Sunday, November 21, 2021

Project Preso - Week of Nov. 15th

A literal blanket of leaves
in our backyard
"Before anything else, preparation is the key to success."  ~Alexander Graham Bell 
"The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today." ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Cam's parents are very familiar with presentations.  
Jane presents almost daily for her job via video, now from her home office. Last week, Cam was given an assignment to research a biome and provide a computer slide presentation to his class.  His topic was the rainforest.  Ms. Ann, his expert tutor, worked with him to plan out the exercise, making certain they had plenty of time.  After finishing daily homework, the rainforest topic was reviewed.  Cam's slides had to contain certain elements and Ms. Ann insisted that these were his own words and thoughts.  She calculated that Cam spent a total of 7 hours on the project when they finished it up Friday night! We were all commenting how good it feels to finish something you're assigned to do.

After all of that hard work, we had a fun Saturday planned out.  In the afternoon, Cam and Jane went to pick up Cam's best buddy, Brody and his mom, Jenny.  The boys had been talking about seeing a movie and the chosen one, "Addams Family 2" was playing at the local theater. Of course, we first secured popcorn and treats for our matinee.  Following the fun showing, we strolled over to Buffalo Wild Wings for a tasty dinner.  Jenny and Jane were pretty impressed with both of their boys using such nice manners with the waitresses. On our ride home, we all commented that the movie/dinner combo should become a regular occurrence.

Chris and his son went together for their handsome haircuts this week.
Cam's dad, always ready for fun, found a ring light in the barbershop to snap a fun pic.  It seems that some traditions, like this one, will remain timeless no matter how old these two are.

Camology Quotes:

Sunday afternoons, father and son can usually be seen working on a computer project. Chris now has his desk in the sunroom where Cam's homework area is also located.  It seems our kiddo definitely has a mind for technology and for helping his dad have patience when it comes to troubleshooting.

"Dad, do not give up! Try opening a private browser."

Sunday, November 14, 2021

The Nature of November - Week of Nov. 8th

"A wounded deer leaps the highest." ~Emily Dickinson 

"From all kinds of flowers, Seek teachings everywhere, Like a deer that finds A quiet place to graze, Seek Seclusion to digest All you have gathered. . ." ~Namkhai Norbu

November typically marks a big seasonal shift in the weather, especially in Michigan.  The deer begin their trek through our backyard to hide from hunters and the ground is suddenly covered in frost some mornings.  Since Daylight Savings Time ended on Sun. Nov. 7, our early ventures to meet the bus are much lighter.  We do feel so fortunate to catch the beautiful sunrise we often see from our perch on the hill.  Each one, although similar, seems to contain a different hue and design.

Veterans Day fell on Thursday this week and Cam arrived home with a typed message for his dad. 

"Thank you Dad for serving in the military. You are really kind for being in the military. Thank you for serving. I appreciate you for serving in the military. Thank you!"  Chris told his son it was the best part of his day. We are so very proud of Cam's dad for his four years of service in the Marine Corps.

Cam also received a "Crew" award at school for being an exemplary student and from the picture it definitely looks like he was happy about it too.

Friday evening we saw our first round of actual snow that stuck to the ground, but only for that night.  It did look white and fluffy and the roads weren't affected so it's the best kind of snowflakes to see for the initial arrival.

Saturday was a busy day.  We left Grand Rapids around 10am to drive to the cottage with a list of things to accomplish.  Oma had made us her famous chicken tetrazzini for lunch and it tasted so delicious accompanied by her homemade applesauce.  While Cam and Jane assisted with computer help, Chris and Opa handled the outside water turnoff and finished off a few other tasks.  Lastly, we used the thermal plastic to close off a portion of the dining room to make things a bit warmer with the colder weather setting in.  When we left around 3:30p, the wind was chilly but the rain held off.  

Upon arrival back home, we welcomed Ms. Ann who had planned to hang out with Cam for the evening.  This would be the first time Cam's parents would stay out past Cam's bedtime in almost 2 years! As Cameron has grown, it's a bit more challenging for a single individual to transfer him into bed, but Ms. Ann took on the challenge and crushed it!  Chris and Jane enjoyed an evening at a non-profit function and truly delighted in the picture sent of their happy son in bed.  The evening couldn't have been better for Cam or his parents...and we think that Ms. Ann may have enjoyed herself as well.

Camology Quotes:

Our cat, Stella is now 15 years old which is 76 years of age in a human equivalent. She has settled into a strange routine of wanting to be placed onto Cam's countertop to be able to meow for fresh water in the sink. One evening as Cam started his bathroom routine and Stella was drinking H2O, he was thinking to himself and looking at the shower instead of at his cat. Suddenly, we heard uncontrollable laughter from the bathroom and when Cam could finally breathe again to tell us what happened, this was the punch line.  

"I was not looking at my cat and I turned and she was right in my face. Stella got in my personal space!"

Sunday, November 7, 2021

The Gift of Grandparents - Week of Nov. 1st

“Sometimes our grandmas and grandpas are like grand-angels.” ~Lexie Saige 

“Grandparents can be very special resources. Just being close to them reassures a child, without words, about change and continuity, about what went before and what will come after.” ~Fred Rogers

We know Cam is fortunate to be able to see his grandparents.  His dad's mom, Grandma Sue, lives in Arizona but keeps in contact and we enjoyed a long visit in May.  Chris' dad is in California and that trek is a bit further. Jane's parents live a little more than an hour away so they're able to make the drive to us and we to them on a fairly regular basis. There is a natural trust and admiration between grandchildren and grandparents.  Cam's excitement over an Oma and Opa impending stay has never faltered. 

At school, time is regularly spent in the gymnasium and Cam's gym teacher continues to challenge him with different activities. Once again, we are beyond thankful for the care and consideration of our son's mental and physical needs in the school setting.

Cam had a scheduled half day on Friday, arriving home to Ms. Ann ready and waiting at the bus.  The two were busy working on schoolwork for the afternoon.  

Oma and Opa arrived mid-afternoon and settled in with us for the weekend.  Cam's grandma brought her famous applesauce which is a staple at every dinner.  We had two family meals all together and declared they were some of the best ever!  Jane and her mom completed some early Christmas shopping on Saturday and Cam assisted with computer projects over the weekend.

Sunday was a busy day.  Chris, Cam and Jane arrived at Brody's Be Café at noon ready for outdoor igloo setup.  We had a stellar team of people helping out and the Cole family brought homemade chili as well as tortilla soup.  The weather was mild and Brody provided musical entertainment as Cam supervised the stand up of both igloos.

Directly after the café activities, we stopped to pick up Oma and Opa at our house to head downtown for our annual family photo shoot.  We couldn't have chosen a better day, although at the time it was scheduled, it was unknown if the Michigan climate would cooperate.  It will be a few weeks before the photos are sent and we can share our favorites.  Cam's grandparents said goodbye late in the afternoon. The time together has become more precious as we continue to grow our ever-expanding vault of memories.

Camology Quotes:

As Cam's 'sleeping on the weekend habit' has settled into a regular occurrence, he is becoming savvy to his ability to carefully plan his Saturday and Sunday mornings.  At 7:30am, he called out to Jane with the following request: 

"Mom, can you please take the banana bread out of the freezer and put bacon in the oven?  I am not ready to get up yet!"

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Successful Sleep-ins - Week of Oct. 25th

"When I wake up, I am reborn." ~Mahatma Ghandi  

"I love sleep because it's like a time machine to breakfast." ~Unknown

For as long as his parents can remember, Cam has been an early riser.  Perhaps it is the excitement of a new day, the promise of what's to come.  Sleeping in on the weekends was never something we had experienced as a family.  At first we thought it was a fluke that Cam slept in until 8am last weekend, but when it happened again this Saturday and Sunday, we were assured this may be our new norm.

It was a another eventful week of school for Cam. When we ask him how the day was, he typically responds with "It was good. How was your day?" We refer to this as his deflection technique.  In reality, though, it seems each school day truly is good.  Pictures are posted in a private parent portal showing some of the activities. 

This week, a spirit day to show sports teams and a field trip to the zoo made for a pretty cool time for our eighth grader.  He is much more comfortable standing on a regular basis now. It allows for him to interact with his peers and teachers face-to-face.  The greater independence that has been gained increases his confidence too.

To further boost that assurance, we asked Cam if he would attend a Halloween fundraiser with his parents and dress up in costume. In 2020, Cam's Halloween ensemble was a literal Zoom meeting since he had endured so many for virtual schooling.  To continue the trend, this year, our family collectively thought up the WAH or "Work at Home" entry.

According to recent statistics from the Pew Research Center, 71% of employees now work from home in 2021 compared to 21% in 2019.  

Cam's costume included a desk, laptop, post-it notes, pens, fuzzy slippers, tie and a laundry bag on the back.  Chris joined in by adorning shorts, flip-flops, jacket and tie.  

The fundraiser, "Fowling to Keep Them Rolling" was for Alternatives in Motion.  Jane is on the Board of Directors and was asked to reach out to someone to be a celebrity judge. One of Cam's best buddies, Brody, is the namesake for Brody's be Café and was the perfect option.  He and his mom, Jenny, the owner of the café met us at the Fowling Warehouse only five minutes from our home.  Pizza from JT's was served in abundance and the boys thoroughly enjoyed it.  There were quite a few costumes to review.  Although Cam didn't take home any prizes for his entry, his buddy, Brody, gave him a personal shout-out over the microphone.  Immediately following, the actual M.C. announced that Brody may be taking over his job next year!

Another celebrity judge was a local newscaster, Tessa.  She recently moved to Grand Rapids and can be seen daily on one of our resident early a.m. morning news.  She just became a board member for Alternatives in Motion.  Cam and Brody were both quite chatty with Tessa.  

We all agreed that the buddies would be more than happy to start a fan club for the local personality they met that evening!

Camology Quotes:

Jane and her son love making homemade banana bread.  We keep bananas in the freezer for this very reason.  The recipe is one modified from Martha Stewart with mini chocolate chips added in.
One evening when Chris was occupied with a work event, Cam declared we should make our famous bread.
Jane had to finish up business emails prior to baking.  She told Cam they could look up the recipe when she came back upstairs. Within the next fifteen minutes she was back at Cam's desk where he had been very, very busy.

"Mom, I found the recipe on our app.  I sent you a text with a link and I sent you an email!"

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Over the Rainbow - Week of Oct. 18th


"Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high--There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby--Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue--And the dreams that you dare to dream--Really do come true" ~first recorded by Judy Garland, October 1938

Rainbows are elusive.  When you're eager to see one, they don't seem to appear.  At times, when you least expect it, the intense beauty is captivating and comforting at the same time.

Although a rainbow unicorn may not exist, we were determined to construct one for our friend, Lylah. Our crew was small but mighty.  A unicorn tail was created, lighting was added, and sparkles were applied.  Lylah was very happy with the end result and her smile shone as brightly as the twinkling colors.  It was a bit chilly to have her in full costume, but we may be able to snap a pic at her school's Halloween parade next week!

Cam received his physical therapy this week in different ways.  At school, he is standing daily in his powerchair, supported by his knee blocks.  He can participate in activities while in the stand mode and can also drive around in that position.  
During his PT session outside of school, Patrick worked on hamstring stretching and taught Jane how to assist with the stretch at home.  Before each physical therapy appointment, Cam has a swimming lesson which is in the same building... in case you were wondering why he's wearing a bathing suit.

Over the weekend, we completed indoor projects which mostly consisted of Cam helping his dad figure out some home networking challenges.
Sunday afternoon, we headed over to Brody's Be Café to help with trunk or treat activities.  Very similar to trick or treat, adults open the trunk of their vehicle, decorate it and then pass out candy in a parking lot lined with decorated trunks.  The Village of Ada puts on the event every year in the parking lot adjacent to Brody's Be Café.  
Cam became part of the welcoming committee since our small group was the first candy station the kids stopped at.  Although Cam's official costume wasn't ready on Sunday, we had kept a Captain America blanket from one of his former Halloween entries.  Since the afternoon was a bit chilly, it served a dual purpose!

Camology Quotes:

Cam is empathetic.  His teachers have always shared examples of how Cam cares for his friends, teachers and other students.  This week, one of his classmates and good friend was grieving the recent loss of her dad to cancer.  Cam told us how they had made a tie blanket for her and each day after school he reported how she was doing.  In the evenings, he commented that he hoped his classmate was doing ok.  On Friday after school, he shared this with us...

"At school today, I got a Husky ticket.  It was for being compassionate and a good friend this week."

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Patience is a Virtue - Week of Oct. 11th

It's most commonly believed that the line 'Patience is a Virtue' originated from the poem, 'Piers Plowman'. It is said to have been written around 1360 by English poet William Langland, about a man in search of faith. One line in the poem states that “patience is a fair virtue.”

Patience may have been a virtue back in the 14th century, when there was no smartphones, internet, planes, email and so on. But not so much today.  

One person we know who, at times, seems to have infinite patience, is Cameron.  Like every other individual, his tolerance is greater for some things than others.

Monday evening, we ate an early dinner and made our way to the Fine Arts Center for the first choir concert in almost two years.  To say Cam was excited is a bit of an understatement.  The entire event was available to watch online via livestream and Cam texted the information to no less than 10 people.  On his own, our son requested his knee blocks so he could be in standing mode while singing.  This was the first time he had wanted to stand for a public event.  As an added bonus, Cam's best buddy Brody also attends choir so they were on the stage together along with the other eighth graders.  

The concert began at 7p with the 7th/8th graders singing a few songs.  Following their performance, the high school kids took the stage.  They sang a medley of older tv theme songs and commercials.  Cam's parents knew all of the melodies but the school-age kids were somewhat unfamiliar.  Back at home, a request to hear the "Happy Days" theme song via Alexa became a common ask.

On Friday, Cam was scheduled for a half-day of school and we had a very busy afternoon planned.  Oma and Opa were traveling to Grand Rapids to stay the night.  First up on our agenda was upgrading the older flip phone Jane's mom had been using to an iPhone.  It was difficult to determine who was anticipating this appointment more- Cam or his grandma.  To Jane's surprise, the entire experience was painless and lasted less than an hour.  Once they arrived home, Cam got straight to work explaining the setup to Oma and helping her practice.

To celebrate the week's goodness, our family wanted to treat Cam's grandparents to a hibachi dinner.  We had made reservations at Ichiban, a local Japanese steakhouse.  Our chef, Mr. Ray, was such a pro!  He effortlessly sliced and diced, tossed shrimp with his spatula, made an onion volcano and kept us all engaged.  As we continued chatting, he shared with us that he had a special needs son who worked at Maggie's Be Café (the sister store to Brody's Be Café) and we all remarked about what a small world it is.  
We said goodbye to Oma and Opa on Saturday afternoon, still marveling about everything we had accomplished and the wonderful dinner out the night before.

Sunday afternoon brought many more smiles as we welcomed a mini wheelchair costume building crew into our garage.  Since our Halloween Heroes parade had to be canceled again this year to protect all of our kiddos, we volunteered to create a costume for one of our 'veterans' Miss Lylah who was a member of all four parades.
It was an afternoon filled with laughter and energetic activity as we began creating a rainbow unicorn for Lylah.  Her mom was in disbelief that our small taskforce was so ready and willing.  As I shared with her, it was truly a gift for all of us to be involved in something that brought Lylah so much joy.  Next week, the final costume will be revealed.  
As they used to say at the end of Happy Days...stay tuned...

Camology Quotes:

Cam is not only a patient person, he is also a patient teacher.  All week he was looking forward to helping his grandma with her new iPhone and he did not disappoint.  While Jane was attending to work late Friday afternoon in her downstairs home office, her son was providing iOS training in the sunroom by sending multiple text messages for practice and answering questions.  At one point, Cam called Jane on FaceTime and proudly reported on their progress...

"Oma is really getting the hang of it, Mom!"

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Trooper is spelled "C-A-M" - Week of Oct. 4th

"Deep human connection is ... the purpose and the result of a meaningful life - and it will inspire the most amazing acts of love, generosity, and humanity." ~Melinda Gates

We often think about the people we wouldn't be connected to if it wasn't for Cam.  One of those individuals is his afterschool tutor, Ms. Ann.  Katherine is Ann's daughter and was Cam's nanny for 3 years when he was younger.  We became linked with their entire family and we now think of them as lifelong friends.  The pandemic made tutoring difficult but virtual sessions were still successful.  Ann keeps Chris and Jane appraised of any extra work needed.  This week was an important social studies test and we were alerted to some extra studying tips by Ms. Ann.  Cam's hard work paid off!  
He also participated in stretching and reaching exercises at school.

As is the case with most of our activities, the weekend becomes the time to participate in different events.  Saturday morning marked the final WMML baseball game of the fall season.  Cam was ready to go for the 10am game.  Once again, our Cam Fans did not disappoint!  Coleen, the AIM executive director is a big sports fan and she has become a regular attendee.  Ms. Kathy and her husband, Kevin, haven't missed a season yet and Ms. Kathy has other former students that she also sees at the West Michigan League field.  Following the game, as is the WMML tradition, each player was presented with a medal that was placed around their neck.
Just as we were heading out, Cam spotted his good friend, April.  We have known April since the beginning of our wheelchair costume adventure with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in 2016.  April was wearing a sparkling jacket in preparation for her first homecoming dance that she planned to attend that evening.  She and Cam had a nice chat before we headed home.

Brody Be's Café was on the Saturday evening agenda since our entire family was signed up to volunteer for a fundraiser.  When we arrived, the set up team was in full force with decorating and the live band "Prior Noon" was involved in sound checks.  A popcorn machine was at the ready and Jet's pizza was due to arrive to sell to spectators.
Cam and his mom were stationed on one side of the café ready to welcome folks.  Jane and her son let people know they could order smoothies and coffee drinks inside and purchase pizza.  Outdoors, mini popcorn buckets were for sale.  
Chris was a floater, helping with whatever was needed.  At one point in the evening, he drove over to the pizza place picking up 5 more pizzas to sell.
Cam is sensitive to loud sounds, so his parents were pleasantly surprised by his laughter and smiles while dancing in his powerchair to the music.
The biggest shock of all, though, was his insistence to stay up late.  Even on the weekends, his bedtime routine begins shortly after 8p.  In full support of the event and fulfilling his volunteer duties, he rallied and we were all at the café until 9:30pm before heading home.
Cam's parents were super proud and told their son how much it meant to them both.  During the short trip homeward, Chris asked his son if he knew that trooper was spelled C-A-M!

Camology Quotes:

Cam is keenly aware of his school schedule, all appointments and upcoming events.  His teachers have always told us that Cam knows the daily routine and timing better than they do.  On Thursday he asked Jane if she had canceled his next PT session since it was on the same night as his upcoming choir concert.  Cam's mom assured him that she had already, in fact, sent an email to his physical therapist to alert him of the schedule change.

"You're on it, Mom!"

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Waiting for the Negative - Week of Sept. 27

"Patience is not passive, on the contrary, it is concentrated strength." ~Bruce Lee

When a fierce cough seemed to arrive out of nowhere for Cam on Sunday, we all took a deep breath.  Ever since the pandemic took hold, each and every 'symptom' carries more weight than ever before.  Cam stayed home from school on Monday.  With restless sleep and multiple coughing fits, we erred on the side on caution.  Tuesday morning, we called the pediatrician and they asked if we could bring him in.  Upon checking Cam over, they deemed it advisable for him to be tested for Covid.  And then the arduous wait began.  Ever the optimist, Cam continued fulfilling homework duties and was able to video in with his class.  On Wednesday, we still didn't have test results and even though he was feeling much better, the rules indicated he was to remain at home.  Thursday a.m. at 7:05, we received the negative results!  He was not able to ride the bus, but Jane rushed him over in the van and he arrived before first hour.  Cam enjoyed an indoor bike ride trying out some new wheels at school.
That evening, Chris and Jane decided the good news called for celebration.  They covertly planned an Olive Garden dinner pickup.  While Jane was finishing work in her home office, Chris was headed to grab our Italian feast.  However, his son called him via FaceTime video and correctly guessed where he was! 
On Friday, we realized our time was running out to partake in a unique offering in our own city.  ArtPrize® is an open, independently organized international art competition which takes place in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It celebrates artists working in all mediums from anywhere in the world, and is open to any creative with an artwork to enter and a venue willing to host it. For 18 days, art is exhibited throughout the city in public parks and museums, in galleries and vacant storefronts, in bars and on bridges. ArtPrize awards $450,000 directly to artists, through grants to support their ambitious work and through prizes which the public decides through the ArtPrize website. Since its inception in 2009, millions have participated in ArtPrize, displaying their work, opening their spaces to artists and visitors from around the world, and sparking countless conversations about what art is and why it matters.  

Since ArtPrize was ending on Sunday, we quickly drove downtown after an early dinner on Friday eve.  The oversize replication of the Tin Man kneeling on the corner looked larger than life.  At the Gerald R. Ford Museum, we strolled around and checked out multiple installations including one Cam even drove through.  Although we only saw a small snippet of the many entries, it was impressive and good to be out in our community.

Saturday morning we were back at the WMML ballpark for a 10am game.  We typically don't always know which Cam Fans will show up.  We were excited to see Ms. Barbara (Cam & Brody's K-2 grade school teacher!), Steve and Patti (longtime friends and neighbors) and a new friend we met while camping, Ms. Lauren and her dog, Bailey.  Dick's Sporting Goods sponsored the day with gift bags for every player and a hot dog lunch.
Besides watching the game and seeing all of the kids up to bat, there was another incredible feel-good moment.  Following Cam's 10am game, there was an announcement on the microphone to turn your attention to the field.  The Dick's Sporting Goods Foundation presented Tony Comden, president of the West Michigan Miracle League with a check for $10,000!  Everyone was cheering so loudly!  One of the needs in the near-term will be to replace the special turf on the WMML field that accommodates wheelchairs, prosthetics, walkers and any other device needed for kids with different abilities.  

After our hot dog lunch, we ventured northward to see Oma and Opa.  It was a cloudy day which happened to be the perfect compliment to our indoor project list.  After completing some computer duties, Cam and his grandma were deciding the next thing to tackle.  Oma asked Cam if he would rather organize a closet or bake cookies... and the winner was... closet organization.  The pair worked well together as they filled an entire box for donations.  And of course, following that task, grandson and grandma did in fact, bake cookies.  
We ate an early dinner with our families and cousins Coco, Max and Calla.  Cam's youngest cousin is growing much too fast!  Following a delicious meal of grilled chicken, pesto pasta, fresh fruit and garlic bread, those cookies tasted yummy😋  With the earlier sunset, we were lucky enough to see the sun seemingly slip into Lake Michigan.

Our new friend, Lauren, summed up her first WMML baseball game in the best way possible saying "if someone is in a bad mood or having a bad day, they just need to come here and watch this.  It is so awesome!"

Equally awesome is hearing Mr. Tony in the video announce our son's entrance onto the baseball field!

Camology Quotes:

On Sunday, after attempting to fix the 'home assistant' (which was quickly becoming the 'home adversary') the boys were 'all in' addressing the anomalies.

"You're one tough cookie, Dad- you never give up!"  

Oh, like a cookie that's old and sitting out in the sun all day? 

"No Dad, it's an expression!"