Friday, May 27, 2016

Growing Up

Greetings friends and family,

The most difficult part of my days and weeks is waiting.  I've learned patience over the past year in a deeper way than I ever thought possible.  During everything Kendra went through with the hysterectomy, radiation, chemo, and being tired, I waited for her to be "available".  Not just in that physical way, but I waited for her time and energy and attention.  I've gladly taken whatever was left over each day, week, and month after she's taken care of doctor appointments, kids, mentoring ladies, time for herself, sleeping, and a whole list of other very important parts of life that are ahead of me.

I died this year and I've never felt more alive.  Being a husband is not about Kendra helping me fulfill my dreams.  It's about killing my selfishness and self-centeredness and arrogance.  To dedicate myself to serving her and my family without any expectation of things being fair or reciprocated or noticed.  I figured out that Kendra is a person to discover not a project to complete.  She is a person to know not a problem to solve.  I had to give up that control mindset and truly surrender.  It's one thing to know in my mind that I'm not in control of Kendra, but it's a whole different world when my heart believes that is true.

There are very few pictures of Kendra and I from the past year.  It takes a huge effort and lots of planning and patience.  Part of the reason is that I'm the one who takes all the pictures so I'm not in most of them.  And Kendra rarely likes the pictures I take of her so most of those get left on the hard drive.  Here's one such rare photo...  We pray together.  We pray separate.  We pray for each other.  We pray for others.  It's a way of life and after what we've been through in the past 15 months, we know the power of prayer and power of giving away what we have and who we are.

Enough about me, let's talk about the twins...  Easton earned his purple belt in Taekwondo!  Layla graduated to Free Skate level 3!  a few years ago I never would have guessed Easton would be on his way to becoming a black belt and Layla would be performing in figure skating shows.  Yet, here they are, neck-deep in their passion and loving every minute of it.  I've never once had to tell them to go to practice.  They understood from day one that the first time I have to convince them to go to Taekwondo or ice skating, their lessons would stop and they would be free to move on to another sport or hobby.

They support each other with good words of encouragement. Easton waited patiently at the ice rink while Layla finished up her lesson.  I'm so glad they each have their own "thing" and are progressing so well individually.

This is the last picture of Easton and Layla as second graders.  I picked them up from school on their last day along with our dog, Max.  They were much more excited to see Max than me, but I'm perfectly happy with them loving on our fleabag.

We are living a more Biblical life now than I ever imagined.  Kendra noticed our married friends were struggling to connect with each other due to work schedules.  She offered to watch their three kids at their house for three day while the two of them took a vacation together.  I saw Kendra once during this time when we met out for Jamba Juice.  For a brief moment we experienced what it would be like to have five kids.  Wow. Even just a trip to Jamba Juice gave me a whole new level of appreciation for larger families than we have.  It was a sacrifice for all of us, but so very worth it to love our church family in such a tangible way.  That's crazy, but I am really proud of Kendra.  She could have said, "I'll pray for you two..." or "I'm so sorry you two are having a difficult time..." or "Call me if you need anything?"  None of those have as much impact as stepping out and loving on them in such a tangible way.  They can't return the favor and we don't want them to.  They can't pay us and we don't want them to. That's radical love if I ever saw it.

Easton and I had some daddy/son time together.  He busted out his volcano set and we did science experiments together!  The funny goggles came with the set and I really like how Easton is concerned with safety. :)  He read the instructions carefully and we made a huge mess.

We watched it fizz and bubble and look like a real volcano.  This was the highlight of his day from what he told me at bed time.  Just doing silly things together means the world to him.  I started saying to Easton and Layla the same thing I say to Kendra:  "If it's important to you, then it's important to me!"  and then I respond accordingly.

We reached a milestone in the lives of parenting siblings.  Easton wrote on his sign, "No girls allowed" and hung it on his door handle.  Then, when a group of kids came over he added at the bottom, "Except Layla".  I call that a win.

Summer is finally here, which means swimming pools and city aquatic centers.  Easton jumped off the high dive with no fear.  Last year he wouldn't do it until Layla did, but this year he already knows it's not scary so he jumped without hesitation.

Ballerina Layla did some twisty spin thing with perfect form and I'm not surprised one bit.  She has a graceful way about her even when leaping from a diving board.

Our church group is growing.  I'm not interested in growing the number of people as I am in growing the people.  One of the couples has a passion for helping the homeless so we pooled our resources and created 50 care packages of toiletries and useful things homeless people need.

We distributed the bags between the families and are finding opportunities to give them away when we come across homeless people in our day-to-day lives.  I'm extremely proud of the way we are getting beyond the four walls of the traditional church to reach people who would never darken a church door.  There are so many people we pass every day in the halls at work and in the grocery stores who are hurting and in need.  Our group is becoming more intentional about living out what we've been taught for so many years.

That's all I have time for today, but the holiday weekend is coming and vacation is just around the corner!

See you soon

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Post About Layla

Greetings friends and family,

This is a bizzare week where Kendra was in California for a few days watching the Ellen show live.  Then she went to our friend's house for 3 days to watch their kids while our friends went for a couple's getaway.  She had some girl time fun for a few days and then sacrificed a few days for the sake of our friends.  That's all great, but it left a big empty spot for me and the twins.  We miss her greatly, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it's not a train.  It's a trip out of town.  Several weeks from now I get to have 3 days with Kendra and without the kids.  I've been looking forward to that time away for weeks already!  Anyway, I get Kendra back tomorrow and will snap out of my funk.

Enough about me, this is about Layla.  She is delightful and lively, to say the least.  This picture is from the zoo trip.  They have their own friends at school, but still choose to hang out together like best friends.  Her hat was a requirement to avoid sunburns.  This one from the Springfield Cardinals is the only one in her room.  Thanks to Papa for the hat!

The twins participated in school plays in their classroom.  They memorized lines and did a small performance for the parents.  Easton was the narrator for the Three Billy Goats Gruff.  Layla was Little Red Riding Hood in her play.  She did so well with expressions and acting.  It was a little scary how well she was able to sell it.

 Layla performed in a figure skating show called "Brit Ice Invasion", which included songs from British people and bands.  We initially declined the offer, but Layla's coaches waived the performance fee so she could be in it.  We still had to pay for her costume and some other incidentals, but she was very fortunate to be given such an opportunity.  Here she is at one of the many practice sessions, giving her full attention to the coaches.

My apologies for the shaky video, but the lights were very dim and the camera had tough time picking up the action.

We were so proud of her for pursing her passions and devoting her time to performing.  She skated in a group for this event.  The show occurred four times in the course of two days.  Her feet and legs were sore because she spent more time on the ice in four days than she normally spends in a whole month!  When she meets people she quickly gets around to the fact that she is a figure skater.  She says, "It's my passion and I love it!"  So much truth in what she says.

After the last performance Easton and I waited outside for her to see us.  I prepared him with flowers to give her and some guidance about what words of encouragement would be most helpful.  Easton was so kind with being genuinely happy for her.

And here's one last picture of our superstar, Layla posing at the photo op area.  She looks way to mature with her stage makeup and outfit.  She's 8 going on 18 and I'm not really ready for this yet.

Just like everything else with parenting, no one is ever really ready for the next step.  It's just like grace from God.  Grace is the ability to go through what you couldn't go through the moment before grace was given.  Parenting requires looking at each moment with the grace and skills and love that are available at the time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Post About Easton

Greetings friends and family,

Kendra left me for three days to hang out with her friend, Stephanie, in Malibu.  That provided many opportunities for daddy time.  I took a day off work to spend at the zoo with Easton and Layla as a chaperon.  They've been waiting or months for me to volunteer for a school thing and I chose this to be my act of service for the school.   There's a whole lot of Easton in this post.  The next one will be focused on Layla.  :)

On our way out of the zoo we went through the gift shop as always.  Easton walked directly to this shirt titled, "Poo at the zoo", which shows different shapes of animal droppings.  He held it up and I immediately said, "Nope!"  Didn't stop him from asking though....

Layla sat with her friend, who was assigned to our "group".  That means I was able to sit with Easton on the bus ride.  Talk about weird!?  I haven't been on a school bus in 35 years or more.  We had an outstanding time together with some memories I know will last a lifetime.  especially for me to ride in a bus...

Easton is a green belt in Taekwondo now.  He had his first sparring class where he was hit and kicked as well as hitting and kicking others.  He did super well.  Very controlled and sportsman-like.  He loved every minute of it and I enjoyed watching him put into practice everything he's been learning for the past 10 months or so.  He can't wait to go again this week during the sparring class so that's a good sign.  I'm a bad parent for forgetting to buy him a jock strap.  It was a gamble, but luckily he didn't get kicked in the family jewels.

I bought some helium filled balloons for an object lesson and a few cheap laughs.  We took them outside and let them go.  Isaiah 55:8 says, "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine."  It's difficult to explain to eight year olds what that means, but I did ok with this little illustration.  We watched them for several minutes as the cluster grew smaller and smaller.  I explained how God doesn't think like us and we can never understand the way he thinks.  As high as the balloons traveled up through the atmosphere, that's how vastly different God's thoughts are than our.

I told the twins, "I need to run to the hardware store for and errand.  please get dressed."  Easton came out with flip flops and a t-shirt.  Layla came out with a princess dress, a bow in her hair, and lots of jewelry.  having boy/girl twins is such a unique experience...

Marisue brought over a watermelon for our church gathering, but it didn't get used.  I cut it into fourths and took the twins down to the green belt for some messy fun.  We dumped watermelon juice everywhere and laughed so hard that Easton was spitting up melon pieces on the ground. I was smart enough not to attempt this feat of a treat inside the house.  With Kendra out of town, I didn't want to create a mess to clean up or to leave for her when she arrived home.

Easton's two extra curricular activities are taekwondo and flag football.  He begged us to sign him up.  His interest is only from his school yard buddies who talk about football and play it during recess.  We've never watched a full NFL game other than the superbowl in Easton's entire life, but that peer pressure and influence sure has power!  He's on a great team with an amazing coach.  I don't know jack squat about football or coaching, but it doesn't take an expert to know a Ferrari when it rolls by.  Easton likes defense the best and although he doesn't have fast-twitch muscles, he gets around rather quickly across the field.  I take him to practice every Wednesday and games every Saturday.  He's a busy dude, but this is a short-term situation for only a few weeks.

Easton's still into Legos, Star Wars, Jurassic World, the Titanic, and lots of other normal eight-year-old things like Minecraft.  One of my favorite things in the world is watching Easton experience for the first time.

See you soon!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Even If Nobody Cares

Greetings friends and family,

This is a rather awkward post after closing down the blog four months ago.  I pulled a copy of the entire blog to give to the twins.  It's a 1.5 Terabyte PDF file!  I thought it was the end of an eight-year era, but I'm standing around like Rocky Balboa saying, "I still got some stuff left in the tank."

It's been an enjoyable break from the regular cadence of posts every 2-3 days, but after some deep soul searching I want to give this another try and pick up where i left off.  I didn't start this as a business or with expectations of a "following", but somewhere along the line I started to care more about who was reading it than I should have.  It's difficult to perform in front of an empty auditorium and that's what it felt like for the last several months.  I spent hours and hours writing.  I slept less than I should have.  I took time from other hobbies or fun to write, edit, upload, and produce this.  The only people I really knew were reading were my mom, my sister, Kendra's mom, and Aunt Mary.  Somewhere along the way that wasn't enough anymore.  I received a hundred times more likes and comments and conversation starters from people I saw by posting to Facebook.  Nobody said, "I read your blog and..."  It was always, "I saw your post on Facebook and..."

During my time away I realized this blog is mostly about me expressing my feelings and experiences with as much honesty as possible.  There is something very valuable for me to think through and write down what's going on inside my head and my heart.

There's no way for me to catch up on four months of happenings so I'll just pick up this past week and move forward from there.  My priorities have never been more solid:  God in everything, Kendra first, kids second, work third, ministry and leadership fourth.  Nothing else beyond these priorities matter at all because if I'm doing those four properly, there isn't time for anything else.

Here's the summary version of the 4 Webbs over the past few months:

Kendra is wonderfully well!  She's still going to appointments five days a week for blood work, infusions, shots, physical therapy, pilates yoga, and oncologist check-ups.  Her weekly schedule is completely determined by when doctors and appointments can fit her in.  As a result of that my schedule still needs to be flexible and I shift work around to support whatever needs to happen with kids and Kendra.  I'm blessed to have a job that allows for this level of adjustability! 

Kendra still has pain in her shoulders from scar tissue resulting from the back brace she wore for months.  The hysterectomy brought on a whole new challenge with hormones.  That plus the radiation and chemotherapy are still causing issues internally, but overall she is fabulously well and healthy.  I used to wake up every morning and ask "how do you feel?" so I could determine the course of my day and what needed to change. Now there are moments in the day when I don't even think about her health and it's amazing to focus on other things completely for a change.  She is well, I am well and that's a great starting point for thinking about the future. 

And the biggest proof of her healing is the two-day trip we took to Disneyland with just the two of us.  That's right... we left the kids at home and had a party for two at the happiest place on Earth.  The first day we walked 9.5 miles and she was walking ahead of me, dragging me along most of the time.

Easton and Layla are 10 days away from being 3rd graders.  I can barely grasp that in my little brain.  They are getting lanky tall and heavy.  I know this because I still carry them to bed each night, but now I have to do it one at a time.  Easton is half-way to earning his black belt in Taekwondo and Layla is still climbing the ranks in figure skating with great success.  This picture is one of the few I capture that shows some candid emotion instead just a fake smile.  They are holding up a book Joanie gave them for their 2nd birthday!

Recently we went camping in Northern AZ and I don't have the time to recount the craziness that happened as we tried to stay dry, but this is one of the few pictures I captured.  The kids had a blast and the parents were stressed out and tired from the wet and cold.  Lessons learned and their fun were worth the trip... barely.  :)

Here is a picture of some of the kids.  We have a new crew of church families we hang out with who are becoming very close and interdependent.  There are some great things happening and the 4 Webbs are right in the middle of it!

Easton has a shark blanket that is almost ready for summer storage, but we laughed for a long time as he pretended to be eaten.

Max is awesome.  He completed his Petco training and is ready for the next step in his journey to be a therapy dog through the AKC training. 

Kendra and I took the kids on individual dates.  Layla went with her and Easton with me.  I gave him an open invite to eat anywhere he wants.  He chose Culvers because they have good burgers and guaranteed ice cream. 

Layla had Cheesecake Factory on her mommy date.  They both dressed up fancy and made some memories. 

I had some extreme experiences and revelations and Godly encounters over the past few months.  My thought process is shifted in a major way and I'm either very aligned with God's plan or I'm a complete wacko who lost his marbles.  What used to be important is no longer important.  Priorities are adjusting in a way that is counter-cultural, but I don't have any desire to follow the crowd anymore.  Some of the decisions we made lately don't make sense and I don't have time to recount them individually, but just know it is well with my soul and with the 4 Webbs.

This summer will be the most adventurous one ever and I'll start posting again regularly even if nobody cares.  My motivations are different and my passions are still a work in progress.  Welcome back to the 4 Webbs blog!