Monday, August 14, 2017

One on one time

Howdy family,

My summer vacation days are well utilized and well earned.  Before I get into the adventures, I'll do a product endorsement, which I rarely include in the blog.  I bought Easton and Layla matching Garmin VivoFit Jr fitness watches.  They keep track of their steps, chart sleeping cycles with data, and (most importantly) provide an application on my phone that tracks their chores and rewards.  They get virtual coins for brushing teeth, taking out the trash, and doing laundry.  Then they cash in the coins for real things like nerf guns, movie nights, and money.  We had them over a month and they are working out very well to motivate the kids.  I couldn't be more pleased with the durability and usability.

One on one with Easton:

The biggest adventure of the last few weeks was resident camp with Easton for cub scouts.  We were at Camp Edward, an hour away from our house, deep in the woods.  The scenery behind us in this next picture shows the massive fort and clubhouse area.

Easton and I left Kendra and Layla at home for 3 full days of one on one time.  We were actively engaged with each other from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm every day.  He walked more than 25,000 steps on one of the days.  We shot guns, bow and arrow, and learned how to tie knots and navigate using a compass.  just to mention a few.

We played frisbee and dozens of games during the limited open time slots.

I was proud to watch him, along with all the other dads, as each boy followed instructions, respected authority, and managed himself in various scenarios.  Some did better than others.  Easton was a role model.

My favorite picture from the weekend is this one where he is cleaning the toilet.  Each scout had bathroom duty once during the trip.  Easton gladly jumped in with rubber gloves and tools to scrub the bathroom clean.  He wasn't supper excited about it, but he did this with a happy heart and very few grumbles.

The theme this year at camp was around pirates.  One of the crafts was to make a pirate ship.  They had two rain gutters lined up and filled with water to race each other by blowing into the sails as the boats floated.  His boat floated well and made it to the other end.

We had many silly moments where boys were boys.  He grabbed two of the free pirate patches and placed both of them over his eyes.  He kept trying to convince me that he could see just fine as we stumbled down the path.

one of the things i learned about Easton is how much he likes fire, almost as much as i did at his age.  He was right in the middle of the fire building process and excited for the fire to be lit.

He sat around mesmerized by the flames until the smores came out.  nothing can keep a kids attention when burning marshmallows is an option.

Easton was a part of a flag ceremony for the first time.  every morning and every evening we raised and lowered the American flag over our campground.  it is a very somber, meaningful event and an honor to be a part of it.  I was proud of the way he respected the flag in carrying, saluting, and respecting the flag.

Among the memorable things about resident camp, none is more deeply ingrained in Easton's brain than the pocket knife cuts.  I bought a new $10 knife at the campground and then promptly cut my finger trying to show him what not to do.  Then an hour later I came out of the bathroom and noticed Easton jogging past me with blood dripping all down his hand.  He was genuinely freaked out, but I stayed calm.  We washed his hand off in the sink and discovered it was just a slice on the edge of his finger.  Nothing a band-aid couldn't fix!  I call this a winning picture because the lesson was learned (for both of us) without a trip to the hospital.

One on one with Kendra:

Our 15th wedding anniversary happened last week without much fanfare.  Since we spent so much towards our Disneyland trip and cruise coming up in February, neither of us wanted to splurge for this occasion.  Instead, we left the kids and took an overnight trip to a local island.  We watched a comedy show and stayed in the hotel.  It was a nice break from the day to day kids routine.  We haven't been spending much time alone lately, but it's just one of those short seasons that I can't wait to be over.

I looked back through our last few weeks of pictures to find a more official anniversary picture, but there aren't any.  I had to go back to our trip to Judy's beach to find a good quality picture.  This one does a good job of summing up our life in Seattle this summer.  We survived the record rain fall amount in the winter and reveled in the record number of consecutive days without rain all summer (55 days).  what a year it has been !

One on one with Layla:

I've been with Easton a couple of times this summer where we have multiple days/nights together.  I wanted to take a weekend trip with Layla to go stay at a castle somewhere in the Seattle area, but that didn't pan out so i did the next best thing.  We took an entire Saturday for just the two of us.  We started out by going for a tandem mountain bike ride in Duthie park.  We tackled some intermediate trails.  I was very proud of her for pedaling so strong and trusting me on the difficult parts.

Our setup with the trail-a-bike is an attention getter because it is rare.  She gladly waves and greets those who comment and stare.  Layla has her own two-wheeled bike, but the advantage of riding tandem is that she gets to experience more intense trails.

After the ride we went to downtown Seattle for a visit to the aquarium.  Her favorite part was touching the slimy sea cucumbers and star fish in the petting tanks.  We saw otters and jelly fish and a thousand other sea creatures.  She was always out front, pacing me through the exhibits, but her level of excitement was contagious.

After the aquarium, we walked around the Pike Place market and ate at the Pike Brewing Company.  It's a fairly fancy place to dine so I had the correct princess daughter, but the incorrect mountain biking outfits for such a place.  We stumbled across the gum wall by accident.  It was disgusting, but interesting at the same time.   Even so, I'd put this day trip in the top 5 daddy/daughter outings ever for us.  I'm working on a plan for next summer to take a trip with just the two of us some place exciting for a few days.

The 4 Webbs have also shared time together being locals in Seattle.  We picked fresh blackberries from the extraordinary amount of wild bushes lining every wall and pathway in the city.

We also brought our neighbors with us to share in the picking and eating.  Kendra baked a homemade black berry cobbler and shared with our friends.  The season lasts a few weeks so we'll take another trip or two out to gather and freeze these free delights.

See you soon!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

In-laws In Town

Greetings family,

been a long time!  After Kendra and the twins were in Sacramento without me for two weeks, we had two weeks of Ouma and Oupa time our house.  There was plenty of front-porch sitting and many hands for petting Max.  I've been working my tail off for nine months waiting for these weeks of fun to come around so I can take some vacation time.

Easton and Layla are making great use of their summer, thanks to Kendra's planning and building relationships.  Our neighbor down the street was doing face paintings for some strange reason.  The twins were the willing recipients of the painters.

With all of the summer goodness, there are always challenges.  such as... wasps!  Oupa and I went to the store to buy a wasp trap because they are invading our front porch.  I brought it home and handed the box to the twins with a request to "take care of business".  The looks on their faces are very appropriate because they were horrified, but I gently applied enough verbal pressure for them to just do it.  They correctly assembled the wasp trap and I proudly hung it for them.  Since then, our wasp problem is gone.  I want them to feel powerful over themselves and confident in their abilities to tackle new things they've never done before.

Even though school is out, the twins are keeping at it for reading and math.  Easton is reading the "Warriors" series, which is about cats.  It seems to keep his interest well and he stays with it for 30 minutes at a time regularly.  Makes me happy to see them continuing on so they can get ahead of the curve for when they start the 4th grade.

Layla is progressing well in her ice skating skills.  She is continuing her private lessons as well as attending summer camp classes such as ballet, dance, and other off-ice training. I get to be there for the Saturday lessons and sometimes during the week if I go into work late.

Here's a rare picture of all 4 Webbs.  Not 3 or 5, but just us 4 in a single shot.  They all rolled their eyes and huffed a little as they appeased my request to delay one minute from leaving the house.  These are the pictures I stare at occasionally at work when i get a few minutes.  I smile and thank God for millionth time that Kendra is alive and well.

One evening, with Ouma and Oupa at home, Kendra and I took the beach chairs and drove to the water's edge to watch the sunset over the Sound.  This night was one of the best of the month for me because we had some alone time in a scenic paradise moment.

We kiss in front of the kids now more than ever.  They reached the age of awareness where they clearly know what's happening and think it's yucky.  I'm perfectly comfortable with that.  When we kiss and hug in the kitchen, they will eventually come and stand between us to get the dual parental hug.  They may not like watching us kiss, but they love how much we love each other.  Even when then can't explain it, they are still very deeply in tune with the atmosphere we maintain with each other and the affection we so liberally share.

Easton and Layla have their own individual way of doing things.  This makes parenting a two-person effort because one goes one way and the other goes another.  Even on a swing set they go opposite directions.  luckily, they don't go anywhere other than back and forth.  That means i can take a picture anyway and capture two smiling faces.

This is the whole family of people who were in our house plus me, the camera man.  Even Max made it into the camera to get the complete view of us for the two weeks Ouma and Oupa were with us.  We went to a free concert in the park for some relaxing outdoor fun.  Alaysha is working long hours to continue taking big steps towards her financial goal.  When she moved in with us she was in debt, but now she has over almost $8k in her savings account and no debt!  Soon, finances will no longer be the thing keeping her from moving to L.A.  There are a few other things to line up, but she's preparing well.

We all went to Judy's beach (Mission Beach) and even added our neighbor Kain to the mix.  Layla had Evelyn as a playmate so bringing Kain kept the balance in the force. The water was surprisingly reasonable in the noon day sun that poked through the clouds.

Kendra and I took a long walk on the beach, for real.  Not just a tag line in a single person's profile.  We are living it out together and loving every sandy-toed step of it. The house behind us is Judy's house.  The tide rises right up to the deck so it really is beach-front property.

The view from that deck is so peaceful and enjoyable.  Most of our time was spent talking and resting.  This is a sure sign we are getting old, but I won't deny how much i appreciate sitting and talking.

Easton and Kain used the clam digging tools to scoop holes in the sand.  They could have done this for hours and been perfectly fine even without catching anything alive.  I think they caught a little shrimp once, but the joy of being a boy on the beach is sometimes as easy as drilling holes in the sand.

I believe this will be the last summer to stage this picture of the twins hanging off of me.  I used every ounce of strength to keep these two up in the air.  They are growing so tall and it shocks me to see them getting bigger with noticeable differences almost monthly.

We moved to Seattle almost 11 months ago.  Alaysha has been working at her job for about 9 months.  We haven't taken the time to visit her at her work even once until this day.  We packed up the fam along with Ouma and Oupa for a surprise visit.  The whole crew jumped out in a low-key "surprise" and we had a chance to hang out during her break time.  She's been such a blessing to our family and she knows she is forever a Webb.

See you soon!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Daddy Camp

Howdy family,

The weekend after Kendra and the twins arrived home from a 15-day trip to Sacramento, I loaded up the twins and headed to the mountains.  Leaving Kendra in her freshly cleaned house alone for a weekend was hard for me to be away from her, but happy for her to have some peace and quiet.  Wouldn't it be funny to name my twins Peace and Quiet?

Anyway, this is my primo photo from the trip showing the sun, the forest, the river, the rustic railroad bridge and three smiling faces.  We had a blast.  No major injuries = successful camping trip.

but wait!  there's more!  Our next door neighbors joined us for the weekend.  Clay, Kain, and Rowan made this a daddy campout times two.  His wife stayed home as well so the six of us had a memorable time together.

We did some semi-dangerous things like walk out on a railroad bridge, knowing a train could come at any moment.  The scenery was just too much to capture in a picture, but this is a decent representation of what we experienced.  Our weekend in the Cascade mountains was much richer and different than I expected.  The last many years of camping in the desert has it's own beauty, but setting up our tent next to several 60 foot tall trees was a whole new ball game.

On Saturday afternoon we took a trip into the small town of Skykomish.  The names of many towns in Washington are Indian so they sound very odd to me.  Anyway, we heard a tip from our campground host that they have free train rides.  He was right!  This ride-on train took a loop around the property.  It was a longer ride than expected and that was a good thing.  We all rode it once together and then the kids rode it without the dads twice. 

There were two trains on separate tracks and this guy rode facing all the passengers every time.  kind of creepy to be stared at the whole time, but not enough to deter us from riding it again. 

The train conductor driving the train looks exactly like you might imagine one to appear.  These are all volunteers and the nicest people you'll ever meet.  The tunnel was super fun for Rowan, the five year old, as well as the bigger kids.  Us dads screamed loudly as we passed through it, much to the embarrassment of the kids.  

Back at camp we had a great fire both nights.  wood was purchased at $6 per tiny bundle of logs from the camp host because although we were standing in a FOREST it is illegal to chop dead wood for logs.  so here's us, following the laws because that's just what we do.

I brought an extra tent.  I told Easton and Kain that if they want to stay in their own separate tent, then they have to put it up all by themselves.  no whining, no instructions from me, and definitely no help from Layla, the extreme helper.  Well, they did it in record time just as I expected.  It's amazing how resourceful and full of grit these boys can be when there is something on the line.

As they were getting ready for bed they poked their heads out of the tent to keep the mosquitoes out while responding to Clay's instructions. this sums up their friendship really well.  Easton has never had a best friend before, but these two get along so well and like to hang out every day if we let them.

These pictures are out of order because i'm lazy. just and FYI.  When we first arrived at camp, Kain rode with us to stake out the camp sites and lay claim to one.  We jointly decided on a sweet one between the main road and the railroad tracks... because all of them were in the same lousy location.

The saving grace was the river a few yards away from our tent.  we went down to check the current and conditions.  I staged this shot for grins.  It's my favorite one of the trip too.

Layla and Easton brought their water socks because we are overly cautious parents who don't want our kid's feet being lacerated with glass or barnacles.  Layla looks much older than nine.  Some moments I look at her and think, "wow, she's already a young lady?!"

The only good part about the railroad tracks being so close is the excitement of watching a train go by. We were up close and personal with this train with 125 boxcars in it.

I requested Easton and Layla to hold hands and walk down the railroad tracks.  This is not a normal thing for them to do, but their hearts really are like this when it comes to friendship.  They are best friends and we are fortunate to have set that foundation from birth.

As with all of our campouts, we ate like ravenous raccoons including ice cream for afternoon snack overlooking the river.

We asked the camp host where to go for a river with a beach and he directed us to a bridge on an abandoned highway.  We walked down to the water and found a jewel of a location where the water wasn't too deep or fast moving.  Easton looked in the water and saw a newt or salamander creature moving.  He bravely scooped it up and we spent the next two hours making a newt zoo.

Clay built some dams with sticks and rocks and mud.  the water flowed through and the creatures stayed put.

Layla jumped in on the action and caught her own collection of newts (or salamanders... whatever they are).  She gave them names like daisy and rainbow and jumper.  This adventure was the most memorable one of the trip.  We were splashing and playing and catching these things until we were water logged and hungry.

Easton discovered the joys of using a hatchet on dead wood.  This stump was fair game for him to whack away although the blade was so dull that it barely stuck in the wood.

On the other side of camp, Layla and Rowan were coloring pages from her coloring book.  They got along so well.  I'm proud of Layla for being a big sister and taking care of her.

We watched the sunset by the river as we avoided mosquitoes and skipped rocks.  I skipped so many rocks that my elbow as sore.  The boys were throwing rocks up in the air and watching them break so they can look inside.  They are little, inquisitive explorers.

The water wasn't as cold as I expected.  It was tolerable up to our knees, but that's it.  There was no sitting in a tube and floating down the river.  forget that!  The warm sun and cool water with sand between my toes was good enough to get through the days.  Besides...  it was the only bath or shower i took in 48 hours.

The trees are indescribably huge.  I don't even have a scale to reference how tall and wide they are.  I stood the kids up in front of this one for a little perspective, but it doesn't do justice at all.  Our tent was nestled in between two massive trees with moss growing on the branches.  It was a unique experience all the way around and I hope to repeat it often.

See you soon!