Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cardinals Weekend Extravaganza

Greetings friends and family,

Our house is full of people and our hearts are full of gratitude.  My friend David is still with us even though he'd rather with his family in Utah.  As soon as he gets a job he'll be gone, but in the mean time he's making our house his house.  Ouma is here for a month and Oupa is here for a week.  And one night our friend Matt slept on the couch because he worked late and wanted a place to crash.  Add in all those characters with the 4 Webbs and we have a very busy household.  I haven' heard a single complaint from anyone involved either.  We are functional and helpful for each other and considerate.  It's wonderful to watch our household flow through the days with this variety of great people around.

I get up with the kids most days to take them to school.  Lately we've been eating out for breakfast because there is no quiet way to make breakfast and eat with two seven-year-olds.  They have better volume control that they used to, but there is no way around banging pots and pans and bowls.  Anyway, part of our time together over breakfast includes memorizing Bible verses.  It's amazing what kids can memorize and how quickly they can recall these verses.  I don't care about them knowing verse and quoting them.  I care that they understand and believe them in their hearts.  This is not an exercise of intellect.  it is giving them truth on which to build their belief system.  At some point in their life someone will say something like, "all gods lead to heaven and whatever you believe in is good enough."  I want this verse to come out of their heart so they are not deceived.  I'm not teaching them verses so they can debate theology.  I'm teaching them these verses so they can manage their own relationship with God.

A big milestone for us was reached this past Friday:  Kendra's last radiation therapy appointment!  She was scheduled to go on Monday also, but she told the radiation doctor her body just can't handle anymore.  He agreed it wouldn't be a big deal to miss one treatment.  The moment was oddly satisfying and boring at the same time.  She hugged the doctor and we walked out.  No fanfare or line of people cheering.  No bell to ring or celebration music.  Just a slow walk, hand-in-hand, out of the facility.  I caught one last picture before we left because we believe this is the last time we'll see the inside of this building other than followup appointments.  I only went with her to a few appointments because Kendra's friends took time to be with her there day after day.  They add so much light to her journey and I'm grateful for their willingness to take Kendra to appointments.

We are at an odd place where many aspects of life are changing and some are staying exactly the same.  We left our church and we left the cancer treatment world all within a few weeks.  Even so, there are many aspects that are consistent and ongoing.  Our important friendships and relationships are holding steady.  We have a steady flow of friends to spend time with and that has been very fulfilling for our whole family.  We had a game night where 20 friends came over for kid-less fun together.  Everyone brought food and we played games until 11:00pm!  Our house was loud and filled with people doing life together.  We don't just talk about it, we actually are friends by sharing life and laughs.  There is no lack of love and friendship.  These are very valuable and necessary aspects of life right now and always.

Our friend, Brett, works for the AZ Cardinals.  His wife, Stepahnie, is one of Kendra's best friends and has been for last year or so.  They made it possible for us to have a memorable weekend being around the team.  We went to the practice facility where we watched the team run plays on the field.  Easton and their son played catch a few feet behind the line of monstrous men.  He is completely oblivious to the magnitude of just how amazing it is to be there.  I didn't mind at all either.  He sees that whole line of guys as just some other men and fathers.  I'm glad he is able to see humanity as they are and not as the TV or fame makes them out to be.

We hung out while they practiced and watched the way things flow like a flock of birds on the field as they ran plays and coached.  I would have been content to just sit and watch them do what they do best even at a half-speed trot through their playbook.

After the practice was over we had the chance to meet lots of the team.  Tyrann Mathieu came over with his kids and Kendra got a hug from one of them.  Tyrann is a quiet, gentle guy who took the time to meet us.  That's not the same powerhouse, warrior people see on the TV screen, but I am thankful we were able to see the reality of who he is off the field.

Then there's this guy, Terry McDonough, who we met and had no idea he is a vice president in the Cardinals organization until a few minutes into the conversation.  He interacted with us even gave Kendra a shirt because she wore a hot sweatshirt that was overly warm for the perfect weather.

Another one of Brett's patients and friends is Frostee.  He met our whole family and although he has no idea who we are or remembers our names, it was such a surreal moment to be talking about normal life things to this guy who is on the TV every weekend. I learned he's been married a year.  I also learned we have virtually zero in common.  His world and my world would never crossed paths if it weren't for the invitation of Brett to be there.  OK, maybe our paths would cross at the DMV if he has to get a driver's license or something.  Other than that scenario, it was a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Carson Palmer is one of Brett's success stories in that he helped rehab him.  Carson came over to our group and met us all.  He even signed a small football for Easton!  I wish I had a better story to tell about this moment, but we were all just star-struck.  I've decided the term star-struck just means, "we have absolutely nothing in common and this is awkward because we will never meet again and we are both ok with that".

That all happened on Saturday and then came Sunday.  We visited a church Sunday morning then loaded up the battle wagon and headed to the stadium to see the Cardinals play football for real.  Stephanie brought Oupa and Kendra.  I won tickets from work so I brought David.  The five of us had the best time together.  We tailgated because we are too cheap and too healthy to spend $20 for a hotdog.

The seats were unbelievable and the energy in the stadium was enough to turn anyone into a sports fan.  Kendra's time with her dad was special for many reasons and this memory will remain up there with the best of them.

This celebration weekend for Kendra was brought to you by... Stephanie.  She put this all together and made it happen with great enthusiasm.  Those two are fun to watch together because they know how to enjoy every moment from doctor visits to last-minute game-winning scores.

I could see Kendra and we did some hand signals back and forth a few times.  David and I had our own experience across the stadium.  He has been my friend for eight years.  Having him live with us is making his imminent departure even more difficult for me.  He knows things about me that no one else in the world knows.  He and I are deeply vulnerable and open with each other.  That's not something two guys can jump into quickly.  It takes time and bonding experiences and trust and all the good stuff that makes a friendship really work.  He was the first person to come to mind when I learned I had one ticket to share with a friend.  Once he's gone to Utah we will always remain as friends, but having your best friend live down the hall is so much more engaging than keeping up with him through phone and text.  I'll be grieving for the next few weeks, but these kinds of memories are what leads to life-long friends.

Turkey day is coming soon and I'm looking forward to family time and vacation time from work.  See you soon!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Yellow Belt and Photoshoot

Greetings friends and family,

It is important for fathers to celebrate their child's successes.  There may be a limit on going bananas over the tiniest achievement, but I would much rather be riding that line than hugging the other side of the pathway by ignoring successes.  celebration my or may not include a monetary cost, but it should always include an outward expression from the heart.  I'm not suggesting that the amount of money spent on a child's milestones have anything to do with how well a child does as an adult.  However, the father's outward expression of joy and pride.  Zephaniah 3:17 says, "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.  Notice that God rejoices and sings loudly over us.  Not just for performance and accomplishment, but for who we are.

Easton is a yellow belt in Taekwondo now!  This is a picture of a boy looking for his father's approval and affirmation before his big "test" to show he has what it takes to be a yellow belt.

A yellow belt is not something he earned or possesses.  It's who he is.  I made this very clear to him.  Too often I hear parents congratulate kids about their performance or what they physically posses.  This leads to the performance mentality that leads a child to believe, "The better I perform, the more I am loved."  It is much more beneficial to call out a child into who he (or she) is becoming.  Once his belt was officially given to him and tied, he turned to face the crowd to be announced as a yellow belt.

Here's the whole class of students who tested for their belt promotions.  He's still actively pursuing becoming a black belt.  We are supporting him in his goals and desires, but that means sacrificing other things we could be doing with our time and money.  He understands the value of a dollar much more than I would expect for a seven-year-old.

The staff at his martial arts school are very professional and I'm continually impressed by the way the school is run in excellence.  He's not getting trained by some young kid.  He's getting direct training from a champion and that's hard to beat.

Kendra wasn't able to attend the big event because of the side effects of her radiation.  I was disappointed, but know she is limited in her abilities to get out of the house.  Lucky for us, Ouma is here!  She was able to experience the exciting evening and be a part of congratulating him.

The night before this we went to Krispy Kreme for a box of doughnuts.  I went to see how Easton's bedtime routine was going and found him happily brushing his teeth with the hat on.  He is such a kind, funny boy just smiling and scrubbing his pearly whites.  The dentist gave him an A+ rating on his teeth (no cavities).  That's good news worth celebrating.

I took the twins to the skate park for an afternoon outing with their scooters.  After they grew tired of the scooters we scooted over to the playground where the twins joined a few dozen other kids for games of tag and "sharks and minnows" (whatever that is).  Layla climbed on the monkey bars for the majority of the time.  When i asked how she is doing she said, "I'm ok and don't have any blisters... yet."  She sure has lots of dirt on her hands and callouses, but this girl is a princess warrior.  Here's the warrior side...

And then we had a 4 Webbs photo shoot by the Tempe Town Lakes and Layla leaned on the princess side of her personality to sparkle and shine.  She looks like a young lady and it scares the daylight out of me.  I took the picture and then looked at it on my phone.  Then I gasped and wrinkled my forehead because it hit me like a ton of bricks just how much she's really grown up already.

Our photographer is a beginner and a friend from church.  This was her first family photo shoot ever so we have no idea how the pictures are going to turn out.  It was a no-risk situation other than the possibility of zero out of 100 pictures turning out.

And then there's Easton.  Wow.  He's becoming a young man one day at a time right before my eyes.  I'm most proud of him for being kind.  He recognizes injustice easily and has the ability to apply himself to a single thing with laser like focus.  Whatever he chooses to do he does it with is whole being and that's a great character trait to have.  I don't know who he is becoming, but he'll be the best Easton he can be and that's enough assurance for me.

We caught the sunset for some great backgrounds and even some night shots when the lights came on.  Turned out really well as long as the photographer captured it on the camera.  Ouma was with us and helped tremendously with the shuffling of kids and stuff as we moved from one site to the next.  She even got in a few pics, which I think will turn out to be some of the best ones.

Afterwards we treated our photographer to dinner so we could get to know her on a more personal level.  It's tough to really find out about a person while she's giving instructions for taking pictures so frantically.  Anyway, as we waited for our table to open up, I stepped outside with the twins to enjoy the night air.  Layla stepped up on a light pole and I took a few more pics just for fun.  In a word...  Layla is "cheery".  Every seven year old has their moments of emotions, but overall we are blessed to have such a joyful soul reside in the body that is half Kendra and half me.

Some day I'll bring these specific pictures out when Layla is a senior in high school or something and see how much she's changed or not.  I still see the same face as when she was a newborn.  No matter how old she gets or how much her looks change I'll always see her as my little girl.  I've heard about dads describing their daughters that way even when they are grown women, but it's very different being the one to describe Layla this way.

The Casa de Webb is completely full and there is no room at the Inn.  My friend David is still around, Ouma and Oupa are both staying for a week, and the 4 Webbs make seven people living under one great room.  I'm loving it because with five adults I feel like we can adequately manage the house and the twins.  Like all good things, it won't last, but I'm making the most of it while I can.  My blogging time is always in the 10-midnight time frame, but with David around and now the in-laws, we are spending every night talking and sharing and hanging out together so my blog time suffers.  It's a trade off though, so thanks for your patience.  :)

See you soon!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Patch Work of Life

Greetings friends and family,

Have no fear, Ouma is here! She agreed to spend a month to be with us through the last few weeks of radiation and the first few weeks of Kendra's recovery.  Very few guys I know get excited about the idea of their mother-in-law living with them, but I sure do.  I am always happy to have her around even though I'd rather have Oupa here as well.  He'll be here soon enough to share in some Thanksgiving festivities.

Easton and Layla worked hard on their revolutionary war project.  They chose which character to learn and perform as.  Kendra wasn't feeling well enough to go, but Ouma was!

Layla chose Betsy Ross.  She learned about her and memorized a short biography to describe why she was important to the revolutionary war.  Parents and Grand Parents would walk up to one of the kids as they sat in the chair and when they stepped on their name, the kid would come to life as they stood up and recited their lines.  Layla was right by the front door so her button was pushed frequently.  

Easton chose Benjamin Franklin.  His outfit was really awesome except for the high water pants.  That kid just grows and grows.  We still haven't learned to buy clothes too big so that they eventually fit.  Instead, we buy perfectly fitting clothes that last about three weeks and then become material for ridicule at school.  Easton did great with his character and speech.  I bet the two of them will be able to recite their lines for the rest of their lives.  Not sure how we'll repurpose the two costumes, but I'm sure they will come in handy again sometime.  Hopefully before they grow out of them...

One morning I quietly slipped out the door before school with the twins and we went to breakfast so the rest of the house could sleep in.  As we were driving Easton pointed out an amazing double rainbow on the horizon.  We pulled into the parking lot of the breakfast joint just as the rainbow reached full display of the great colors.  Sprinkles were coming down, but I convinced the twins to go stand in the rain long enough for me to take a panorama shot with my phone.  It isn't the greatest quality, but this is one of my favorite pics in a long time.  Those moments of just having breakfast together and talking about random thoughts are some of my favorite moments too.

Kendra and I are in this odd season of being without a church home.  We are not itching to find a new one, but at the same time we aren't going to wait months or years to find a new place to plug in.  we just don't know what God has in store for us and we are completely fine with that.  One of the concerns we had was that we didn't know how our friends would react.  who will remain friends and who will abandon us as soon as we walk out the back door of the church?  Well, we are pleasantly surprised by the number and quality of friends we are keeping in our lives.  Stephanie and Brett are one such family.  We stopped by to prepare for their neighborhood garage sale.  They allowed us some driveway space to sell our garbage to local treasure hunters.  She gladly added to our newly clean house by giving Easton the biggest Picachu I've ever seen and Layla a huge, cuddly giraffe.

Kendra and Stephanie have the same "let's make a deal" gift and we had a great time hanging out together and haggling over a quarter.

Kendra brought out our Thanksgiving hats to sell and tried them on just for fun because they are so silly.  With Kendra's hair being so short, but growing in quickly, this picture gives no indication of whether she has a massive mountain of hair or a bald head.  I like how much these two laugh when they are together.  It's good for her soul.

Easton is getting into football.  not because we watch it around our house or talk about it... ever...  He's into it because his school yard buddies are into it.  Ouma bought him some squishy Cardinals-themed footballs.  Easton and I are making the most of our awesome weather days by throwing and kicking the ball back and forth in the greenbelt.  I like that Easton still invites me into his world and wants to play together.  As long as he's willing, I am happy to be a part of it.

We went to Joe's Farm Grill after attending a potential church.  As we sat outside waiting for our food, Kendra noticed a table full of peculiar bird lovers.  We went over and introduced ourselves like sociable, kind people do.  One of them offered to let the twins hold her bird.  I don't even remember the bird's name, but it was a "rescue" bird, which means it was scraggly with big patches of feathers missing.  Sweet bird though!

Easton was a little more hesitant than Layla, but after seeing how she didn't die or get bit by the little bird he was willing to give it a shot.  The happy little bird bobbed his head up and down to the beat of his owner's beat-box noises. I intentionally go out of our way to interact with people who aren't like us because I want the twins to know that people, in general, are kind and friendly and interesting.

Like this character, David.  He's living with us for a few weeks or months while waiting for a job to open up in Utah his family is already moved.  He's my best friend and I'll be sad when he leaves in a few weeks.  While he's around, he is just part of the family as much as any other member.  He's really handy too.  We've needed to replace the exterior door to our garage since we first moved in.  rain leaks in and floods our garage because the door is disintegrating.  David found a handyman willing to do the job for $450.  David said we can do it better and cheaper.  It ended up costing us two full days, 6 trips to Lowe's, and over $500.  It was a very good learning experience though and I'm glad we did it.  I would never have attempted this without him here, but his confidence and skills came in very handy.

He's also picking up cooking meals and cleaning up as well.  Kendra calls him the "hus-friend".  He's taking care of things around the house like a husband, but he's just a great friend because the husband role is already covered around the Webb house.  Homemade tacos?  Their nothing like Aunt Mary's, but they are authentically good in their own delicious way.

The really big news from a few days ago is that Kendra's biopsy results came back from her vertebrae surgery.  The biopsy showed the cancer is gone in her vertebrae and it's completely healed!  This was a happy day for us.

We celebrated by resting and relaxing together.  I set this picture up in our back yard because it is symbolic of how we are managing through this treacherous journey.  I love her more every day and I'm thankful for each and every day we have together.  It's been eight months since that dreadful day we went into the hospital.  Feels like eight years some days.  Kendra's radiation will be done in two weeks.  She is excited for that glorious day of leaving the hospital after her last radiation treatment.

see you soon!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Newness of Life

Greetings friends and family

This is an older picture from a few weeks ago, but it's notable because I get to explain why many pictures of kids including eating.  If they are eating, then they are still enough to take a picture.  If not, then they are climbing trees and jumping off hay bales.  Two minutes prior to this picture and two minutes after this moment involved trees and hay bales, which would result in blurry, distant pictures.  This explains why we have many pictures of the twins eating.  I am pleasantly surprised by the relationships we are maintaining and growing since leaving our church.  This is "newness of life" because the relationships are more intentional and we are finding out quickly who really wants to be a part of the 4 Webbs and who doesn't. 

And the same can be said for Kendra and I, in general.  The two of us dropped off the kids at school and then went out for breakfast as a date.  We sat next to each other and had a value time of conversation and nothingness.  Nobody spilled anything.  Nobody was told to keep their "tummy to table".  Nobody complained about the inequality of egg portions.  It was wonderful.  Having twins is one of the best things to ever happen to me, but I get great joy from being alone with Kendra even for just a one-hour mundane breakfast.  This is "newness of life" because we are finding out our true identity now that we are not leaders or pastors at church.  It's not a sense of "who am i without the title and influence?" Instead, we have an overwhelming peace and excitement about the future.  As of now we are just husband and wife and parents and friends.

Every day I can see Kendra's hair growing back little by little.  Her eyelashes, eyebrows, and hair on her head is really coming back in well.  As I sat next to her for breakfast I noticed her eyelashes are long enough to be useful again.

We celebrate every little thing; even the hair in places like her armpits that she doesn't particularly care for.  I took a picture of this because it's the first time Kendra has needed a razor in the shower in eight months.  If I were to write a book about this segment of our journey I would use this picture and title it, "Life after Chemotherapy".  This is "newness of life" for obvious reasons...

The greatest moment of the week was realizing that the six-month temporary handicap pass expired at the end of the October, exactly when her back was well enough to not need it any longer.  Her desire to drive and be independent was a strong motivator early on when her vertebrae was just starting to heal as the tumor shrank from radiation.  I'm the happiest person to ever have a tag expire because that means Kendra's healing is really tangible.  The "newness of life" is not about getting back to the way things were, but about discovering who we are right now in this moment.  Kendra's surgery proved to be successful because she is mobile and pain free in her bone.

Layla's wiggly tooth is going through the stage of dangling and hanging on by a thread, or a nerve.  She's too scared to let us pull it out, but dislikes having eat tenderly to avoid pressing the tooth against her gums.  She thinks it's funny and we encourage her by laughing along as she grossly wiggles it around.  The "Newness of life" is that the tooth has to come out in order for the new one to come in.  It's the cycle of life in a one centimeter square.

Easton came to us late one evening complaining about his ear hurting.  He had an ear infection once before and his description matched that unhappy situation very well.  I loaded him up in the van and we headed to the emergency room because he would have not been able to sleep due to the pain.  While the two of us were waiting for the doctor I grabbed a glove and blew it up.  I tied it up and we played balloon toss with it to pass the time.  Easton said it looks like a blue chicken.  He has a creative imagination that brings mine back to life a little more all the time.  I hope he never loses his imagination.

Layla requested a daddy date so we planned out our time together.  She wanted to go mountain bike riding on the trail-a-bike.  Her bike is connected to mine in such a way that she just pedals and enjoys the scenery while I do all the turning and braking.  Even though she has her own mountain bike now, she is not yet confident enough to hit the dirt trails and zip through the twisty canyons like we do when I'm pulling her along.

We stopped to admire the view of the city below.  Layla's hug and comment about how much she loves me made my day.  We had moments of silence to listen and see and sense the  surroundings.  I hugged her back and enjoyed the long embrace.  A few years ago I set the expectation inside my own mind that I would never let go first when I hug people.  It's been surprising the number of times when the length of a hug is longer than I would expect, but will continue to let them be the ones to let go first.  This is important because it's the same in life.  The older they get, the more I will have to let them go, but only on their timing and maturity, not my desires. Sometimes the calm moments are the most memorable.  The "Newness of life" here is that Layla can ride her own mountain bike, but she is choosing to let me lead and to be close to me.  I'm going to take full advantage of this stage as long as it lasts because there will come a day, sadly, when Layla will prefer to hang out with her friends than to go ride with dad.  I'm excited that she is old enough to have the choice!

See you soon!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

End of October

Greetings friends and family,

Not even sure where to start with an attempt to wrap up one of the craziest months in recent years.  I've been sitting at my computer staring at the screen for more minutes than i care to admit and I still can't sort through things in my mind enough to write them out coherently.  so i'll not even try.  Let's just go in order of the pictures.

Fall lasts about 12 days here in Arizona.  we go from blazes hot to jacket weather in a short amount of time.  The old saying, "make hay while the sun is shining" describes our current pace of outdoor activity.  Craigslist is such a great way to keep up with kids growing.  Easton and Layla both outgrew their bikes with 16 inch wheels last season.  They look like circus bears on tiny bikes.  I went to craigslist and found a great deal on Easton's bike this past week and i'll break even on the cost when i sell his old bikes.  Now he can keep up with Layla and I.  We are taking short trips to the local market and stores and parks so that the twins will get used to shifting and braking with levers.  Next week we'll be out on the mountain for a test run!

On Halloween we started a new tradition.  The 4 Webbs all wore our onesie pajamas to Chick-fil-a for breakfast.  I was the one taking the picture, but we were all there proudly eating our delicious meal together.  Easton and Layla were slightly uncomfortable at first.  I don't know when the switch of self-consciousness or insecurity was turned on, but somewhere along the way they lost some boldness.  we're fixing that as we lead by example.  We walked confidently into the restaurant and talked to a few of the strangers close by smiling at us and the cashiers.  I enjoyed every moment of the conversations and joy we brought into people's lives by just being a little silly and creative in our approach to having fun and spreading the love.

Easton earned his third stripe in Tae Kwon Do and is ready to test for his yellow belt in two weeks.  I'm really proud of him for sticking to this and watching the heart of a black belt develop.  His level of discipline at home is improving and his assertiveness in responding with a loud "yes sir!" makes me smile.

On the day before Halloween, Layla's ice skating class had a party on the ice.  90 minutes of free ice time was more than enough to convince me to take Layla.  Plus they said Easton can go too.  He hasn't laced up his skates in months, but he had a great time skating around playing tag with all the boys.

His smile says it all.  After the night was over he mentioned how fun it was, but he isn't interested in doing this again with lessons.

Layla was in her element dancing around like a royal princess.  Her costume was awesome and warm enough for the cold ice.

She has her own crew of pals on the ice who skate around and do tricks.  It's pure entertainment for me to watch her in action out there having the time of her life.

For the second year in a row we were glad to have Logan and Bree with us on Halloween.  Bree dressed as a panda and Logan had the same costume as me this year...  none at all.  Bree helped Layla carve her pumpkin.  Layla was grossed out by the slimy seeds so auntie Bree gladly stepped in to save the day.

I let Easton and Layla pick out their designs.  Easton chose a creepy spider and Layla chose Tinkerbell.  The pumpkins were big, but still required some extra fine cutting of the design.  jack-o-lanterns don't last long in AZ because the dry climate destroys them quickly so we carved them up on the big day and then put them directly in the trash can after the candy bowl was all gone.

Bree and the kids had glow sticks because safety is important, even in a neighborhood like ours with very few cars driving the streets.

and the glow sticks can be used as Star Wars light sabers as long as no one breaks one open and gets the toxic ooze all over their costume...  luckily that didn't happen this year.

The other exciting part of our day was Ouma flying in for a month of loving on us and the twins.  We've been counting down the days!  She dressed in the batgirl costume and fit in very well with our superhero and princess.

We were also happy to have stephanie and Josh spend the evening with us.  it was a full house of love and excitement and good times.  All the costume people went trick-or-treating for candy while Logan and I passed it out from our driveway to the other kids. It's like a massive candy swap that ends up costing the parents way more than the kids ever recoup from the neighbors, but it was all worth it for the great evening together.

I'll be heading out tomorrow to buy a half-priced costume because I'm too cheap to pay full price for anything.  My Buzz Lightyear costume will come in handy next year too when Toy Story 4 comes out.  I'll be back in style once again!

See you soon.