this year that includes more of them together than this.

The newest edition to the family was not a baby.  It is Barbie who is now the fiance of Casey.  I call her sister and we welcomed her into our family a long time before Casey even popped the question.  The twins enjoy spending time with these two because of their willingness to get down on their level of fun.

There will be a day when Layla is too old to ride on Oupa's back, but this is not that day.  They've had more days of grandparent interaction in the past four months than in the past two years combined as we walk through Kendra's healing process.  They have sacrificed more of their time and helped be the hands and feet necessary to keep our family afloat than anyone else.

Dozens of people have given their time, talent, and treasure in amazing ways that we can never repay.   Gifts, money, cleaning, listening ears, cards, and encouragement are examples of the many ways people have given.  However, the most important thing people have done for us is pray.  I'm grateful for every kind gesture and every time Kendra's name is brought up in prayer.  This was truly the summer of love.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Happy and Sad

Greetings friends and family,

My blog is called the 4Webbs, but this is the longest span of time since the twins were born that we are not all together.  It'll be 14 days apart when our trip is done.  That is simply too long to be without my lover.  The kids and I are feeling the effects in different ways, but we are all working through missing Kendra and can't wait to be reunited with her back at the casa de Webb soon.

One of the greatest finds recently is the Disney Magic Timer App by Oral-B.  At home we have the Sonicare toothbrushes that vibrate for 2 minutes and the kids know when to stop brushing when the toothbrush stops vibrating. However, on vacation we are limited to normal toothbrushes.  I bought them oral-b brushes and toothpaste.  The app scans their toothbrush or the toothpaste.  Then it loads a 2:00 timer where the on-screen toothbrush reveals a picture.  Star wars, Frozen, and super heros appear before their eyes.  They ask, "is it time to brush my teeth?" and that's a first...  They never give us any static about brushing, but this is the first time ever that they actively ask to do it.

Layla and Easton were given the opportunity to attend a week-long camp at a local church.  It was amazing.  The twins enjoyed every minute they spent there and already talked about how excited they are for next summer.  As Layla was getting ready for the big finale night of the camp I walked into the bathroom to find her applying that stuff women put on their eye lashes...  Let me Google that.  Ah, it's called "mascara".

In this humorous moment above I said, "When did you start wearing makeup?  Your eyelashes are already a foot long and you are beautiful with or without makeup!"  She said, "I know I am...  I just want to do this for our performance tonight at the camp finale."  Fair enough...  I walked away scratching my head wondering "what happened to the little baby girl I played peek-a-boo with?"

Ouma Oupa and I went to the two-hour long finale which included viewing Layla's art gallery.  She ended up in the art track of the camp so her days were spent learning how to draw and paint.  She picked a ballerina to draw.  No surprise there...

Easton was in the music track.  He learned how to play drums and the caj√≥n.  It's a wooden box with a hole in it.  He played on stage for the packed room of kids and relatives.  I am proud of him for being brave enough to get on stage and play for the crowd.  Kendra experienced the finale through Facetime.  It wasn't ideal, but she was able to see Layla show off her art work and watch Easton perform on stage. We missed her and I know she wanted to be here so badly for these moments, but we are making due with what we have.  Easton has a new instrument and Layla has a portfolio of art work.

Oupa has keys to school gym since he is the PE teacher.  The benefit for Easton and Layla is that they were privileged to test out the newly finished gym floor.  The idea was to get the twins some exercise on the scooters, but Oupa ended up pushing them around the floor as they giggled.

Well, how about that.  What a difference five years makes!  This next picture was taken five years ago.  It's fun to see what has and hasn't changed.  Five years from now I won't be able to retake this because Oupa will be retired!

We had our second annual Oakland A's outing this past week.  I expect this tradition will continue as long as we have summer time in Sacramento.  The twins each at a monster 18 inch corn dog.  Easton like mustard, Layla likes ketchup...  This is what having twins is like.  Different but the same.

Easton and Layla chased down the Dennis Eckersley Hall of Fame racing mascot as they were wondering around the stadium.  The A's won 14-1 with several homers and a grand slam!

Oupa picked a great day to be here.  These are the fun memories we get to make.  I know it's a sacrifice of time and challenges in travel, but the twins will remember these for the rest of their lives.

The drive there and home was fairly quiet and manageable thanks to Star Wars movies and smooth driving conditions.  We saw the Golden Gate Bridge off in the distance, but other than that there weren't too many things more interesting than the Empire Strikes Back.

There is this tension inside me for the past two weeks.  I'm happy we came to visit Ouma and Oupa.  I'm sad Kendra isn't here with us.  I'm happy to see my coworkers and boss face-to-face, but sad for the kids to spend all day without her around.  I'm happy we escaped the heat for a so many days, but I can't wait to get back to the valley of the sun because Kendra is there waiting.  The range of emotions is higher and lower than any other trip we've taken for the past 13 years, but my strength comes from knowing emotions don't control me or dictate how well our trip goes.  Enjoying every moment and looking forward to being one with my one and only again in a few days.

See you soon!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Sacramento Family Time

Greetings friends and family,

These past two weeks are difficult.  I am without my love.  She is resting peacefully at home while the twins and I take over Ouma and Oupa's house.  I'm working every day so evenings and weekends are gleefully full of daddy time.  I took Layla for an afternoon of ice skating so she could have some public skate fun while keeping her skills sharp.  I skated with her as long as she would let me.  Then she met some new friends and off she went.

As a surprise bonus, Uncle Casey and soon-to-be Aunt Barbie showed up to skate with her.  That was a happy moment for Layla to feel the love from their interest in being a part of her world (queue the Little Mermaid music).

One of the cutest moments of our weekend was when she skated backwards pulling Uncle Casey along to show him how to skate. Seeing this little package of dynamite pulling along tall Casey like it was no big deal shows how strong she is on the ice.

and the bonus of the bonus was that GG came to watch too.  GG sat on the cold seats next to the ice watching and cheering as Layla showed off everything she had in her arsenal of moves.  I am happy for Layla to have these memorable moments with her great grandma there are many kids who don't have any great grandparents in their lives.  I joked with GG by asking if she was interested in lacing up some ice skates to go onto the ice.

Barbie worked at a roller skating rink some time ago so when she laced up a pair of ice skates, she was a natural.  She was so fast that after Casey and I wore out our legs, she kept on skating like a speed skater lapping everyone.  I'm thinking hockey could have been a really good sport for Barbie.  We had to track them down on the ice to get the two ice queens to stop for a quick pose.  

Speaking of ice queens, this rink was awesome!  they had great lighting and a DJ with interactive games on the ice for everyone.  This was the most enjoyable public skate I've ever seen.  Layla's smile is my proof.

Another cool thing they had was a Disney Frozen-themed covering with LED lighting inside.  Layla skated through it over and over with her tricks.

Layla's day included ice skating, watching the movie "inside out" and dinner afterwards.  The move and dinner was only for her and I to spend time together.  The movie was OK, but I had to do some damage control afterwards.  Inside Out portrayed anger as one of the five useful emotions.  I completely disagree that anger is a useful emotion.  Righteous anger is in the Bible, but that applies to about 1 out of a million situations where anger is really the correct response.  There is another important attribute called "self control", which is much more valuable in protecting and maintaining relationships than anger.  Anyway, other than a little detox from the movie, Layla and I had an outstanding day together.  The difference in how she interacted with me was like night and day.  I knew she just needed a little one on one time to make things OK.

Easton had his day on Sunday.  I came up with the idea of renting a kayak on the lake.  We stood in line at the aquatic center making silly faces.

We took a two-person kayak onto the water and had a blast.  He wasn't too sure about the fun level of such an outing, but as soon as he was comfortable knowing we weren't going to drown, He loved every minute of it.  We paddled around into coves where he stood on the end of the bow and picked wild blackberries from the bushes hanging over the water.  Perfect temperature, slight breeze, plenty of sun and lots of sun screen to protect our skin.

Easton didn't want to spend much time out around town.  He wanted a specific Lego man from a store and then playtime at home.  I said, "OK!  if that's how you want to spend our time together, then let's do it!"  At one point he gave me a big hug and said, "I love you, Dad".  It was completely out of blue and made my whole day worthwhile.

The other thing we've been up to is bike riding.  every evening it cools down enough to get on the bikes and ride.  Ouma and Oupa live in a house very close to the main roads and businesses in Folsom.  We took full advantage of the proximity.  I had to buy them helmets because I forgot to bring theirs from Arizona and it's the law here in Cali.

One evening we stopped by the greek restaurant for a snack.  We had some lamb kabob to go along with pita and hummus dip.  The outdoor patio is covered with grape vines and makes for a wonderful ambiance... as if the twins even cared about that.  They noticed a birthday party next to us brought several bottles of bubbles.  Layla smiled and batted her eyelashes at the party table and they came over to give the twins their own bottle of bubbles without us even having to ask.

There are still kind, generous people in the world.  After they left, we grabbed four bottles from the table and took them home to continue the bubble blowing fun at a later date.

Easton and Layla are getting some quality GG time in this trip.  I'm very happy that she comes over often to hang out with us and do mundane things like watching baseball and cuddling.  These moments are completely un-exciting from an adventure point of view, but I stopped to take a picture because these are the special moments they'll remember for the rest of their lives.  Just doing life together is such a blessing.

Another weekend is already here because my work-week flew by.

See you soon!