Thursday, June 23, 2016

Showing up in Sacramento

Hello family!

Friends no longer come to the blog so i'm just being real about who's actually visiting lately.  The 4 Webbs are on our normal summer vacation to California and being "normal" never felt so good.  We brought Max with us because he's Kendra's emotional therapy dog and became a serious part of our family over the past few months.  The kids travelled well with their noses stuck in their Nintendo 3DS playing games against each other.  They also watched movies and occasionally looked out the window at the amazing world outside our battle wagon.  Max rode perfectly without a single peep or bark or poop mess.  We forgot he was even there sometimes.  The trip was uneventful, just like we desired. 

Layla's been wanting to get on the ice ever since her performance ended a few weeks ago.  the break was nice, but she was thrilled to be back out there practicing her next routine.  As she was skating around I sat on the cold bench in my jeans and jacket drinking a hot chocolate.  She looked at me every few minutes and I gave the "thumbs up" a few hundred times.  She skated by and stopped for a moment to breath on the glass and draw a heart with her fingers.  That made the trip there and time together worthwhile. 

Kendra and Ouma spend most days by the pool.  Joan's pool, Susie's pool, city pool...  so many options and so many days to enjoy the great weather.  Aunt Patty is a welcomed addition to any get together.  Max is learning to swim, but is a long way from happily jumping into the pool voluntarily. 

We joined the annual family reunion at Aunt Susie's house.  Layla had quality time with her cousins with hula hoops and scooters. 

Kendra was not able to join us last year.  She was stuck in bed going through chemotherapy.  This year is a much better situation...  that is the understatement of the year. 

Easton had an introduction to basketball since he hasn't played in a team environment on the court before.  It was unorganized and terribly poor form, but they had the time of their life.  Easton took some shots and he felt like "one of the boys" in a way he rarely gets to experience.

Easton and Layla love birthdays especially when they are celebrating their cousin's birthday.  Owen is one of their favorites.  they were happy to eat his cake and sing along to cheer him on. 

It was rare for all of the cousins to all be in the same general area of the pool so I corralled them for a group picture.  It'll be tough to see who is who behind the goggles, but some day the twins will guess their way through this picture with names. 

One of the most memorable moments of the first weekend was seeing Kendra sit and talk with GG.  These are the insignificant flashes of time that I took for granted before last year.  Now i recognize them and watch intently as if I'm trying to burn it into my mind and truly comprehend how special they are. 

Just... birthday cake.  nothing more needs to be said about these smiles. 

I was that guy who begged all the kids to stand next to each other in order of descending height.   There are some cousins not present, but this is most of who Easton and Layla hang out with in the summer when it comes to family get togethers.  Alyssa, Alana, Coleson, Braeden, abby, owen, Rowan, Easton, Layla, Lily. 

For 16 years I've been a part of this family and not one picture exists of Kendra's cousins together.  Although it would have been nice if someone else would have organized a group picture and invted us to join in, that has never happened and probably would never happen if it weren't for me and my shutter bug tendencies.  Logan and Bree aren't here, but this is the rest of the gang of family from Ouma's side of the family.  For the guys we have Brian, Casey, me, Mark, and Alan.  The ladies are: Kelly, Heather, Barbie (soon to be officially a part of the family in August), Kendra, Coleen, and Janine. 

We rearranged our schedule, missed some work, ditched our friends, and rushed our departure just to be in Sacramento for this evening of family togetherness.  It was worth it on many levels. 

See you soon!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Okie Life

Howdy friends and family,

We wrapped up on of the greatest vacation weeks ever for our family.  What made it great was not an exotic location or entertaining shows or expensive outings.  The fun and relaxation was experienced was relational and simple.  Aunt Mary and Uncle Joel have a 9-acre country version of Disneyland.  There were days I didn't even leave the property and that was the goal.  Kendra was in her pajamas more than not.  That's a perfectly valid option even with family coming over.

Stephanie is Joel's daughter who I talked to about Kendra's cancer diagnosis and prognosis.  She worked for one of the leading cancer docs in Chicago at the time and was able to give us a reliable third opinion.  My brother-in-law John and Kendra's oncologist rounded out the team of opinions.  Anyway, it was a special occasion for me to see Kendra with Stephanie because of the emotional ties I developed during the last several months as I talked openly with her about Kendra.  This picture represents Kendra as the miracle and Stephanie as the witness of the doctor's reports.

Mary threw a "reveal" party to share her new house and upgrades with friends and family.  My aunt Gay's family came to share in the festivities.  I don't get to see them often so their presence, and many other long-lost friends of my parents, made it a memorable day.

I took the twins with Mary and I to visit the cemetery.  I know that's not a normal kind of vacation destination, but it was very valuable to honor my grandpa, uncles, and relatives.  This is a picture from this trip.

and here is a picture from when we buried Uncle Dave eight years ago.  My, how times change and how much older I look in just eight short years.

Easton and Layla got a good understanding of what a cemetery is and who is there and why.  They watched as Mary and I talked about the deceased with honor and appreciation.  I trust they will do the same when they get older too.

Here's a picture of the last time they were here when they were four years old:

The rest of the trip included more traditional vacation experiences like shooting rifles.  Layla had her first rifle shooting lesson.  The closest she's come to shooting a 22 until now was shooting a semi-auto airsoft pistol in our back yard.  Joel set up some targets and Layla nailed the bulls eye within a few hairs.

I am proud of her for learning gun safety and how to shoot.  If there is ever a time where she will need to use a gun at least she has a little practical experience to draw from.

Easton was disappointed because Layla's shot was better than his, but I didn't care about that one bit.  I'm not sure why he does either.  He's not super competitive but Layla tends to push him in that direction more than he likes.  I was proud of him for holding it strong, loading the bullets, and hitting the target.

Joel's farm property includes ponds, woods, and a rope swing.  The three of us took turns flailing around like chickens with our heads cut off.  Layla was obviously the most graceful.

The one thing I didn't get during our OKC trip was a picture with Mary.  Not sure why other than she was preparing for the party, partying, or recovering from the party most of the time we were there.  Joel was more than happy to lead the adventures and I'm grateful for them having such a Godly man in their life who knows how to "uncle" well.

Not many pictures of me because I was busy taking them, as I have for the past eight years of their lives.  On the rare occasion when there is someone else with us who agrees to take pictures, I take full advantage.  This is my favorite picture with the twins from the week-long vacation.

While we prepared for fishing I explained how it is possible to catch fish by putting a grasshopper on a hook instead of a worm.  this blew their minds and we began searching for grasshoppers to prove it.  Layla found this little guy clinging to a weed. I plucked the weed and they talked and touched and looked at the grasshopper.  They've seen grasshoppers in "Bugs Life" and on TV shows.  they've read about them in books.  I've described them in great detail before.  However, nothing compares to actually experiencing a real, live grasshopper.  Insert a spiritual metaphor here and you'll get an idea of where I am in my own journey.

John is Joel's handy man.  He took time from his tractor duties to help Easton cast the line and catch some fish.

I took a couple of panoramic pics to capture the beauty of the scenery.  It was quiet and calm in a way rarely experienced in our normal city life.

Joel helped Layla with the fishing basics.  She caught six fish!  All were catch-and-release, but each one was a thrill of it's own for her.  I don't think she'll become the next Bill Dance, but I'm grateful for those who have showed the twins life skills.  I was physically with them, but there are times like this when i prefer to step away from the hands-on teaching and let other men and women take the lead so they are comfortable taking instruction and correction from others.

When we first stepped out of the truck by the pond Layla surveyed the landscape and zeroed in on the wild flowers.  She asked if we could pick them I gladly agreed.  We wondered through the chigger and tick infested section of weeds in order to get just the right mix of colors and styles.  Layla made it clear she was getting these for kendra.  by the time we arrived home the flowers were wilted and soggy, but the heart behind them was well received by her mommy.

The twins and I rode with Joel through the small towns to run errands.  we found ourselves at the Meeker city hall, which was just a small building with a lone worker inside to officiate business such as permits and licenses.  I lived in Meeker for a year back in 1991.  Wow, that makes me feel ancient, but it's true.  We drove by the school i attended, the house i lived in, the church i went to, and even the corner store where i went for snacks.  Sharing these details with the twins was a great trip down memory lane for me and a good history lesson for the twins.  This is a little piece of where I come from.

Towards the end of our trip we packed in the adventures so much that we were gleefully exhausted each night.  This was drastically different from the first few days where we stayed in our pajamas and accomplished as little as possible.  Turned out to be just the right combination of all the elements that make a vacation.  On the last day we went swimming in Meeker lake and took the jet skis out for some high speed fun.  68 miles per hour on the water is such a rush.  Kendra took Easton and I took Layla.  While Layla and I were trotting along the edge, we crossed paths with a water moccasin snake slithering through the water.  Layla was a little scared, but she didn't freak out at all.  I was proud of her bravery to just hang onto me and ride by it.

kendra and I didn't ride much together, but I convinced her to jump on with me for a minute to take advantage of the photo opportunity.

Joel pulled us around on the tube, but there was no chance for pictures of those adventurous moments.  Easton rode with me for a while and Layla rode with me for a while.  This was after seeing the snake in the water!  Both of them had an excellent tubing experience because Joel puttered along at a slow pace.

this will be one of the vacations we will never forget as a family.  it's the best of times and I'm grateful for every time we get to experience this much bonding at once.  it was the first time I've taken a full week away from work in over a year.  now it's time to celebrate life and live out some of the things Kendra and I have been dreaming of in the past few months.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Country Kids

Howdy friends and family,

The 4 Webbs have so much to celebrate.  Kendra's birthday is the most prominent reason.  Her birthday this year is drastically different than last year.  We hosted a graduation party for our friend's daughter to accommodate all of her friends and relatives.  We love to be examples of what it means to "be the church" and one of the ways we do that is by giving of what we have and who we are to those who are a part of our group.  The world will know we are disciples by how we love each other and that should start with those in our immediate circle of believers.

Anyway, the only party Kendra kind of had was at Stephanie's house where we crashed Brett's birthday party and hung out for an evening with them.  Happy birthday to my wonder woman wife!

As I walked towards their house for dinner, Layla grabbed my hand.  I looked down to see our shadow and it shocked me how grown up and mature she is getting.  Just seeing her shadow so tall and her girlish aspects stopped me in my tracks to take a picture.  Her long pony tail, dress, and purse are all clearly outlined.  

Layla is still exploring the idea of writing down her feelings and sharing them with me and others.  She colored a scenic picture and then hand-wrote a scathing review of my parenting skills.  She wasn't being mean though.  she was expressing how it feels to be her in our relationship, which is completely valid.  I responded by created a hand-written note and folding it 80's style with the little flap you pull to open it up.  In it I wrote how much I love her no matter what and gave her compliments about the wonderful characteristics she has.  She opened it, read it, and gave me the biggest hug since I can remember.  It broke down walls she was building in her heart and resulted in a great moment of connection between us.

We took a little trip to OKC to spend a week with Aunt Mary and Uncle Joel.  The plane ride there was smooth and without incident.  I'm so glad there was nothing exciting or interesting to share about the flight because it all went so well it was completely forgetable.  Easton loved it because he loves flying.  His nose was pressed against the window more than half of the trip.

Mary has a cat and that cat has six kittens.  Easton and Layla were ecstatic to pick them up and play with them.  We discovered Layla is allergic to cats just like I am.  What a bummer!  she is enamored with cats and enjoys playing with them so much.

Did I mention I'm allergic to cats???  Yeah, well, when Easton asks me to play with him and the kittens I hesitated.  Then i realized that making memories with Easton and being interested in what he likes is more important than a little sneezing and itching on my part.  This is true sacrifice on display!

Joel taught Easton how to ride a motorcycle.  A real one.  not a battery powered thing, but a real dirt bike.  Joel had a strap tied to the bike and led him step by step through the process of steering, accelerating, braking, and safety.  He's a great teacher who had Easton up and riding in under 30 minutes.

Within an hour he was playing follow the leader with me as I slowly rode across the 9-acre property.  Then Kendra wanted to get in on the action.  She did fine with the little 50 size engine bike, but then she stepped up to the 70 and it slid out from under her as she fell into the soft mud and grass from the wet pavement.  I was happy she didn't get hurt and even happier she had enough and agreed not to get back on the bike again... ever...  If I have my way this will be the last picture of Kendra driving a motorcycle.

Easton, on the other hand, is just getting started.  He is still very cautious and safe, but his ear-to-ear smile says it all.   He is having a blast riding this little beast around.

Joel's sign is too perfect to pass up.  Kendra and Layla are walking around the property barefoot while Easton and I plow through mud puddles and make loud noises as we rev the engines.

We're having a great time doing nothing when we want to and being adventurous when the mood strikes.  The clouds and rain have been such a welcomed change of pace for us.  I'm enjoying every drop and gust of cool breeze as our friends in Phoenix top 117 degrees today.

See you soon!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Money and Time

Greetings friends and family,

Easton and Layla will be financially literate when they leave my house to start their own life.  There are so many people who get out of high school and enter the real world with no idea how to manage money and debt.  From the time the twins were four years old they have had a savings account.  Every time they get any money whether for birthday or chores or the tooth fairy (they know it's me, by the way) I taught them to give 1/3, save 1/3, and spend 1/3.  Those ratios are really difficult to maintain as an adult, but as kids who have no expenses it is very possible.

 I came into the kitchen recently to find them counting the money in their save container, which they do from time to time.  Layla exclaimed, "I have over $100!" and Easton showed me his wad of cash too.  I decided it was time to turn those coins and dollar bills into a 100 dollar bill.  We used the local coin star in the grocery store to convert it and walked out with a crisp bill for each.

I'm proud of them for developing the skill of delayed gratification and avoiding temptation.  They know where that money is in the save container and they could access it at any time.  We don't put high up where they can't get it.  We put it right at their level to help them develop the skills.  I'd rather them make good or bad choices and reap the consequences (good or bad) at this age when the amount is just $100.  I'd be a foolish parent to sanitize their environment so much that they have the chance to make choices.  They are being taught to be powerful over themselves and their choices.

Easton wrapped up his first flag football season.  Here's a pic of him on defense going for the flag.

and here's his biggest play where he received a hand off and made some good yardage on the play.

He did very well in the team environment.  I am impressed by his ability to receive coaching and follow instructions.  His coach was absolutely amazing.  I've been through several other seasons with the kids on various sports and I've never seen such a great coach as "Coach O".  I don't even know his name because that's what everyone called him...

I was disappointed to see that every kid on every team won a participation trophy.  They were completely meaningless and don't represent anything other than proof that a kid showed up for a high percentage of games.  None the less, Easton was happy to get the trophy and close out the season with his new friends.

I'm not sure why Easton looks scared or worried in this next picture, but I at least should make it in one picture.  I took him to every game and every practice.  I cheered for him and sweated with him and practiced in the back yard with him.  He's worth it all..

Layla graduated to "free skate 3", which probably doesn't mean much to those who don't know the skating system.  but to this girl it was cause for celebration!  She twirled around for five minutes during the spontaneous, open skate time at the end of each class.  I stood by giving her two thumbs up as I watched her show off for the new skaters.  She came by as I motioned to get a picture and then she smashed her nose against the glass.

She's been skating so much during the past few weeks that i'm glad for her to have a break while we are on vacation.  Her passion for figure skating is burning brighter than ever and my job is just to fan the flame of whatever burns in her heart.

The 4 Webbs are adventuring in Oklahoma with Aunt Mary and Uncle Joel.  The stories and experiences already deserve their own post.

See you soon!