Sunday, September 17, 2023

What Makes You Happy - Week of Sept. 11

"For every minute you are angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things." ~Henry Ward Beecher

We often hear people tell us that Cam always looks so happy.  The simple response: he typically is.  

This week, Chris traveled to Cincinnati for a few days to check in with other work offices and employees.  During some downtime, Jane and her son explored new programs to watch.  As a rule-abiding kid, Cameron has always enjoyed tv shows dealing with law enforcement.  We stumbled upon Louisiana Law which follows the men and women of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.  It is a documentary showing the officers on patrol and what they encounter.  Most interesting to Cam are the behaviors of the individuals being questioned as well as their subsequent consequences.  Another request was a show he'd only watched a few times with his mom- Hoarders.  The different programs provided opportunity for lots of conversation.

Friday evening, Cam and Ms. Amanda made dinner and watched a movie at home while Chris and Jane attended a non-profit event for Lori's Voice.

Saturday morning, we welcomed Oma and Opa at our house.  From there, we all traveled to the ball park for the second game of the season.  We were greeted by so many Cam Fans, we couldn't believe it! Ms. Kathy, her husband, Kevin and their two granddaughters were the first ones we ran into.  Ms. Kathy was an elementary school teacher for Cam and Brody.  She has never missed a West Miracle League season!

Mary Jo used to hang out with Cam and Brody when they were younger and a memorable outing for them all was to the Lowell Fair.  She and her mom, Ms. Cris, along with one of her brothers were all spotted in the bleachers.  Ms. Cris was a classroom aide for Cam and Brody in elementary school.  

Patti and Steve, our close friends and even closer neighbors also made the trek to Rockford.  When their daughters were younger, we tried to be in attendance for many of their soccer games.  They have, in turn, made it one of Cam's games most every single season. The connections seem endless sometimes.
Oma and Opa love cheering on their grandson.  We know Cameron is so fortunate to have them at a game and he is always so proud. 

We were happy they could spend the night with us.  Our flank steak dinner with veggies and potatoes tasted extra yummy from our backyard grill.  

Sunday was relaxing, hanging out with Cam's grandparents and catching up on some football.  The weekend went by much too quickly, as most do.  

And although Cameron does appear to be in a great mood most of the time, he does and will request that his mom stop taking pictures😉

Camology Quotes:

Jane was wondering what made Cam wanted to watch the show, "Hoarders." Some people find it depressing to see a documentary-style program depicting a real situation of someone's compulsive need to fill space with an excessive amount of things.  She asked him why he chose it?

"Because Mom, it always ends up happy."

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Broncos Baseball - Week of Sept. 4th

"None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things with great love, and together we can do something wonderful." ~Mother Teresa

TEAM: Together, Everyone Achieves More

It was that time of year once again- West Michigan Miracle League baseball!  This fall season, Cameron and Brody were assigned to the West Michigan Broncos team with their favorite coach, Mr. Mark.  The Hope College Women's Softball team arrived as the designated helpers. The sun shone brightly for the WMML Opening Day of the fall season.  

Auntie Jo was our Cam Fan in attendance and loudly cheered for her godson.  When Cameron's name is announced, we always hear "Cam the Man Weatherford!" which consistently brings that awesome Cam grin into the forefront.

The League has honored our request to keep Cam and his best bud, Brody on the same team, season after season.  Once again, this September was no exception.  These two definitely cheer the loudest for each other.

After finishing the early game by 11am, we headed northwest, taking a different way to the cottage since we were traveling from Rockford.  We made a quick stop at Jimmy John's to pick up two loaves of bread for our BLT dinner with the cousins.  

Although it wasn't a hot, sizzling beach day, we still had time by Lake Michigan.  None of us went swimming but it is always good to hang out by the water.  It was discovered in the late afternoon that one of the dogs confiscated a loaf of the bread we had picked up earlier, so we improvised and used sliced bread in addition to the remaining Jimmy John's for our BLT meal.  

Jane and Coco had been eager to try a s'mores recipe all summer and they determined it was time.  In a greased cast iron skillet, a layer of hershey's chocolate was placed followed by spaced out marshmallows.  In a preheated 400 degree oven, the mixture baked for 5 minutes.  The gooey marshmallows spread out and turned a golden brown.  After depositing the delectable dessert in a bowl with graham crackers, we made our way to the lower deck.  We all agreed that the s'mores dip was truly divine, easy to eat, and the perfect treat to pass around.  With an earlier sunset, we all watched sun disappear into the water.

As is now the tradition, Cam's younger cousin insists on helping him into the van and makes certain he is safe and buckled in for the trip home. It is always bittersweet to leave, but devouring a sweet dessert before departure definitely makes the trip more bearable!

Camology Quotes:

At dinner one night, we were all talking about communication and how you keep you in touch with each other.  Cam was telling Chris that he may not be the best at letting his family if he's going to be late...

"I seem to recall that you did not text Mom about when you were going to be home."  

"You think I should text your mom every day when I leave the office, Cam?

"No...not every day, just when you are picking up dinner for me!"

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Pontoon Cruising - Week of Aug. 28th

“Shells sink, dreams float, life’s good on the boat.” ~Jimmy Buffet
“Land was created to provide a place for boats to visit.” ~Brooks Atkinson

It was a short school week for Cameron due to the Labor Day holiday weekend.  He thoroughly enjoyed sleeping in Friday morning.  Ms. Amanda joined her buddy for the day since her kindergarten students had the day off too.  
At the beginning of the summer, Cam had asked Amanda what shows she watched as a kid.  "Full House" was one of her favorites so during their down time, they began watching the old series from the beginning. Since Amanda didn't see Cam on his birthday, she brought him a present.  The dvd of the first season of the sequel to the original show is Fuller House and Cam is now the proud owner.  That day he also wore his "Rocky Raccoon" shirt which was a gift from his Uncle Jon and Aunt Betsy.  The Beatles song is one of his uncle's favorites. 

We were excited for the weekend and Saturday morning, we packed up the van to travel to Whitehall.  
For Cam's 16th birthday experience, we had reserved a pontoon boat for two hours.  Chris and Jane talked extensively to the owners about the possibility of their son being able to drive his powerchair onto the boat.  Cam's chair is 450lbs and there is a weight limit for any lake vessel.  After gaining concurrence from the owners, we were anticipating this first-time experience for our son. 
KAC Boat Rentals was our destination.  Oma and Opa met us there to enjoy the cruise as well. After a minor snafu with our reservation, we were on the water and cruising around White Lake!  Even though it wasn't very sunny, the ride on the pontoon boat was so much fun.  Chris was our captain and expertly navigated us from one side to the other, slowing down to take in the view.  The time went by quickly and upon our return, one of the owners had balloons, a card and candy for Cam to commemorate his birthday and first pontoon ride in his powerchair. 

On Sunday, we headed north once again since the forecast called for a perfect beach day.  The wind and waves felt refreshing and the sunshine was in full force.  Oma and Opa stayed at the cottage and enjoyed the sand in the afternoon too.  Cam's beach chair kept him comfortable at the shoreline.  Our youngest cousin decided to nap close to the sand.  Our outdoor dinner that evening was most delicious as we devoured grilled burgers and hot dogs with all the fixings.  Since Monday was a holiday, we stayed later.  The Haroldson family gave Cam an Old Channel Inn sweatshirt for a bday and end of summer present.  We had to say goodbye to JJ and Jeff since they would be headed east in a few days.  
Somehow, when Labor Day weekend arrives it feels like summer just started.  Seeing the Lake Michigan sunset on Sunday evening was the perfect farewell gift to our favorite Michigan season!

Camology Quotes:

Cam was telling Jane about his classmates at school and decided to give his own philosophical viewpoint.

"I am nice to my friends. What comes around goes around."

Sunday, August 27, 2023

School Again, Welcome to Grade 10 - Week of Aug. 21st

"A well-educated mind will always have more questions than answers." ~Helen Keller

5:30am seemed extra early on Monday, August 21.  It also marked the earliest date for the first day of learning in all of Cam's past schooling.  Our son was ready to begin his sophomore year.

Change is inevitable... new students, new bus driver, new schedule.  For Cameron, questions arise.  With each different factor, though, his acceptance seems to come more readily.

As the week progressed, the nerves subsided and we all started to become accustomed to our new routine.  High school students were able to enter through the enormous Huskies mascot tunnel.  Cam's former bus driver, Ms. Christy was able to capture the moment.

Thursday evening, a heavy thunderstorm came through our area.  Chris and Jane couldn't recall if they'd ever received a tornado text alert, so this one was a bit surprising.  The power flickered but we remained intact.  The damage in our surrounding neighborhood included downed trees and loss of electricity on other streets.  The tornado destruction was roughly 30 minutes away.  We were very fortunate.

Friday evening and most of the day Saturday, we were without internet service.  We quickly figured out how to improvise.  After connecting to a wifi hotspot, we accessed our streaming services from the laptop and projected it to the tv.  Cam was instrumental making certain all of the steps were followed.

Sunday was our beach day!  It was windy and wavy and the sunshine was abundant.  We had a picnic lunch on the deck and remained by the shoreline for the afternoon.

The water was warm enough to venture in.  Cam is more accustomed to his new beach mobile and is much more comfortable.

With our beach days winding down, these lakeside moments seem that much more precious.

Camology Quotes:

Cameron is used to dealing with change, but at times, he is frustrated by it. Cam was relaying to his mom that there was a new student who was quite loud.  Unexpected noise is typically jarring for Cam.  Jane was pleasantly surprised by his follow-up comment:

"I will give him grace, Mom. I'm sure he's probably nervous about being in a new place."

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Sweet! I'm 16! - Week of Aug. 14th

16 years= 192 months, 5844 days, 140.256 hours, 8,415,360 minutes, 504,921,600 seconds of being awesome.

This was the last week before the start of the new school year.  Cameron was patient with his parents while they attended to their jobs.  
However, Thursday was the BIG day...  August 17th was Cam's 16th birthday!
We asked him to request a special breakfast so his day started with a Starbuck's bacon, egg and gouda sandwich.  Chris and Jane finished up work a little early for their son to open his birthday presents.  Cam's dad found him the coolest drink cup for the back of his powerchair with the longest flexible straw.  Cam's mom reserved a pontoon boat for the family for Labor Day weekend and gave him an accessible lifejacket to use on the future trip. 

We were scheduled to meet Oma and Opa in Muskegon for dinner at Cam's chosen birthday restaurant, Red Lobster.  Cameron is a huge fan of their delicious cheddar biscuits and we all love fish.  Cam's grandparents gave him a new personalized backpack and Maruska shirts.  After ordering and finishing our meals, a manager came over and shared a big surprise.  Jane's work buddy, Ms. Cyndi in New Jersey called ahead and pre-paid for our entire meal!  She had asked Jane earlier that day where they were going, etc. and we were all completely blown away.  Cam and his mom were especially touched.  Ms. Cyndi made certain that they even put a candle on Cameron's birthday brownie overload dessert- we were excited there were five spoons since we all had multiple bites.

Friday evening, we headed up north for a double birthday celebration for cousin James and Cameron.  A scrumptious meal of smoked fish, chicken and pork accompanied by lots of sides was the perfect meal! Dessert included a tasting contest between a homemade chocolate peanut butter pie created by Coco and the Costco chocolate peanut butter pie.  We all agreed Coco's crust and toppings were best and the Costco filling was delicious.  Afterward, we were all pretty stuffed so a dance party was in order!  We said goodbye to James and Ally since they were leaving the next morning. It was a later night and by the time Cam made it into bed, it was almost 11pm.

Saturday afternoon, we decided to do it all over again.  Oma and Opa arrived later in the day to stay for dinner too.  We spent most of our time on the lower deck, now accessible via the coolest ramp, visiting with family and chatting with everyone.
The new table that Max and Jeffrey built fit everyone, which was pretty incredible.
We watched the sun fade as we left that night to make our way back home.

Sunday was just as beautiful and we decided it would be a great beach day!  Once again, we loaded up the van to make our trek.  We were all very happy we chose to be lake side.  The water was refreshing, the sand very warm and it was the perfect way to close out our week.  We had to say goodbye to Katie, Tyler, Avery and Olivia since they would be heading back east while Cam was in school the next week.  Jane told her son how difficult it always was to say goodbye to our cousins. We left before dinner since Cameron (and his parents) would be waking up a little after 5:30 the next morning.

One of our favorite memories from the week was watching the younger cousins run to help Cam.  The van ramp is very unique to them.  They all wanted to assist with every aspect of buckling Cameron into the vehicle and making certain he was absolutely safe!
These family members are so sweet with their older cousin and do not have any fear concerning his mobility.  
In some ways, they teach those who are much older about inclusion and acceptance. 😉

Camology Quotes:

Jane and son made a Costco run this week and happened on quite a few samples.  Cam tried a new beef stick and liked it so much, he requested they purchase it.  Next up were sea salt caramels and freshly baked brownies.  This was his response to the "sampler" people:

"No thank you.  We have that at home."

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Winding Down - Week of Aug. 7th

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but a memory is priceless. 

The beginning of the week was spent talking about all of the stories behind the planning of the B.S.E. "biggest surprise ever" as we're now referring to it.  All of the collaboration between Cam, Ms. Ann, Oma and Auntie Karen was unbelievable to hear about.

It was Ms. Amanda's last full week with us and none of could believe the school start date of Aug. 21 that we received at the beginning of the week!  Cam concentrated on helping Amanda with setting up her kindergarten class.  Monday evening, Cam's parents went out to dinner with Auntie Leslie and Wes while Amanda and her buddy hung out together at the house.

Tuesday was a work day for Cam at the Cafe and we all headed over during the lunch hour to see him in action.  He's much more comfortable now, a bit more assertive and has greater confidence due to his summer job.  With fresh fish and sweet corn from the market that day, Wes and Cam took on the task of husking the corn.  Our dinner of the market fish and fresh veggies hit the spot.

Wednesday morning, Cam and Ms. Amanda arrived at Brody's Be Cafe to provide special delivery service to nearby businesses.  The complimentary smoothies were a hit!

Wednesday afternoon, we had to say "see you later" to Auntie Leslie and Wes as they headed back to North Carolina.  We were so thankful for their company, their help and most importantly, their laughter and love.  Since it was the actual day of Chris and Jane's wedding anniversary, they had planned to go out that evening while Ms. Ann stayed with Cam.  But it was Cam's parents turn to be sneaky.  When Ms. Ann arrived, we announced to her and Cam that we were taking them out to dinner!

Our weekend plans included family time.  Saturday afternoon, Cam and Jane dropped off Chris in Coopersville at a non-profit event for Lori's Voice.  Then, Mom and son headed to Grand Haven to visit Oma and Opa. 
We had some technology issues to address which Cam and Jane completed.  It was a windy day, but nice outside so we decided to take a stroll around the grounds.  After a couple of hours, we headed back to pick up Chris in Coopersville.  Cousin Libby had given Cam a U of M football jersey which he wore that day.  It was a big hit and quite a few people commented.

Sunday afternoon we made our way northward again to see our cousins and have some beach time.  The new Cammobile+ had some water time.  With the new ramp at the Haroldsons, Cam can easily drive all the way to the lower deck.  His younger cousins really love the ramp too.

We all dined together on the beach deck. It was so awesome to see Cameron comfortable in his own chair so close to the shoreline.  There is so much we take for granted.  We are beyond thankful for our family!

Camology Quotes:

Cam loves school.  Since he didn't attend summer school this year, we tried to include some extra activities.  Every August, he has always noted that he can't wait to return.  At the end of this week, though, his thoughts were a bit different and definitely in line with how his parents felt 'back in the day' the closer it was to Labor Day.

"I'm going to miss this summer.  I'm not ready to go back to school."

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Biggest Surprise EVER! - Week of July 31st

 "A secret's worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept." ~Carlos Ruiz Zafon

"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.  Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." ~Roald Dahl

Have you ever had to keep a secret? Most of us definitely have. However, not too many of us were ever required to keep a surprise party a secret for more than a year...

The week began with Cameron hanging out with Ms. Amanda and her dog, Otis.  They try to take Otis out at least once a day for a walk, whenever possible.  On Tuesday, Cam worked at the Cafe providing directions and talking to potential customers.  He also helped with some customer orders.

Wednesday was another work day for Cam.  From the Cafe, he and Ms. Amanda, along with the Program Director, Maddie, made their way to two nearby business.  Cam delivered the drinks and helped request a sponsorship for the Cafe's fundraiser coming up in October.

Friday morning, Jane wasn't feeling well at all.  She was able to work a bit, but settled into bed for much of the day and barely ate.  Little did she know there were many people behind the scenes very concerned about her recovery time.  

Saturday morning brought relief when Cam's mom woke up feeling much better!  She was scheduled to pick up Leslie and Wes flying in from North Carolina before 12p.  The afternoon was relaxing and we mentioned to our dear friends that we had been invited to a small cookout with Ms. Ann and her family at nearby Cascade Park.  We packed up the fruit and veggies we were designated to bring and made our way to the park shortly after 5p.  

Cam was laughing with Auntie Leslie and Wes and we just assumed they were joking around in the van.   Jane and Chris had no idea they were in for the Biggest Surprise Ever!  Upon arrival, Cam's parents saw what looked to be close to 100 people gathered and Chris immediately backed up the van as we all cracked up.  When we parked, Cam revealed the reason- a 20th wedding anniversary surprise party for his parents.  Apparently, Jane sparked the idea with Ms. Ann when she told her back in December 2021 that she wanted to fit into her wedding dress again by their 20th wedding anniversary in 2023!  Not only did the first discussions begin in early 2022 with Oma, but Cam kept a secret for that entire duration.  For a kid who never lies and confesses any wrongdoing, everyone was fairly shocked that it truly remained a hidden project.  

At the incredible gathering, the decorations, including the identical flowers from our wedding, the colors, Lake Michigan sand and even our wedding attire was all on display.  A feast of food, a speech from our best man, a prayer from Gordy and jazz music played by cousin David while surrounded by so many dear friends and family was so overwhelming!  For Cam's parents, it almost felt like their wedding day, complete with a professional photographer, Holly Gauper, whom we've known for the past 7 years since she and her husband have taken our family pics.  Ms. Ann and her amazing family even brought containers to store the leftovers in for us all to take some home.  

At the end of the evening, tears and thankfulness were in full view as Chris and Jane opened a special Shutterfly photo and letter book created by Ms. Ann to commemorate their anniversary.  It is a treasure and a labor of love.  Upon arrival home that evening, Cam's parents tried on their wedding garb and yes, it fit!

Cam's grandparents stayed overnight with us and made their way back to Grand Haven in the afternoon. Our crew with Leslie and Wes headed to the cottage to spend the afternoon with cousins. It wasn't the nicest beach day, but a dip in the water still took place.  We had such a great time on the beach, visiting the animals at the barn and dining on leftovers from the party.

Chris and Jane told Cam that they came to a wonderful realization during the surprise party.  The attendees consisted of family, extended family, friends they call family and the dearest people in their lives.  Many were with us on our wedding day, but just as many came into our lives solely due to our awesome son, Cameron!

Camology Quotes:

It seemed a wash of relief hit Cam knowing that he no longer had to keep the "big secret" or tell white lies to his parents.  During the recap of the festivities, Cam said to Auntie Leslie and Wes: 

"Thanks for following my lead!"

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Wheeling Around at Sports Camp - Week of July 24th

"There are more things to alarm us than to harm us, and we suffer more often in apprehension than reality." ~Lucius Annaeus Seneca
"All camps are hard, that's what they're intended to be. They make you focus when you're tired, when you don't feel like doing things and to see how long you can retain and pay attention." ~Michael Strahan

In previous years, the months of July and a portion of August were spent in summer school for Cam. He had always qualified for three days a week and loved being with friends and teachers.  This summer it wasn't offered to him and we most definitely credit Ms. Ann for her expert tutoring.  Since the last week in July was open, we talked to Cameron about signing up for Mary Free Bed's Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp.  He agreed, but was definitely uncertain about how things would go...

Kids and teens age 7-18 'take over' Grand Valley State University’s campus playing sports like basketball, lacrosse and tennis. Every year camp provides the chance for kids to come together through adaptive sports to try new activities, enjoy a bit of healthy competition and make lifelong friends.

This marks the 39th year of the camp, which is hosted by the Mary Free Bed Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports program and welcomes campers from Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. The camp is led by instructors who are also competitive wheelchair athletes. Former campers return as volunteers to help mentor and encourage the younger campers. Junior Wheelchair Sports camp offers campers the chance to try a variety of sports – including basketball, cycling, dodgeball, handball, kayaking, lacrosse, sled hockey, softball and tennis. 
Monday morning, Cam woke up early to get ready to go.  To help ease him into things, Ms. Amanda met us at Grand Valley to hang out and grab some awesome pictures of Cam in action.  When Jane headed back to work that morning, she also wasn't certain how the day would progress for her son.  Just a couple of hours later, the photos appeared on her phone from Amanda with glowing reports about how much fun Cam was having.  He had already met a lot of new people.  His group leader was Mr. Dave who was also in a wheelchair.  April, one of Cam's longtime friends was in his group as well as other kids he knew.  Basketball, lacrosse and hand cycling were all on the agenda that day.  And, we had one tired teenager that evening.

On Tuesday during the drive over, Cam chatted the entire time about how much he liked camp.  Chris and Jane went together with him in the van and Ms. Amanda met us there.  Cam's parents headed to the cottage to check on things after dropping him off.  And we were pleasantly surprised when a joint decision was made for Cameron to handle things on his own, with help from the nurses at camp.  Ms. Amanda left after lunch. One of the nurse volunteers, Morgan, completed quite a few of the activities with Cam and even sent Jane some great pictures.

Each evening, Cam was spent and tired, but in a good mood and a chatterbox about everything that took place each day.  Jane and Amanda received messages from Morgan about how much fun Cam was having.  On Thursday afternoon, there was even a water fight with the Allendale Fire Dept and everyone looked completely soaked!  Upon pickup that day, mom and son headed to an family friend open house in Spring Lake they were invited to.  There was a food truck and an axe-throwing area.
Friday was only a half day for the conclusion of camp and after some morning sport activities, there was a lunch for everyone and an awards ceremony.  When it was all over, Cam was really sad.  He couldn't believe the week had gone by so quickly.  We promised to keep in touch with Morgan.  It was an emotional time saying goodbye, but Cam already indicated he definitely wanted to sign up for next year.

Oma and Opa arrived at our house early Friday evening to stay for the weekend.  As a group, we traveled to Stony Lake on Saturday afternoon.  We celebrated the life of Erica, a close family friend who Jane used to babysit.  We will miss her so much and Cam remembers all of the fun parties at Stony Lake that she organized.  

On Sunday, we all relaxed together and worked on a few projects.  After a busy week, the relaxation time was required and Cam's favorite houseguests are Oma and Opa!

Camology Quotes:

During all of the activities at camp this week, Cam had praise for every sport, except for dodgeball.  He also had lots of praise for Morgan, and in turn Morgan sent us this message about Cameron. "You have raised the kindest and sweetest kid in the world! Getting to know him this week has blessed me in so many ways."