Saturday, April 7, 2018

Closing the 4Webbs blog

Easton and Layla,

For 10 years I've turned tens of thousands pictures and videos into the longest story ever told.  This record of your lives from my perspective as a father of twins is a labor of love.  Since I started this, most of the world lost interest in blogs.  This method of writing tells stories in volumes, but then Facebook came along and stories were told in a paragraph.  Then Instagram narrowed it down to a picture and sentence.  Then snapchat brought it down to a picture and couple of words that evaporates in seconds.  Your experiences and memories are so valuable that I gave hours of my life to chronicle yours.

I decided to end the blog because once you told your friends about the blog, they are coming to see pics and videos of you all.  I don't want to continue posting in such an open, unfiltered manner because it might be used against you in school.  From now on you'll have to find a way to tell your own stories.

I never viewed the blog as a way to prove how good of a father I am.  It's full of mistakes and missed opportunities and outright failures.  Even so, I want you both to understand  how I was there for virtually every picture on the blog because I was the one taking the picture.  I wasn't just present and in the same room.  I was involved and soaking in every moment of fatherhood knowing I only get to do this journey once with both of you at the same time.  Although Kendra was also very much involved, she had no interest in writing or picture taking because she is much more focused on being in the moment. 

Easton, you are my amazing son!  More than any other attribute, I'm most proud of your kindness.  You are considerate of others and truly a gentleman who respects women, friends, authority, and strangers.  The way you think so deeply and focus intently on the things that matter most to you is legendary.  When you get a new Lego set, it is fully built in record time because of your ability to apply your passion in a focused manner on the task at hand.  I appreciate our cuddle time with Max where the three boys of the house embrace on the couch and give hugs while Max licks us.  If you choose to achieve your Eagle Scout rank or travel to Mars, I'll support you every step of the way.

Layla, you are my beautiful princess warrior!  Every morning for years I gently come to wake you up since you sleep in late.  As I approach your bed I say, "good morning my beautiful princess warrior" and rub your forearm as I kiss your cheek.  Your strength and tenacity will serve you well when directed towards the life-giving aspects of your focus.  You lead with confidence and experience genuine enjoyment from competition and success.  You've always had an eye for beauty.  your ability to see the beauty in the world and people blows me away.  Your love for drawing and dancing and figure skating is a joy to watch.

I'm adding two final pictures.  This one is our Easter picture taken at the Easter egg hunt.  It represents the most recent family picture we have and works well to show all of our smiles and shiny faces together.  There is so much love in this family and in our household.  I hope you always maintain this as the benchmark to surpass in your own relationships and households.

This one is a close up of you two representing the closeness of your relationship and relative height.  You two are best friends and no one can ever take that away.  We've been speaking that over your lives since the day you were born and believe it will carry through the rest of your lives no matter where you call home.

We have so many adventures yet to experience as the 4 Webbs, but as time goes on we will spend less and less time together because of extra curricular activities, friends, and school work.  Your foundation is already cemented and now it's time for you to build your life, brick by brick.  I love you both no matter what.  Fully, unconditional with the throttle wide open. 

You both dislike going for walks and hikes, but I make you anyway because I enjoy adventuring with you even during the small things like taking Max for a walk.  Just being with you two is the highlight of my day.

There is no way this blog will ever mean as much to you as it does to me, but I hope some day you find it valuable.   This body of work is not my legacy...  you are.  The two of you are gifts given by God.  You're also the greatest thing I will leave the world when I'm gone.  No matter what I accomplish in my lifetime, you two are my best creations.

Be blessed, Easton and Layla

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Disney Cruise Adventure

Howdy family,

After a week at Disney World we met up with Ouma and Oupa to board the Disney Fantasy cruise ship for a week at sea.  We waited in line for everything during our week at Disney World and then continued the waiting, starting with going through the cattle herding process to get 4,000 people through a single entrance on the side of the ship.

Just being with Ouma and Oupa made the wait time more tolerable.  We had an entire week's worth of adventures to share with them.

We ate for seven days straight.  Every meal was all-you-can-eat and we took full advantage of the verity including my bravery to eat snails.  mmmm... tasty.  nobody else tried one!

The twins happily joined the kids club called the "Oceaneer Club".  the ages were 3-12 so there was plenty to see and do for the twins since they are 10.  During one of the labs they made a small bucket of slime.  the instructors had the kids put their hands on their heads so they could add ingredients without the kids messing around with the contents.  Their time in this area ended as soon as they found out they could be let int "Edge", the kids club for 11-14 year olds.  I signed a waiver and they spent the next six days making friends, running around the ship (with a purpose) and playing video games on the massive entertainment centers.

Easton said his favorite part of the cruise was free, unlimited ice cream all day and night.  We ate ice cream at least three times a day, no joke. The tube behind us is the AquaDuck.  All of us rode the raft at least once around the ship's deck.

Activities were available around the clock.  I'm not sure what parents allow their kids to be playing games at 1:00am, but there were things to do for all ages at almost all hours.  We were all wiped out each day so our normal 8:30 bedtime was fairly consistent for all 4 Webbs.  Layla joined a dance performance class where they learned a dance and performed it for the crowd of parents.

Layla was front and center as always with her exuberance and skill.  We all watched and cheered as they choreographed the short routine.

Us adults spent many hours doing this.  sitting, resting, and talking.  The twins have no way to process why we would do this.  Lucky for us, Disney provides a variety of ways for kids to do what they want while we do what we want.

On the rare occasions when the twins would have to wait on us for something, at least they had some incredible views to pass the time.  This is Ouma's window in their room.  It's a huge round portal with a padded seat to cradle into like Easton is doing.  There was nothing but water in every direction.  That feeling was surprisingly comforting without any fear.

We dressed up twice for fancy dinners.  Our luggage only had room for a limited number of outfits since we were gone for two weeks.  The days were warm, but the evenings were breezy and slightly chilly so jackets were prepared and used.  Layla and Kendra looked especially lovely in their dinner outfits.

The Animator's Palate was our favorite dinner place because of the technology built into the experience.  The ambiance was Disney through and through with the amount of detail expected from them.  Ouma had plenty of hugs and loving time when the twins were in our presence.  Her lap is available even during dinner time as we wait between courses.  Dessert was included in every single meal and that habit was hard to break after seven day's worth of expecting exquisite desserts.

Oupa was so involved during the week that I hoped he had enough decompress time to hang out and relax.  I'm so happy it worked out for us to take the cruise together.  The difference in skin tone is dramatic in this picture.  It shows the kids with their Seattle winter white and Oupa with his daily outdoor California tan.  Definitely related though!

Only a few pics exist of Kendra and I together during the cruise because it was rare for us to be together, with a camera, with someone else around to take our picture.  come to think of it, that is the exact reason there are very few pictures of us for the past 15 years.  More so on the cruise though because we were in our bathing suits with our phones in our room.

Ouma and Oupa and Kendra and I had a super exquisite dinner at Palo without the twins.  It was about as fancy of a dinner as I've ever experienced with a view of the vast ocean.  It will be really tough to top that in the future.

We arrived at St. Maarten to see a destroyed island that looked nothing like I expected.  Oupa and Easton joined me on a scouting mission to check it out.  A few ships were docked at the well maintained port, but every step away from the ship felt more and more third-world.

The row of businesses making up the small downtown area were 80% jewelry stores.  Never seen that many jewely stores in one place.  Oupa was a trooper to walk the length of the streets back and forth so we could check it all out.  The water wasn't as clear or blue as I expected, but there was a beach right off the dock.

The ladies joined us for an excursion to another beach about 30 minutes away.  We sat patiently on the bus as the driver calmly squeaked through super tight spots where roads and cars were scary narrow.  Easton found a cantaloupe-sized Conch shell and Layla found handfuls of sparkly shells.  The resort we went to was not special.  The pool was tiny and uninviting, but sand on the beach was almost worth taking our whole afternoon.  I was so happy to be in the ocean floating with Kendra.  That was one of the main goals of our vacation because we both love the beach and ocean so deeply.

Our room service attendant was so great at leaving chocolates, a nicely cleaned room, and even a monkey towel.  Easton dressed perfectly for the pirates day as we all did, but unfortunately no pictures were taken of all of us mateys together.

We arrived at St. Thomas to see an amazingly different scene than St. Maarten.  This island is US owned instead of French/Netherland owned.  The buildings held together much better and it was remodeled much faster.  The rainbow and sailing ships made for a picture perfect view of the welcomed sight.

Kendra and Ouma stayed on board while the four of us went exploring.  The gondola ride cost about $60 for the four of us and it was the only thing we did here because we didn't want to spend the entire time off the ship during the three days at port.  The scene was great, but not much was open at the top.  A few shops and a restaurant were all that operates right now.  I heard there is a petting zoo and path to hike, but none of it was open.

We celebrated Easton and Layla's birthday this evening.  The fruity drinks and extra special dessert made the night memorable.  We told them how incredibly fortunate they are to have a two week Disney vacation as their birthday gift.  I don't expect we'll ever top this one.

Kendra read how people decorate the metal door to the room.  She was right because it was common to see magnets all over people's doors.  Here is our personalized design Kendra had made for us.

The Star Wars day at see was a blast.  The bed cover was even Star Wars themed.  We saw characters all over the ship and even had a run-in with a couple of storm troopers.

The last day was my favorite of the entire trip.  Castaway Cay was everything I hoped for in a Disney owned island.  Lots of umbrellas and chairs stuck in the well-managed fine sand beach.  The food was average, but that's not why people go here.

Easton found some kids digging a hole.  He spent an hour or so packing sand against the walls and getting messy.  I was happy for him to go play with a group of strange kids while Layla snorkeled around the bay with her friends from the ship.

All of us snorkeled and saw many creatures of the sea.  We brought full-face snorkel masks, which was an awesome plan.  We rented fins and life vests for a few bucks.  Easton and Layla and I went out together.  We saw a group of people gathered in an area so we went to check it out.  A massive sea turtle swam right under us!  It surfaced for air within a few feet of us and we touched it's back.  Later we learned we weren't supposed to do that, but it was coming right up by us.  The four adults also swam out together.  We saw some huge fish and some of the sunken secrets Disney placed out there.  I choose this picture as our official Disney Cruise picture because it represents many of the reasons we went there.

Kendra bought these matching Star Wars hats at Disney World, but I finally got a picture of us together as we drove away from our beach day at Castaway Cay.  Her hat says, "I love you" and my hat says, "I know". 

We all had hopes of playing many card games on the cruise, but we were all so busy and having fun that we didn't have many occasions where we were all together and not doing anything.  On this rare occasion we played Spades by the pool.  Competition is fierce with this crew and none of us adults showed any mercy for each other or the kids when it came to playing. 

Each cabin has the same waiters and waitreses for the whole week.  Ours were so delightful and top-notch.  The kids regularly finished their meal earlier than the adults.  They would leave and go play at the Edge with their friends leaving us to casually enjoy the two-hour meal time every night. 

They regularly made origami gifts and played riddle games with crayons on the table. 

Easton slept in the top bunk and Layla in the bottom.  In our room, the top bunk folds down from the ceiling and the bottom bed folds down from the couch.  We spent very few minutes watching TV, but occasionally we watched one of the hundreds of kids movies available for free on the tube. 

This was our first cruise experience ever and it was the most awesome way to take one.  The weather was amazing.  The ocean was relatively calm, and the ship was clean and well maintained.  That being said, we will probably never go on a cruise again.  It took three days after the cruise for us to stop losing our balance and feeling a little off.  No one got sea sick on the cruise or after, but that weird feeling of being tossed back and forth, no matter how slightly, made for a maddening week and days after.  Our ideal vacation would include being in one spot, in a house, on a beach.  that way we can see the surrounding town on our own timeline and be on the beach any time we want.  The twins loved everything about the cruise and they would go on one again tomorrow if they had the opportunity.  What an experience of a lifetime for the 4 Webbs!

See you soon.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Disney World Adventures

Hi family,

After spending one week at Disney World and one week on a Disney cruise, i'm going to do my best to cram all of that into two posts.  These will be my final two posts for the blog after 10 years of regularly writing and posting.

The flight to Florida was smooth and completely forgettable, just the way I like it.  We spent our first full day at Blizzard Beach.  Other than being surrounded by snow themes and Christmas music while wearing just a bathing suit, I enjoyed the whole experience.  One day there was plenty considering how many other parks are around.  Not many opportunities to take pictures at the water park because technology and water don't go together very well.  Besides, i don't think phones would do well sliding down the summit plummet ride at 50 mph as I bounce off the sides like a pinball machine.  Kendra and Layla floated in the lazy river while Easton and I rode the water slides over and over.

Most of my Disney World days can be summarized by this picture where Kendra is leading us through herds of people from one ride to another.  Not sure how many miles we got in each day, but Easton and Layla set records on their step counting Vivo Fit Jr. watches.

This is the picture to represent the reason why we saved for two years, planned for a year, and flew across the country.  We created many happy memories that will last a lifetime for the twins.  Those special moments and experiences were shared by the four of us in ways that couldn't happen in our day-to-day lives at home.

I don't remember why Easton snuggled into Kendra as they conversed, but I had enough time to get my camera out and take a picture.  He is definitely a momma's boy who values the connection and comfort between them.

He gives and gets hugs from me too, but we also get to share experiences like shooting things at the Frontierland Shootin' Arcade.  I asked Layla to join me for a round of activating animatronic owls, but she was not interested.

The highlight of our week was Pandora - world of Avatar.  Of all the parks and attractions, this one captured our imagination and had the best attractions.  We waited for the park to open, then ran...  i mean walked briskly... to the Flight of Passage ride.  The guy behind us in line was too obese to ride so his wife hung out with us through the line and ride.  We waited in line for 45 minutes while Kendra took her time getting to the park.  The line went by quickly because the scenery is amazing.

After we rode it once, the wait time for the ride was 5 hours.  That's not a typo.  seriously crazy.  Kendra joined us and we used a fast pass to ride it again.

We wore 3D glasses and sat in a motorcycle riding position on the ride vehicles.  The wind and mist in the face are very immersive when combined with the movement of the vehicles and the massive screen.

Easton has talked for months about buying (adopting) a Banshee at The Rookery inside Windtraders.  He was so excited to finally get one.  He picked it out and had it shipped for free to our Kidani village hotel.  He had to wait an extra day to play with it, which was tortuous waiting for it to arrive.

Kendra waited in line with us for the Dinosaur ride, but then left before we boarded the vehicles because of the jerky nature described.  I'm glad she did because we were whipped around in the jeep-like contraptions.  The ride was not anyone's favorite of the week, but the scenery was well done and the dinosaurs were only slightly scary for Layla.

We found a Starbucks coffee at the Animal Kingdom where we treated ourselves to frappuccinos.  The kid's didn't contain any coffee, but the unseasonably warm temperatures made these extra tasty.

Kendra's highlight of the trip was the Festival of the Lion King show.  Kendra explained her cancer journey to the guest services lady and she gave us a VIP experience that blew us away.  We sat on the front row that is only four-butts wide.  We were so close to the entertainers that it was hard to get a wide enough picture to show how awesome it was.

Then Kendra and the twins were invited to walk with the dancers around the auditorium.

After the show was over we were invited to join the cast out back where we got to ask questions and interact with them all by ourselves!

They posed for this unforgettable picture and gave us a special certificate as the "family of the day" award.  such a top-notch experience.

The Kilimanjaro Safaris Expedition ride was pretty epic.  Even though we saw many animals outside our hotel window at Kidani Village, going on this ride was a whole new level of up-close and personal with real wild life.  Easton's favorite animal was the Wildebeest.  I have no idea why other than their odd appearance and large stature.

Layla's favorite was the giraffe because of the spotted pattern and their long tongue.

We did a lot of eating, but not at fancy restaurants.  We would grab snacks along the way and park ourselves at a random sidewalk.  We ate often and in small doses because fancy sit-down meals are painfully expensive and hard to find seating.

The most nostalgic ride of our week was the Matterhorn Bobsleds ride, seen here in the distance behind us as I kiss Kendra's cheek.  We rode the rickety, jostling ride that hasn't changed in the past 40 years.  It bounced Kendra around pretty good, but her back and hips didn't take too much abuse.  She walked away with a smile on her face and not a grimace or limp, so that was successful.

The famous Cinderella castle makes for the most recognizable pictures that represent family fun.  I had to get at least one.

The other one I really wanted was during the Tree of Life Nighttime Awakenings show.  What an outstanding display of video and lights and sound.

We took one day at Epcot, which stands for Every Person Comes Out Tired.  That's what one of the Disney cast members said.  I couldn't agree more.  The park is spread around a massive lake.  we walked more here than any other day of our vacation.  Plenty of opportunities to enjoy food from around the world, like Hawaiian shaved ice. 

I talked the twins into posing for this picture because I've done this before in different settings.  I just like the way they look hanging out together.

Face painting is something Layla requested long before our trip arrived.  Easton didn't really care, but he did it because they had a snake as an option.  Layla chose the peacock because of the big palette of colors.  It wasn't worth $14 each in my opinion, but the time to be frugal and save a few pennies is not while on vacation.

After a long day of walking forever and back again, we stayed late enough to catch the biggest fireworks show I've ever seen called IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.  I didn't bother to video the experience because I wanted to just enjoy it real-time instead of looking through a lens.  This is us in our sectioned off, front-row seats with an awesome view.  Made the whole evening worth the wait.

We splurged for one big meal during the week at the Be Our Guest Restaurant.  Kendra woke up at 4:00am one morning, several months before our trip, to reserve passes and events and seats.  The food was not memorable for any reason, good or bad.  The decorations and scenes were very well done.  This tile art work showing Belle and Prince Adam made for a nice background we could mimic.  Easton took the picture because we both wanted to be in one without the twins for a change.

Layla drove me around in a car on the Tomorrowland Speedway ride.  Those steering wheels are ridiculously difficult to maneuver.  She did a great job considering.  Easton was behind us in his own car, but didn't enjoy the experience much at all.  I hope they don't have a lasting bad impression of driving by thinking this is the way all cars feel when they bounce around all over the road.

Another special arrangement Kendra set up for us was the primo seating for the Festival of Fantasy Parade.  We were in a special section of benches that were roped off right next to the path where the parade came by.  The thing behind Layla is a fire-breathing dragon!  She liked it, but there were many princesses following the dragon that quickly took her focus.

Every princess and character waved at, smiled towards, and sometime spoke directly to us.  It wasn't like a normal experience where there are hundreds of people lining both sides of the parade.  This section was like a private show.

Kendra and Easton sat together on the row behind us because the twins were arguing about getting in each other's way.  These things happen and it's just real life.  The view was just as amazing and Easton wasn't impressed with anything besides the dragon anyway.

We didn't buy much merchandise, but we did lots of window shopping.  These two Minnie ears went perfectly with Kendra and Layla's outfits.  

We coordinated a few of the days and this was the Mickey and Minnie day for us.

We didn't have much one-on-one time with parent - child outings because we were consistently flocking together as the 4 Webbs.  However, Layla and I had fun adventuring together going to the lost and found.  Layla accidently left her backpack at the Country Bear Jamboree show, but by the time she realized it we were out of the park.  When we went back another day I took her to the lost and found to retrieve it while Kendra and Easton went back to the hotel.  On the way there stopped in front of the castle with an awesome sunset view.

Layla did not enjoy the Hollywood hotel ride at Disneyland.  She was 5 last time we went and this became known as "the ride that shall not be named" because simply talking about it caused Layla to get upset.  Now that she is ten years old we talked her into giving it another try.  She did much better this time, but still didn't enjoy the thrills much.  Easton is had a blast just like when he was five.

Kendra and Layla only met a few characters during our vacation.  lines were long and Layla was only partially interested in talking with princesses.  Elsa and Anna are still high on her list of admired princesses so they took time to meet and take pics.

We had the photo pass package set up so we could take pics anywhere in the park by the Disney photographers.  It is expensive, but well worth the

Star Wars day was a big hit for us at the Hollywood studios park.  We buzzed through this park in about 6 hours and did everything we wanted to do.

With the fast passes we even rode the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster twice!  The twins loved every twist and launch, but it was too jerky for Kendra so she waited outside for us.

I'm not sure why Easton looks like he slept through it, but this was our second favorite ride of the whole trip because it is fast and does loops.

We made the most of every day and good use of the time at each park.  Kendra planned the entire week perfectly.  There wasn't anything we wanted to do or see that we didn't get to.  There will never be another time when the twins are this awesome age.  They are tall enough to ride all the rides, old enough to enjoy the family experience, and young enough to still want to spend every minute of a week-long vacation as the 4 Webbs.

See you soon!