Sunday, June 28, 2015

Summer in Phoenix

Greetings friends and family,

Well, we set a record for the hottest June 17th ever in Phoenix.  That's not the kind of records I like to be a part of, but the 4 Webbs are staying cool in pool.  We wear swimsuits more than we wear pants!  The twins are starting to get the hang of chores and pulling their own weight around here.  Layla is a top-notch duster and window washer.  Easton is a Swiffer mop king.  With Ouma and Oupa's help we prepared our house for a party to honor our friends who are moving to India.

Guess who also helped?  Kendra.  She helped a little too much and her back was slightly sore for a couple of days.  She feels so well that it's hard for her to stay down and rest.  I had a great idea for a picture, but it didn't turn out like I wanted it too.  I wanted our big saguaro cactus to represent cancer and the bouquet of flowers to represent everything else that lovely in Kendra's world.  Her focus on the flowers doesn't deny the existence of the cactus, but it sure makes the world more lovely when her eyes are on the flowers instead of the cactus.  I may try to capture this another way, but my camera skills are way below my creative ideas.

Easton asked for a Lego Titanic.  However, Lego doesn't make a Titanic... yet.  So I bought him the Cobi version, which is a knock-off brand of building blocks.  He loves it, but he is still very interested in a Lego version.  I found an idea page on the Lego website where people submit ideas for Lego to build.  If the idea gets 10,000 supporters within one year, then Lego seriously considers building whatever it is.  The Lego Titanic reached the 10,00 supporters and now the ball is in the Lego team's court to figure out if they can do it.  I put Easton in the middle of his three biggest building block accomplishments just for fun.  He built the 2005 piece Mega Blok Endeavor Space Shuttle, 450 piece Cobi Titanic , and 1,350 piece Lego Star Destroyer.  He's like a machine when he gets a new set.  The morning after we found the Lego Titanic idea website Easton crawled in bed next to me at six o'crack in the morning and asked, "Dad, do you think the Lego team is going to approve the Titanic?  I really, really want it."  Kendra and I giggled at the intense focus this dude has on what he's passionate about.

Easton is finished with figure skating.  He always felt like he was in Layla's shadow because of how quickly she advanced and her head-start on the ice.  He is fairly competent on ice skates and that was the main goal.  Now he gets to be an individual at something... martial arts. He's really getting into it, especially since he can be the one to describe all the moves and lingo to Layla.  After his third class they gave his belt a stripe, which is just a wrap of duct tape.  He earned it for obeying directions and breaking a board with a kick. This is what "proud" looks like.

Layla is continuing her advancement through the ranks of figure skating.  She absolutely loves it.  We've never once had to convince her to get on the ice.  When I look back at the shaky legged beginner videos from last year I am amazed at her progress.  Besides, I get to sit inside the 35 degree skating arena with my coat on while the rest of the family sweats their booty off in the 115 degree temperature.  We give Easton and Layla choices.  We want them to be individuals with their own individual passions and talents.  We've always allowed them to choose their path in life and enjoy the wonderful consequences of their good choices.

The lady in the picture below is Bernadette.  She is a chemo patient who is about six months ahead of Kendra on her cancer journey.  Last year when she found out about the cancer in her body I had zero idea about what that really meant for her daily life, pain, or uncertain future.  Then all of that changed when Kendra found out about the cancer in her body and we've spent the last three months working through this process.  I used to give Bernadette a nice church-appropriate side-hug and a "God bless you", but not anymore.  Now when I see her I can really see her.  I see where she's at in the process.  I celebrate the little victories of her showing up to church.  I feel the pain of her toenails popping off.  I listen more intently when describes the doctor's responses.  There is nothing good about cancer, but my compassion for those who are going through it has exploded as a result of what we are going through.
For the rest of my life, no matter what happens with Kendra, I'll always be able to identify with the Alices of the world in a way I never could have before.  I am thankful for this... the ability to love with compassion and an understanding of cancer patients and survivors.

and people who break their back.  Kendra's brace has the Wonder Woman sticker on it.  front and back.  She is Wonder Woman.  This brace is on her every waking minute of every day and she's tired of it already.  It's been three months and Kendra still has three months to go.  We are continuing to believe for complete healing and full restoration of her vertebrae.  This is the prayer we focus on most intently.  This thing needs to go and it will after the doctor says it's OK.

There is a heat advisory for the Phoenix metro area.  The advice is to stay inside unless it's absolutely necessary to be outdoors.  Or in our case... we just really want to ride mountain bikes.  My buddy talked me into riding a couple of hours across the sweltering desert.  I enjoyed every sweaty, heavy breathing moment of it.  Was this a good idea?  probably not, but we survived and I got some good exercise in.  I drank about 100 ounces of water and never urinated.  Now that's hot.  October is coming!

See you soon.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Cheer Leader and Karate Kid

Greetings friends and family,

Over the past few weeks I've had so much to say about going through the healing process with Kendra and cancer and a broken back.  The trouble is that I've had a difficult time putting language to what it's like to be the 4 Webbs.  The short version of the status update is that Kendra is doing very well.  She is one-third of the way through her chemotherapy!  That is something to celebrate.  Kendra is tired virtually all the time.  She's also tired of being tired.  I'm tired of doctors and hospitals and Kendra's week being consumed with trip after trip to go sit in the doctor's office for hours on end.  But, no matter who is tired of what, we are only one-third done with chemo and then she gets 5 weeks of daily radiation through the end of the year.  We are almost to the half-way point of the year, but I was ready for 2015 to be over as soon as the schedule was laid out for Kendra.

Kendra spends much of her time like this:  lying on her side in bed.  It's boring and mundane and grates on Kendra because she is normally so outgoing and always on the move.  Her heart is genuinely peaceful and lively, but there are moments when she is frustrated by her lack of mobility or discomfort.  This is just a season and we both recognize it, but that doesn't make it any more tolerable.

Now that my whining is over I'll add the other side of this dismal coin by admitting 2015 promises to include the absolute most incredible moments of our relationship and as a family that we've ever known.  Our relationship is stronger than ever, which seems to be a very odd thing to declare given the circumstances.  We are more open with each other in conversation.  We are more "in the moment" than ever before.  We are more compassionate towards each other too.  not that we are perfect though.  There are times when I react in a harsh tone of voice and then later I think, "Did you really just bark at your wife who has a fractured vertebrae and is going through chemo?  What kind of a person are you?" and then I remember I'm human just like kendra and everyone else.

Our marriage life-group is going very well.  24 people keep showing up each week so we'll continue the series.  We are seeing great breakthroughs for the couples who are attending and more importantly, we are experiencing shifts in the way we relate to each other.

We've been very protective of Kendra's time and involvement with hosting.  This good-bye party for some friends from church was a big effort on Kendra and Ouma and Oupa, but it was very well worth it so honor them as they go back to India.  Here's a good representation of Kendra being her lovely self and hostess for the conversation on our back patio.  We are using our house for ministry and gatherings because that's what it was designed for.  Besides, Kendra truly enjoys the preparation and party times.

Another day we welcomed Kendra's cousin Brianne and her family into our house for a day.  They came to Phoenix on a tour of visiting friends and relatives.  The last time we saw them was at their wedding when the twins were just a year old.  We had a great time catching up and being family.

Easton is four lessons into his Taekwondo Black Belt.  He is convinced he can get there.  not because he's seen mine in my closet, but because his soccer friend is in his class and he has a black belt already.  Hey, whatever gets his motivation moving, right?  He looks forward to going to class twice per week and is learning a whole new level of discipline and respect!  Easton is also getting kicked by a girl.  I'm so happy about that.  These girls who scream "Hi-yaaa!" at the top of their lungs while kicking Easton's pad are teaching him how to respect women also.

Layla experienced her first week of cheer camp.  Our neighbor's daughter is a cheer leader and she helped us get Layla into the cheer camp.  Layla has found her dual calling in life.  She loves figure skating more, but cheer camp opened her eyes to a whole new level of expression and gifting.  For the final day I went with Ouma, Oupa, and Easton to watch Layla perform.  Kendra was stuck getting a blood transfusion, but we have plenty of play-by-play stories to catch her up.  As the cheer leaders entered the gym Layla scanned the crowd intently until she saw where we were sitting.  Then as she sat with her class we waved back and forth several times.

Layla watched the high school cheer squad perform for them.  Layla is waving at the cheer leaders during their performance because she got to know a few of them personally.  her charming personality always shines through.

When it was Layla's turn to cheer they put her front and center in the middle of forty or so girls.  Imagine that?  Layla nailed it with passion and I'm so very proud of her for putting her whole heart into the routine.  She really blew us away with her dance moves and ability to shine so brightly in the middle of all those stars.

The twins also have vacation bible school this week.  that makes for an insanely busy schedule to keep.  Kendra's doctor appointments, Easton's martial arts, Layla's cheer camp, the twins vacation bible school, and somewhere in there I manage to do this thing called a job.  We couldn't do this without Ouma and Oupa.  Their presence and help is invaluable.  We will be sad to see them go in a couple of weeks.

See you soon.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Happy Birthday, Dad

Greetings friends and family,

Today is my dad's 70th birthday!  I don't have any pictures because I'm not able to be there and he's not able to be here.  I'm in Phoenix focused on supporting Kendra through chemo for her cancer and he's in Springfield focused on daily radiation treatments for his cancer.  There is no way around my disappointment.  I wanted so much to be with my dad to celebrate such a big occasion.  i was able to talk by phone and catch up, but it's not the same as giving a big hug and being present.  These are just seasons of life and I understand things will change, but I don't know what the next year or season will bring.  Life definitely changes.  no doubt about that.  The things I'm working through lately is control.  learning that I have no control over anything or anyone is a big shift.  I don't control Kendra or my kids or my dad or anyone else except met.   It's a hard reality pill to swallow, but getting to that place of acceptance is key.

My dad is somewhat surprised he made it to 70 years old considering how young his father was when he passed away.  I'm not surprised at all because I've heard my parents quote the verse that says "honor your parents and your days will be long on the Earth".  My dad honored his parents while they were alive and continues to honor them in their death.  Either I believe the Bible or i don't.  If I believe it's true then there is no need to be surprised when it turns out to be true.  The promises of the Bible are greater than genetics, life situations, poor choices, excellent choices, environmental factors and any other thing that might play into the length of a person's life.  I'm enjoying watching the truth be played out in my dad's story as he's enjoying a long life.  My mom's dad is 97 and Kendra's grandma is 87.  There are some good genes in the 4 Webb family that will increase the odds of an even longer life.

Anyway, I celebrate my dad's birthday from far away by honoring him and acknowledging the successes in life, ministry, marriage, parenting, friendship and every other relationship he's engaged in throughout his life.  There isn't anything I can add to or take away from for his accomplishments so i'll just end this section by saying happy birthday to my Pa and looking forward to next year's birthday when we can both declare cancer-free victories together.

I bought Kendra a mug for her hot tea concoctions.  It says, "Every day holds a possibility of a miracle."  To me every single day is a miracle.  She is a walking miracle.  I love that she shines so brightly no matter what is going on around her or inside her body.  She is free in spite of her circumstances.

Our marriage "life group" class is going very well.  I look forward to it each week and even though I'm teaching it, I'm experiencing so much personal growth.  One of the things we suggested for the class was to find a Bible verse that describes your spouse, memorize it, and write it out.  Here's mine:

Our friend Stephanie drove Kendra to and from her doctor's appointment and spent the day together.  She came home with a new wig that Stephanie bought for her.  She's a part-time red-head now!  It looks great on her, but it will take some getting used to.  We went out window shopping.  Kendra sat on a couch to see how it felt and I just had to take a picture.

Then as we were wondering around a store I passed a mirror and chuckled a little because with my mo-hawk hair cut and clean-shaven face I look different and Kendra with her red hair definitely looks different.  We are being transformed on the inside with our souls and there is an outward transformation going on as well.

In an odd twist of fate I am able to spend my dad's birthday with my father-in-law on a golf course.  I'm grateful for the time he gets to spend in our house this summer.  His calendar is based on the school schedule so he has a whole month to hang out with the 4 Webbs!  Glad he brought his clubs because he gets to enjoy his own golf clubs while helping me continually learn how to hit with mine.  We had a great day on the golf course.  Notice we have our "Team Webb" hats on to show our support for Kendra.  

See you soon!

Friday, June 12, 2015

A Ninja and a Princess

Greetings friends and family,

There's this old-fashion way of communicating called "the mail".  No, not email.  I mean real paper that gets magically transported across the country to the specified address.  Sometimes referred to as "snail mail" because of the extremely slow process of writing, sending, and waiting.  Layla experienced a communication from her cousin Trinity who put a picture in the mail. Layla excited to receive the letter because very few things come to our household with her name on it.  This was a special occasion!  Layla will send an equally slow, but personal response to miss Trinity and get to see the other side of the process.

My work gave me eight free tickets to see the Diamondbacks play some major league baseball.  Easton and Layla attended the game in Oakland last summer, but have never been to Chase stadium to experience the local team.  I brought the 4 Webbs plus Ouma and Oupa plus Kendra's brother Logan and his wife Bree.  That makes eight! worked out perfectly.  As we were waiting for the game to start we walked by one of the big mascot guys who portray legends of days gone by for the Dbacks.  This was Matt Williams.  The twins have no comprehension of who this great legend is, but they gladly posed in front of him for a picture.

Easton asked if there are two guys in the costume.  I giggled because I can see how he would think there is one guy inside sitting on the shoulders of another guy.  We had great seats on the lower level and enjoyed an air-conditioned day at the ballpark.

Back at the home front, it's so hot that even the local critters are dying off.  Just kidding.  this unlucky guy found our pool, but didn't find a way to get so he drowned and ended up in our pool filter.  Good thing Ouma found him dead and bloated!  Easton held him up by the tail and got a good look at all his features before throwing him over the fence to be owl food.

Having Ouma and Oupa around for a month is wonderful and necessary.  Kendra is going to doctor appointments several times each week and I'm going to work like a normal person lately.  That means Easton and Layla are getting a whole bunch of time grandparent time.  Ouma is Easton's hero every time she says, "let's play legos!"  There is nothing that speaks louder in love to him than playing together.  Quality time is clearly his love language.

Easton is done with ice skating.  Kendra went to sign them up again for another session and Easton chose not to continue.  No big deal.  Kendra just asked him to go until he felt comfortable on the ice.  We thought he may want to get into ice hockey, but I am happy to say he has no interest in playing ice hockey.

I found a groupon for a starter kit introduction into martial arts at a school down the street from us.  I mentioned it as an option and his eyes lit up with excitement.  I took him there just to check it out and he jumped right into class.

Afterwards he said he wants to come back and do it more so the instructor fitted him with a uniform and white belt.  He came out to show it off to us with a big smile on his face.  Layla found her black ice skating outfit, which went missing for the past few weeks.  She wore it for absolutely no reason at all so I took a picture of them together.  This represents their current focus of extra-curricular activity.  It's too hot for 4:00pm golf lessons from the group class they had before so this will last us through the summer time.

The other thing we do a lot in the summer is swim.  The water is already perfect (meaning not cold).  We left Kendra at home to rest and the five of us went to the local city pool for $6.  All of us went down the water slide and jumped off the diving boards. This was a memory Easton and Layla will probably remember forever because it was just pure fun of playing in water together in a new environment.

Layla and Easton have been using the same owl towels for several years now.  Layla's is getting a little short and rough so Ouma bought her a kitty towel because they spoil the twins every chance they get.  Her new towel even has a kitty tail.  Now Layla crawls around the house meowing after shower time.

Kendra joined us in the pool today.  She is able to walk out to the pool and get in without her brace and without any pain.  This is a major accomplishment and a moment I just had to capture.  The sun is shining brightly right behind her big hat, illuminating her like a saint.  I am so happy to see her smile and interact with us as the 4 Webbs again in the pool.  These simple moments are more special than I ever expected.  I get emotional and excited about the slightest improvements because every small step towards healing is a step in the right direction.  There are so many miracles represented in this one simple picture and it means so much to me.

See you soon!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Just the 4 Webbs This Week

Greetings friends and family,

The 4 Webbs made it the past few days without any live-in helpers.  Kendra is moving a little better every day.  The kids are stabilizing after a rough few weeks of them not knowing how to process Kendra's absence.  There were several weeks where Kendra was completely missing.  She wasn't at the dinner table.  she wasn't in the van to pick them up from school.  She wasn't in their room at night to read them to sleep.  It was definitely not a good situation, but there was no other way.  We all knew Kendra's condition removed her as "Mommy" for 6-8 weeks, but it didn't make it any easier for the twins.  Having our friends and family stay with us made a huge difference in closing the gaping void left by Kendra's absence, but it's just not the same without her around and involved. 

The past 4 weeks have been incredible.  So much healing is going on.  healing for Kendra's vertebrae, healing for the relationship between her and the twins, healing (reconnecting) in our marriage, and healing the stability of our family functioning again as the 4 Webbs. 

Easton came to our room early one morning since he's always the first one up.  He crawled on the bed between us and cuddled up against Kendra.  In an odd way Easton has been more out-of-sorts than any of us.  He is learning how to express himself and also has some moments of assigning motives to people's responses.  "Layla did that on purpose" has come out of his mouth more often than ever before, but we are being patient and gently helping him through all the uncertainty.  

Layla, on the other hand, is doing fantastic.  Her vocabulary and social skills are growing much faster than her maturity.  She knows what to say, but not necessarily how or when.  She sees a man in line at the convenience store holding a box of doughnuts and a case of soda.  She turns to me and says "that guy is not making healthy choices!  I would never do that."  What she said was true, but her volume wasn't low enough to keep a few others around us from hearing her comment.  Luckily, her charm and confidence compensate for the missing elements.

I absolutely love clothes shopping with Layla.  I know, it's weird.  I enjoy clothes shopping for myself as well, but my wallet does not approve.  However, Layla's clothes are much cheaper and I like learning what she thinks is fashionable.  Layla tried this dress on and I usually send a picture to Kendra and ask, "yes or no?"  Then I send the price to brag about the discount I found.

Kendra wear a wig some of the time, a baseball cap most of the time and just leaves her head bald and uncovered the rest of the time.  I like all her looks and I'm happy she is comfortable and confident no matter what.  I left for work one morning and wanted to capture this amazing moment where the kids are home under Kendra's care once again.  There were many instances where we were unsure if this picture would ever happen again.  where Kendra is well and healthy enough to stand, sit, walk, and do all the things necessary to run the house without me around.  She is fully able and I am over-the-moon happy for her to be back in her groove.

The first week after school was over resulted in a well-deserved lazy household.  The twins made forts in our den and played cats and dogs or whatever animals they decide to be.  They will be getting back onto the reading, writing and math train again soon so they don't show up at their first day of second grade having forgotten how to spell their own names.

I don't have nearly enough pictures of Kendra and I from the past 12 weeks.  occasionally i'll just set the camera up and take a few shots just for fun.  I took this in front of our family photos because it is very interesting to see the contrast of Kendra with hair from the photos of the past.  Her radiance shines through just as bright as any picture from the past 15 years of knowing her.  maybe even more now than ever before...

We have counted down the days for Ouma and Oupa to arrive.  They arrived on Saturday for a month-long stay and we couldn't be happier.  I love having them here and just being present.  I feel more secure going to work knowing they are here with kendra and being interactive grandparents for the twins.

This coming week brings the start of our six-week marriage life group where we will have a number of married couples spend a couple of hours each Monday night with us discussing what is God's design for marriage and how to experience freedom in marriage.  This is fun stuff for me and I am excited to hear about restoration and reconciliation!

see you soon.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Best Birthday Ever

Greetings friends and family,

The real success of a man is reflected in his wife's face.  There is no satisfaction in being a public success and a private failure.    Kendra's brilliance and twinkle are not mine to take credit for, but I consider life to be a success when I, as a husband, create an atmosphere where her flame can grow into a wildfire to shine for others.  I love her face and everything that is reflected in it.

Kendra's friend, Adrianne, came to visit for a week from Tennessee.  She is one of her best friends from high school.  They maintain regular contact and she is important enough that we swung by her neck of the woods on our tour of the mid-west in 2013.  She jumped right in with us to be a part of the 4 Webb's world as a helper and friend.  Stephanie and Adrianne joined us at Easton and Layla's ice skating session.  Kendra's bald head was extra cold, but the hat and warmth of her friends kept her cozy.

During the last 5 minutes of class the twins get to skate around and do what they want.  For Easton it means continuing to work on technique from the class and for Layla it means showing off in grand fashion.

After ice skating I took the twins out for a daddy date to semi-formal restaurant.  They were a little squirrely but made me proud by not flinging pasta sauce on the table behind us.

While waiting for our meals Layla took advantage of Easton sitting on the same seat as her.  She loves to give kisses and hugs.  Easton tolerates it and I encourage him to do so with grace.  It's important to give love and it's equally important to receive love.

Speaking of love, our marriage life group material is coming together nicely.  I have the class format and most of the content worked out.  It looks something like this:

Freedom in Marriage
You managing you (self-management)
Blame and Control vs. Power and Love
Making it Safe

I only have six Monday nights for teaching and discussion and prayer, but we'll have the couples take daily steps towards building a healthy marriage.  This is a list of the books I'm pulling from to come up with the curriculum.

Easton built his 1,359 piece Star Destroyer Lego set in 4 days.  with no help.  at age 7.  I was really impressed with his ability to work through three books-worth of instructions and 16 bags of legos.  When this kid gets his mind set on something... watch out!  He is unstoppable.

Layla is working on her baking skills.  She does real cooking as well as Easy-Bake oven cooking.  The cupcakes are about the size of a quarter and the frosting is gooey dribble, but it's a great start in the kitchen, low risk of injury, and Easton will eat almost anything labeled as "dessert".

Adrianne brought her gear to make charm bracelets.  She made some for our friends and guess who else wanted in on the action?  Layla couldn't miss out on the opportunity to build her own jewelry.  Adrianne was kind enough to let her choose the charms and then build it for her.

Kendra's birthday celebration was a big party.  This was the best birthday since we've been married because I'm so much more aware of how blessed I am for her to be who she is.  She's alive and living life.  That's a miracle and I don't take it for granted one bit.  Here are some of the girls who joined us that night at Stephanie's house to celebrate her turning 36.

Brett's birthday was the next day after Kendra's so we celebrated both at the same time.

We were blessed to have such a big birthday bash.  Kendra loved getting the cards in the mail, the phone calls, the text messages, and the Facebook love.  She spent the whole day receiving all the kindness.  I hope she got a sense for how many people's lives she is reaching.

This is Kendra's friend Mallory.  Mallory's mom died of liver cancer only a few months ago.  When Kendra's head was shaved, Mallory offered to let Kendra wear her mom's wigs.  I'm really excited for Kendra to be a blonde, by the way.  It's always been a desire of mine, but never a big enough drive for her to spend $200 per month on products to make it (and keep it) looking good as a blonde.  Well, as luck would have it, Mallory's mom was a blonde so guess who's looking super sexy as a blonde now???

She gave Kendra four wigs, each of varying length and color.  Two look awesome and two look just OK.  The three of them had a hilarious time playing dress up to figure out which ones work best for Kendra.

Church was interesting this morning because I have a mo-hawk and Kendra has a blonde wig.  Since we sit on the front row, most of the congregation didn't recognize us at all.  We had such fun with people's reactions and comments.

Tonight is only the second time in seven years where Kendra and I are in our own home alone, without kids.  Easton is at Zander's house and Layla is at Kayla's house.  We are very selective when it comes to sleep overs with friends and the families of these two friends are some of the short list of people we trust for over night stays.

Anyway, I took Kendra and Adrianne out for dinner as a celebration of freedom from the kids for a night and a last supper for Adrianne before she heads home tomorrow.  I enjoyed every minute of going on a date with these two hot ladies as a brunette and a blonde.

We have less than one week alone, with no help, until Ouma and Oupa arrive this coming Saturday.  I am completely comfortable with the 4 Webbs being alone.  We've had such amazing live-in help for the past 12 weeks and I am excited for Ouma and Oupa to arrive, but Kendra is progressing so well with her healing that we are self-sufficient as a family once again.

Yesterday Kendra was pain-free and medication-free for the first time in 12 weeks!  No back pain whatsoever even with her brace off.  I am breathing such a giant sigh of relief that I could power a wind turbine all by myself.  This is a huge stepping stone moment into the next phase of Kendra's healing.  We will only have to focus on helping her through chemotherapy, finally.

See you soon!