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!"

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Upgrade, Please - Week of Sept. 20th

"It's not a faith in technology.  It is a faith in people." ~Steve Jobs  

"The advance of technology is based on making it fit in so that you don't even really notice it, so it's a part of everyday life." ~Bill Gates

Both of Cam's parents have careers that deal with technology.  It is fitting that Cameron seems to gravitate toward it as well.  He is always asking poignant questions relating to how things work or why something was designed a certain way.  This week, the latest iOS (Apple) software upgrade became available for Cam's iPad and his parents' smartphones.   And of course, Cam was first to update his device.  He then proceeded to fearlessly test out all of the new features.  Beginning the very next day, Cam made it his mission to remind his parents (every 5 minutes or less) that they needed to complete their updates immediately.  Suffice it to say, Chris and Jane successfully upgraded their devices and learned about the 'latest and greatest' from their son.

We had a surprise visit from cousin David who flew in from Texas on Thursday.  He landed in Grand Rapids close to dinnertime and we invited him to a home-cooked meal at our place, just ten minutes from the airport.  Cam proceeded to request a play-by-play of David's entire trip and peppered him with questions throughout.  Our cousin loved seeing all of the drone videos and pictures Chris had taken of the Lake Michigan shoreline.  We sent David on his way north to his cottage with some scrumptious homemade strawberry jam.

Friday was an outdoor morning at school for Cam.  It was a half day so the kids enjoyed activities on the soccer field and track.  It turns out that the picture of Cam as the "goalie" made it to the Forest Hills Northern Middle School Instagram page.  He was pretty thrilled by the whole thing and couldn't wait to tell Oma and Opa, who just happened to be at his home on Friday afternoon.  They drove into GR to spend time with our family and to attend Cam's awesome baseball game on Saturday morning.

We have been so fortunate with our fall weather this year and Saturday was no exception!  The morning was cooler but filled with bright sunshine as we made our way to Rockford for the 10:00 am game time.  The Hope College Women's Basketball Team was on board as volunteers for the three-game event.  The Fifth Third Bank videoboard is an awesome addition to the West Michigan Miracle League field.  As parents, we were asked to send in a picture that could be displayed.  Cam chose the pic of him in the shades and the crowd seemed to approve of it as well.  Each picture is shown as the player arrives at the batter position.

It was a big 'Cam Fan' day at the ballfield- Mary Jo (one of Cam's sitters) and her mom, Ms. Cris (Cam's former parapro), Oma & Opa, Coleen (A.I.M. Exec Director), Mrs. Festian (Cam's current parapro) and of course, best buddy Brody who plays on the same team as Cam.

We are reminded, constantly, of the people who remain a part of Cam's life even though they don't see him on a daily or even a monthly basis. It is a testament to the mark he leaves on others and the ability he has to draw people in over and over again, no matter how long it has been since they have actually seen each other.


Sunrise from the Weatherford house

Camology Quotes:

At bedtime, Cam is quite insistent on experiencing darkness in his bedroom.  It seems at times he may even be a bit dramatic with his need for the room to be dark.  As noted by a recent comment at his early time to bed in relation to his curtain and setting sun.

"The light from the curtain is boring into my eyes!"

Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Best Part of Me - Week of Sept. 13th

"Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid."  ~Bernard Meltzer

There was a time when we didn't know if Cam would ever be able to fully express himself with a large vocabulary.  When he entered kindergarten he was comprehending everything, but unable to find his voice with multiple words and sentences.  It seemed to Chris and Jane that Cam went from saying 3 words at a time to full and complete sentences.  Perhaps that is the reason, when fulfilling a school assignment this week, that Cam pegged the best part of him as his mouth.  His class studied and reviewed a book entitled "The Best Part of Me" and in a discussion group they had to write out/type and share thoughts.  Cam's output of his best part, his mouth, produced the following: "I can say nice things. I like to smile. I like to laugh. I can talk to my friends. I love talking to my peer helpers."

Ever since Cam was little, his parents have always thought he has an infectious smile.  Of course, they are a bit biased.  On Friday, Cam experienced his first field trip in almost 2 years.  His small class went to Frederick Meijer Gardens where they toured the indoor and outdoor exhibits and ate a sack lunch.  Upon leaving the gardens, they stopped for a delicious treat at The Pumphouse Frozen Yogurt Bar.  Cam declared it "best field trip ever!" upon his return home from school.

Saturday's schedule included a 12:20p game at the West Michigan Miracle League.  The sun was shining and the breeze was light which enabled Chris to fly the drone high above the ball field.

Ms. Amanda drove to our house to ride with us to the game.  Our good friend, Coleen, the Executive Director for Alternatives in Motion met us at the bleachers for her first-ever WMML experience.  The red batter box set up two successful hits for Cam.  Since our game was the last of the day, we stayed and chatted with Brody and his mom, Jenny, for a few minutes.  The remainder of our Saturday was filled with home-based projects.

Our family was northward bound on Sunday to visit Cam's grandparents and cousins.  We couldn't believe our good fortune for another beautiful day.  Once again, the winds were light and the drone flew high to capture some amazing Lake Michigan shots.  Surprisingly, the water was relatively warm and the first sandbar was right up to the shoreline.  Cam was so surprised how clear the water was too.

After a delicious flank steak dinner with cousins and friends at the Haroldson cottage, as well as Oma and Opa, we made our way back to Grand Rapids.  It turns out another member of the family is a bit obsessed with H2O.  Although our cat Stella doesn't swim in Lake Michigan, she is certainly intrigued with water.

Camology Quotes:

Coco and Max's daughter, Calla, is awaiting her passport in the mail.  Cam and Oma were chatting about this and Oma told her grandson that Calla was waiting for her visa.  Cam didn't quite hear his grandma correctly...  "What?!  Cousin Calla cannot have pizza!  She is too little!"

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Back to the Ballpark - Week of Sept. 6th

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." ~Helen Keller

In each person's lifetime, there are certain events that take place when everyone remembers exactly what they were doing on that day.  For Cam, it will most likely be the Covid-19 virus and the schools abruptly closing on March 13, 2020 for the remainder of the year.  For Cam's parents, it is September 11, 2001.  

At school this week, our eighth grader discussed Patriot Day with his class.  They talked about how President George W. Bush proclaimed Patriot Day to be held each year on September 11 as a day to remember the people lost during the tragedy and the patriots who fought to rescue and defend our freedom.  The class discussed the 9/11 memorial that was constructed by Michael Arad.  It includes three symbols: a waterfall representing tears while it masks the noise of a busy city, a void which represents the enormous loss and the reflective pool symbolizing remembrance.  All 2,977 names of those deceased are etched around the waterfall.

Saturday, September 11 marked the opening day for the fall season of the West Michigan Miracle League.  Cam has played for WMML for more than 7 years.  This season is a double bonus since our son knows his Coach, Mr. Mark.  Mark's son, Carson, is a longtime Miracle League player and he and Cam have known each other since preschool.  The assistant coach is Zach, Carson's younger brother.  As always, our request to have Brody and Cam as teammates was honored!  The buddies are the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and this weekend marked the first of five games.

For the September 11 game, the flags flew at half staff and a moment of silence was recognized for the 9/11 tragedy.  Chris brought the drone and captured some great shots on a calm day with very little breeze.

In the "Cam Fan" section was Cameron's 3rd and 4th grade teacher, Ms Kathy and her husband Kevin.  Kathy hasn't missed seeing at least one game every season since she taught Cam.  

Also present was Cam's current teacher, Mrs. Wells, along with his current para-pro Mrs. Festian.  Jane has known Mrs. Festian since Cam was in grade school and it's such fun to have people cheering him on. When our ball player hears the cheers, his smile grows even bigger.

The president, Tony Comden announces every game and introduces each player via microphone.  Each player bats twice and is in the outfield two times.  Tony has bestowed our son with the nickname "Cam the Man!" and intros him with that phrase each and every time.  The batter box is an apparatus Cam has used for a few years now and it allows him to independently swing the bat with the assistance of the homemade box donated to the WMML.

The volunteers were back again this season for the first time since the pandemic began.  The women's Hope College softball team were in full force assisting the players at the 3 separate games that day.

Perhaps the best bonus of Saturday was having Cam's best buddy, Brody, with us for the entire day.  The boys watched a movie together ("Ratatouille"), played games and requested lunch from their favorite eatery, Culver's!  These two are always looking out for each other.  Having been friends since kindergarten, they are definitely aware of one another's habits, likes and dislikes.  In the movie they saw, this is a favorite quote, "If you are what you eat, then I only want to eat the good stuff!"

Camology Quotes:

Cam is a rule-follower through and through.  When Brody wanted to play music on our Amazon Alexa, Cam made certain it was the "clean" version.  Before lunchtime, Brody said he would like "2 cheeseburgers please" and his buddy Cam knew he was only supposed to have 1.  After Brody's announcement and out of care and concern, he said to his best friend: "Um, Brody, we are going to have to text your parents about that request!"

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Community Outreach - Week of Aug. 30th

"Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth." ~Muhammad Ali

"Volunteers don't get paid, not because they're worthless, but because they're priceless." ~Sherry Anderson

When Cameron was born, his parents weren't active volunteers in the community.  Because of Cam, Chris and Jane are now board members and helpers for different events and organizations.  One of the many we support as a family is Lori's Voice.  In their quarterly newsletter, Chris, their newest member of the Board of Directors, is featured on the front page with Cam.  The following is the article (along with pictures) that was posted:
 Life's a Beach: A Michigan beach is a gift enjoyed by many. The above photo says it all, our very own Board member Chris is having a blast with his son in their version of a beach wheelchair. As you may know Lori’s Voice has provided beach wheelchairs at many Lake Michigan parks and continues to add more as people and park management requests. Unfortunately they are not always available, so Chris and Cam, through trial and error, developed their very own – dubbed the “Cam-mobile”. Since not everyone is as creative as these two we continue to provide them for many to enjoy. In addition to the sand and surf some of our kids want to explore the forest or modest hiking trails. Well, we have begun to fill that need as well. Enter the all-terrain power chair. Pictured here, these chairs run on tracks rather than wheels so they are capable of handling a wide variety of surfaces, opening up a whole new world of adventure. Beach wheelchairs and all-terrain chairs give freedom and independence to our kids – a freedom made possible by our Lori’s Voice donors and dedicated volunteers.

It is always difficult to "say goodbye" to summer.  Labor Day weekend hints at the unofficial farewell.  Lake Michigan also seemed to sense the wind down with cooler water and bigger waves.  
It didn't deter us from having a nice time on the beach hanging out and watching the seagulls.  
The water flow appeared to be directly from the west, which is unusual.  
The waves arose to meet each other as the whitecaps greeted the inbound and outbound swells.
We are reminded how invaluable the Cam-mobile is for our son to experience Lake Michigan and the beach.  Now, as a fourteen year old, he is content with sitting and conversing versus the need to be constantly entertained.   A friendly seagull kept us all captivated as it edged closer and backed away over and over again.

On the cottage deck, the winds were strong and cool, but at the water's edge, the sunshine warmed the sand and all of us.  We dined on grilled kabobs, veggies and homemade applesauce as we watched the sun fade slowly towards the horizon.  We are always thankful for the time with family and that Oma and Opa can be on the beach with us too.

Back in Grand Rapids, Cam had a bike ride around the driveway to test out the repairs he and his dad had completed.  The adaptive bike is headed to Cam's school next week where he can ride it outside as well as inside the school gym during the colder months.

Ghandi said "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."  
If you're a fan of Cam, then you're definitely a fan of helping and giving back.  We hope this coming week leads you down both paths.

Camology Quotes:

On Friday, we decided our dinner would be chicken parmesan and pasta. Cam requested his chicken parm and pasta to be placed in a tortilla.  Jane told him she really didn't think this would be a great combination.  Her son replied: "It is good in my book!"