Sunday, June 19, 2022

Adapting - Week of June 13th

"For most of us, technology makes things easier.  For a person with a disability, it makes things possible." ~Judy Heumann

Adaptive is a common word in the Weatherford household.  Whenever we have an outing, activity or event, we need to determine if we can adapt or if it's best to forgo.  And there are specific things that are set up to be adaptive in the first place.  Mary Free Bed (MFB) offers multiple "Adaptive Sports Clinics" aimed at inclusion for all kids and adults focusing on different areas.  We had signed up for the MFB Adaptive Kayaking Clinic, having tried it out the previous year.  Ms. Amanda and Jane headed out with Cam after an early lunch on Wednesday.  

The kayaking is popular and there were quite a few people we knew.  Recently, Millennium Park had an adaptive canoe/kayak launch installed on the end of their dock.  It provides a stabilizer for the boat while others are loaded in.  Cam made certain we read through the instructions so we knew what to expect. It took a bit of adjusting, but we were able to load our kayaker in and he was off.  While Jane and Amanda enjoyed sitting on the end of the dock with their feet in the water, Cam was cruising around Millennium Park on a very warm day.  

Luckily, there was a nice breeze that made light ripples on the water.  It turns out that getting in is easier than getting out.  Now that Cam is taller, it's definitely more of a challenge for maneuvering.  Fortunately for us, a local water patrol sheriff had just docked his boat and came over asking if we needed assistance.  We gladly accepted his offer.  Deputy Tilson then proceeded to help the other families.  We were able to find an online form to thank him for his act of kindness.  His lieutenant reached out to Jane in email indicating it would be a part of his personnel record.  Deputy Tilson himself sent an email as well, thanking us.  After all of that kayaking work, tropical smoothies were picked up on the drive home.

Friday early evening marked Brody's birthday celebration.  He invited 5 friends, including Cam, to Celebration Cinema movie theater to see the new movie, "Lightyear" which is the prequel to the Buzz Lightyear character appearing in the Toy Story movies.  Jane and her son enjoyed the movie and the Buffalo Wild Wings dinner afterwards!  Cam's exact review of the flick: "It was a little intense, but overall I really liked it."

On Sunday, we celebrated Chris for Father's Day.  Cam decided, all on his own, that he wanted to give his dad tickets to a Whitecaps Baseball Game for our whole family!  Cam's dad was pretty surprised and impressed to see the tickets for late July all printed and ready to go.  After a quick lunch, we headed to the cottage to enjoy some time on the beach.  Although the lake isn't quite warm enough to swim yet, the sand felt good on our feet.  It was the first ride of the year for the Cam-mobile.  Even though Cam continues to grow, the last one he and his dad made still functions for this summer.  We were all entertained by cousin Calla, intent on gathering items from the beach.  Our thanks to Oma and Opa for providing most of our dinner to celebrate all of the dads: Chris, Opa and Max.  The feast of grilled steak, smoked sausage, asparagus, salad, bread and fresh fruit hit the spot.  Coco made her delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  Now that Cam can drive his powerchair right into the Haroldson cottage, it makes for a longer, more relaxing stay for him.  And although we didn't go swimming on Sunday, we know those days aren't too far away...

Camology Quotes:

Cam certainly keeps a mental calendar and is always reminding his parents of things that need to be done. He's also aware of when something goes wrong once, it is best to be on the lookout for the next time.  Our family has an upcoming trip planned with a three-night hotel stay.  Cam kept telling his mom she needed to call and verify everything was all set.  Jane kept putting it off and finally called on Tuesday.  Sure enough, the accessible room was coded incorrectly and we were scheduled for a hearing-impaired room versus a larger room for accessibility.  Luckily, we were speaking with a manager who was able to correct our reservation!
"Cam, we would've been in big trouble if you hadn't reminded me to call the hotel."

"We always need to check, Mom!  Especially because the last hotel didn't have it right either!"  

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Ending to Beginning - Week of June 6th

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." ~Semisonic, Closing Time 

We are always told that time seems to accelerate the older you are. As parents, we are acutely aware of this with each passing year.  

Tuesday evening was deemed "Class Night" for the Forest Hills Northern Middle School 8th grade class.  Some referred to it as 8th grade graduation while others saw it as the official transition to high school.  8th Grade Class Night Video:  The event was livestreamed online and lasted a little more than 1 hour.  Each eighth grader had to turn in 6 words to show when they went across the stage to accept their certificate.  Displayed on the large screen was the teen's school picture along with their quote.  Cam's was very fitting: "It was awesome! It was fun!"  

Wednesday marked the official last day of school with dismissal before 11am.  When Cam was off the bus, he and Jane were on their way to meet Chris.  Their destination was Clock Mobility where a brand new handicap accessible van (value of $75,000) was being presented to a family.  The gift was provided by Lori's Voice, the non-profit organization where Cam's dad is a board member.  The family from Brighton with five kids was very appreciative.  Lori's Voice provided a catered lunch and Chris picked up a Costco sheet cake.  Every local news outlet was in attendance since this giveaway will happen multiple times.  Any time Lori, the founder of Lori's Voice, sees Cam, she always insists on a picture of the two of them.

Thursday was Jane's birthday and typical of Cam and his dad, she felt very loved.  In the morning, the guys gave her a big certificate for a family movie night and in the evening, Chris brought home one of her favorite takeout dinners and told her that her car would be detailed the next day.  Cam picked out the most fragrant candle for her in a beautiful wooden bowl.

Helping non-profit organizations is a typical family activity for us.  The All Ford and Mustang Car Show of West Michigan is sponsored in part by Lori's Voice.  Chris signed up to volunteer at the event and after he was settled, Cam and his mom drove over.  Jane and Cam were able to watch Chris speak over the microphone about Lori's Voice and the importance of the non-profit, providing necessary equipment to kids with disabilities.  Cam stayed with his dad, talking and meeting people.  Jane had some shopping time and came back to pick up her son.

Sunday late morning, we drove to the Haroldson cottage to have lunch with Coco, Max, Calla and Oma and Opa.  Surprises awaited us.  We were able to hold baby bunnies and they were incredibly soft and cuddly.  Oma and Opa brought an ice cream cake from Country Dairy, a birthday present for Jane and an 8th grade graduation card for Cam.  Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was thanks to Max...

When we arrived at the Haroldson cottage, we noticed an addition leading up to the door.  Where there were previously steps, there were now two new ramps, built by Max.  Cousin Calla took advantage of the new ramping by choosing to crawl up and down. This also meant that for the first time ever, Cam was able to drive with his regular powerchair into their cottage!  

Camology Quotes:

Jane was working upstairs on Friday morning and mentioned to Cam that it would cool if he and Chris could set up some remote control software for her so she could log into her work computer without having to go downstairs.  Cam, the in-house IT specialist, relayed the following to his mom.

"No Mom, that will not work because your work will block that software."  

(of course, he is absolutely 100% correct in his assessment!)

Sunday, June 5, 2022

WMML Spring Season Final - Week of May 30th

 "Every child deserves a chance to play baseball." ~WMML Motto

There are organizations that exist purely to promote joy.  West Michigan Miracle League is one of those non-profits that was founded to provide an opportunity for kids with physical and cognitive disabilities to play baseball and experience being a part of a team.

When Cam started playing baseball nearly 10 years ago, he was nervous and uncertain.  With a fall and spring season every year, we watched his confidence grow and apprehension slip away.  Every day in his room, he sees his WMML medals and is reminded of the joy and excitement that every game brings.

We welcomed Oma and Opa late Friday afternoon, making the trip into Grand Rapids for the next day's event.  Saturday marked the final game of the 2022 spring season for the West Michigan Miracle League. The volunteers for the game were all part of our local minor league baseball team, the Whitecaps.  

The 10am start time brought out a host of Cam Fans: Ms. Kathy (Cam's grade school teacher) and husband, Kevin, Patti (our dear friend and neighbor), Coleen (Alternatives in Motion Exec. Director), Katherine (Cam's former nanny) and husband Paul with their kids, Bexley and Sophia. Of course, Oma and Opa were in the cheering section as well.  

The other big names in attendance were Lori and Dave Hastings, the founders of Lori's Voice.  It was a bit cooler at the field and the Hastings always offer up handmade quilts provided by their volunteers.

After a celebration lunch from Culver's, we settled in for a relaxing afternoon.  Cam's best bud, Brody, joined us for a couple of hours to watch a movie.  Having Oma and Opa with us for a second night meant another fun family dinner and more time to hang out together.  

This was the last week of full school days for Cam.  Some afternoons, before the Cam arrives home, Jane catches a glimpse of something else on the lookout for the big school bus heading down the road.

Camology Quotes:

Jane and her son were working on completing projects Sunday afternoon.  Chris had left on a short business trip for the first time in more than two years.  Cam and his mom talked about how he could do some creative yearbook signing.  Jane printed the sticker labels, but her son decided what they would say:

"Cam Weatherford 2022. This has been a great school year! Thanks for being my friend. Be kind. See you in high school! Class of '26"

Sunday, May 29, 2022

The Big Mac - Week of May 23rd

"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.” ~A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

For more than a year, Cam had been anticipating the 8th grade class trip.  His teacher told Chris and Jane during his 7th grade conferences.  We had decided then that the farewell to 8th grade event would become a Weatherford family vacation.  The class was scheduled to spend a full day on Mackinac Island.

Thursday morning, Chris and Jane volunteered to be chaperones and drive Brody and Cam in their van so they could sleep a bit longer.  The 220+ eighth graders were scheduled to be at school at 5:10am on Thursday, and our van departed with two of those students at 6:00am. We arrived in Mackinaw City at the same time and promptly entered the line for the 10am ferry ride to Mackinac Island. Mackinac Island sits in Lake Huron, between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas. For centuries, visitors have found this national landmark to be the ideal vacation spot. No cars. No chain hotels. Just world-famous Mackinac Island Fudge, historic Fort Mackinac, unique shopping and diverse dining. 

Upon exiting our ferry ride, we made our way to the horse and carriage tour, which had been pre-planned.  Our carriage had a ramp on the back for Cam and our tour guide was Cheyenne.  The weather was cooler and cloudy, but the rain stayed away.  During our hour+ long ride, we learned about the history of Mackinac Island and had a stop at the Arch Rock to take pictures.  Around 12:30pm, we disembarked at the famous Grand Hotel, built in 1887 with the largest porch at 660 feet in length.  We all dined at the lunch buffet in the five-star hotel, which was elegant and extravagant.  Afterward, our small group with Cam's teacher and three classmates, browsed the hotel and made our way back into town exploring Main St.  
At one of the fudge shops, a young man named Apollo noticed Cam watching him craft the fudge through the window. He offered Cam a huge chunk of warm fudge which was packaged up and given to him.  A little after 4p, we made our way back to the ferry to ride to St. Ignace.  Chris had gotten the van back in Mackinaw City and met us in St. Ignace. 
We said goodbye to Cam's classmates and teacher and found our hotel, Breaker's Resort.  Luckily for us, a restaurant was located on the resort grounds and we were thankful to be so close to our beds.  Sleep came easily that evening.  

Breakfast was included and after packing a lunch, we made our way to Tahquamenon Falls, roughly 90 minutes from St. Ignace. The Tahquamenon Falls are a series of waterfalls on the Tahquamenon River, shortly before it empties into Lake Superior, in the northeastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. They are the largest waterfalls in Michigan, and one of the largest in the eastern half of North America.  We were so excited that both the Lower and Upper Falls were completely accessible!  Our packed lunch was eaten at a picnic table and then we were on the road again.  Back by the hotel, we checked out the Mackinac Bridge viewing spot and had dinner at a local pizza place.  At our resort, a big bonus was the pool lift that also reached over into the hot tub.  It was a perfect ending to a great sightseeing Friday.

On Saturday, we planned to head back to Mackinac Island and we were greeted with plenty of sunshine in the morning.  This time, we took a ferry ride that went under the bridge.
Mackinac Bridge, a long-span suspension bridge, spans the Mackinac Straits from the Upper to the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. It is the third longest suspension bridge in the United States, after the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge; it is the 25th longest in the world. The Mackinac Bridge was not constructed until the 1950s because of World War II. It was opened to vehicle traffic in 1957.  

The longer ferry ride over gave us an opportunity to chat with some crew members and hear recommendations for our day.  Upon arrival, we promptly put our name in at The Pink Pony restaurant for lunch.  It is one of the most famous places on the island and was established in 1948.  We were able to eat outside among the pink table umbrellas.  Cam and his mom split the beer battered whitefish and cauliflower crust margarita flatbread and Chris opted for the whitefish sandwich. The food did not disappoint and we were off to explore the view from the Grand Hotel once again. We made our back to Main St. to browse the stores, witness the fudge making craft and purchase some treats.

When we boarded the ferry for our return trip, the same crew members we had talked to were there once again.  They were eager to hear about our day and happy that we followed their recommended spots.  We dined at another local spot in St. Ignace that evening. After asking where we were from and where Cam attended school, our waitress shared that she used to be a substitute teacher for Cam's school district.

Sunday morning, we packed our belongings and enjoyed the continental breakfast one last time.  We actually witnessed a seagull almost successfully lift a waffle from it's plate on the outdoor picnic table left by a parent in a big hurry.  
The sliding door from our room at Breaker's Resort had a picture perfect view of Lake Huron.
On our drive back to Grand Rapids, we talked about the experiences we had.  Cam's highlights were the ferry rides and the carriage tour on Mackinac Island.  He also talked about the unexpected kindness we experienced.  Shepler's Ferry service asked if we could please wait an extra 15 minutes for a larger ferry so that Cam would have more room.  They went out of their way to be certain Cam had plenty of space to board and disembark.
Due to the nice man, Apollo, at Joann's Fudge Shop and the interaction with Cam, our son decided we should purchase all of our fudge from them.  There are different options for both ferry rides and fudge, but these two businesses made an impact with their kind gestures and now we are loyal customers!

Camology Quotes:

Oma and Opa stayed with us Monday and left Tuesday morning. We were having a family discussion about our upcoming trip on Tuesday evening.  Jane told her husband and son that they needed to help her remember to pick up pasties for Oma and Opa.  The following conversation then took place:

"Mom, Oma and Opa are not babies!" 

"What do you think I am talking about?" 

"They don't need "pacies" Mom!"

"Cam, I was talking about pasties, which are a meat or chicken or vegetable filled pastry, not a pacifier!" 😆

Sunday, May 22, 2022

A Working Lunch - Week of May 16th

"It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like 'what about lunch?' " ~A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh 

It was a wild week, so sharing the wildlife from our own backyard seemed appropriate.

Thursday was the Alternatives in Motion (AIM) fundraising luncheon.  This marked the first year it was held in person since 2019.  It was a mild, sunny day and attendees were personally and privately invited by the Board of Directors, of which Jane is a member.  The invitation was sent in email and featured the AIM Youth Ambassador, Cam!

Our family was asked to speak about our history and interaction with Alternatives in Motion. 

As a quick reminder, Cam used his very first powered wheelchair due to the non-profit AIM organization when he was only 5 years old.  As an organization, they strive to develop, sustain, and enhance independence for persons with disabilities, diversity, equity, and inclusion.  

At the luncheon, we provided the analogy of when you repeatedly practiced before taking your driving test to obtain your official driver's license.  Can you imagine taking that test without ever having driven once?  Without AIM, that would have been Cam's conundrum.  Because of Alternatives in Motion, the "extra" powered chair he was given at age 5 is still used by our family for other locations we take him that don't provide maneuverability for a 450-pound chair like he uses now.  The equipment is provided at no charge and you retain it until it is no longer needed.  The only request is to return the equipment so it may be used by others.  

At our lunch tables, we had friends from the Mary Free Bed Guild, Brody's Be Café and Lori's Voice as well as the owner of Lakeshore Barrier Free, who has completed two remodels for our family.  A local news anchor, Tessa DiTirro, was the MC and Cam treats her like a celebrity, shyly looking away.  At the close of our brief presentation, Jane asked Cam if there was anything else he wanted to add.  He clearly spoke into the mic and said, "I want to thank everyone for coming and I want to thank all our sponsors."  We were pretty impressed with our son and informed the audience that he had not been "coached" to state that, it was all from his heart.  As an added bonus, our friend Ms. Molly gave Cam a cool new pair of shades and Dove chocolates as a reminder of his first professional speaking engagement!

On Friday, Jane drove to Cam's school and picked him up at 2pm, right before the official end of the school day.  They traveled downtown to GVSU to work with the graduate PT students.  It was two separate sessions, which Cam is compensated for, as he "teaches" the students about his muscles and how to work with him as it relates to stretching, positioning and more.  Dr. Lisa, a professor at GVSU, who started the program always tells Cam to be tough on the students and make them brainstorm how to conduct the physical therapy session and how to help.  Cam gave all of the students an "A" for the day.

Saturday morning, the fourth WMML spring season baseball game was on the docket with Cam as a Mud Hen player and his dad, Chris, acting as substitute coach for his son's team.  The rain held off for the WMML teams games to play ball and our "Cam Fan" section included Coleen, the executive director of AIM, as well as Uncle Jon and Aunt Betsy.  It is awesome they all came to cheer on Cam.  Coleen mentioned that next season we may need to "step up" our Cam Fan section with pom poms or some other fanfare.📣

Camology Quotes:

Our cat, Stella, is slightly obsessed with water.  At the mature age of 16, she meows to be placed on Cam's bathroom countertop to drink water out of his sink.  Just recently, she has taken the bold move of walking in and out of his shower when it's on!  The first time she did it this week, Jane gasped and Cam asked her what was wrong.  When his mom explained what she had just seen Stella do, Cam commented:

"Since Stella is older, she is getting outside her comfort zone, Mom."

Sunday, May 15, 2022

The "Cam Effect" - Week of May 9th

"Cam Effect" - noun. Representative of something that denotes different abilities or accepting challenges. Something that reminds the person of Cam W.

It happens more often than not...a family member, friend, or even acquaintance will tell us about a story they heard or experienced, or something that occurred in the past or present that made them think of Cam.

Recently, cousin Liz sent us an article she read about the organization Wheel the World.  It was launched in South America to provide accessible vacations and destination information.  And while at a physical therapy appointment, Aunt Betsy's PT was talking about a pediatric PT graduate class he had at Grand Valley.  Aunt Betsy mentioned her nephew Cam working with that program over the years.  Her physical therapist told her Cam was a celebrity there!  

Cam's last choir concert of the year was scheduled for Thursday. Unbelievably, the western Michigan temps were in the high 80's most of the week.  The eighth graders all wore their Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat shirts, which made for a very colorful stage. For the last song of the evening, Cam activated the standing mode on his chair.  Brody's mom, Jenn, gave him a big hug after the concert.

Friday's school day was spent at the local minor league baseball team's field to watch a game played by the West Michigan Whitecaps. The temp was unseasonably warm, but the kids were there in the morning and stayed just past lunchtime.  By the end of the day, Cam's seasonal allergies had really kicked in due to a combination of the blooming landscape and high pollen.  He arrived home with watery eyes and running nose.  After a dose of Benadryl and a good rest, he declared he felt "150% better" in the morning.

That was a big relief since Saturday was another WMML game.  Cam's best bud, Brody, was dropped off at our house prior to the game and we all rode together to the Rockford field.  Not only did Ms. Stephanie, fabulous aide, hang out with the boys on Friday at the baseball game, she also made it to the West Michigan Miracle League for Saturday's Mud Hens game.  It was a beautiful morning for our 10am start time.  Afterwards, we met up with Brody's dad and then made our way northward towards the cottage.

We arrived at Lake Michigan a little after 1pm and commenced grilling our lunch.  Oma and Opa, Max, Coco, Calla and Max's brother, Eric and our family shared a delicious meal and dessert.  The lake looked inviting but it's still much too cold to swim (~50 degrees F).  

The afternoon was spent watching Max and Eric assemble a climbing apparatus for Calla.  Luckily, Cam was providing supervision and assisted the guys along the way.  

The power wheelchair Cam uses inside the cottage is definitely too small for him.  The adult chair was provided by Alternatives in Motion when Cam was just 6 years old.  Stay tuned for an Alternatives in Motion event next week where Cam will be featured as one of the "highlights."  We just have to be certain this local "celebrity status" doesn't go to his head 😉

Camology Quotes:

Once again, we realized the importance of listening to our son's wise advice.  After our first week with the new ceiling track/lift, the remote suddenly stopped working Wednesday night.  After some collective frustration, Chris was able to use the buttons on the motor to maneuver but wasn't able to fully guide it where it needed to go.  Cam remained calm and after troubleshooting with the installer, a new remote was on order.  In the meantime, Cam had a suggestion:

"Dad, pull the emergency power cord and leave it off all night, please."

The next morning, not expecting any change, Chris grabbed the remote and... it worked!