Thursday, April 30, 2015

More Cousin Time

Greetings friends and family,

With Daphne and Trinity here for their first time in Arizona we're going all out to show them around and have our own adventures.  I was going to take the twins and Daphne and Trinity out for dinner, but Trinity was out of gas from a full day of fun.  I took the three amigos to Rustler's Rooste, which included sliding down the slide a few times, admiring the excellent views, and eating rattle snake and fried prickly pear cactus.

Daphne was very brave and didn't flinch even when I showed her the snake skeleton on the plate.  The view of the city is one of the best in the entire phoenix valley.  Not that a seven year old can really understand the unique opportunity they have to overlook our city from such a cool spot.

The balloon guy generated a buzz by making balloon animals for the table next to us.  He said "mermaid?" and Layla nodded with a huge smile.

Easton went through several ideas from the balloon guy before his eyes lit up when he said, "scorpion?"

Daphne didn't wait for a list of options.  She just said, "rose!" And he gladly creates one just the way she asked. 

We caught an incredible sunset view before heading home late.  The bedtime routine was rushed but the delayed sleep time was well worth it for the fun experience.  

Joanie took the kids to Makutus island, which is an indoor playground with a two story playhouse. The kids ran around looking for each other about half of the time we spent there. 

All three kids took a turn on the trampoline bungee attraction after an hour long wait.  Layla was first so she could show the girls how to do it.  

Fearless trinity was next.  The ride operator slowly increased her height and trinity responded with cheers of excitement.  

Daphne was rather quiet but her smiles showed how much she enjoyed it.  I forgot my camera so this crummy iPhone blur of a picture is as good as it gets. 

We did our best to find the balance between boredom and over exertions.  I hope did a good job. I know the twins were sad to see them go and asked for one more week of fun.  I asked trinity what she misses most about being home.  She said "my dog" and didn't mention her dad or brothers at all.  We chuckled in the front seat because she has the cutest, most innocent responses. 

See you soon!

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Cousins Visit

Greetings friends and family,

Many people have asked what we are telling Easton and Layla about Kendra's cancer.  My response is, "we tell them the truth in as much detail as a seven-year-old can comprehend."  We don't lie or sugar coat anything.  There are some details that we choose not to share with them because they aren't important, but whatever question they ask, we answer openly and honestly.

We explained about the cancerous tumors, her fractured vertebrae, the hysterectomy, the laser radiation and now the next step, chemotherapy.  Before that starts this week she had to get a port inserted in her shoulder so they can avoid starting a new IV every week.  That surgery was Friday and we took another doctor date trip to the hospital.  She was sedated, cut on, received the portacath and sewed up with super glue and stitches.  We have fun together in the most odd surroundings and circumstances.  Kendra told me not do the duck face because I look silly.  She's got it down pretty well.

and the "after" picture that I hate more than anything in the world right now.  Watching my wife suffer is one of the most painful feelings I've ever experienced.  I held her hand as she came out of sedation.  Two new scars and a bump under skin accompany the swelling and bruising around the new device.  This is a sight I will see one more time as they remove the port from her body 6-12 months after the chemo is done.  That will be a glorious day and I'm already looking forward to it.

The rest of this post is on the lighter side of things, but without Kendra.  She is throttling her time out of bed by making every moment count when she's standing or sitting.  Joanie and I have managed the kids and the house as a tag-team effort.  Sometimes she is with the kids, sometimes I am and sometimes we both are.  the bedtime routine is one of the most enjoyable times of the night because the kids are calming down and playing together at home.  Daphne and Trinity fit right in with our princess, Layla, and her night gowns.

One of those occasions where we both hung out is the breakfast trip to the Hangar Cafe in Chandler.

The cafe is literally next connected to hangar so it's more than just a theme of the restaurant.  we checked out some commuter planes while waiting for our table to open up.  If we had a few more minutes we could have convinced the mechanics to let Daphne and Trinity sit inside one of the planes in for repair.

But our name was called over the loud speaker and we had four hungry kids ready for breakfast.  The patio where we sat was right on the tarmac.  Planes were starting up and taxiing away just a few feet from our pancakes.

On our way out we paused to watch a small jet take off.  Easton is still enthralled by flight and space so this was especially interesting to him.

and probably the only picture of Joanie's trip to AZ with both of us in it was taken by Daphne as we headed home from the airport.  We are usually the ones taking the pictures, which is fine with us!  Her time here in the Webb house was fully utilized as she jumped right in to shuttle kids, clean up, play games, and even help with homework.  There is no job description for "sister", but she's gone above and beyond anything I could have asked or imagined when she offered to come out during this tough transition time with Kendra.

I've done a few uncle things during their visit, but haven't had the chance to spend much time with them because of the myriad of other priorities and commitments.  We've had a few moments though like when I asked them to help me pick lemons.  They stood back as I shook the tree.  Lemons plopped out of the tree and the girls were good helpers to put them in the bucket.  Their reward was fresh-made lemon curd, which was used on breakfast for the next few days.

Easton and Layla are influencing Daphne and Trinity.  Most times for the better but sometimes the twins expose their cousins to things I'd rather them not do.  Making soap bubbles at the kitchen sink is not the worst thing in the world, but it will lead to more messes for Joanie to clean up when she gets home.

Layla's proudest moment was probably showing off her ice skating skills for her cousins.  They watched as she twirled around the ice skating rink and cheered each time she waved while passing by.  She might be a little too proud because she's leaning towards bragging and haughtiness when it comes to her ice skating skills. We'll have to keep an eye on those seeds to watch how she grows.

Bed time includes reading and songs when Aunt Joanie is involved.  I'm more than happy to give up that part of my nightly routine for a few nights.

I'm not sure how Joanie convinces everyone to pose so well, but I'd like to learn her secrets to photography.

This time of year includes many hours at the park because we are between the chill of winter and the blazing sun of summer.  My twins are very knowledgeable about every park within 5 miles of our house.  Layla is a star everywhere she goes.

Joanie treated the kids with a trip to the Butterfly Wonderland.  The four of them fit nicely on this butterfly bench inside the conservatory.

Easton made a butterfly friend who sat comfortably on his shoe for about 15 minutes.  This was the highlight of Easton's day.

Layla held still long enough for a big butterfly to land on her finger.  I wish I could have been there to watch her expression of joy as this happened.

Joanie became the undisputed favorite aunt this week. Partly because of the awesome adventures, but mostly because she is so loving.

The pool is a few degrees too cold for my twins.  I heated up the hot tub a few degrees to make it tolerable for the kids to enjoy without their lips turning blue.  My plan to just get my feet wet didn't last long with those water guns around...

Easton's favorite restaurant is Firehouse subs.  This is also Layla's least favorite for unknown reasons.  Easton was happy to introduce his cousins to the sandwiches, pickles, and free hats.

The Firehouse trip was Sunday after church.  Layla would be happy to wear her fancy dress and tiara almost anywhere, but these were considered "church clothes" this day.

What fun would a cousin trip be without board games?  We have a closet full of games from the past few years.  Most of which are standard issue for every household in America, like Battleship and Jenga.  We also have some new ones like "beat the parents".

During all these adventures Kendra is conspicuously missing.  Not because she was lying in bed every minute of the day, but because she was doing what she does best:  giving to others, being a blessing, and leading ministry.  I'm still waiting on pictures.  :)

see you soon!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Ouma, Nana, Joanie

Greetings friends and family,

Ouma and Oupa were here.  Then they left.  Nana was here.  Then she left.  Joanie is here and we aren't going to let here leave.  ever... and that's the summary of who's been running the Webb house for the past seven weeks.

Kendra's back is healing very slowly now that radiation treatment has the tumor in remission.  I am breathing a sigh of relief louder each that that proves her pain is decreasing and her activity is increasing.

I did a terrible job of taking pictures with Ouma when she was here, but there's something about retreating to survival mode that doesn't lead to very many picture worthy moments.  Ouma had those with the twins, but they were during times when I wasn't around. so all i can say is "thanks Ouma and Oupa!"

Then my mom was here for a week and brought her own flavor of grandma time to the twin's world. One of the coolest things about my mom being here was her help to create their "family tree" project for school.  She helped them understand more clearly their lineage and great grandparents.  both got great project credit and a good learning experience.

We welcomed Nana into our home with a full size poster of happiness thanks to Layla's coloring skills.  The day to day functioning of our household is extremely dependent on the kindness of whoever is being our live-in extended family.  The 4 Webbs are very grateful!

I'm keeping my head above water with just being a husband, a dad, an employee, and an executive pastor.  being a care giver for Kendra and home-maker is far beyond what I can handle by myself so having Nana and Ouma and now Joanie in town is crucial right now to our success and sanity.

She brought two rays of sunshine, Daphne and Trinity. her daughters.  that means Easton and Layla's cousins!  The twins were looking forward to their arrival with extreme anticipation and happiness because of the great memories from last summer when we went to Missouri to visit them and my family.  Princesses were right at home in Layla's closet and our house.

and the pool is officially open for business this summer.  Even though we are barely into spring according to the calendar we are well into the "warm enough" season for pool water.  It's chilly, no doubt, but given the chance to swim in April they were troopers about the cold water.

Luckily we have plenty of warm sun to heat them up afterwards.  Easton is being included as much as a boy can with three fairy princesses.  I have a few dozen pics of the twins with their cousins and will look forward to sorting through them soon.

I bought Kendra a temporary handicap pass.  We printed the form, got the doctor's signature, and went to a 3rd party place to get the pass.  Now Kendra doesn't have to walk so far when she's able to go out.  It's a temporary pass though so she has to be healed by October.  That's what I'm believing for.

As a catch-up for Kendra's cancer situation...  She is done with the Cyberknife radiation treatment.  We met with the oncologist and she gave us the schedule for the next 7 months of treatment.  Kendra had a port insertion surgery to implant a little plastic thing for her weekly chemotherapy process.  Now we wait for April 30th for her to start the chemo process.  They gave us plenty of reading material to go through.  I'm becoming an expert in something I never cared about before.  Kendra's demeanor is just as cheery as the photograph portrays.  we are not naive about what she's been through or what we are going through, but we are hopeful there will be good results and good reports.

thank you for praying for kendra and the healing she needs!  See you soon.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Power Over Circumstances

Greetings friends and family,

The times are certainly interesting at the Webb house.  I am incredibly grateful for all the meals, cards, prayers, phone calls, and help we've received over the past several weeks.  many people have given their time, skills, and money to support us through these challenging times.  Kendra's mom and dad were here, my mom was here and now my sister, Joanie is here.  All them were given the helm to captain the ship of the Webb house.  I've been going crazy just keeping my head above water that I haven't taken many pics of them, but I have a few to post with some great stories.

I can't remember the number of times I walk into the master bedroom to find Kendra being a blessing and encouraging others.  Kendra has a great excuse to be sad and frazzled and needy.  She could easily be completely justified in spending her day receiving.  However every single day I hear her leading friends into an encounter with God and praying with them about their life!

She even goes down to the front of the church during service.  Not to be prayed for, but to pray for and with others.  This is amazing faith in action.  She believes God can heal and restore and meet the needs of our church members even in her current condition.

People who see her or talk with her are blown away by how she is more than just calm and stable in the midst of her broken back and cancer, but she is giving and loving and healthy.  I've been taking random selfies of the two of us.  She is able to stand and walk at certain times during the day, but I usually think about getting a picture of us when we are resting in bed where she spends most of her time these days.

Kendra finished up her third and final Cyberknife laser radiation treatment this past week.  As we were waiting around in the doctor's office before the last round of radiation I captured the moment.  The way Kendra expresses the peace and hope inside her is beyond amazing.  We've had some brief discussions of doubt and concern and sadness about the pain and the unknown, but those are rare compared to the day in and day out confidence she has inside.

After the last treatment they gave her a graduation certificate.  I was impressed they gave her a token of celebration.  So far we've received bills for about $200,000.  That's before the Cyberknife radiation!  and chemo hasn't started... and general radiation.  good grief, this is going to be a record for money spent in health insurance.

I know this is a blog dedicated to adventures with twins, but lately we've had adventures in survival and doing our best to make it one day at a time.  Next post 'll get back to the twins and our awesome extended-family visitors.

see you soon!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

How About Head Lice?

Greetings friends and family,

My role as husband changed dramatically six weeks ago.  I went from being a common "take care of myself and keep my underwear off the floor" kind of husband to being a full time care giver to a wife with ovarian cancer, bone cancer, liver cancer, and a broken back and head lice.   I'll get to the lice story later, but on March 5th there was a dramatic shift...

Even with all the incredible help from friends and family I feel the responsibility of  making sure Kendra is taken care of whereas before I just made sure she was able to have an atmosphere to just be herself and blossom.

In the middle of this re-prioritization I'm still doing relatively well in my second role as father.  The normal bedtime routine from 6:30-7:30 is now followed by another hour of bedtime routine for Kendra.  I don't see helping Kendra as any more of a chore than helping the kids, but i'd much rather spend my time with Kendra just resting and enjoying each other's company than running errands, giving shots, and finding pills.  I know this is just a season or short-term situation so the day-after-day allocation of my time doesn't get me down.  I'm hopeful for the day when Kendra will be self-sufficient again and we can get back to the business of life.

I was happy to get out for a mountain bike ride with the twins.  This was Layla's first time on her own on a mountain bike.  After Easton rode a while on his bike i had the twins switch and she reluctantly rode his bike.  She cried and whined about it not being pink and the handle bars were too far away and the tires weren't aired up and on and on.  She sat on the side of the trail having a tantrum of epic proportions.  Then another dad rode by with his daughter.  She was four years old riding a blue two wheel bike with the biggest smile on her face.  Layla got a dose of reality.  She got back on the bike and pedaled her way up a few more hills before getting back on the trail-a-bike.  We had an amazing short ride together and it was worth every moment.

They brought snacks in their backpacks for us to eat as we sit as high up as we can get on the rock formation overlooking the trail system.

I tried to explain to Layla that I want her to try out mountain biking to see if she likes it before i bother buying her a mountain bike for her next size up.  She didn't get my reasoning and I may have shot any hopes of her finding a passion for mountain bike riding.  Although once i put her back on the trail-a-bike with me she smiled and laughed and cheered as we rode downhill towards the van.  only time will tell.

There have been many people offer to help out and we are so grateful for their generosity.  There are two of Kendra's friends who've spent hours with her.  Stephanie and Betty have been friends who are worth their weight in gold.  I don't know how we would have made it through the past few weeks without them.

We are continuing to lead our ministry together in preparation for the big two-day conference.  We brought the whole team of 15 leaders together as a planning and strategy session. Kendra felt good enough to sit through the entire dinner and night of hostessing.  I'm amazed by her strength and passion.  The team is stepping up so well and taking on a huge role of getting us prepared.  The atmosphere of our house is still peace and hope and love even in the middle of what Kendra's body is going through.

Easton and Layla joined Kendra and I on our bed for a board game called "beat the parents".  This is one of the many ways we are staying connected as a family through this season of Kendra not eating dinner with us because of nausea and back pain.  There are ways to maintain connection no matter what the circumstances.

There haven't been many individual daddy dates for the twins, but one morning I took Layla out for breakfast.  just the two of us.  She was sitting in the chair as we held a surprisingly mqature conversation.  I can't remember about what.  I do remember this sense of "Oh my goodness.  she's not a kid anymore.  she's a young lady!"  Even as she sits funny in the chair, I can sense the transition happening.

I took the twins for ice skating lessons last week.  Easton and I had a full hour in the restaurant connected to the rink.  We ate pizza and watched Layla skate.  The topic of conversation was a discovery of the similarities between cyclones, typhoons, and hurricanes.  Seriously.  He wanted to see footage of the devastation caused by those weather monsters.

Layla was out on the ice being Layla.  She's continuing to progress through the levels and impressing the bystanders more each week.

My work gave me tickets to see Disney on Ice.  How could I possibly turn that down!  We went to a late show and I sacrificed their sleep for the special occasion.  Layla wore her princess gear and Easton wore his ice skating outfit.  Thank goodness they wore warm clothes because the arena was freezing!

They wanted to go down to see the ice before the show started. They were excited like kids on Christmas morning waiting for the skaters to hit the ice.

The cars thing was a little disappointing and extremely cool at the same time.  I don't know what I expected but seeing life-size versions of the cars was super cool.  the down side was that they were only out there for a few minutes out of the two-hour show.

The Toy Story 2 plot consumed the second half of the show with impressive costumes and great skating.  Easton and Layla were inspired, but all I could think about when watching Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear bobble around the ice was what Will Ferrell looked like in the Blades of Glory movie.  I couldn't stop laughing.

The twins are growing up fast.  Some due to necessity.  At seven-year-old some people would say "it's about time they start doing their own laundry!"  but for us it hasn't been a priority to start that until now.  I showed them how to soap it up and turn it on.

Why are the 4 Webbs doing so much laundry?  Well that's a long story.  The short version is that Layla got head lice and gave it to Easton and Kendra.  I'm not sure why there is such a stigma around getting lice, but it's one of those things you never talk about.  so why not blog about it?  Kendra has a broken back, cancer in her liver and vertebrae, healing from a hysterectomy and going through radiation treatment.  How about adding some head lice to the equation?  why not.  Kendra cried.  It does no good to ask why so we don't bother.  they never had lice before and neither have I or Kendra.  We had no idea what to do.  Kendra's mom and dad dealt with it for a few days, but after they left we had a wave of new lice take over their heads.  I washed every sheet, blanket, pillow case, along with all clothes and hats and any other cloth thing that would fit in the washing machine.  I washed more loads of laundry in one week than I have in 13 years of marriage combined.  No exaggeration.

anyway, our friends came over and spent over 3 hours combing through each individual hair on their heads.  They brought a huge light, magnifying glass, and lots of patience.  Layla was a gem for letting them pick and pull and scrape every little nit and lice.

Kendra was just demoralized by the whole thing, but extremely grateful for friends like this who were willing to do for Kendra and Layla what they could not do for themselves.  We are happy to report our household is lice free!  I might write a book about how to overcome lice.  we got that down to a science now.

At one point Kendra was laying in bed and I was sitting next to her in my office chair.  We smiled at each other and then broke out in hysterical laughter.  It wasn't from insanity or denial.  We just both thought our situation is humorous in the "i can't believe this" kind of way.

I don't tell these stories to get pity or for anyone to feel bad for us.  It's just a raw reality of where we are and a willingness to be completely transparent.  We are conquering and overcoming one obstacle at a time.

See you soon!