Monday, August 31, 2015

It's Getting Real

Greetings friends and family,

The 4 Webbs are in a bizarre state where we have moments of "Let's do normal things like homework" mixed in with moments of "why is Kendra's cancer treatment plan changing?"  It is hard to explain how I can observe scenes like this and think about how awesome our family is, then switch to thinking about how difficult it must be for Kendra to get poked with a needle six days a week with her life revolving around doctor appointments.

There are aspects of our family that are cruising along as if Kendra isn't going through the toughest circumstances of her life.  Church is stable.  Easton and Layla's friends are oblivious to what's going on inside Kendra's body.  I'm ok with that.   Going to the water park for a church event was a welcomed relief of normal fun.  Kendra swam around without her brace as she floated weightless in the pools.  The twins ran around with their friends having a blast.  I'm so glad to have so many of the right kind of influence in their lives.

My trip to Sacramento was very conflicting for me.  I spent a few hours with Ouma and Oupa.   My non-work time didn't add up to much over 4 days, but I appreciate every hour spent with them.  One night we went to the Jesus Culture church for an evening of worship and prayer.

At the same time, I missed Kendra and the twins more than ever before.  Facetime was valuable in keeping in touch, but just isn't even close to the same.  I talked to the other 3 Webbs every day a couple of times.  Layla was being silly with me at bedtime.

Kendra and I relied more on the video calls than on normal phone calls because it was refreshing to see each other's face during conversation.  Now, more than ever, I value our time together even if it's not next to each other in bed.  Any time i get to hear her voice and see her face is the highlight of my day.

After returning home from the work conference I gladly picked up the kids from school.  Layla's teacher thought it would be a great idea to send Layla home in the 108 degree heat with a piece of construction paper with chocolate chips stuck on with frosting.  What could possibly go wrong with this?  I was cautious enough to place the gooey mess in the floorboard of my car and waited until we arrived home to give it back.

My friend David is staying with us at our house for a couple of weeks.  That means we have an occasional camera man to capture moments like this.  The 4 Webbs were sitting together reading a book on the couch.  This is a normal scene for us each night, but since there is rarely an extra person to capture the moment there aren't many of these gems where all of us are together.

After church I forced the twins to stay in their dressy clothes and hold still long enough for me to take a selfie of all four of us together.  We all looked so good I just had to get a picture.

This coming week Kendra will:

have a PET scan
review the results with the oncologist
find out if she will continue with chemo
find out if she will have radiation treatment

We are believing for a good report from the PET scan to show the tumors in her vertebrae and liver are in remission and no new tumors exist.  Our faith and beliefs are being tested in the most extreme circumstances of our lives.  Prayer and support are the most valuable things anyone can give us.

See you soon!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Betta Fish as pets?

Greetings friends and family,

The twins are gearing for the next star wars movie by fighting each other instead of evil forces.  I know, it's a bit early for Christmas, but Easton is still talking about my promise to buy him the Jurassic World Lego set for Christmas.  Now add on the Star Wars movie opening and we are all already in the Christmas mood.  Easton is officially bought into the world of martial arts.  He agreed to do it for six months so our weekly schedule is going to get a little bit busier.  Layla is still doing figure skating so both of them have their own "thing" they like to do.

Kendra's "thing" lately is getting poked by a needle.  That might all be changing though.  Today she had her chemo appointment and the doctor notified her that this could be her last one!  We'll find out tomorrow, but there is a very real possibility that her chemo treatments just completed early.  Her core group of friends are still amazing and there are many acquaintances who are still spreading the love on thick like butter.  Kristina and Kylie came by spend an afternoon with Kendra.  They brought her flowers and caught up on the latest life events.  Kendra can only handle so many of these per week though because she gets worn out fast.

Some friends drain her tank and others fill her up emotionally.  The occasional girls day out is very therapeutic and healthy.  I like to see her hanging out, laughing, and being around people who are tank fillers.  

All the trips to the doctors are draining for her because they are either dumping poison in her system, sucking blood, or adding cancer fighting agents.  Whatever the case, she feels like a balloon being blown up and squeezed out day after day.  She is a trooper though.  She follows doctor's orders pretty well.

One morning I took the twins to school so Kendra could sleep in.  I stopped by Starbucks for breakfast so we didn't wake her up.  Although homemade breakfast is best, smoothies and sandwiches from Starbucks does the trick just fine.  We still aren't able to eat outside yet because it is still to hot even at 7:30am, but all of that is about to change with the sweaty season coming to a close.

We dislike pets at our house.  No cat.  no dog.  no lizard.  we don't need anything else to take care of besides ourselves and the twins.  The decision to not have a pet is one we haven't regretted.  I saw that Petco had a super clearance on tiny fish tanks so that brought up the idea of having a fish as a pet.  Somehow we ended up at Petco looking at fish once i mentioned the idea to the twins.  Here's the catch...  I said, "if you two want a pet you have to buy it with your own money."  They have money sitting in their spend container so we did some math calculations to figure out if they had enough to buy the fish and supplies.  We found the clearance aquariums and they bought everything they need to each have a fish.

We set it all up at home and here's the first picture of Easton and Layla as pet owners.  They each have a male Betta fish.  Easton's is named Ricky.  I asked him where that name came from and he said he just thought of it.  Layla named her fish Violet because it is purplish.  She refers to her male betta fish as a "her" and I stopped correcting Layla a long time ago.  Just let it go.  the fish could care less and Layla prefers it. The tanks are functional and Betta fish are very sturdy fish (hard to kill).  The fish lady at the store said they live about two years, so let the count down begin!  The fish cost $3 each so if one of them dies we'll flush it and get a new one the same day.  It's the circle of life and they should hear about it sooner than later.

Before we set up our new fish friends, we went to dinner.  We happily ate sushi knowing we were going to get their cousins in a tank.  Some fish live and some fish get eaten.

I'm glad the sushi place is almost as cheap as the sub sandwich shop.  Makes it that much easier to justify eating some healthy fish.  They love the raw stuff and I'm happy for them to be so adventurous.

I've been gone on a work trip to Sacramento and finally had time for a quick blog post.  I have lots to share and will be eager to write about Kendra's treatment plan after we find out tomorrow.

Pray for her.  :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Getting selfish

Greetings friends and family,

I turned a corner sometime last week where I've become significantly more selfish and greedy and jealous.  My time with Kendra is more valuable than ever before because I have a renewed sense of desire for her time and to be with her.  She has regular outings with friends and I am more than happy for her to experience friendships and life and give me special Daddy time with the twins.  Even so, I look forward with a countdown timer to the moment when the kids are in bed and Kendra is home with me so we can be together.  I don't feel bad one bit either!

Being a chemo patient is a full-time job.  that's what I heard the ladies in the doctor's office saying today when I went with Kendra.  She gets poked by a needle at a doctor's office six days a week.

Tuesday - blood draw to test levels
Wednesday - Curcumin IV administered at the naturopathic office
Thursday - chemotherapy (3-6 hours)
Friday - neupogen shot to boost her immune system
Saturday - neupogen shot again
Sunday - neupogen shot..  again!
Monday - no doctors or needles.

Repeat that cycle ten more times and you get an idea of what it's like to be Kendra between now and the end of October.  Our life and schedule revolve around Kendra's doctor appointments, but when we consider the alternatives, we are more than willing to adjust and accommodate.  Her body is tired from the continual beat-down from the all the chemo.  Her mind is tired from the never-ending scheduling, driving, needles, and side-effects.  Her emotions are healthy and her spirit is perfect.

Kendra's PET scan is coming up sometime in the next two weeks.  We don't know when yet, but from what I understand that will be very helpful in knowing Kendra's prognosis.  We are believing there are no new tumors and the ones in her liver and spine are continuing to shrink.  This is the best possible outcome.

On the lighter side of life, I took Easton to his first NFL game to watch the Cardinals get beat.  Layla stayed at home with Kendra to read books, paint toe nails, and spend some quality girl time together.  Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of Layla's time with Kendra, but I do have one of Big Time with me at the game.  The A/C on the charter bus was broken when we left for the stadium with my coworkers.  It was a record setting day for the hottest temperature on that day.  113 degrees!  We drove to the bus barn and waited outside for another bus.  the second bus had A/C, but it takes an hour to cool down a bus.  We arrived at the stadium 30 minutes late after spending two hours on the bus ride, which should have taken about 40 minutes.

Anyway, once we arrived everything smoothed out.  We had great seats and a great time.  I explained the rules of football as Easton fired question after question at me.  He was having so much fun that he didn't want to leave when the game was almost over.  

I haven't given up on the 4 Webbs blog.  I don't even have any excuses for the lack of posts other than my selfish reasoning where every minute spent here writing is another minute I'm not connecting with Kendra.  When she is snoring and I'm not yet tired, that's when I have time to do this blog thing along with job related work, executive pastor opportunities, and other unimportant tasks like sleeping.

This is by far the most intense schedule I've ever had, but the best part about it is how fast time is flying by.  I find it hard to believe Kendra's big cancer adventure started over five months ago.  There is so much about this adventure that I hate, but the part I love is how much closer Kendra and I are to each other as a result.

See you soon!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Valuing the Simple Things

Greetings friends and family,

My mindset is shifting more each day.  I desire to be with Kendra every waking and sleeping second.  Every second spent typing here on the keyboard is a second I'm not close to my wife.  I'm learning to appreciate each moment and really soak them deep into my memory banks.  Kendra is doing well physically with continued healing of her vertebrae and normal side-effects of chemotherapy.  She's tired all the time, but has so much strength to power through each day taking care of what must be done.  She finished 16 of 26 chemo treatments.  As far as we know, Halloween is still the target date for her last chemo event.  The next thing we will go through is the PET scan in a week or two that will show what's going on in her whole body.  Pray in agreement with us for the results to be favorable.  We are believing existing tumors are shrinking and no new tumors will exist.  that would be fabulous and miraculous.  

My favorite thing to capture in pictures lately is just simple things like Kendra helping Layla get her hair up in a high pony tail for school.  None of these common, daily-life sights meant much until I realized how valuable they are.

Special moments like this one where Kendra pulled Easton's front tooth with him.  He was brave now that he's had a few teeth fall out and knows it doesn't hurt.  Easton was so excited to show me.  I hear his lisp when he talks and it makes me smile every time.

I wanted to take a picture with just Layla, but Easton wanted in on the picture so much.  We sat at the table talking about nothing important.  Easton on her lap and Layla on mine.  We have some wonderful conversations, but I rarely remember the subject.  I just remember the joy and innocence of the 4 Webbs enjoying each other.  I call Layla, "Princess Warrior", which is a really long pet name, but anything shorter wouldn't be sufficient.

I still call Easton "Big Time", but for some reason, "Hot Dog" is becoming more common from me.  He is super proud of his big gap.  The new tooth is already on it's way in.  I love how he's not embarrassed or self-conscious one bit.

The newest edition to our household is the iRobot Roomba.  The twins named it "Mousie" and treat it like a pet.  This is Kendra's anniversary gift.  although it is way more expensive than I planned, it gives Kendra peace of mind knowing her floors are swept because she is still not cleared from the doctor to do that kind of rigorous activity for a few more months.  After 13 years of marriage, you would think I have learned not to get a vacuum for my wife as an anniversary gift, but I think this one is a unique situation and blessing.

Easton and Layla take full advantage of Saturdays.  They play Legos and build forts so they can be kitties and puppies.  I thought this stage of imaginative playtime together would have lost interest, but all it takes is some free time and they jump right in with playing together happily.  There are still regular occasions where they push each other's buttons, but overall it is music to my ears to hear them having fun and being kids together.  Part of me wants to give them more directed homework or reading time, but I know they'll have a lifetime of that coming up real soon and this age won't last long at all. Feels like I blinked a couple of times and "poof!"  they are no longer toddlers, but real kids.

See you soon!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Attractional Wife

Greetings friends and family,

The routine at the Webb house is:

1. school / work
2. swim
3. dinner
4. bed


Kendra gets the added bonus of daily getting poked by a needle.  Her only day off from hospitals and doctors is Monday.  The pool is very helpful for all of us.  Kendra gets to be weightless to fully release the muscles in her back.  The twins get active mommy time, which never happens in any other environment.  I get to take pictures and join in the fun of playing Marco Polo.  every single day... and it never gets boring for any of us.  This is an easy winner for my favorite picture of the week.  The twins love to be in her presence and she attracts them like bugs to a bug zapper.

Last month Kendra and I attended a friday night church event as a date night without the twins.  This month we decided to take the twins with us.  We spread the word and about 30 of our church friends showed up with us!  Talk about an attractional lady... Kendra could even draw a crowd to watch paint dry because she has such an enthusiasm for the things in life she is passionate about.

I took the twins to the library to get a new bag-full of books to read.  Layla chose several story books.  Easton reluctantly picked a few story books to appease me enough to get his science books.  He ended up with a book titled, "Jurassic Poop".  I'm serious.  go look it up on Amazon...  I rolled my eyes as he said the title out loud several times.  Moms and kids in the aisle with us snickered and stared as I grappled with what to do.  It is educational and interesting for him since he is on a dinosaur kick lately after watching Jurassic World.  I quietly said, "You can get it, but place it gently in the bag right now and don't shout the word poop anymore.  He also ended up with another Titanic book and Where's Waldo, which is really hard to find in libraries because they are always checked out.

When the twins are quiet, that is no longer a sign of parental intervention.  Sometimes they just lay in Easton's rocket tent reading books.  This makes me very happy!

Kendra and I are super excited to get our ministry back up and running again for the fall semester.  We'll be leading a team of 22 people who will facilitate two classes with 90 participants.  This will be the biggest class yet!  Then we'll follow it up with delivering the two-day conference.  We invited people to join our leadership team and the response is overwhelming.  the newbies are honored to be on our team and excited about what God is up to.  these are all very good signs of our healthy organization.  Kendra had a lot to do with bringing the new people into the team and getting them excited for what God is up to.  She is truly attractional in her passion!

Life is about to get a little busier for us, but i'm starting to get back into the rhythm of life.  I wish Kendra didn't have chemo for another 10 weeks, but since we don't have a choice we are working with what we got and she is doing fantastic considering all the daily hassle she goes through.

She is fully self-sufficient, but each morning she puts on her back brace.  I'm am both grateful and sorrowful at the same time.  I'm grateful because she is able to function without pain or limitations other than no bending or lifting.  That part is awesome, but i hate that she has to wear the uncomfortable turtle shell.  I know it won't be forever, but it's still one of the many things I would change in these moments if I could.

Kendra and I are growing together through all of this.  I'm convinced we could have (and would have) grown together even without all the cancer and chemo and radiation, but that's one thing I'll never get to know:  how things would have been different.  Instead, what we have is the opportunity to make the most of our life and relationships in the middle of whatever is going on in our bodies and around us.

There is so much life and love and joy happening that there are moments I don't think about Kendra's current treatment or pain in the past 5 months.  I'm starting to see her as just "Kendra, my wife and mother of my kids" again.  This is how God sees her so this is how I see her too.  Fully healed, completely restored, pain-free, and loving life.

See you soon!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Second Graders

Greetings friends and family,

Before I get to the crazy idea of the twins becoming second graders, I'm going to write this out before I forget.  Yesterday I told Easton he is not great and he was sad.  I am perfectly happy with the way the conversation turned out and have no regrets.  He started karate a few weeks ago and participated in a total of 10 classes.  I asked if he enjoys karate.  He responded with a half-hearted "yep.  It's fun."  I am at the point where the $30 Groupon starter kit ran out and now we have to decide if it's worth $80 and our time as parents to continue with Easton's karate.  I didn't tell Easton how much the karate was going to cost or give him a guilt trip about going.  I just asked if he wants to continue and is passionate about it.  He said, "I'm already great at karate so I don't know that I need to go anymore."

I was stunned and perplexed and speechless as I searched for the words to give him a dose of reality.  He's spent the past seven years believing he is an astronaut and a teenage mutant ninja turtle because we cheered him on and led him to believe he can be anything he desires.  Somehow this was the moment that reality set in for me that if he wants to achieve greatness in anything, it depends on his ability to see what greatness really is and honestly compare where he is.  Over the years we gladly cheered him on with every endeavor such as ice skating, soccer, golf, and Lego building.  We say, "Great kick!"  "You have great balance!"  "You did great on building that Lego wing!"  Those were the ways we used the word great, but somehow he interpreted that to me he achieved greatness.

You and I know there is no way he is great at karate after 10 classes, but he doesn't see that.  Here's what I said:  " You can be great if you choose to stick with it, but you are not great and will not be great if you quit now."  From what I read, greatness requires 10,000 hours of practice.  Even that doesn't guarantee greatness, but it provides an opportunity.

Layla "gets it".  She is able to see the grace and strength of the Olympic figure skaters and then compare that to her own skills. That's why she is is still dedicated to ice skating.

It could be a maturity difference between boys and girls, but Layla never had false confidence in her greatness.

So I'm stuck between two parenting mindsets:

1. Expose the child to as many different sports and challenges and environments as possible so they will have a broader range of experiences and skills to draw from.

2. Focus the child on a few things (whatever their passion is) and pursue it fully.

Layla is passionate about figure skating and as long as she asks (begs) to go then I am happy to help her become a figure skater.  Easton is passionate about Lego building and disasters (Titanic, tornadoes, meteors).  The other things on the fringe like golf and karate don't seem to keep his interest the way his passions do.  I'm completely OK with that, but I don't want him to believe he is great at karate after 10 lessons and quit because he can't see the gap between his skill level and true greatness.

Thanks for letting me get my thoughts down here...  Not that any resolution is found, but that these are the things I'm working through as a father of twin seven-year-olds.

The first day of second grade is here for the dynamic duo.  All 4 of the Webbs are happy.  Easton and Layla are energized partly because Kendra and I talk about the wonderful greatness of going to school.  Not a single groan or pity or sarcastic remark came from our lips.  We didn't ignore the challenges they will face, but we didn't frame the idea of going back to school from the "bummer" perspective.  Some parents I heard saying, "I know you're sad that summer is over you HAVE to go back to doing boring school work instead of playing all day".  That is a death sentence for the joy of school.  We said things like, "How exciting for you to meet new friends and learn new things in topics you love like science and music and P.E.!"  It's all in how we say it.

For some comparison here is their year by year progression from the first day of classes each year:


First grade:

Second grade:

Not too much difference in the past two years, but when compared to the Kindergarten pictures it is amazing to watch them grow.

Here is Layla's first day of school look.  As parents we are loving the uniform idea at this school.  So much better than dealing with all the outfits and what is acceptable and what's in style.

Easton's pants and shirt are a little oversized right now because we know it's going to be a long year with lots of growth where he will fit them soon enough.  His confidence is growing even faster than his long legs.

I've been taking this picture inside the front door each year to show how tall they are.  Layla is 48 inches and Easton is 49 inches tall.  I know this because they both barely made it on the 48 inch minimum height rides at Legoland last month.

Kendra and I drove the twins to their first day of school.  I turned around with my camera and said, "Are you excited about your first day of second grade?"  Their response of "two thumbs up" was not initiated by me and proves how there are still some things about the twins where they are similar.

Kendra and I went for a date immediately after dropping them off at school.  kendra gets to rest during the day in between doctor visits and we get an occasional date together.

The final week before school started back was the first full week Kendra had the kids to herself since before her trip to the hospital five months ago.  The kids were reconnected with Kendra and she was rested and prepared for the one week marathon of mommy time before they headed back to school.  One of the cool things she did was paint their faces like a kitty and a dog.  Twenty minutes of face painting led to over an hour of the twins playing together with their imaginations of being a cat and dog.

This is randomly thrown in here, but the moment held significance.  Layla somehow ended up with a figure skating magazine.  She pulled out the poster and asked to hang it on her wall.  Many seven-year-old girls have posters of boy bands or cartoons, but Layla wants figure skaters.  Of course, I agreed to hand it in her room.

One day during the kid week marathon, her friend Tiffany brought her newborn by for some hang out time.  I was thinking, "This is what it would be like for the twins to have a younger sibling."  Everyone enjoyed the moment, but I was weirded out a little by the idea of a newborn running around our house.  

I didn't leave Kendra high and dry during her marathon week.  Every night was daddy time and even on the weekend I spent several hours with them.  One of our adventures was the free craft at Home Depot.  once per month they offer the chance to do a craft right there in the store.  Today's craft was a chalk board.  Wood, nails, glue, a hammer, and a chalkboard material were all in a neat little package.  Layla read instructions and plowed through them so fast that she surprised Easton.  He took his time as he felt every edge of the wood, lined up the corner with great precision, and stared at the tablecloth with paint all over it.

They loved the event and asked to come back next month.  Both of them got the hang of using a hammer.  That skill alone was worth the trip!

Layla drew in chalk, "Layla's room only or girls".  Good grief.  I had hoped this mindset would come along years from now, but here I am with a daughter who already knows to keep boys of out her room.  She made sure Easton and I knew we are both still allowed into her room, but no other boys.

I stopped by Starbucks with the twins for a muffin and noticed they each grabbed a coffee stir stick.  They had a Star Wars light saber duel complete with sound effects and acting.  It's tough to tell whose arm was cut off and arguing didn't seem to solve the question of whether Han shot first or if Layla struck first with the stir stick.

I hesitate to say "We are ready", but we are starting at a long stretch of being in town for the next three months with no breaks for Kendra's relentless chemo schedule.  The kids have school.  I have work.  Kendra has healing to receive.  That's our focus!

See you soon.