Sunday, June 28, 2020

Jamming Cam - Week of June 22nd

"It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving." ~Mother Teresa
"We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." ~Winston S. Churchill

Many have asked us over the years why we don't have a dog.  Perhaps because Stella, our cat, seemed to make her claim as Cam's protector soon after we brought him home from the hospital.  She still follows him around and has complete trust that he will not run her over with his power wheelchair.
Cam is definitely a dog magnet of sorts, though.  Ms. Amanda was pet-sitting this week and her trusty sidekick, Cam, was happy to help her out with check-ins.  Roxie, the boxer, and Cam were introduced a few years ago.  Roxie loves jumping into the van and saddling up right next to her buddy.  Lola is Roxie's new sister and eagerly hopped in as well to meet the new guy.

We always await Michigan's strawberry season with eager anticipation.  It's one of the most popular fruits of the summer and has quite an interesting history.
Today’s cultivated strawberries came from an accidental cross between two wild strawberry varieties in France around the 1700s. In Ancient Rome, wild strawberries were seen as more than just a simple snack, but as a symbol for the goddess of love, Venus, due to its heart shape and red color. Medieval stonemasons would actually carve strawberries into their altars and pillars of cathedrals to symbolize “perfection and righteousness.” One of the oldest varieties of strawberries in France was known as “la princesse royale” or royal princess. The symbolism of strawberries is almost as sweet as their taste.

We reserved a flat at our favorite Heidi's Farmstand and came back with 8 quarts of the hand-picked red berries.  Now that we've made the jam for a few years, we have a solid process in place.  We used over 10 pounds of sugar, 9 packs of sure-jel and 48 containers to finish our freezer jam.  And if you pay us a surprise visit, you'll be taking home a container for yourself!

Once in awhile, an opportunity comes along that was just meant to be.
Alternatives in Motion is a non-profit organization whose mission is "To enhance independence through access to mobility equipment." Their vision is to be the central hub in West Michigan for recycling, distributing, and maintaining mobility equipment for those in need. They believe that access to mobility equipment is the path to independence. They respect and appreciate each person’s unique abilities and contributions.  Alternatives in Motion serves persons with disabilities and bring together people, ideas and resources to break down barriers to sustain a healthy community.
This organization was responsible for providing Cam with his first power wheelchair to practice with.  The wheelchair was free of charge and we still use it as a spare when needed.
This week we "gifted" our old handicap-accessible van to Alternatives in Motion.  They are so excited to have another vehicle to use for transporting people and delivering equipment to others in our community.  Cam met one of the board members, Matt, while we were there.   The old Dodge Caravan fulfilled our transportation needs for more than 6 years.  It was our first accessible vehicle.  When we asked Cam if he would miss it, his response was one we were all in agreement with.  "I will not miss that old van.  I like our newer one better because I can hear you when you are talking in it!"

Camology Quotes:
Even though school is on summer break, Cam can still send video messages to his teachers through an app they use.  Each and every video contains almost the exact same sign-off from our son. 
"I hope you have a great day!  Peace out!"

Sunday, June 21, 2020

My Hero, My Dad - Week of June 15th

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” ~Umberto Eco

“Every father should remember one day his son will follow his example, not his advice.” ~Charles Kettering

With virtual school officially over, Cam still maintains his daily routine of walking and homework in the morning.
Ms. Amanda hangs out with Cam each day and if the weather cooperates, they usually head out on a two-mile trek every morning.
As a nature and science fan, a hike through the woods can always provide a bit of excitement.  This friendly creature took a liking to Cam.

People are recognized for their accomplishments in different ways- an accolade, award, formal speech or some other verbose distinction.
There isn't a high enough honor in the universe that could be bestowed on Chris for his role as a father to his son.  His amazing skill set continues to expand as noted by every accessible ramp, tray, mobile beach chair and Halloween costume he has created for his boy.
The father and son team have filled our home with an illuminated digital picture frame in motion, the lighted wall scrabble board and countless projects.
But here's the difference between Cam's dad and others... he expects no recognition and is very humble about his talents.  Many have told him he could sell his ideas but he prefers to share the details online for others to make.  He loves unconditionally and celebrates his boy in every way.
For Father's Day, Jane and Cam headed to Chris' favorite breakfast spot, Sundance Grill, to pick up takeout to surprise him.  His biggest shock, though, was that Cam waited to eat his morning meal until we returned home at 8:30a, a true record for our son.
Chris and Cam opened matching shirts adorned with "Weatherford Wood Shop, Hand-Crafted, Custom-Made" so they now have garage uniforms while they work together.
We salute fathers everywhere and we certainly feel that Chris far exceeds his role.  The definition of a hero is a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.  To Cam, the word "hero" simply means his dad.

Camology Quotes:
On Sunday, Cam was anticipating being able to wish Chris a Happy Father's Day. 
""Happy Dad Day! You are awesome, Dad. Are you honored?"

Sunday, June 14, 2020

My New Wheels - Week of June 8th

“Abled does not mean enabled. Disabled does not mean less abled.” ~Khang Kijarro Nguyen
"My disability exists not because I use a wheelchair, but because the broader environment isn't accessible." ~Stella Young 
Cam is very inquisitive and realistic.  He has been asking his parents lately why he has to use a wheelchair.  We tell him that his muscles don't work the same way as others and we talk about what his cerebral palsy diagnosis means.  His response is not one of sorrow or depression.  He accepts the fact that he is different, but we always also talk about the things he can do that no one else can.  He teaches others not to make assumptions about what abilities a person has.

When we arrived at Mary Free Bed Orthotics to pick up Cam's new power wheelchair this week, we were anticipating his reaction.  It was quite a bit of  time adjusting and working things out, but after two hours, we were on our way back home.  Cam declared, "I love my new chair!" 

This is his second power wheelchair and although both are by the same manufacturer, the functionality is quite different.  The new Permobil F5 has advanced controls, including an app controlled by bluetooth connection.  Cam was quite pleased with this upgrade as you can imagine.  He controls the sit to stand ability on his own and when in standing mode, he is eye level with Jane.
There is an adjustment period as Cam re-learns how much area he needs for turning and maneuvering.  We equate it to someone driving a car and then buying a truck as their new vehicle.  Everything is just a little bit different.
It was a celebration kind of week as Chris and Cam gave Jane the ultimate surprise for her birthday.  It can only be described as a larger-than-life illuminated Scrabble board representing our family.  The boys really outdid themselves by using the CNC machine to cut out each "letter" individually, sanding and painting the pieces, then they glued the entire board together, added lights and painted the outline on the wall in white so the lighting would really pop.  Of course, the lighting can be changed via an app that anyone in the household can control!
As a family, we headed out to the hot tub on the weekend at Cam's request.  Although it was warm outside, it was later in the day with a cool breeze and the water felt refreshing.  Cam likes to practice kicking his legs to increase movement.  Just like all of us, he absolutely enjoys the relaxation aspect.

At the end of the weekend, we were all pretty beat from all of the activity and excitement.  Not only did Cam receive new wheels, but our family was awaiting the arrival of our new 'used' van used to transport Cam and his powerchair.
As we looked out the window Sunday evening, we noticed some friendly wildlife was taking a much needed break as well.

Camology Quotes:
Humor, smiles and laughter are a daily requirement in our household.
Cam has become keenly aware of his dad's jokes and sarcasm.  At dinner one evening, Chris indicated that dinner was 'explanariousfantabulouishness babelbomtagerment' and his son had the perfect response.
"Ohhh..kaaayyy...  
For 1, I do not even know what that word is and 
For 2, I do not think it is a word!"

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Sixth Grade Graduate - Week of June 1st

"It is time to say goodbye, but I think goodbyes are sad and I will rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure."  ~Ernie Harwell

This week, as Cam's 6th grade school year came to an end, we talked about how the entire world had experienced more changes and adjustments in the past few months than most people experience in a lifetime.  The Forest Hills Northern Trails 5/6 school created a send off video for those heading into 7th grade this fall.
Class of 2026 - 6th Grade Sendoff Video
There is typically an all-school assembly to honor and recognize the sixth graders.  This year it was broadcast as a live Facebook event.
Instead of just one sixth grade boy and girl, by unanimous vote, the entire 6th grade "Class of 2026" has received the Mr. Craig Mears Award for demonstrating acceptance for one another, accepting personal responsibility for learning and putting forward their best efforts.  In the live event, the principal showed that there was a picture of every student taped to a chair so it felt like they were all there together.  One final official zoom call with Cam's small school group included a fun game of holding up the "person" in answer to different questions about the school year.  The pics of classmates on popsicle sticks were supplied by Cam's awesome teacher, Ms. Konkle.
With restrictions beginning to lift in the state of Michigan, we happily welcomed back Ms. Amanda to our daily routine! We are so thankful for her commitment and friendship.
Cam is super excited to be able to go on walks during the day, continue his homework and try out some new recipes while his parents endure their "boring" work days.

Over the weekend, it was work and then play.  Our family can get pretty creative when it comes to finding ways for Cam to help out.  Each and every Saturday after he has breakfast and completed his morning routine, Cam announces "It is time for helping! What is our first project?"
Cleaning the floors is an excellent job for someone with a good driving record.  We were excited to finish our chores because we had been invited to 'Aunt' Carol and 'Uncle' Jim's house.
Carol and Jim are Ms. Amanda's aunt and uncle and we've known them since before Cam was born.  Jim owns a building company and they have the only truly accessible home we have ever been in.  The doorways are incredibly wide without any thresholds.  Straight through the garage is the backyard area with the nicest fresh saltwater pool we have ever been in.  The abundance of different rafts to choose from and water squirt guns made for a very entertaining afternoon.  Uncle Jim even created a raft shield for Cam as the water wars ensued.  We thought we would only stay for a couple of hours.  Four hours later, we were headed home after a most relaxing time.  The water is one of the best therapies for Cam's muscles and because he is seemingly weightless in the pool, it is a huge advantage for his parents!

Camology Quotes:
Now that Cam is approaching his teen years, he has become very interested in what constitutes a "bad word" if he hears it on tv or from someone else.  He always asks what a word means so he can use it again in context.  We try to be cautious about what is appropriate as it relates to language.
Some phrases, though, we truly have no idea where he has heard them before.

"Mom, is 'dang tootin' a bad word?"
"Well, it is isn't the best phase to use unless you're in a western movie."

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Standing Tall - Week of May 25th

"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." ~Winston Churchill

Adults tend to over-complicate things.  Kids look at the simplistic aspect.  When looking for a new show on Amazon one evening,  Cam said "Mom, search on wheelchair."  And yes, a variety of shows, specials and a movie appeared.  Sometimes you just need to get back to basics.

On Thursday, we headed to Mary Free Bed so Cam could test out his new wheels and be fitted for custom seating and controls.  We've been through this once before so we knew the drill, but it was more exciting this time around since for the first time ever, Cameron would be able to use a sit to stand powerchair!  The appointment is roughly 3 hours long and measurements and button testing are performed.  Cam is very patient with the entire process.  From the time we had our first consultation, it was a little over 6 months for this day to get here.  In less than 2 weeks, we will head back for final pick up.

Saturday brought us to Brody Be's Cafe to hang out and hear a live band!  We thought it may be too loud for Cam, but he thoroughly enjoyed the music and declared it was just right as far as volume.  We were able to see Brody and his family as well as one of Cam and Brody's bus drivers, Mr. Jim.  Jim really missed the boys and their fun trips to school.  We're hoping he's able to have their bus route in the fall.

On Sunday, we were on the road headed to Oma and Opa's for beach clean-up duty.  So much wood had drifted in and dried grass, it made it difficult to walk to the shoreline.  Before working, though, we feasted on a delicious brunch, made by Cam's grandparents- homemade sausage breakfast casserole, Oma's famous coffeecake, and fresh fruit.

It was a picture perfect day, cooler by the lake, but the sunshine warmed us all.  To be rid of the brittle vegetation, Chris used a firepit to quickly burn the excess pieces.
We were actually surprised by the amount of beach since there has been so much erosion along the Lake Michigan shoreline.  It is very unpredictable and in a single week it is not uncommon to lose six feet of beach.
The fresh water isn't nearly warm enough to swim in yet, but it sure does look inviting. 
Cam is always interested in learning new facts and one we looked up this week was the depth of Lake Michigan and where the name came from.  The deepest part is measured at 922 feet!
The word "Michigan" is believed to come from the Ojibwe word michi-gami meaning "great water."  We certainly look forward to balmy temps, sand in our toes, and some great warm water to play in!

Camology Quotes:
Cam is using video with Zoom and FaceTime calls on a daily basis.  He especially likes to test out calling his parents, even when they are in the same room.  On FaceTime, Cam likes to experiment with different effects, adding symbols and changing filters to change the look of someone.  He took this picture of his mom in black and white while they were connected.
"Mom, this is what you are going to look like when you are old."
"What do you mean, Cam?"
"You are black and white, like an old person."

Sunday, May 24, 2020

No Hugging is Hard - Week of May 18th

"A hug is like a boomerang- you get it back right away." ~Bil Keane
"They invented hugs to let people know you love them without saying anything." ~Bil Keane

Family Circus is a favorite cartoon of many and Bil Keane, it's creator, certainly understood the power of a hug.
During this time of social distancing and being six feet away from others, one of the things we miss most is hugging our friends and extended family members.
We welcomed Oma and Opa on Tuesday, complete with face masks and it was so good to see them after such a long time!
Wednesday afternoon, we surprised Cam's best buddy Brody with lunch from Culver's. We dined in Brody's front yard near the ultimate birthday sign.  After eating, we moved closer towards the roadway as suddenly Brody realized that a car parade to celebrate his day was beginning.  When Cam saw his teachers driving by, his loud screams of pure joy could most certainly be heard throughout the neighborhood.  Seeing friends and teachers in real life is far better than video chats.

An excessive amount of rain fell in our area and some flooding occurred in nearby Ada.  Cam and his mom went to investigate and couldn't believe the entire baseball field was under water along with a sidewalk next to the river.

A good friend and teacher helper at Cam's school requested a short visit with one of her favorites.  We didn't tell Cam and wow, was he shocked!

The weekend found us in project land once again.  With our super long driveway, Cam was a lifesaver transporting a full bucket of water for his mom to give the flowers by the mailbox a drink.

The outdoor LED project between father and son was marked complete!  Cam worked with Chris to program the different options through the app.  Click on this link to see a 1-minute video of the display.
Weatherford Outdoor Lights

Some unusually warm weather found its way into Michigan and one of the activities on our list was to test the underground sprinkling.  Cam's job was to let Chris know if the sprinkler was working and a side effect was attempting to quickly get out of the way of the water stream.  It turns out, though, the cooling spray was quite refreshing.

We did enjoy some down time in the evenings, hanging out and watching a movie.  Even Stella joined us and although the show may not have entertained her, the pets and attention she receives are welcome and appreciated as noted by her extra loud purring.

Camology Quotes:
Cam is on the horizon of receiving his new power wheelchair.  Thankfully, he has reminded Jane to check on delivery dates and appointments.  Along with the new chair, we explained to Cam that a 'newer' van may be required.  As we were searching online for different options, Cam asked what would happen to our old van and had his own idea about its fate.
"Mom, remember the boy who had to be picked up by Mary Free Bed Security for the Halloween Parade?"
"Yes, Cam.  His name is Mowqar and he was in our Halloween Heroes Parade 2 years ago."
"Could we give the van to his family?  He did not have one because Security had to pick him up and drop him off.  I think they could really use it."  

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Plenty of Projects - Week of May 11th


"Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning." ~Winston Churchill
"Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work." ~Peter Drucker

Two weekly Zoom meetings with classmates and teachers have become one of the highlights of Cam's week.  He always logs in at least 15 minutes early and cannot understand why everyone isn't as anxious to start as he is.  Although video conferences can't replace in-person interactions, it at least keeps the kids and teachers connected.

Every Saturday, Cam rallies his parents into action to begin projects for the weekend.  Chris and his son are diligently continuing their outdoor light project.  The led lights are being installed around the front of the house at the roof-line.  The wires that provide power to the lights are hidden by handmade channel housing units that have been painted the same color as our home.  It looks very professional, but is quite the tedious project.

Saturday afternoon we headed over to Brody's Be Cafe to take down the outdoor plastic igloos.  There was a small team of volunteers wearing masks and social distancing.  It was a group effort to first remove the sand bags, then the plastic dome, then the plastic connectors.  Everything had to be sorted according to size and since there were two igloos, it was double the effort.
With everyone pitching in, including Cam, we finished up in a couple of hours.  The Cafe will open again in a few weeks, so everything is in preparation for the return to business.
Cam has also become an expert helper for house cleaning on the weekends and does a very nice job of splitting his time between his mom and dad.  Typically, we will hear him heading inside or outside, parent dependent, indicating "I have spent enough time with mom/dad, now I need to help you!"
We are thankful for his desire to get things done and see them through.  Without his insistence, we are quite certain our project list would continue to grow or remain stagnant versus items being crossed off and mini celebrations being held for the accomplishments.

A family member who isn't holding her own as it relates to pitching in is our cat, Stella.  She is quite content to watch all activity from a blanket on the couch, sporadically meowing her approval.

Camology Quotes:
It seems that even everyday conversations can lend themselves to some type of teaching.  Cam and his dad had this exchange.
"I am going to have fun tomorrow.  Like a million times fun or even thousand!"
"Well a million is a lot more than a thousand... it goes 1, 10, 100, 1000, 10,000, 100,000, 1 million, 1 billion, 1 trillion.  I'm not sure what comes after 1 trillion."
~without missing a beat~ "Two trillion, three trillion, four trillion Dad!"