Sunday, March 19, 2023

The Planner - Week of Mar. 13th

"Failing to plan is planning to fail." ~Alan Lakein

Cameron’s mom is a planner. Her son seems to be have inherited this trait and elevated it. For the first time in a few years, our family will be boarding a plane in less than a month. Like most trips, reservations are made in advance. Following that, the most common course of action is to simply wait until the time of departure. According to Cam though, it is imperative to double-check all aspects by actually calling to confirm. As Jane has explained, a confirmation number assigned to the reservation is always provided. However, this isn’t good enough for an experienced voyager like Cam.  He and Jane first called the hotel.  Sure enough, there were a few missing details regarding requests that were inputted.  The person we talked to also recommended calling the morning of our trip just to double check.  The next discussion with the handicap van rental also proved beneficial.  We knew exactly where to be located for our pickup and reviewed arrival times.  Next week is our final confirmation call with the airline, Delta.

With all of the travel discussions, Jane was the one scheduled to take flight this week.  A one-night stay in Florida for her job was on the docket.  Although it meant missing Cam's power soccer practice, his dad captured plenty of pictures.
We weren't certain if a power guard for Cam's chair would be available to use, but one of the soccer Dad's picked it up from another location and brought it to the Y.  Cameron wasn't apprehensive and accepted the challenge of trying to play.  Although he doesn't know all of the rules yet, he said he really liked it and can't wait for the next practice.

Friday evening, Cam and Ms. Amanda had hang out time before a winter weather advisory began late that evening.  
On Saturday morning, it looked like a snowstorm outside!  Chris and his son had haircuts scheduled for after lunch and they braved the freezing temps and blowing white stuff.  After successfully making it home and up the driveway, we settled in to watch the Disney remake of "Lady and the Tramp."

Sunday brought sunshine and melting snow.  After indoor projects were completed, we all headed outside for some fresh air.  It may be tempting fate, but we decided it was time to remove the snowplow stakes that Chris and Cam place on our driveway prior to the winter season.  With the official start of spring next week, we certainly hope we have seen the last of the falling flakes!

Camology Quotes:

An email from Cameron's teacher arrived on Jane's traveling home day:   One quick story about Cam this morning: Megan and I were out of the building yesterday for a training, so this morning as kids were coming into the classroom, I had said good morning to about four other students with barely a "hello" or "good morning" response from them, then Cam came in and said "good morning, how was your day yesterday" to me! I was so pleased since the others didn't even really respond to me at all! Great job to Cam. He's always so polite. :)

Cam's teacher also relayed this story to him the next day and he told his parents at dinner Thursday evening.

"That makes me feel good to know I made someone happy!"

Sunday, March 12, 2023

It's a Surprise - Week of Mar. 6th

“Would you like to know your future? If your answer is yes, think again. Not knowing is the greatest life motivator. So enjoy, endure, survive each moment as it comes to you in its proper sequence -- a surprise.” ~Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

This week was full of surprises in different ways.  Wildlife appeared in the evening and during the day.  A wandering skunk surprised Chris when he and Cam were trying to adjust the outside lights.  The deer have been visiting more, seemingly curious to find morsels hidden in the ground.  Stella continues to be a part of Jane's work day very intrigued by each meeting she attends.

Tuesday's schedule at Cam's school included special basketball games honoring a former student from Northern.  Cam was given the task of passing out programs to everyone who came to watch.  
Much to his amazement, he greeted many of his former teachers, Ms. Kathy, Mrs. Wells, Mrs. C. (aka Ms. Konkle) and Brody's parents.  Jane stopped in to see her son at work, but couldn't stay long due to her own schedule.  
Another spectator is one of Cameron's favorite people, Ms. Rachel, the executive director of Brody's Be Cafe.  Cam plans to work at the cafe this summer and Rachel has been an advocate of his future employment for a few years now.
Another unexpected development came Thursday evening while we were all sleeping.  At 5:11am we received the text message indicating Cam's school would be closed on Friday due to inclement weather.  Almost 8 inches of the white stuff blanketed our area overnight!  Although Cam is not a fan of snow days, he always makes the best of it.  He split the day helping his parents and by lunchtime, the roadways were clear.

Ms. Ann arrived before 4pm for Cameron's tutoring session.  She knew something was "up" for that evening, but did not know exactly what the plan was.  At 5pm, Cam and his parents entered their van and Ms. Ann was instructed to follow in her vehicle.  In just a few minutes time, we arrived at "Ever Play Cafe" which is in between a few shops and eateries.  Ms. Ann was very confused since she had never been there before.  She said "I know that restaurant is closed and I'm not getting my shoes repaired so what are we doing here?"  As we escorted her into the Cafe, she burst into tears being greeted by her family and close friends for her surprise birthday party!  The private party rental was set up by her adult children complete with catering and dessert.  We had fun reconnecting with everyone.  Ann was presented with a collection of thoughts and pictures about her which her daughter, Katherine (a former nanny of Cam's) had organized.  The two-hour party reservation was over much quickly.

Saturday morning, our dear family friends reached out asking if we wanted to meet for a late breakfast/early lunch at The Gathering Place.  One of their daughters and our buddy, Emma, had recently started working there.  We were excited to have yet one more surprise in our week.  When we arrived at the restaurant with Emma's mom and one of her sisters, her smile and reaction was a memorable one.  It was one of the longest lunches ever for Cameron, but he was happy to hang out chatting and catching up.
In a week full of the unexpected, it was no surprise to move the clocks ahead Saturday night for daylight saving time.  We all felt just a bit sleepier Sunday morning.

Camology Quotes:

Friday afternoon, Cam was in planning mode.  During his tutoring session, he was keeping an eye on the clock knowing that his dad needed to get home in time for Ms. Ann's surprise.  When Jane walked upstairs from her office, he immediately asked:

"Mom, do you need me to text your husband for you?"

Sunday, March 5, 2023

The Power of Soccer - Week of Feb. 27th

“My disability exists not because I use a wheelchair, but because the broader environment isn’t accessible." ~Stella Young

Cam is typically willing to try something new.  Most Wednesdays, Mary Free Bed has power soccer practice at the local Mary Free Bed YMCA, just a few minutes from our house.  We wanted to learn a bit more about how power soccer came to be, so we researched its inception.
  • During the 1970’s, some imaginative teachers in France created a form of football (known as soccer in the U.S.) suited to the abilities of students with severe physical disabilities who used power wheelchairs. 
  • In 1982, some energetic Canadian power chair users developed another form of Powerchair Football which they called "motor" soccer (later called power soccer in the US) which followed the rules of able-bodied soccer and applies the strategies of able-bodied rugby and basketball. 
  • In 1988, power soccer was imported to the USA by a disabled sports program founded by university students in Berkeley, California. During these early years, the various forms of Powerchair football were played with most of the countries being unaware of each other’s endeavors. 
  • In 2004, a US Power Soccer coach, David Ruelas, visited Belgium on vacation and discovered the European form of the game. He then made contact with Herve Delattre, the Director of Powerchair Football in France. Their subsequent discussions, led to the idea of developing Powerchair Football into an international sport. 
  • In January 2005, 24 representatives from seven countries (France, US, Canada, Japan, England, Belgium and Portugal) met in Le Chesnay, France and laid the groundwork for the formation of the International Powerchair Football Association (IPFA). 
  • In July 2006, teams from Canada, Denmark, England, France, Japan and the US, as well as delegates from Portugal, Turkey and South Korea, met in Atlanta, GA, USA. While the teams engaged in many practice sessions and a test tournament to fine tune the proposed laws, other delegates worked on a constitution and elected the organization’s first officers. At the end of these meetings the standardized Laws of the Game were adopted, the constitution was ratified, the name was changed and the international governing body, the Federation International Powerchair Football Association (FIPFA) was formally established with headquarters in Paris, France. Over the next several years, many powerchair associations formed around the world and the number of teams competing within FIPFA worldwide is estimated at over 250.
  • In August 2006, United States Power Soccer Association, (USPSA) was born. The USPSA became a legal entity in October 2006 and was granted 501 (c ) 3 non profit status February 2007. 
  • The USPSA is headquartered in Carmel, Indiana.

 After trying out the specially designed soccer power chair, Cam couldn't believe how fast it spun around.  He also decided it may be easier if he would be able to drive his own personal chair with an attached guard.  We are hoping to try that route for him at the next practice.

On Thursday, we welcomed our longtime friend, Amanda and her sweet daughter, Sally for the evening.  They were seeing a concert in Grand Rapids and arrived in the afternoon.  It turns out Cam and Sally share similar tastes in favorite foods and they were both quite delighted by their chicken tenders dinner. 

We had made plans to visit Oma and Opa after lunchtime on Saturday.  The start to our journey was a bit later than expected, but we still arrived by 3pm.  Every time we take the exit off the highway, Cameron lets out a big cheer knowing we are getting closer to his grandparents cool apartment.  After visiting and completing a few small projects, we made our way out to dinner.  Don Luis Mexican restaurant was our destination and none of us had ever eaten there.  We were not disappointed by our fajita dinners, quesadilla and grilled shrimp.   

We can always count on Cam to ask the same question after visiting Oma and Opa... "When are we going to see them next?"

Camology Quotes:

Each morning, if we are able to see the sun, the sunrise looks pretty spectacular from our front door.  On the weekend, we truly can enjoy its beauty and re-energize and rejuvenate.  Cam always sees it as a time for his parents to cross something off of the list.

"Mom and Dad, when are we going to start our taxes?  We need to get them done!"

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Snow Daze - Week of Feb. 20th

"A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky, unbidden, and seems like a thing of wonder." ~Susan Orlean

Monday was a day off for Cam due to his mid-winter break.  He was back in school on Tuesday and then Tuesday evening, the local meteorologists indicated a winter storm warning would be in effect beginning at 10am on Wednesday.  From one day to the next was a dramatic weather change.  Out of caution, all of the local schools were closed on Wednesday.  Then, Thursday ice, freezing rain and snow was in the forecast along with another storm warning, so once again, the local education system shut down for the day.  It was a rare occasion that for both Wednesday and Thursday, the closure announcement came before Cam was asleep both nights.  Catching some extra zzz's was a bonus for us all.  
However, since both Chris and Jane are set up as remote workers, neither of them had any breaks.  While Cam worked on keeping himself busy, his desk was moved out to the living room.  He would've rather been in school, but we all made the best of it.

Friday was a full day of school and we had an outing planned that early evening.  Fish and chips is now a weekly special at one of our local favorite restaurants, JT's, but only during Lent.
The history of the fish fry dates back to the 1800s.
German and Polish Catholic immigrants settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the 1860s and began the tradition of the Friday fish fry. During Lent, they didn’t eat meat on Fridays, instead eating the fish they caught in Lake Michigan. From 1920 to 1933, Prohibition prevented taverns from selling alcohol. To keep customers coming to their businesses, Midwestern tavern owners sold meals of fried fish. Supper clubs rose in popularity during the mid-1900s, and their Friday fish fries became a tradition for many Midwesterners.
Ms. Ann, Katherine & Paul, Bexley and Sophia all met us at JT's for dinner.  Cam has declared that their homemade batter on the cod is the best in all of Grand Rapids!  
Saturday was consumed with home projects and having our longtime friends, Steve, Patti and Emma for dinner.  Burgers, homemade french fries and veggies were on the menu.  We committed to try to gather together more often.

In the early afternoon on Sunday, we headed northward to visit Coco, Max and the kiddos.  We hadn't seen them in a few weeks and they already looked different.  While Calla helped make brownies, she took on the expert position of batter taster.  Cam and Arthur looked quizzically at each other and we all had fun catching up and chatting.  After dinner and quite a few brownies, the sun was already setting.
We said our goodbyes with the promise of hanging out again very soon.  The beach looked inviting, but will be even more so once that snow finishes melting away.

Camology Quotes:

Chris sometimes acts more like a kid than his son, which we all appreciate and laugh about.  One evening, Chris was spinning Cam around while he was in transit in his ceiling track lift.  Cam "jokingly" laid down the law for his dad as it related to the spinning antics...

"Not at bed and not when I first wake up, Dad.  I need to set some boundaries for you!"

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Let's Figure It Out - Week of Feb. 13th

Every human has four endowments - self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom... The power to choose, to respond, to change. ~Stephen Covey

Cam continues to find different ways to exert his independence.  He asked his parents if there was a way for him to have some type of basket to grab his hat and gloves from in the morning and put them away in the afternoon.  

It seems a simple request, but one must factor in a powerchair driving up to the container and providing a reach to promote physical activity.  Jane found a storage basket with enough clearance that could be emptied and suggested placing it close to the garage.  Chris had the tools at the ready and in record time, we all figured out the solution, together.

At school, Cam also helped his physical therapist team brainstorm a rear-view mirror idea he had.  One of the difficulties of driving in a crowded hallway at school is not being able to see what's coming, or in Cam's case, what is behind him. It will be trial and error to determine what will work best.  It is good to see Cameron so involved in areas that are truly impactful for him.

This week, the cold virus hit our teenager and he was out of school the first part of the week.  He did, however, have enough
energy to help his dad prepare a Valentine's surprise for his mom.  Jane was presented with a dozen beautiful roses and notes from both Chris and Cam.  The notes, it turns out, were created with a little help.  For the first time ever, the boys used a new A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) tool to assist with some loving prose.

ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer) is a chatbot developed by OpenAI. It is built on top of OpenAI's GPT-3 family of large language models and has been fine-tuned (an approach to transfer learning) using both supervised and reinforcement learning techniques. ChatGPT was launched as a prototype on November 30, 2022, and quickly garnered attention for its detailed responses and articulate answers across many domains of knowledge. Following the release of ChatGPT, OpenAI's valuation was estimated at $29 billion.
After Cam "confessed" to his mom that he and his dad used ChatGPT, they both had a good laugh.  Jane had seen Chris ask it to write stories, but finally logged in herself to experiment.  She asked ChatGPT to 'write a limerick about Cameron and how awesome he is' and this was the response: "There once was a fellow named Cam, Who impressed everyone, man after man.  With his wit and his charm, He caused no small alarm, And left us all his biggest fan!"

On Friday, Cam had the day off of school for mid-winter break.  Ms. Ann arrived after lunch, ready to tutor Cam.  They worked on reading, computer work and math.  It was a great session, especially since Cam had missed a few days of school.  That evening, Ms. Amanda arrived to hang out with her buddy while Chris and Jane enjoyed an evening out.

It was a quiet weekend filled with indoor projects and movie watching.  Cam and his dad worked together while Jane nursed a cold and rested the majority of the time.  
Sunday evening, we enjoyed take-out from our favorite Chinese restaurant.  Cam was a bit uncertain when Jane ordered only a single entree, fried rice and crab rangoons for all to split.  He vocalized his concern indicating he was sure there would not be enough.  After realizing how much food there actually was, her son admitted... "Mom, I should listen to you.  You always know best!"

Camology Quotes:

Jane typed in ChatGPT:  'Write a Camology Quote for Cam's blog' 

"Life is like a camera - focus on the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don't work out, take another shot." - Cam

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Once You Sign the Release - Week of Feb. 6th

Article I, Section 8, clause 8, of the United States Constitution states the purpose of copyright laws is “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”  

In Cameron's lifetime, we have signed quite a few photo release documents.  It doesn't surprise us too much anymore to receive an email or letter in the mail where a photo of our son is being used.  Even though we are partial, we do believe Cam's smile draws others in.

During some drive time this week, Jane was relaying a story to Cam about remaining positive.  Cam said that some of his friends could use that positivity.  This led to a conversation about choosing to be a "Grumpalump" or "Smile A Mile."  Jane told her son that it's truly not possible to smile all of the time under every circumstance, but they both agreed that it was better to be more smiley versus being more grumpy.

The weekend brought a packed agenda.  Saturday after lunch, we made our way to LMCU ballpark where a Polar Plunge was taking place.  Participants were asked to raise money for Special 
Olympics Michigan.  Cam's best bud, Brody, was set to plunge in a freezing cold pool of water a little after 2pm.  The sun was shining so it did feel a bit warmer than the 40 degrees on the thermometer.  Our mutual good friend, Ms. Stephanie, came by to root Brody on as well. 
The local sheriff's department asked Brody to be a part of their team.
We all cheered watching the brave registrants jump into the frigid H2O and we were especially loud when Cam's best bud did his part.
On our drive back home, Cameron told us he was happy we went to support Brody.  That evening, we enjoyed a takeout dinner from a favorite local spot, Cascade Roadhouse, and watched the classic movie, Ghostbusters, as a family.

Earlier in the week, we experienced some rain and warmer weather.  We were a bit nervous that our last adaptive skiing lesson may be canceled due to poor conditions.  Thankfully, the slopes were open and the forecast was sunny with 50 degree weather!  It was the first time Cam experienced skiing in ideal, sunny conditions.  His adaptive ski team of Jason, Grace and Vincent expertly guided him onto the chairlift and down the hill close to a dozen times in our two-hour session.  Cam had his fastest run down the hill ever, according to him.
As it turned out, it was a good thing our last event was Sunday.  Chris' snowboard binding broke on our final sprint down the hill.  He was fine, but had to walk down the last half of the slope.  We thanked Team Cam for their volunteering time and expertly teaching Cam additional skills in adaptive skiing.

Since it was SuperBowl Sunday, we promptly headed home after leaving Cannonsburg.  Soon after we arrived, Coco drove up with her kiddos.  Molly and Jude entered our home shortly afterwards.  We feasted on a spread of chips and dips, wings, meatballs, carrots and celery.  The game was good, the company even better and the weekend overall was simply awesome!

Camology Quotes:
Cam's team of PT, OT and Speech experts at school are always looking for different ways to enhance his school experience.  After school one day, he talked about his OT asking him to bring in any unique silverware from home.  That same evening while Cam was in his nighttime routine, Jane asked him if he wanted to bring the fork into school. 
Cam was incredulous and exclaimed:
"What did you say Mom?!" 
"Did you want to bring the fork into school?" 
*insert Cam uncontrollable laughter* 
"I thought you said 'pork' Mom!" 
"You thought I asked you if you wanted to bring the pork into school?" 
*insert Cam & Jane uncontrollable laughter*  
"I love you, Mom.  Thank you for bringing humor into my life."

Sunday, February 5, 2023

My IEP - Week of Jan. 30th

"I am ready to face any challenges that might be foolish enough to face me." ~Dwight Schrute- The Office

Cameron's week started off with an after school pick up for an appointment at Mary Free Bed.  After checking in with one of our favorite docs, we had talked about trying a new place for an early dinner.  Hancock's was highly recommended for its chicken tenders and not far from where we were. 
It was a tasty and quick meal and a new place to add into our rotation.

Mid-week brought a meowing request from Stella to be on Cam's bed for reading.  Jane and her son were quite surprised as this has only occurred a handful of times.  We don't think she was listening intently but we're quite certain she enjoyed the toasty bed.

For the majority of the week, Cameron's thoughts were consumed by his upcoming IEP meeting on Friday.
From on the onset of Cameron's education, he has been followed by IEP documentation.  Each public school child who receives special education and related services must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Each IEP must be designed for one student and must be a truly individualized document.  
Cam was interviewed by his teachers about his thoughts for the future and his own ambitions.  Chris and Jane arrived prior to the meeting time and with previous joint communication, agreed that their son would be in the IEP meeting for the first portion and then head to his computer class.  The meeting went well and Cam interjected when appropriate.  Chris and Jane were at the school for almost 90 minutes and felt that the time was productive.
Saturday morning included project time for father and son as they tested out some new software.  

We had plans to meet Brody and his mom for an early dinner at Applebee's.  Both of the ninth graders are creatures of habit- Brody loves cheeseburgers and Cam loves chicken tenders.  True to form, the boys ordered as expected.  It was fun to sit and chat with our friends.  When Jane brought up a story about Cam's friends arguing as to who would help him at school, Brody jumped in and provided input.  Cam immediately responded with "Brody, no drama!"  We all had a good laugh. 

Sunday afternoon brought us back to Cannonsburg to enjoy our adaptive family skiing.  A ski instructor questioned Chris and Jane as to why they were in the very short "lesson lane" and they explained they were skiing with their son.  Cam's mom headed back to the lodge and was able to secure the ASA-WM (Adaptive Ski Association of West Michigan) vests to show that they were official.  It was an awesome two hours of skiing.  At one point, Cam and his skier went over a fairly big bump.  After their run, Cam told us that when they went over the small snow mound and he went up in the air, it "felt like I was flying!"

Camology Quotes:

After settling into bed one evening, Cam's eye was watering and his mom asked why it was dripping.  He informed Jane that soap had gotten in his eye in the shower.  The conversation continued.

"Cam, are you going to be ok?"

"I'll live."

Sunday, January 29, 2023

More Sleep*Ins - Week of Jan. 23rd

As a younger kid, it seems one cannot wait to wake up, start the day and get going.  As Cameron's parents, we had somewhat given up on the idea that our son would ever learn to "sleep in" - especially on the weekends.  When it seemed to magically happen less than 2 years ago, we almost felt it was too good to be true.  Now, in true teenager form, Monday mornings are a bit more difficult when it comes to waking up.  It has been reported that supposedly Albert Einstein consistently slept for at least 10 hours and there is no denying his genius status.

The colder weather and snow returned this week and for once, it was welcomed knowing that it would secure our upcoming Sunday skiing venture.

After a busy week, Cam and his mom decided to find a movie to watch Friday night.  They landed on "Clue" which was an old film (circa 1985) based on the board game.  Although it was a bit silly, there were funny parts along the way.

On Saturday, we loaded up the van following lunch to see Oma and Opa for our pre-planned afternoon and evening with them.  We were under a winter weather advisory for the duration but it didn't seem that it would affect us too much.  After setting up some new furniture and attending to some items, we sat and relaxed for a bit.  We decided it would be smart to head out to dinner a little early since the snow had begun falling.  Red Lobster was our destination to celebrate Opa's birthday.  We enjoyed an appetizer and tasty biscuits as we awaited our meal.  Cam had a perfect view of the kitchen door and definitely kept a close gaze in that direction.  The restaurant was surprisingly busy and we all enjoyed our chosen fish dinners.  

The snow machine ramped up outside and we were surprised to see our cars covered upon exiting.  Oma indicated she could drive back so that Chris, Jane and Cam could begin their trek back to Grand Rapids.  Little did we know that our winter weather advisory had actually changed to a winter storm warning while eating our food.  It was slow-going and a bit slick on the way home.  Oma called us when they arrived back at Rosy Mound.  In our own driveway, there were roughly 5 new inches of snow.  The van couldn't quite make it all of the way up, so Chris backed us down and proceeded to snow blow the entire driveway before we could enter the garage.

We were all especially tired that evening and slept in until 8:30a the next morning.  With the fresh snow, we anticipated great skiing conditions Sunday afternoon and we were not disappointed.  A big surprise (although it shouldn't have been) was how crowded the ski resort, Cannonsburg, actually was.  It seemed that everyone had come out to enjoy the slopes.
Team Cam was all smiles as everyone appeared more secure in their balancing acts.  We put in a full two solid hours of skiing.  Our son secured a hot chocolate on the drive home commenting how much fun it was.

Also enjoyable was a trek over to Renew Mobility.  A big shout out to the non-profit for posting Cam's picture.  Chris and his son drove over to drop off equipment we were no longer using and pick up a manual chair that can be used where Cam's powerchair may not be able to go.  We are so thankful for this organization and they are most appreciative of their Youth Ambassador, Mr. Cam!

Camology Quotes:

On the weekend evenings, Cam typically enjoys a frozen treat or similar dessert.  Jane took a new container 
of Reese's ice cream out of the freezer  after dinner to allow it to thaw just a bit prior to scooping.  Cam asked if he could have some yet and his mom explained it needed some time to melt.  And her teenager responded with:

"Mom, I'm acutely aware."