Saturday, December 31, 2011

Good-bye 2011

Greetings friends and family,

I can change and I have changed for the better, but I can't change anyone else nor their perspective of me.  Took me many years to understand and believe that truth, but it's finally sinking in.

As I watch a friend's marriage on the ropes we are discussing his options.  He wants to change and is changing.  The problem is that his spouse is not supporting him or even allowing him to change.  She is preventing him by continued criticism and disparaging words.  One idea was for him to move out for 2 months to intensely focus on his own emotional and spiritual health.  Then we sought additional counsel who brought up the conundrum:  If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise?   Likewise, if a person changes and no one is around to see it then does it really matter?

Once we worked our way to the truth it became clear.  The answer is "debatable" for the tree making noise, but "no" for the relationship value of one person changing without the other person being involved.  What good would weeks of solitude do for the wife who isn't around to witness the change?  She would not be a part of the process.  Anyway, even IF he goes through the metamorphosis of character and she is around, will she even notice?  Some people refuse to see a person for who they truly are because their filter or lens is so fogged by history and bias.

I'm going the long way around to my point, but it is this:  Who I am now is most certainly not who I was last year or 5 or 10 or 20 years ago.  Yet, there are those who hang on to historical Bronson with my personal failures and see me through the same foggy 10-year-old lens.

Anyway, these past two weeks of vacation at home (a.k.a. stay-cation) were possibly the best two weeks of the past 10 years.  This vacation is different than the previous 10 years because ALL vacation time previous to this one was consumed with travel and visiting relatives.  I jogged down memory lane and couldn't come up with a single time since graduating college where I took vacation AND stayed at home for 10 days straight.

I took time for mountain biking twice in one week, which hasn't occurred since Moab 4 years ago.  My friend's work schedule shifted so he is available to ride with me.  I foresee much more mountain biking in 2012 than the previous years...

Did you know WTB makes a tire with the model name "Bronson"?  I'm not making this stuff up.  I saw another guy on the trail with my name on the tires and when mine needed to be replaced I jumped at the chance to have my name imprinted by the manufacturer on the tires.

My company gave us 4 tickets to go to the Zoppe circus.  Reason # 2,296 we are the 4 Webbs and not five is because ticket combo packs come in groups of 4 only.  We also received vouchers for concessions.  Cotton candy was the overwhelming choice.

The Zoppe Circus claim is that no seat is more than 20 feet from the ring and I can confirm it is an intimate setting.  The tricks, gags, and stunts this Italian family pulls off is outstanding.  We spent the 20 minute ride home with each of us recounting what our favorite parts were.

We threw our first official house warming party with 22 guests.  I'm amazed by how much more room we have to host this many people comfortably.  The only publishable picture from the event is of the boys showing Easton how to operate the Wii remote. The gaming system single handedly entertained the kids the entire evening.  Other pictures like the "chubby bunny" marshmallow game will remain off the grid for fear of retribution from the individuals involved.  :)

Christmas presents this year were right on target for what Easton and Layla asked for and many gifts were so awesome we never thought to mention them before.  Susanna gave a craft to build a princess crown for Layla and a craft to build an airplane for Easton.  Easton and I tackled the plane together piece by piece.  I glued it, then he painted it, then he put the stickers on it.  Such a simple toy, but I enjoyed the process of building it.  Kind of like a model car, but age-appropriate for Easton.

Another favorite gift is the tent.  One pink princess tent for Layla and one blue rocket tent for Easton.  perfect.

Easton's quickly adapting to the Valley of the Sun climate.  The day time temperatures were in the 60s.  Easton compensated for the relatively cold temps by wearing his mittens and fuzzy slippers all day long.

The Fisher Price Kid Tough See Yourself Camera is a surprisingly big hit with Easton.  I knew Layla would love turning the lens on herself and taking pictures of others, but Easton also loves it.  So much that taking turns is almost a battle.  I may be on track to create two shutter bugs.

One of the most humorous Christmas moments was watching the twins attempt to contain their excitement as we waited to open gifts.  They acted like freshly shaken cans of soda just waiting for the top to burst open.

An unforeseen change in the 3-year-old Christmas celebration is how much time I spent unwrapping, building, and playing with toys.  Most toys were daddy-proof causing me to consider dynamite and bolt cutters as viable tools for removing packaging.  Building and playing with the toys turned out to be one of those extra-enjoyable aspects which I wouldn't admit to in a Facebook post.

Our new sectional sofa is a magnet for cuddling and relaxing.  Easton is growing into the protective big brother role very nicely.  I like this next picture because it shows their happy demeanor and closeness with each other.  Layla has the face of a loving, well cared for sister and daughter.

Easton yuks it up with a lollipop that looks like Mater from the Disney-produced Cars Movie.  That there's funny.  i don't care who ya are.

When the twins were born almost 4 years ago I had visions already dancing in my head of the adventures we would share.  One of those adventures was to take a family hike.  Every few weeks since they were old enough to walk it crossed my mind.  Then I would realize their bodies and minds were still not capable of scrambling up the side of a hill... until now.

We took a 30 minute hike up the side of South Mountain.  I pointed them towards the trail head and they took off climbing like a couple of Rocky Mountain goats.  The views from the top were spectacular.  Sharing them with Easton and Layla was even better.  Their sense of accomplishment for tackling such a big hill was almost tangible.

Vacation is over and not it's time to get back to work.  I have ONE vacation day scheduled for the first five months of 2012.  Other than that I'll have my nose to the grind stone doing our best to make ends meet while saving for the three month vacation (sabbatical) coming up in September.  I can do anything for 9 months...

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Days of Christmas

Shalom friends and family,

I am a firm believer in English as the national language of the USA, but there are large gaps in our vocabulary.  One of those is the way we greet each other. The words hi and bye are extremely impersonal and ineffective at expressing a proper emotion.  I cringe every time the useless greeting comes out of my mouth as I approach the grocery clerk and bank teller.  What we need is something more like the word shalom.  It is a feeling of contentment, completeness, wholeness, well being and harmony.  How about that for a better way to greet and bid someone farewell?

During the past week we said hi and bye to Ouma, Oupa, and GG.  Yes, both unemotional words in one sentence.  Partly because I'm sad they are gone already just when we were getting used to having them around.

With five adults in the house someone was always available to interact with the twins individually or together.  Ouma let them stand on the little chairs for a cooking class about how to make homemade rolls.

Opening presents this year was 100 times more enjoyable because Easton and Layla were genuinely grateful and excited for the presents.  Also, the contents was more prized than the box and wrapping paper unlike the previous three years.  The person who wrote the 12 days of Christmas song must have had kids.  We've been celebrating with meals and presents for days now!

The 4 Webbs were disheartened because our three visitors high-tailed it back to Sacramento for extended family gatherings.  We understand and are happy they were able to return to see other rarely seen family members.

David and Tam were sensitive enough to notice and kind enough to invite us over for Christmas day at their home.  They are our extended family here in Phoenix.  One way we recognize this is by how comfortable Easton and Layla are around them.

Also the ability for us to have grown-up conversations with them while the two sets of twins are playing quietly together.  The not-so-quiet moments are still great like when Ben is giving piano lessons to them.

The weather was perfectly pleasant so we took a leisurely stroll to their neighborhood park for some social interaction and high-flying swings.  Easton was laughing like crazy asking me to push him faster.  Someday soon he'll be ready for the solo swings, but for now I'm perfectly content to share in the experience with him.

Layla is becoming quite fashionable very quickly. Her purse is filled with all kinds of lip gloss, hair bows, and accessories.  Now she has a bigger purse to store even more stuff for the long (10 minute) rides to Costco.

Easton and Layla comment daily about how tall they are getting and how much they are growing.  We don't need to remind them or be reminded because we already have this conversation regularly.  Sometimes I want to say, "Don't remind me!  I want to be this size and age forever!"  But of course I don't say that.  :)

The extended vacation time at home is amazingly grand.  I can't believe we haven't done this before where I take vacation just to be at home as the 4 Webbs without travel or visitors.  What a concept!  I'll have to try this more often.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

4 Generations

Merry Christmas friends and family,

We are in the middle of a two week long Christmas celebration.  present opening for the kids will be daily almost like Hanukkah, but without stifling religious rituals performed by the Jewish folks who sadly still live under the old law.

That's a different story...  The 4 Webbs turned into 7 relatives with Ouma, Oupa and GG added to the mix.  Their week-long visit was much more enjoyable than last time they were here because we didn't slave like dogs every waking minute in the midst of the move.  This time we watched some movies, shopped, visited, and even had time for group adventures.

We even set aside a special afternoon to update the generations picture.  Here is the first one we took when Layla was a mere 5 months old.

These are priceless pictures to me.  Seeing four generations of wonderful girls in a single picture is amazing.  One of the interesting things I notice is how all three ladies wore glasses for the new picture compared to the first one where none of them have glasses.  Both pictures show the greatness and beauty of such a special occasion.

We also have one with Easton included because he requested to be in one as soon as he realized the photo opportunity in progress.  I planned to get the twins in there already, but his request to be a part of it was a bonus.

Easton and Layla are sleeping in the twin trundle beds while we have visitors.  That leads to hour-long giggling and conversations between them before they crash asleep.  For the past three years they sleep from 8PM to 7AM, but with the one hour shift on the front end that means we get to sleep in on the flip side.  However, our situation is like the wives tale about when an old Native American Indian was told the reason for daylight saving time he said, “Only the Government would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom, and have a longer blanket.”

They are best friends though so I wouldn't expect anything different.  Even in the middle of the day when they get a lollipop they face the rocking chairs toward each other and have a blast chomping and rocking and talking.

One of our adventures was the outing to Schnepf Farms.  The humongous acreage exceeded my expectations with the size and number of things to do on the property.  I won tickets through works so we received the full tour of everything the farm had to offer including taking home a free home-made apple pie.

Our timing was excellent because the weather was great and few people were there during the workweek day-time when we went.  We had a private hay ride through the orchards because no other patrons were around to join us.

The hay ride stopped at a fenced off area where several reindeer gathered by the fence anticipating our apples and bread.

Easton grabbed a handful of bread from the bag and started eating it before we explained the concept of what we were supposed to do with it.  Once the twins caught on they were thrilled to have the gentle nibblers use their tongues and lips to snatch the food from their fingers.

That was my favorite part of the trip since I've never been that close in real life to reindeer.  The Cool Bus had the perfect number of windows to capture our gang.  Oupa played the role of bus driver well by hanging onto the steering wheel.

The 4 Webbs utilized the free ice skating passes, but one of us shined particularly bright.  After Layla was strapped into her skates she stood up on them, walked over to the rink and straight out onto the ice.

The skates where real ice skates, but the ice was fake.  They used a type of plastic interlocking board that felt awkward to Kendra and I since we know what the real-deal ice feels like.  Easton ponied up and gave it a shot also.  He did great for his first time on skates, but the balance required just to stand up wasn't comfortable for him.  I'm proud he took the risk of going out on the fake ice for a few minutes.  He tried something new and that's all I expect...  the willingness to try.

Kendra and I gave role modeled the "give it a try" philosophy, but the experience was so unnatural that neither of us kept our skates on for more than 10 minutes.

Easton found his stride in the playground equipment.  Schnepf Farms has a long wooden train with crawl spaces and ladders connecting the cars.  He wanted to play for much longer than we allowed, but other adventures quickly grabbed his attention.

How about tricycle races through a hay bale race course?  Ouma and Oupa were such great sports to jump in and participate in the fun.

The tricycles were slightly too big for the twins, but Kendra and Ouma pushed them through the tight turns and obstacle course parts.

Of course Miss Independent wanted to do it all by herself , but I could tell she was thinking how much more fun her big girl bike at home is compared to the difficulty of riding the tricycle.

The grand finale was in Easton's wheelhouse:  a train ride!  The train here is similar to the one in Sacramento, but with passenger cars.  All of us hopped aboard the Schnepf Farms express to tour the other parts of the complex.  An amusement park is onsite, but unfortunately it is only open certain seasons.

We'll certainly be back some day, but it was a long haul to get there so it won't go into our standard rotation of adventures.  We talked briefly about how cool it would be to have their birthday party there, but then after thinking about how far away it is we decided not to even consider it.

The twins are 5 weeks away from being 4 years old so we are deep in negotiations for birthday party ideas. It won't include pizza though. That much I can be sure of. Almost every birthday party has pizza and there is never enough to feed all the kids and adults.  What's up with that?  Anyway, Kendra is very creative and will think up some awesomeness to throw into the mix.

See you soon!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Visitors

Merry Christmas friends and family,

The biggest holiday of the year is close enough I can use the greeting.  Having three-year-old twins is shedding a whole new light on the excitement.  I can't remember a Christmas this enjoyable since I was in grade school.  Easton asks every day, "how many more sleeps until Christmas?"  One thing we don't have this year is a count-down calendar.  That would be a good visual measure for the twins to look at each day.

The most important part of the season so far is that Ouma, Oupa, and GG all arrived for a week-long vacation stay at the Webb resort.  We took a stroll through our neighborhood to see the wonderfully decorated houses.  It was one of the handful of times per year Kendra gets to wear her Uggs.

Here is our official 2011 Christmas card photo of the 4 Webbs.  We've never sent out Christmas cards due to lack of interest.  However, I religiously post enough pictures here throughout the year that anyone who cares to see us has a plethora of choices.

Easton and Layla aren't supposed to wonder into the neighbor's yard, but their desire to hug Rudolph was too cute to reprimand their actions.  Instead I took a picture.  :)

A particular house in our neighborhood has a decked-out yard.  the owner dresses up as Santa and allows free pictures every Saturday evening in December.  Another photo opportunity is the family Christmas tree which we gladly filled with our smiles

The best part of this holiday season is the time shared between the twins and GG, Ouma, and Oupa.  Each day Easton and Layla spring out of bed and wait patiently for our three visitors to wake up.  They are so excited to play barbie dolls and trains.  sharing the simple aspects of life are what makes the twin's day.  Walking through our neighborhood is another one of those memories they will talk about for months.

As we approached the extravagantly decorated Santa house I knelt down with the twins to give them final instructions.  I said something like, "I know you two know Santa is not real, but you can NOT talk about that when we are in the picture taking line around the other kids".  They agreed and then we approached the busy scene.  Easton and Layla both turned to us adults simultaneously and screamed, "Santa IS real!"  We didn't bother to correct them until later, but their first encounter with a fake Santa was an awesome sight to behold.

We also stopped along the way home for a photo opportunity with a nativity scene.  I never claimed to be a good photographer so it's hard to tell what they are even standing in front of.  Even an amateur like me can capture the sweetness of Easton and Layla on camera.

I promised Oupa a mostly-work-free vacation around the Webb resort, but installing the two remaining ceiling fans is above my pay grade.  We also renovated the entire kitchen sink, but other than that I've kept the handyman jobs at a minimum.  Lucky for Oupa he had the best two little helpers in the world.

As a closing story I'll briefly share how the brutal honesty of children is something parents quickly learn to navigate.  I decided to shave my stubbly face.  Part of the reason is that Layla gives me ten times more kisses with a clean shaven face.  I shaved and then found Layla to steal a kiss.  She put her hands on my cheeks and said, "Dad!  You shaved!"  I told her the reason is because I wanted to get more kisses from her.  She tilted her head and gave me a big kiss.  Then she looked intently at my face and said, "Dad, your face is smooth, but you still have a lot of hair in your nose.  You should shave that part too."

See you soon!

Friday, December 16, 2011


Hola friends and family,

We experienced one of the 20 rainy days per year during a cool evening.  Kendra was out running errands so I brought up the idea of going for a walk in the rain.  The immediate cheers and hustle towards the coat closet made me excited to get out there and splash around with them.

Rain boots don't get much use so we bought Easton's boots 4 sizes too big so he can wear them once or twice before he grows out of them.. I'm not exaggerating either.  He stuffed his foot in his house slippers and then stuffed that into the boot and they were still too big.  I am absolutely certain he will fit into them some day and then out grow them.  Unlike me who still has shirts from 11 years ago in my daily wardrobe.

Layla and I went on a Daddy date while Kendra took Easton on a Mommy date.  We separate the car seats   once in a while and take time for individual attention. Every time we do this Easton and Layla spend some portion of their adventure asking where the other sibling is.  I thought each one would be happy to take a break from the other, but that isn't so at all.  They'll get there eventually, but for now we are happy to see they miss their best friend.

Anyway, I took Layla for her first Starbucks hot cocoa.  she wasn't fond of the flavor since she is my vanilla-girl.  A while ago I recommended the link referencing 50 rules for dads of daughters.  Number 48 is:  "Ice cream covers over a multitude of sins. Know her favorite flavor."  I take these recommendations or rules very seriously and I know her favorite flavor of ice cream, favorite snack, favorite cracker, favorite song, favorite color, and hundreds of other favorites. I know that she knows that I know.  It shows in how vibrant she is.

Gregarious.  The word struck a chord with me when Buck Brannaman from the movie "Buck" used it to describe his daughter. I looked it up and sure enough it works well for Layla also.  Gregarious means : marked by or indicating a liking for companionship, sociable.  That's Layla for sure.  She chased Easton and I in a good game of tag.

Kendra discovered a pet we inherited with the new house.  Meet Toasty the owl.

He sat way up high on the very tip-top of the tree on the other side of the greenbelt.  The 4 Webbs stealthily walked across the back yard to get a better view.  Toasty was the highlight of the day.  I know this because the next two days were spent learning about owls.  As we walked back inside from our owl adventure Easton's first comment was, "Tell me all about owls, Mommy!"  His thirst for knowledge and openness to learn is music to my ears.  Kendra pulled up some youtube videos, read through some websites, and I finished the night off with a bed time story about an owl.  I am blessed because Kendra takes time to teach with a level of enthusiasm to match Easton and Layla's.

Ouma and Oupa and GG arrived safely this morning.  All 4 Webbs are ecstatic about their week with us.    I'll get a judges panel together to determine which recital video to post.  :)

See you soon.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Occupy 4Webbs

Greetings friends and family,

With all of the goofy, useless "occupy" movements out there I thought we should ride the wave and protest...  something.  Not sure what yet.  Maybe I'll ask Easton and Layla to describe any perceived injustices in their lives and we'll stage a sit-in.  In the mean time we are enjoying life and parenting.

Easton and Layla performed on stage for the first time.  Their Christmas caroling for their preschool recital was outstanding.  Kendra and I were smiling as though the twins were receiving a gold medal at the Olympics.

Before I get to the grand recital we have other adventures to cover chronologically.  The 4 Webbs attended a birthday party of Easton and Layla's classmate.  Other parents tell me the cadence of birthday parties will continue to increase for the next 10 years where at some point our entire weekends for months at a time will be consumed with buying gifts, eating pizza, and singing "happy birthday".  

Kendra is the coolest mom.  ever.  While the kids waited impatiently at the table for the pizza to arrive she took over and led the party-goers in a game of duck-duck-goose.  She didn't organize and then direct.  She participated too!

Easton joined the team sport of duck-duck-goose until he heard the train whistle blow.  He jumped up and searched the horizon for the train he knew was coming around.  the party included a ride on the train Easton sought.  Layla's expression brings a smile to my face.  I'm not surprised she emphatically requested her two friends sit beside her on the train ride.  They complied, but this may be a case of coercion.

Easton took a huge step towards manhood this day.  He kindly asked me to sit in the seat behind him so he could be brave and ride by himself for the first time.  My boy is growing up!  His demeanor during the train ride was one of confidence like a conquering warrior.

One rainy day was highly exciting for Easton because his friend, Coleton, and his sister came over to play.  I like to see Easton socially interacting with other good influences so this scene makes me happy.

On to Easton and Layla's first recital.  I took the day off work to attend the festivities which included the morning routine of getting the twins ready for school.  Kendra had their clothes lying neatly on the floor the night before so we had time for a dressed-up picture by the ole' Christmas tree before heading out the door.

Easton has always been one inch taller than Layla even when they were first born!  Looks like he's already sprouting a bit faster than her...

The twins loved being on stage and I was as proud as any father could be.  They followed directions, sang at an appropriate volume (unlike the loud-mouth girl by Layla), and performed all the hand motions like well-trained professional recitalists.

Their class came forward for a few special songs.  Layla was easily the most beautiful princess on the stage. That's not just my biased view either!  I'll bet any pageant director's official ranking would agree with me.

Easton was bribed to obey prior to the big event.  I promised to give him two hot-wheels he's been eyeing for days.  He made good on his end of the bargain and I did afterwards as well.  His untucked shirt was the most humorous part of the recital.  This kind of funny incident is a classic example of why parenting is so great.

The after party was delayed because Mary and Joseph were changing out of their costumes.  They were the parents of a child in Easton and Layla's class who happened to have a real-life baby.  The three of them were included in the recital making it even that much more special for the twins.

We sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus then blew out the candle on the cupcake.

Easton and Layla ate the frosting top and left the cakey bottom on the plate.  I wonder where they got that from?  Oh yeah...  that's what I do too.  Speaking of similarities, after seeing Easton's outfit for the day I changed into my matching clothes just for fun.  same shirt, blue jeans, brown belt, and handsome smile.

This was the first time I rode with Kendra and the twins to school this year.  This was a worth-while vacation day.

See you soon!