Tuesday, December 29, 2015

It's Silly Christmas Time!

Greetings friends and family,

It's vacation time for the 4 Webbs.  No work.  No homework.  No hospitals.  just time with family and doing holiday things.  Our family is expanding with marriages which means we get more christmas parties.  We went to Bree's family's event for an evening of games and fun.  I'll start off with a silly pic because these are much more interesting than the same old cheesy smiles we have in other family pics.

I tried to get a selfie of the whole family, but I didn't open my selfie stick gift yet so this one is as close as I get to a showing how much of a good time we had together.

Kendra's family (minus Casey and Barbie) was all together and looking festive.

We visited Oupa's gymnasium a few times for scooters, dodge ball, and basketball.  Indoor activities are highly valued during these cold, rainy days.  Kendra's grandma, GG, joined in for basketball and took some shots.  I don't know many 89 year old ballers out there, but my GG is one.  never too old to be active!  Her presence with us is very meaningful and I love every second the 4 Webbs get to be around her.

This girl...  She was in a back brace unable to walk without severe pain just two short months ago.  And now she's rolling around the gym floor on scooters and playing dodge ball.  She amazes me as her healing and recovery takes a small step forward every single day.  A little less pain, a little more mobility, a little longer hair.  It's hard not to notice the improvements even when I see her every day.

Easton and Layla are getting more independent every day, but just because they don't need me to help them as much anymore doesn't mean they don't want to be around me.  It just means we get to do more adventurous things as they mature.  We took a bike ride on one of the rare sunny days.  It was chilly, but nothing a coat and hat couldn't fix.  We rode through the neighborhood a few miles to find a park.  They took a moment to pose because I asked them to.  Otherwise they would never be still long enough for me to get their faces in the same picture.  They climb like monkeys and I really enjoy not worrying about them falling or getting hurt.  for the first few years of playground time I was constantly on edge to make sure they wouldn't hurt themselves.  Now I just sit back and watch them play.

Even when there is no playground close by they still climb on rocks and trees and everything else they can find.  The big change or the second semester of their second grade school year is that Layla is moving to Easton's class.  This will be the first time they are in the same classroom at school.  Layla's heart is too precious to me for her teacher to shoo her away like a fly, yell at the class, and be more interested in punishment than connection.  Layla has her own adjusting she needs to do, but I am really disappointed her teacher from this past semester is so unwilling to adjust.  Next semester will give new life to Layla's school experience and I'm excited for how that will help her be engaged.

Christmas day was all kinds of happy.  Several of us stayed in our pajamas the entire day.  We didn't leave the house and nobody was around other than family.

Logan and Bree had new pajamas to break in and GG was covered in blankets and coats most of the day.

The number of gifts the twins opened was a new record, for sure.  Their responses were appropriate and grateful.  I'm proud of them for maintaining a happy heart through the process of shredding gift wrapping paper.  Layla was excited about everything because of the surprise factor.

Easton was slightly more excited about the Star Wars, Lego, and Titanic related gifts.  I'm not surprised at all!

Uncle Casey bought them each a Nintendo 3DS and some games.  You can see by their faces how surprised they were.  They are already getting good at the controls and I would guess our trip home will be significantly quieter because of them.

Kendra unwrapped some great gifts as well including a cat-themed onesie with a hood and tail.  Now she is a soft kitty for real!

She also has some new clothes like scarfs and wraps and funky outerwear for the next few cool months in Phoenix.

Easton's Titanic gifts are a real hit, including this enclosed titanic model and iceberg that he sloshes around to crash the iceberg into the ship over and over again.  pure joy on this boy's face.

I got an appropriate shirt that I'll get some wear-time from soon.  Layla will be back at her figure skating lessons soon.  I'll wear this proudly. :)

Easton and Layla made out like looters in St. Louis.  Their gratitude and contentment with what they received made the occasion even more joyous.  We have several weeks worth of entertainment and interest when we get home.

Ouma and Oupa's stack of gifts to open was not nearly as bountiful as the twins, but there were a few items outside of socks and kitchen utensils.  He has a heart rate monitor now to track his sleep and activity.  Seems like an essential piece of gear for a PE coach.  Cooking so many meals is greatly appreciated, but even more than that I enjoy the atmosphere of openness and love they provide.  

and the willingness to be interactive with my Layla.  The adults made this a Christmas she'll never forget.  Being the only two grand kids has it's privileges.

The serious version of our Christmas day was just plain boring.  I'm glad we have this one to show the real heart of the environment when we spent the day lounging in our pajamas.

There is an outdoor temporary ice skating rink in downtown Folsom.  We waited for the best sunny day where we could get there early to beat the crowds.  Easton stepped back on the ice for the first time in a few months.  He did really well maneuvering around the first-time skaters and Layla was the star of the ice as always.

GG sat on the bench close to the rink where she was able to watch them skate around, lap after lap.  One of the few requests she made for our time here was to watch her great grand daughter Layla dance on the ice for her.

After Easton wore out his boots on the ice I took the opportunity to skate a few laps with my princess warrior.  This was my first time on hockey skates.  It was easier than I thought, but I still had a few hand wave moments where I almost fell.

Our trip is amazing on so many levels, but when I get down to the real bare bones of what makes it incredible, it is because Kendra is with us and healthy.  Her interactions with the twins and cousins and friends and everyone else we spend time with is a priceless miracle.

The couple of vacation days I took were well used, but now it is time for us to engage for 2016 planning and get our ministry momentum moving forward once again.  This is what I've been waiting for since October and I can't wait to dig in!  Kingdom things are in store for us this January.

See you soon!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The NorCal Experience

Greetings friends and family,

The 4 Webbs are in full Christmas mode with stockings hung by the chimney and scarfs hung on our necks.  I'm still working from my local office, but everyone else is kicking back relaxing.  Ouma and Oupa are spending priceless time with the twins, who are just barely small enough to kind of fit on their laps.  This may be the last year for curling up in anyone's lap because they are growing so tall.  Whatever happens for the next few days, this will be my favorite picture of the trip.

One of the many great characteristics of Kendra is her friendliness.  At church she met a new couple and swapped phone numbers.  When I arrived from Phoenix she said, "I met some new friends and we're going out with them."  OK...  Let's do it!  We met them out for coffee and they turned out to be very cool.  Brett and Heather have only been in Sacramento for five weeks and they have a baby so getting out for some adult conversation was just as valuable for them as it was for us.  Date night!

We've been looking forward to going to the Jesus Culture church together for months.  It was everything I hoped for and more.  The kid church people said they were going on stage to perform two Christmas songs.  They invited the twins to join them and we were excited for them to be a part of it.  They both did great on stage.  Even without prior notice or instructions they followed the motions well and sang along with all of their hearts.

I stopped outside to get a picture of Kendra and I because it was a meaningful moment.  Last summer I attended here without Kendra.  There was still so much unknown back then that I didn't know if she would be healthy or physically able to travel to Sacramento.  Here she is, by my side, as a testimony of God's goodness and healing power.

We went to Oupa's gym and used the scooters for some afternoon activity because it was so cold and rainy outside.  Easton happily pushed Kendra around the gym as we did our best to avoid crashing into walls.

Kendra is not only healed enough to travel, she is participating in the physical activities like a champ!  Ouma is also in on the action this year.  The four of them raced across the floor in a spirited competition.  I am extremely grateful for the chance to watch scenes like this.  Seeing the picture never gets old for me because it's amazing how far Kendra has come and how valuable these moments are for all of us.  

I don't know many grandmothers who get on the gym floor to join in the scooter races.  She's the coolest and Easton agrees!

Another adventure we took was watching uncle Casey and Aunt Barbie play in the disc golf tournament.  Casey is no longer working there as of yesterday so it was kind of the end of an era for him since he's been around that scene so many years.  His new job won't allow for as much time on the disc golf course, but i'm sure he'll find time to play once in a while.

We followed Barbie for a hole also and cheered her on as quietly as possible for two seven-year-olds in the woods.  She won the tournament and we were privileged to see greatness in the making.

I've had all the work I can stand and it's time for some real vacation time starting now.  The rest of our days will be filled with visiting family around town and just spending time together.  The rain and cold weather is a welcomed change from our last many months in Phoenix.  Breaking out the Ugg boots and gloves is something to look forward to since we'll be back home in the sun very shortly.

See you soon!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Week Without Kendra

Greetings friends and family,

Kendra is in Sacramento and we've been surviving.  The house didn't burn down although it looks more like a hurricane survival than the "after" picture of a home makeover even with David around helping in so many ways.  The twins and I miss Kendra terribly and can't wait to see her tomorrow!  One of the nights we made pizza.  Not from scratch, of course, but still a fun exercise in building our own creations.  They turned out well because I used regular flour this time instead of coconut flour like last time (i don't recommend coconut flour).

This was the only view I had for the past 5 days of my woman.  I'm thankful for facetime.  It's not even close to holding her in my arms, but it's better than just hearing her voice.  and because I took some screen shot pictures I was able to relive the view during my work day.  Her hair is growing back in nicely, but recently passed the peach-fuzz phase.  It's still fun to pet her head, but doesn't have the same soft feel of the newly grown hairs.

On Sunday we went to church at Cornerstone.  I wanted the twins to see what a huge kids program looks like.  They had a class full of 2nd graders instead of a small class of all ages from 5-12.  They had several full-costume Star Wars characters including Darth Vader handing out candy.  When they did the Christmas reenactment play, the three wise men included Yoda and Obiwan.  Needless to say, the twins have a new "favorite church".

It's been chillier than normal lately here in the desert, but we've had some good days of t-shirt weather to go bike riding.  I shoot for one hour per day of physical play, but that's not always realistic.  They are getting great at riding their bikes, but still fall occasionally.  it's a learning experience that highlights my parenting philosophy:  fail young and simply or fail old and massively.  I don't want to keep them from ever scraping their knees.  That's not my role.  I want them to try and fail and learn.  That's much cheaper to buy a new pair of leggings or jeans and a band-aid than the cost associated with failing once they get out in the real world when I'm not there to keep them from falling in adult situations.  I have a keen awareness that I won't be with them every moment of their lives outside of school.  I'm already focused on what life will be like in a few years when they are more independent on their bikes and can ride to friend's houses.  They push the button to cross the street.  they look both ways before crossing.  they lead us across the street.  Everything they can do for themselves, I don't.

There are exceptions though...  When Layla asks me politely to get her a drink of water I gladly agree and serve her.  When Easton asks for my help to build his Legos with him I gladly agree because I know he just wants me to be involved and interested in him.  He built his 1,156 piece set in a day and a half.  with school and sleep and every obstacle I could throw at him including extra math homework.  This kid devoured homework at a crazy pace knowing the reward is getting to build more and then play with the dinosaur scene.

He takes the indominus rex everywhere we go now, even to school.  Layla's new hat collection is courtesy of aunt Stephanie.  every time i turn around Layla has a new hat.  this is the perfect time of year to sparkle and stay warm though.

We had our last meal with David as a Christmas dinner, kind of...  sushi after Layla's figure skating lessons.  She was decked out and warm on the ice.

We are ready to get on the road and have a California Christmas.  I woke up this morning to find Layla cuddling up with Easton as he played the PS3 Lego game.  Sleeping in a few extra minutes was good for my travel-readiness and now I'm excited to see my Kendra and Ouma and Oupa.  Time to hit the road!

See  you soon.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Normal Christmas, Hooray!

Greetings friends and family,

The 4 Webbs are in full bloom of Christmas cheer.  Our house decorations are minimal this year, but our thankfulness for giving us another Christmas together is so dense that I can barely go an hour without thinking about how thankful I am for us to have this holiday season together as a family.  We had the pleasure of attending the Christmas Extravaganza with our friend Stephanie and Brett.  Their son performed in the event and we sat in the sea of 1,000 people experiencing all the Christmas goodness.

This next picture turned out to be one of my favorites of the whole year.  Kendra and her friend Stephanie both have genuine smiles and this particular one shows the real glow of Kendra better than any other picture from the last few weeks.  She is healing and growing and living and dreaming and all the other wonderful aspects of life that I love to see.

and then there's the only sad part of my week and even that is still a happy part... sending Kendra off to Sacramento on the plane.  I want her to have a few days there without me and kids and without day to day chores of the house.  She's been stuck in Phoenix for 9 months without a single day of vacation anywhere.  What she endured this year warrants an extravagant vacation on a Disney cruise, but that's not in the budget right now so I'm giving her the next best thing:  time alone.  She gets to choose which friends and family to see and for how long.  She gets to nap or go to bed early or rest or read.  This will be the first week in nine months where she is not poked with a needle.  We miss her intensely, but I'm happy for her to experience friends and family on her own terms.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Layla had a school friend, Alex, over for a play date.  I expected to have time for myself while they play, but that didn't happen.  I was invited into their world and gladly participated.  They dressed up and danced to Christmas music.  I was the DJ, judge, and cheerleader.

Then they had a tea party.  I mean, WE had a tea party.  I put together their snack track with pears and crackers and oranges.  I displayed it to look like flowers on the plate.  I also folded their napkins like a rose.  Neither of them used their napkin to wipe off the fruit juice.  They kept them in the shape of a rose, which defeats the purpose of a napkin, but I was flattered by how much they appreciated the setup.  Layla had a bell and would ring it every time they needed a refill of the "sunshine juice" I made for them.  It's just pineapple juice, but to a princess everything is magical.

It was a cold, blustery day... Well, OK, this is Arizona.  It was a little on the chilly side so they wore light jackets to go play in the neighborhood park.  I had the privilege of playing the role of the prince in their playground game.  It was basically tag, but they were able to make up rules on the fly.

About three months ago Easton asked me for the Indominus Rex Breakout lego set.  I told him "maybe for Christmas".  He talked about it almost every single day since then.  This dude is persistent!  I called the Lego store every Tuesday morning at 10:00 sharp for the past several weeks waiting for them to get one of the sold-out sets.  I finally picked one up this past Tuesday and Easton went bananas.

We will be Sacramento for Christmas day and he doesn't want to take the set there because it's so large he would have to dismantle it to bring in home.  He was willing to wait to put it together until we return from the holidays, but because of his willingness to be patient I gave it too him early.  He knows the number of pieces, the number of bags in the box, and every functional part of it.  He discovered Youtube and product reviews...

This is Kendra showing her jars homemade lemon curd.

When life gives you lemons...  make lemon curd and give it away!  or make lemonade and give it away if you don't have cooking skills like Kendra.  She turned the lemons in our backyard into a delicious topping for pancakes and she's giving it away.  She is like a bee pollinating and buzzing around being a blessing and encourager to those who cross her path.  I love watching her switch from receiving mode to giving mode again after so many months of people blessing us.  All treatments are done and she is continuing the recovery from radiation.  She will continue taking inhibitor pills along with getting vitamin C and curcumin intravenously for the next few years as long as we can afford it.  The good thing is that she gets to spread her joy in the doctor's offices.

Joy is not what she is doing, but who she is being and when she is joyful it shapes the atmosphere around her.  I've discovered there are too many people whose mood depends on what is happening around them.  Happiness is based on "happenings", but joy is based on a Godly relationship.  That leads me to a word that isn't used much in our culture: rejoice.  The word "rejoice" means to be joyful over and over.  If joy relates to an incident instead of a culture inside of you then it isn't sustainable.  Kendra loves Disneyland because it is a joyful experience, but that's not the joy-fuel she runs on all year long.  Anyone can be joyful at Disneyland because their goal is for everyone to experience that, but being full of joy while walking in the valley of the shadow of death requires the culture of joy to be already functioning from the inside.  Speaking of the 23rd Psalm, I like to lay down by the still waters and in the green grass, but when I'm going through the valley of the shadow of death, I just keep walking.  People have asked, "what do you do when you're in this season of difficulties?"  I keep going!  I keep moving forward

Kendra's in the middle of her story.  We reached the end of a chapter and are turning the page, but we have no idea what the next chapter will hold.  We don't know which chapter we just finished nor how many chapters our book will have.  I stopped asking questions God isn't answering.  Godly confidence, or Godfidence, is the result of faith.  If you have faith then you will have confidence, but that require trust that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.  The promise only applies to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.  I've seen too many atheists claim this promise in their life, but it is conditional.  If you want all things to work together for good, then love God and discover His purpose for your life.  If something isn't good, then God's not done yet.  This is one of the many truths that I meditate on during the hard times.  Through my impatience and worrying and striving to get ahead of the process by my own efforts, the truth shines brighter to help me see that God is not done yet.

Sometimes God gives us an acorn instead of an Oak tree.  He answers large prayers with small answers to see if we have the stamina and focus to steward the small answer.  I've prayed some large prayers during the past 9 months and I celebrate every acorn.  Anytime God engages me in a process it's because he's growing me into the kind of person who can handle the Oak tree.  All of God's disciplines are so that his blessings don't kill me, not punishment.  No one has ever been punished into purity or Godliness.  Discipline comes by God speaking the nature of reality directly to my heart.  Hebrews 4:12 says "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. "  the phrase "word of God" refers to the living, active voice of God, not just the Bible. My main point is that the first target of this verse is myself, not others.  I am not allowed to use the Bible or words given to me by God for the purpose of cutting up other people.  However, I can choose to grow when I let the word of God work in my own life.  The world will be a much brighter place when we allow the word of God to shift the way we see Him and ourselves instead of slicing up other people with it.

The measure of a man's ability to cherish his wife can be seen in her face.  Kendra gets more beautiful every year and I have a small part in that.  When I believe she is worthy to be cherished then I will choose to grow in my ability to cherish and serve her.  She must also choose to receive, but I am the initiator.  If you want to know how I'm doing as a husband, then look at Kendra's face and you'll know infinitely more truth than whatever words I say.  Look at her face as she browses the cereal isle at the grocery store instead of her selfie face. Reality is not displayed in a well-timed selfie, but in the mundane daily routine.  It is in these moments that she reflects back to me how well I cherish her.  As a second measure of the strength and fulfillment of a marriage, ask the wife, "how is your relationship with your husband?".  Her answer is 99.5% more accurate than the husband's.  I totally made up that statistic, but you get the point. I used to not understand what it means to cherish Kendra.  Now I understand it experientially, but I can't find the words to describe what it really means to cherish Kendra.

See you soon!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sliding into Christmas

Greetings friends and family,

Having Ouma around for a month made these last few weeks of radiation and recovery tolerable.  I always wish she could stay longer, but I understand the sacrifices she made to be with us as long as she did.  We convinced her to stay as long as she did by bringing Oupa out to join us for a week.  Our house was buzzing with people and I welcomed every minute of it.  All five of us, Kendra and I and Ouma and Oupa and David, provided just the right amount of involvement to keep the twins on target.  From trips to school, extra curricular activities, and adventures, the twins were well cared for by us.

The latest attempt to allow the twins to find their passions was to give them piano lessons.  We know Rhonda from our old church and she teaches kids something called "musicality".  That means piano, percussion, and all the instruments.  They only go once per week and we're just doing an eight-week session to see how it goes.

The piano in our house was given to us and it's sat mostly untouched for the past year because neither of us play.  However, now that lessons are ongoing our piano is playing Christmas tunes daily thanks to the twins.

I don't know if we'll put them back in after the holidays or not.  It's a lot of work to burn an entire evening each week and it's more costly than I expected, but we'll see how much Easton or Layla take a liking to it.  As you can see by the picture they are all smiles and having fun while learning to make music, but longevity is the real key marker of whether there is passion.

Easton memorized several Bible verses a few weeks ago, but the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13 is one I want to make sure he gets deep down in his heart.  I bribed him by getting him a cheap Star Wars poster and promised to give it to him when he could quote this section of the chapter from memory.  This makes me so very proud!

Kendra had some girl time with Layla when they went to watch the Nutcracker ballet at the movies.  We couldn't justify spending $80 per ticket for the two of them to watch it live, but for a few dollars they were able to see the New York ballet perform it on the movie screen.  They had a great time dressing up fancy and going out together.  Unfortunately there were no pictures taken, but memories were made and that's the important part.  

I had the day with Easton and we spent a few hours on the canal path riding bikes.  We stopped often to throw rocks in the mud and chase the small schools of minnows around in the water.  There are many situations where I will let Easton take the lead and make the decisions.  when he wants to stop and throw rocks, we do.  when he wants to ride fast, we do.  when he wants to take a break and drink some water, we do.  There aren't many situations in his daily life where he gets to spread his wings and call the shots.  These times are special to me because I get to be a witness to his maturing process one decision at a time.  

This girl is on a whole new level of living life without caring what others think.  We had a family over to hang out with the 4 Webbs.  We ended up in the greenbelt playing around.  Kendra brought a hula hoop for the kids, but it was too enticing for her to leave it to just the young ones.  She showed them how to do it right and they were amazed!  It's hard to describe the elation and pleasure I get from seeing Kendra have fun and hula hoop.  She is a miracle and although her back is still sore and rebuilding through physical therapy, she is whole and healed enough to experience pain-free hula hoop fun.

As we try out a different church each week our paths have crossed with several other families who left our old church and are seeking a new one like us.  One of those families has a daughter who is the same age as the twins and they've been friends for as long as they can remember.  I'm grateful for the relationships that have continued beyond the four walls of the church.  We are seeing very quickly who were our church-only friends and who are real friends.

christmas is coming quickly, but not fast enough or these two!  I read about the Jesse Tree from a Facebook friend and discovered a site where the once-per-day Bible stories have a corresponding ornament to tape or hang on the tree.  It's like Bible trivia with a focus on Christmas and we'll do this again each year for the next several years because it's such a great way to build anticipation for the day of Christ's birth instead of just the day of getting presents.

I'm in a weird place right now.  Kendra's in the middle of her story.  We reached the end of a chapter now that radiation is done and we are turning the page, but we have no idea what the next chapter holds.  I'm not even sure which chapter we just finished and not sure how many chapters our book will have.  The two of us started dreaming again for our future in ministry.  We even have confirmed plans for the first half of 2016 and I'm super excited.   Even so, Kendra and I are walking out this journey of her healing with eyes wide open and one step at a time.  As far as we are concerned, God healed her completely through miraculous means and the hands of doctors. Now Kendra gets to maintain her healing and move into the next phase of recovery that includes inhibitor drugs and vitamin c and curcumin.  One step at a time, one day at a time, one success at a time.  Everything in our lives has shifted the way we see reality by getting our focus very intently on this moment, now.  We are grateful for yesterdays, hopeful for tomorrows, but experiencing todays like never before.

See you soon!