Saturday, June 29, 2013

June 2013: Cousin Camp

We just returned from spending a few days with the Pascuals in New Jersey. Our niece Maddie was recently diagnosed with cancer and is just coming to the end of the first phase of chemo. Little brothers Daniel and Ryan had their last day of school on Wednesday, so with some procedures scheduled for Maddie on Thursday and Saturday, we found our window to make a visit. We arrived Wednesday evening in time to visit with everyone and get the kids down for a late bedtime (a trend when we travel). Spencer popped out of bed at about 5am the next day, hoping it was time to get up. I convinced him that it was probably a good idea to give everyone a little more time to sleep.

The forecast called for rain every day we were there. Tender mercy: it only rained one day we were there and even then it was in the evening. However, we came prepared for any weather. To kick off cousin camp, we brought with us a cardboard ship for the cousins to help assemble, decorate, and then play in. (Thank you, Dave and Michelle Younce, for the idea via Facebook). 

Can you spy John? 
 L to R: Spencer, Ryan, Daniel, John, Emma
*Sweet Maddie was at the hospital for chemo, a spinal tap, and a bone marrow aspiration. She's my hero. Such a brave girl!

 10 points if you can figure out which twin is peeking out of which porthole in the photo above. 

All the cousins names on the back deck of the ship.

After decorating the ship, the kids headed to the backyard to play. They were joined by some neighbors and made up a very creative game that was a cross between dodgeball and a fortress-style video game where you have do accomplish specific tasks to renew your lives. 

We posted a few "I spy" pictures on Path for Maddie. Below, neighbor Nathan is in white and Spencer is in red. Can you find them?

After lunch, some more backyard fun, and a Brett nap, we headed to the park. Neighbors Nathan and Aliyah joined us. The kids were SO good at entertaining each other that it was really quite fun to have all EIGHT of them along for the excursion. 

Brett is an angel baby. He was cooing and chirping (best way of describing his latest conversation tool) from the stroller and cheesing it up with some awesome grins. Love this boy.

I spy Aliyah and Emma!

The older boys in the group started off playing basketball while John, Brett, Emma, Aliyah, and I hung out at the park. After a while they moved to kickball and were quickly joined by friends, some coming barefoot from the pool to join in the fun, until there were two full teams playing - probably 12 boys total. 

Adam joined us for the last part of the fun after he had finished some work. (So wonderful that he can telecommute and work from anywhere). We ordered some pizza and have a lovely walk home together with all the kiddos. Everyone was filthy after all our fun, but so happy. We did quick showers (timed them, and everyone was between 1.75 and 2 minutes) and then had some pizza for dinner. 

Friday was a relaxed morning. Emily and Maddie were home, and Maddie was needing lots of rest. Minecraft and Subway Surfers were pretty popular ways to pass the time with a little pirate ship and Disney channel action mixed in. The pool opened at 1pm, so after some lunch that's where we headed. Emily and I took the kids initially, then Emily went home to help Maddie who had woken up from a nap and Adam came to join the fun. I took my sleepy boys Brett and John back at that point, both of whom were asleep by the time I walked home, and Adam stayed with the older kids who swam until the pool closed at 6pm. There was lots of jumping off the diving board for the boys. Emma was swimming like a fish. We played Marco Polo and a new game where John holds onto the arm of whatever adult is handy: he is the garbage man and the adult is the garbage truck. The adult's job is to take that little garbage man wherever he wants to go, and he picks up pool toys along the way. (We've watched a lot of the garbage episode of "Mighty Machines" recently.) I was all set to take an awesome picture of Adam with all the kids hanging on him in the pool, but John was losing his grip in the process so we saved the little garbage man and forgot to photograph the fun.

Daniel and Ryan put on matching Sunset Ice Cream shirts for bed. For the rest of the night, all of us (even Emily) had a hard time telling these boys apart. Just when I thought I had them figured out...

We closed out Friday with movie night. The boys liked watching "G-Force," but the girls retreated to have a Subway Surfers competition. We'll have to pick a chick flick next time. Still, it was kettle corn and good times all around and gave Emily and Jorge Luis a chance to sneak out for an ice cream date.

Awesome Uncle Adam took the crew out for some Saturday morning kickball and park time. He's one good fella. That left Brett and me at home to tidy and pack up.

After Maddie returned from her PET scan Saturday morning, she and Emma had some much-needed girl time. They watched "Four Weddings," and we did some manicures. Love these girl cousins! Each is surrounded by brothers, and they are such good friends to each other. 

John fell asleep shortly after we started our drive home. When he woke up, he was in tears. I thought he was just exhausted, but when I asked him why he was crying, he said "We not at Daniel-Ryan's house." He was so excited to spend time with these cousins. John calls each of the boys "Daniel-Ryan," so he's right 100% of the time. He also loves to call them "my fwiends," usually accompanied by a big embrace. We love you, Pascual cousins!

Some brief observations: It was really amazing to watch the Pascual family and the way they have rallied to deal with the trial dealt them. Emily is long-suffering, patient, and kind even when side effects of all these meds kick in resulting in little sleep and lots to potentially worry about. She makes sure Maddie's needs are met, and does so in such a soothing way while still finding time to spend with Daniel and Ryan. It is a marvelous thing to see. Jorge Luis is so compassionate. When he gets home from work, the first thing he does is check in with each member of the family. While on prednisone, Maddie had very specific cravings. When she wasn't loving the pizza we had ordered, JL disappeared for a few minutes and returned with her favorite pizza in hand. He is so loving towards his kids and does so much to make sure their needs are met. Maddie is a marvel herself. Emily was telling me that Maddie keeps track of her meds better than anyone and can tell if the wrong amount is poured or if one is missing - no small feat when there are so many meds to take and on an irregular schedule. Maddie's body is just amazing too. She has been off prednisone for a short time and already the swelling in her cheeks is noticeably receding. It's astounding to watch her body cope with all of the meds and treatments. She's one strong girl. Daniel and Ryan are resilient. There is a lot going on, but they are trucking along finding ways to have fun and keep a good attitude. They were such pleasant company - a formal way of saying it, but they really are just good guys. Love this family.
*Special shout out goes to Jorge Luis' family who have made it possible for him to be at the hospital for all the major medical stuff going on by covering at the store. Also, his sweet mom has a knack for making Dominican chicken and rice just the way Maddie likes it, and Abuela has made many a batch for this darling girl. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Learning From my Children

A few weeks ago, my sweet niece Maddie was diagnosed with lymphoma. She started chemotherapy last week, and our family has fasted the past two Sundays for our sweet little niece and cousin. Spencer started fasting one meal each Fast Sunday when he turned 8 years old, and he has joined in both family fasts that we have had. Last week, Emma volunteered to fast lunch as well, and we had some very sweet moments praying for Madeline Elena. 

Today we had a busy morning. We went for some morning cousin time at Grammy and Papa's because all of my sisters are in town with their kids. I took Brett to their sacrament meeting so I could sing a musical number at my parent's meeting with my sisters, and Adam took the kids home to get them dressed and fed before our block of meetings began. As we were driving home after church, Adam told me that as he was getting everyone ready and out the door Spencer and Emma each refrained from eating lunch because they were fasting for Maddie. No special fast had been called, and it's not a Fast Sunday, but these two sweet cousins have goodness in their hearts. Emma said a special prayer for Maddie before breaking her fast after church, and Spencer and I closed his fast with a prayer before family dinner. 

One other snippet. A week and a half ago, John and Emma were at Grandma's house for "Gma Day," where they pass a happy morning playing, and I practice violin, run errands, or catch up on miscellaneous things in life. LOVE Grandma day. Grandma reported to me that John and Emma had spent a good part of the morning playing cars on the mat that looks like a town. They drove the cars up and down the streets and at one point decided that the cars needed to go to church. Once they drove the cars there, they paused, folded their arms and said a prayer for Maddie. 

Maddie - you have LOTS of love and LOADS of prayers coming your way.