Sunday, September 15, 2019

We're in Michigan, not Kansas - Week of Sept. 9th

"Every child deserves a chance to play baseball." ~ West Michigan Miracle League

Wednesday evening, Sept. 11, Chris and Cam were playing the Xbox while Jane was tending to household chores. Cam asked what a noise was to which his parents replied "probably something at the neighbors." Suddenly, Chris looked at his phone, turned off the Xbox, switched to the local channel and we all saw a tornado warning on the tv! That was a first for us. Looking at the radar, we saw it had already passed by us and we told Cam the 'noise' he heard were the tornado sirens, which incidentally we've heard possibly twice in the last 10 years for testing. Cam thought the entire experience was exciting and said to us, "I thought I had done something wrong because Dad turned off the Xbox! He just wanted to look at the tornado stuff!" Cam and his mom surveyed the damage the next day and it was quite extensive just a few miles away. The National Weather Service did determine, however, that it was straight line winds and not an actual tornado.
Friday evening, we readied our supplies for Saturday morning. We were holding our very first “Community Day Build for Halloween Heroes” to create wheelchair costumes. Our friends at Grand Valley State University donated a large space for us to use on Saturday and we all met up at 9:30a at the GVSU Innovation Center. We had 5 kids signed up and we couldn’t wait to get started. Cam is our designated consultant, providing input and feedback as well as acting as greeter for our families.
One of our participants was none other than Cam’s good buddy, Liam. It turns out that Liam is a huge fan of Star Trek and determined his costume this year would be the U.S.S. Voyager. We found pictures on the internet and he chose the ones he felt most closely resembled the spaceship. The best part of Community Day is that the families are able to transport the costumes home and finish any painting, embellishing, etc. that couldn’t be finished during our time together.

After Cam and Liam ate a quick lunch, it was a bit past time for Jane to transport her son to the WMML field.
She was definitely wishing teleportation was a real thing. Oma and Opa were already there. Jane quickly called Oma and asked if she would find Coach Nicole to let her know we were running a little late and Cam would need to be last in the batting lineup. Oma and Opa led our cheering section when we arrived.

The volunteers were the Kalamazoo College Hornets, Men’s Baseball team. They were absolutely stellar! The guys did a great job involving Cam in every single play. And then, we realized Cam would be the very last batter of the game and the bases were empty.  After using the batter box, he began his journey around the field.  When he passed 3rd, the Hornets and everyone in the stands started cheering him on as he made his way to home plate.  The video shows Cam's pure joy and excitement.  He exclaimed immediately afterwards..."That-was-AWESOME!"

Camology Quotes:
Cam sometimes has the unique ability to accidentally 'predict' an outcome and the not-so-unique ability to chat about a topic seemingly all day long.  Thursday evening's intense storm led to 2 predictions and multiple discussions...
Regarding the tornado warning:
"I don't think we will have school tomorrow!"
"You know what?  I think when I see Mr. Patrick at PT (physical therapy) he will say 'a lot of my patients canceled today because of the weather' and I think that will happen."  (confirmed upon questioning receptionist at walk-in to said appointment on Thursday evening)
Regarding the multiple discussions:
"Did they open the police station and fire station to people who needed shelter after the storm?"
"What did the tornado sound like?"  (note- we were all in the same room when tornado warning occurred)
"Mom look at the news- oh my goodness!  That is the power line we saw!  Will it still be down tomorrow?  Where will my school bus go?  Did they give my bus a new route?" 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Picture Perfect Baseball - Week of Sept. 2nd

“Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.” ~Don McCullin
“You don’t take a photograph. You ask quietly to borrow it.” ~Unknown

Attending school makes Cam so happy.   Each day begins with a smile waiting for the bus and each weekday afternoon, a smiling boy departs the bus with his most common greeting, "I had a great day!  How was your day?"  Even if Cam's parents have had a trying day, it helps puts things in perspective. 

This week in school, our sixth grader and his friends had to create their very own 'superhero.'  Their sign reads- "Fear Not Northern Trails!  Our school is under the watchful eyes of Tape Man, Super Teacher, Instrument Man, Super Football Man and Super Pokemon Tamer!"  Cam chose to be Super Teacher because he loves to remind his teachers about things and pretend to be the teacher himself.  Each week, a video journal of his favorite activities is captured and sent to his parents.
Saturday marked the first weekend for Fall Baseball with WMML

Before the game even started, we were all pleasantly surprised to see one of Cam's former elementary school teacher's, Ms. Kathy!  It had been a few months since these two were side by side and smiling.  Ms. Kathy knows other former students that also play for the Miracle League so it's always fun to see the reactions.

The volunteer helpers were the Hope College Softball Team.  Cam was lucky enough to have two people assisting.  The batter box sported a fresh coat of paint and instructions thanks to Chris and son.
Cam is on the Aquinas Saints team this season and was super excited to be back on the field.  His teammates include friends, Brody and Carson.  His coaches are Carson's dad, Mr. Mark and a local TV news personality, Ms. Nicole.

It turned out to be great weather for our first game and we certainly hope we continue this mild stretch of fall.

On Sunday, Oma and Opa drove into GR from up north.  We all settled into the van for a quick trip to Kalamazoo for our annual mini photo session with the Gaupers.
Ryan and Holly are a talented couple who have taken our family photos for 5 years now.  For 35 minutes, they move us around to different areas, make us laugh and create unique images.  In a few weeks, they send us a link for all the digital prints.  Upon returning home, though, it was quite apparent Cam had reached his limit for a permanent grin :-)

Camology Quotes:
Cam always asks about directions and has a very good innate sense of direction...
"Which way will Ms. Holly and Mr. Ryan take to get here?" (names off different local highways)
"They should probably use Waze."

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Singing into 6th Grade - Week of Aug. 26th

"The only thing better than more singing." ~Ella Fitzgerald

It's hard to believe our son began 6th grade this week.  He chose choir over an instrument and thoroughly enjoys his take on singing.
Another bonus is the addition of one his friends since preschool, Liam, being added to his bus route on the way home.  These two longtime buddies get to ride next to each other and chat on their daily return trip.  Apparently, Cam has also been requesting a play date time from Liam's mom, Betsy, every day at drop off.
Another unexpected surprise was seeing Auntie Jo and receiving a couple of birthday presents.  We all marveled at the emoticon Chia pet.  Chris, Jane and Jo all explained to Cam that none of them had ever had a cool chia creation when they were younger, even though they had all seemed to want one at some point.  Auntie Jo and her godson went to work, following the directions to plant the seeds and wait for growth.  Following the emoticon theme, Cam opened a new beach towel from his godmother before the night was over.
Thursday evening, our son stayed up 'late' since Friday was a vacation day from school due to the Labor Day holiday weekend.
We saw a pretty incredible display of lightning luckily without the loud thunder. Cam's parents, however, did not have Friday off of work.  As Jane and her son settled into their 'temporary' offices in the dining room, Cam announced at 9am: "Mom, I would rather be in school."  There was no disagreement on that comment.  Luckily, there was a break in the afternoon and mother and son played a few games.

On Saturday, the forecast looked good for a cottage day.  Our first stop was the annual outing to Dog-n-Suds in Montague where we ate outside at a picnic table on White Lake.  Chris and Cam strolled along the river which is the highest level we've ever seen.  Cam thinks it is so cool that you place your order via the microphone and they walk the food and drinks out to you.  And if you want to just stay in your car, the food trays rest on the windowsills.  As our son likes to say it's how they did things "back in the olden days."

After arriving at Oma and Opa's and settling in, we headed down to the beach later in the afternoon.  The flies were a bit bothersome, so after visiting with Aunt Joyce and chatting about the salsa we would make with the garden tomatoes she brought us, we headed out in the kayak.  Cam and his mom took the first ride on the unusually calm Lake Michigan water.  Surprisingly, the water wasn't too cold either.  While Chris paddled around with Jane, Oma and Cam had some time on the beach, right at the shoreline to stay away from the pesky flies.

By the time we headed up from the beach, it was after 5pm and dinner prep was in full force.  Opa prepared a most delicious flank steak for us, accompanied by fresh sweet corn.  Cousin Steff and her son James surprised us during the tasty meal.
Labor Day weekend is typically considered the last beach days of summer and the big lake didn't disappoint.
Watching the sunlight sparkle on the clear water, seeing the boats pass by, and the clouds moving across the sky melding into different shapes provides some of the most relaxing entertainment around.
It's easy to understand what pulls us to the shore most every weekend and why the summer days are so precious and memorable.

Camology Quotes:
Those who know Cam realize pretty quickly he is a routine kid.  He likes a schedule, appreciates upfront knowledge, and is known to his parents as a "human calendar" reminding them to do things they haven't even written down, but only mentioned in passing.

"So, do you want to have watermelon instead of strawberries for lunch?"
"I'll just stick with my classic!"

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Coolest Cabin Camping - Week of Aug. 19th

Sedona Cabin w/ramp!
"Glamping: a form of camping involving accommodation and facilities more luxurious than those associated with traditional camping."

Mom & Cam
It's hard to believe this year marked our 4th venture to our favorite nearby campground, Hungry Horse.  The sturdy stainless steel ramp created last year for Cam looked just as shiny and new as it did twelve months ago.  We are still as impressed as we first were with this family-run facility just 30 minutes from home.  The experience of camping at Hungry Horse incorporates cooking on the open fire or charcoal grill every evening and watching different RV's enter and exit on a daily basis.
Oma & Cam
Hayride Crew: Oma-Jane-Cam-Chris
While Cam and his parents settled into the Sedona cabin, Auntie Karen had already been in the Scottsdale one for a few days.  Tuesday evening, we dined on the covered cabin deck with Auntie Karen, her sister Sue, and their friend Marianne.  The grilled chicken fajitas tasted delicious as we watched a light rain shower.  Wednesday afternoon, we welcomed Oma to the campground for the next two nights, where she stayed in Karen's cabin.
Auntie Karen & Cam
Every Wednesday evening, the Hungry Horse owners host a 30-minute hayride taking its passengers around the back area of the grounds, stopping at the family farm to feed the goats, cows and pet the bunnies.
By far, our favorite daily activity is swimming in the solar-heated swimming pool.  It's perfect for Cam since half of the pool is 3.5 feet and the other half goes to 6 feet.  Our twelve-year-old is tall enough to walk in the pool and is comfortable swimming on his back too.
Mom & Cam & Oma
Warm sunshine and perfect weather welcomed us for three days in a row as we made our early afternoon trip over to the pool.  We met lots of kids and some great parents and relatives too.  Everyone is so friendly.

In addition to appreciating his independence, Cam loves using walkie talkies.  Each morning, he couldn't wait to 'call' Auntie Karen and Oma to see if they were awake.  There were many strolls with these two wonderful women, counting the different campsites with RV's or tents and looking at all of the different activities.
On Friday, we all came up with the idea of having Cam deliver breakfast to the Scottsdale cabin. 
Our morning routine of cooking eggs, toast and bacon on our griddle was set into motion and Cam made his way with foil covered paper plates to bring a hot morning meal to Oma and Auntie Karen!
When he arrived back at the Sedona cabin, there were two $1 bills neatly tucked on his tray.  Had Chris and Jane known he would make some money, they realized he could've been doing this all week!
Ms. Ann, Cam, Auntie Karen
The biggest bonus of the week for Cam was getting back on his bike.  The campground is truly the perfect area for safe bike riding.
On our final evening at Hungry Horse, we invited Miss Ann to join us for an authentic camping meal- pizza pies made in a cast iron pie iron.  Two slices of bread filled with pizza sauce, cheese, and your choice of toppings make this a family favorite, followed by the tastiest treat of s'mores.

As we bid farewell to Dorr, Michigan, we secured our reservation for next year with an additional night added on, per Cam's personal request.

𝅘𝅥𝅯♬♩Happy trails to you, Until we meet again. Happy trails to you, Keep smiling until then. Who cares about the clouds when we're together? Just sing a song, and bring the sunny weather. Happy trails to you, Until we meet again.𝅘𝅥𝅯♬♩ 

Camology Quotes:
Stella- happy to have her fam
back home!
Independence at Hungry Horse is key for our son.  The distance between the Sedona cabin we stay in and the Scottsdale cabin where Auntie Karen bunks is roughly 300 feet.
Partway through the week, Karen was telling us how Cam would start calling her name as he was headed to her cabin 'about halfway down the road' making his way there.
The friendly folks in the RV's surrounding the cabins were so nice to talk to.  On one occasion, Karen was providing introductions.
"Hi- this is Cam and I'm Auntie Karen."
"Oh yes, we know you're Auntie Karen- we hear your name every morning!"

Sunday, August 18, 2019

And Then There was Twelve - Week of Aug. 12th

"We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." ~ Walt Disney

12 months in a year, 12 hours on a clock and this week, Mr. Cameron was turning 12!
Before his actual birthday on Saturday, though, he had a full social calendar.
Oma arrived on Monday to stay until Wednesday since our Cam Care team had other commitments.
The baking buddies were busy making cherry scones with a mix from Cherry Republic (thanks to an early bday gift from A. Betsy and U. Jon).  Cam was intrigued by the process since he had never had a scone before.  The dough had to be kneaded and rolled out prior to baking.  They smelled so delicious it was tough to wait until they were done!  Next up was homemade blueberry muffins from Cam's cookbook.  Oma and her grandson found a recipe for the muffins made with vanilla yogurt, honey and less sugar than typical muffins.  And of course, a trip to Culver's for dessert one night was in order.
Ms. Mary Jo helped out a couple of days during the week too and brought Cam some early bday presents- a book of 2000 Would You Rather questions, a flag kite and a king size Reese's peanut butter cup.  Cam screamed when he opened the chocolate treat.

Friday evening, our friends from North Carolina arrived - Auntie Leslie, her daughters Ali and Erin and their boyfriends, Daree and Brandon.  This crew kept us all laughing.
And finally, the day of Cam's actual birthday, Saturday, Aug. 17 was here!
The first present opened was from Mom and Dad and Auntie Karen.  A new desk for Cam he can drive under and wheel anywhere in the house was something that had been a needed item for quite some time.
The celebration for our 12-year-old was small but mighty with
Cam's buddy, Brody, our N. Carolina crew, Ms. Amanda and Nick and Oma and Opa.  The birthday boy opened another present from his parents- an over sized inflatable backyard bowling set.  The goal was to knock down the blown up pins, which looked much easier than it actually was.  Cam was able to push the ball with his chair and in a short time, everyone was sweating from the effort and sunshine.
Pizza and bread sticks filled everyone's bellies and we were fortunate to have Oma and Opa pick up Cam's bday cake from our favorite Dutch bakery, Ryke's.  Frozen custard, a.k.a. the tastiest ice cream, rounded out our dessert.  The birthday boy opened up awesome presents from Oma and Opa included a Timex watch, swirly kite, book, new school shirt and s'mores kit, a kid's drone, sea creature kit, gift card and chocolate from the N. Carolina crew, iTunes gift card from Ms. Amanda and Nick and an iTunes and Amazon gift card from Brody.  What a big day it was!
The fun didn't end as we had more adventures awaiting us on Sunday.
With our friends still in town from N.C., we wanted to show them Grand Rapids.  First, we headed to the G.R. Fowling (pronounced Foe-ling) Warehouse to try something new...throwing a football at bowling pins.  It was pretty hilarious watching everyone figure it out.
Upon departure, the rain had stopped and we were off to the Downtown Market where we all enjoyed a different lunch from a variety of choices.  A walk downtown finished out our late afternoon and we even heard a jazz festival we had no idea was taking place.  After grilling dinner, we played an entertaining game of Scattegories which Cam loved.
That evening, Cam broke his record for staying up late, not wanting the time to end.
Perhaps Robert Frost was enjoying a good time when he wrote "The woods are lovely dark and deep.  But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep."

Camology Quotes:
Cam really bonded with Leslie's daughters, Erin and Ali, along with their boyfriends, Brandon and Daree.  We took this picture right before their departure.
"Mom, when we will see them again?"
"I'm not sure, Cam.  Maybe next year?"
"They are awesome.  It is not fair if we have to wait a whole year to see my good friends!"

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Champion Certified Cam Care - Week of Aug. 5th

“Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have.” ~ Margaret Mead
"I slept and I dreamed that life was all joy. I woke and I saw that life was all service. I served and I saw that service was joy." ~Kahlil Gibran

From the time Cam was born, we have been surprised, humbled and blessed by the many individuals who have cared for our son. In the past eleven years, there have been countless people who have left lasting imprints on our lives. And the list just keeps growing.

On Tuesday, Chris picked up Jane at the Detroit airport while our guardian angel, Auntie Karen stayed at the home front with Cam.

Wednesday was Ms. Amanda's last official summer day with her buddy.  The two worked as a team all summer getting ready for Ms. Amanda's first kindergarten classroom. 
As a special treat, the duo headed out to one of their favorite places, Spoonlickers, to enjoy tasty homemade frozen yogurt complete with delicious fresh toppings.
There may have been some silliness involved with interesting photo filters which Cam thinks are absolutely hilarious!

On Thursday and Friday, without skipping a beat, Ms. Mary Jo stepped in for Cam care duties.  Mary Jo is the daughter of Ms. Kris, a classroom aide Cam has known since he was in kindergarten.  Mary Jo has helped out at summer school on a regular basis and has been acquainted with Cam for a few years now.  She is a high school senior this fall and then headed to Grand Valley State University.  We are relieved she will stay in the vicinity.

The first activity for Mary Jo and Cam was heading over to Brody's Be Cafe.  Brody is Cam's best buddy from school and his mom, Jenny, has dreamed of launching a coffee shop aimed at employing individuals with different abilities and needs.  The picture of Cam, taken by Mary Jo, was posted on the cafe's Facebook site.  We are all eager for this new Ada coffee shop to open. 
Next up was the Children's Museum downtown exploring all the different areas.  Upon exiting, a fire truck was on the street and Cam said hello.  A fireman stopped and gave Cam a junior fire hat as well as a safety sticker. 

Friday held a whole new set of plans.  Mary Jo had checked with Brody's parents ahead of time to see if he could join she and Cam on a field trip to the Lowell County Fair. 
They had a delicious lunch together and toured the grounds to see all of the animals.  Baby goats were a popular attraction.  Although they had originally planned to try out some rides, they collectively decided against it and concentrated on other things.

Jane had mentioned before they all left that one of her favorite treats at the fair were elephant ears, to which Cam commented "yuck Mom!" and then she described exactly what they were- scrumptious fried dough covered in cinnamon sugar.  Upon arrival home, Cam and Mary Jo surprised Jane with a tasty  'ear' of her own.

Friday evening, Mary Jo stayed with Cam while his parents went out to dinner to celebrate their 16th wedding anniversary.  Upon arrival home, this sidewalk chalk message was in perfect view.

Saturday's weather stayed intact for a sunny afternoon at Oma and Opa's.
After visiting with cousins on the beach and tasting plump freshly picked blueberries, it was time to make our way back.
We all enjoyed a dinner feast on the cottage deck, and then it was time to drive home to Grand Rapids. 
The sun is fading earlier these days and and we realize there aren't too many beach days left.  As William Shakespeare once said, "Summer's lease hath all too short a date."

Camology Quotes:
Cam has been a fan of law enforcement for quite some time.  One of his favorite shows to watch is "Live P.D." following live police work as it happens in different cities across the country.  We've become acutely aware that Cam is latching onto some of the lingo.
While helping him at bedtime one evening, he questioned his mom... 
"Do you have anything that will poke me, stick me, hurt me?"
"Um, definitely not."
"Ok, I will not have to give you a citation."