Sunday, December 29, 2013

Merry, Merry Christmas 2013! - Week of Dec. 23rd

Living in Michigan, most folks assume we are guaranteed a white Christmas.  That isn't always the case, but this year, we were assured and confirmed for an abundance of snow!

Oma and Opa drove to Cameron's house on Christmas Eve to stay for two nights.  Cam was totally excited!  He also embraced the story of Santa and the understanding that he wouldn't see the stockings filled until Christmas morning.

Of course, Cam was up bright and early, anticipating the celebration.  He did ask to help with the unwrapping of everyone's presents!  Some memorable moments included watching Oma see the unveiling of her yearly customized "Cam and Oma" calendar.  A tradition that began with Cam's great-grandmother has been passed on to Oma.  Another fun event - seeing the two handsome boys sporting their new Forest Hills Northern Huskies sweatshirts in honor of Cam's school.

A few days after Christmas, the parties continued when Cameron and his parents welcomed their aunts, uncles and cousins for the Jellema Family Party.

This year was a record attendance including 14 cousins under the age of 18.  The Family Party includes a visit from Santa!  The kids were all very good this year and received two presents each.  Quite a few even asked to sit on Santa's lap, including Cam.  The best question from the crowd of youngsters "can we tell Santa what we want for next year?" We explained that although the white-bearded man is extremely organized, it's probably best to write a letter.
With a white Christmas came the invitation for lots of sledding, which the cousins enjoyed as well.

The week went by quickly and we are reminded of the magic of season, whether by the joy of seeing someone unwrap a gift or a child expressing exuberance regarding Santa Claus.

Hope your holidays were filled with the joy of giving, the gift of receiving, and the magical feeling of the season!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Visiting Santas - Week of Dec. 16th

We are drawn to Santa Claus each year, even as adults.  One of the greatest gifts during the holiday season is seeing little faces light up at the sight of Santa.  A role model promoting giving, jolliness and good behavior is certainly something we could all use more of...

Before trekking off to see the white-bearded man, Cameron was busy with projects at home.  He is seen here assisting with a little configuration of a network router with Chris.  Maybe he'll be following his Dad into the computer science world!

At the same kitchen table, Cam and Emma worked on a detailed project themselves.  They were quite content to make the gingerbread house their own, not trying to follow the picture on the box.  The personal touches made it picture perfect!  The sign out front let everyone know who the architects were.

Last year, we made the customary trip to the local mall to purchase a photo op with Santa.  2013 was our first venture into taking our own pictures with jolly St. Nick, free of charge.
Emma and Cameron, Chris and Jane made it over to Breton Village (with most of Grand Rapids) where Mr. & Mrs. Claus were making an appearance for free picture taking.  It was quite a long wait, but the buddies were pretty patient.  Mrs. Claus showed Cam the sleigh bells used by the reindeer and even let him ring them.  Cameron told Santa he would like some books for Christmas.

Our local grocery store set up time during the week from 4-7pm in the cafe seating area in front of a fireplace.  We were the only ones there when we arrived and Cam had more time with Santa than he'd ever had before.
We are always amazed by people who give so much of themselves and their time to help others and this man not only volunteered, but gladly played the part.
He told Cam he was quite honored to meet him. Likewise, Santa, likewise.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Let it Snow! - Week of Dec. 9th

Around this time each year, the calendar events fill quickly and the days fly by.  Thankfully, there always seems to be room in the schedule for play!  The snow machine has been gearing up in Michigan and sledding could finally be accomplished without uncovering grass...

Cam and Emma had a great time in the white stuff going up and down the hill, getting covered in snow.  The front yard hill was the track of choice.  The slick tube not only made it to the bottom of the driveway, but a little bit past.  Everyone was grateful for the hot cocoa with marshmallows afterward.

The annual Mary Free Bed Christmas party was held this week and it is quite the holiday event!  Multiple craft rooms, giant characters, and of course, Santa and his elves are the focal point.
Each child receives a wrapped gift from Mr. Claus.  Cameron can't enough of Santa this year-  this boy is super excited and was very surprised Santa knew his name! (The elves let it slip, but Cam didn't hear)
Santa and Cam are holding a plush stuffed dog, which was a perfect substitute for a real puppy.  Cameron named the pooch "Oliver" after Katie's dog.  He also received a cool Transformer car.  Following the Santa visit, Jane & Cam decorated some delicious Christmas cookies and proceeded to happily eat them.

Friday brought more treats with a school holiday program at Meadow Brook as well as gingerbread house-making.
Oma and Jane assisted with the gingerbread house construction and learned a few things about "royal frosting."

Many kids don't have grandparents that can attend these types of activities and we are forever grateful to Oma for joining us on these occasions.

The weekend brought a little playtime for Cam's parents.  Chris & Jane attended the annual FTCH Holiday Party at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
One of the traditions is to take a ride on the carousel that overlooks the Grand River.
It's definitely a good week when kids and parents have an opportunity to experience different types of play...

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Tree, Lights, Check! - Week of Dec. 2nd

Cameron has been in a "helping" mode and asks to help out with everything!
This trait came in very handy for Christmas decorating... Chris and Jane have a system worked out for the holiday setup.
Chris brings everything up from the basement and takes out the tree.  Cam helps assemble the tree and they "unfold" all of the branches.  Then it's time for Jane to enlist Cam's assistance for ornamentation.

Cam was an excellent helper deciding which ornaments were placed where.  For the first time, we decided to place all of the family ones together and the special Cam ones in the same spot.  The finished product is one in which each family member played a role in its completion.
Although Stella the cat didn't lend her paws, she tends to lay underneath the tree where it seems she's convinced no one can see her.

Katie and Cam took a "field trip" out to our favorite farm stand, Heidi's.  While they picked out some goodies, they were given an ear of popcorn and were told to
place it in a paper bag in the microwave and it would "pop."
Chris and Jane weren't too sure about the explanation and had their reservations.  The doubters were proved wrong!  Sure enough, the ear of popcorn popped in the microwave and the ear of corn still had some attached.  Cam couldn't gobble it up quickly enough and certainly didn't have time to be interrupted for a photo shoot!  We highly recommend this very tasty treat!!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013 - Week of Nov. 25th

Definition of Thanksgiving: 1. the act of giving thanks  2. a prayer expressing gratitude  3.  a public acknowledgment or celebration of divine goodness.

Any time we gather with family is a day of thanks and for the very first time, this year, we shared our turkey day celebration with the Haroldson family.  Our cousins drove from New Jersey and proceeded to prepare an amazing meal, including a 22-pound turkey!  It was perfectly delicious and paired with 3 (yes, three!) different types of stuffing- oyster, chestnut, chestnut & sausage.  Cameron preferred the mashed potatoes to the stuffing.  Desserts included pumpkin and apple pie as well as chocolate cream.  Cam opted for the chocolate cream, determining it was the closest one to ice cream.

Thanksgiving brought family together, but it also welcomed the white stuff!  Although not quite enough to go sledding, Chris and Cam had fun with the converted riding mower turned mini snow plow.  A salt spreader is attached to the back and even Jane had a lesson in driving maneuvers.  Even though the little machine is quite loud, Cam enjoys riding and helping determine where to go next.

Happy Birthday, Oma!
Due to the holiday, Chris and Jane both had Friday off of work and Oma and Opa stayed overnight for some additional time with their grandson.  After breakfast, the crew traveled to the Indoor Market in downtown Grand Rapids to have lunch and browse the different vendor spots.
With Oma still recovering from knee replacement surgery, Cam joined her in the physical therapy exercises she's assigned to do.  She indicated that it's much more enjoyable to complete the PT tasks with Cam as an active participant.
Cam showing off his dance moves!

The weekend was filled with additional family visits- cousins over for the football game and dinner on Saturday, then travels to visit Annie at her new home and Aunt Joyce and Uncle Joe on Sunday.
Sunday was also Grandma's birthday (we won't say which one!) and Cam, Chris and Jane were very happy to see her and celebrate how wonderful she is!!

We give thanks for so many people and the shared time with others we enjoyed over the holiday.
Hopefully, your Thanksgiving was one of happiness and feeling full...and not just from the turkey!
Gobbling up a nap after dinner...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Traditions - Week of Nov. 18th

We can't pinpoint the date we started it, but when Cameron was a toddler we began hiding his favorite Elmo toy before bedtime and he'd have to find it.  
The places of concealment varied greatly, but the reward was Cam's reaction when the discovery was made!  So, most evenings, Chris or Jane (mostly Chris) figures out new places to conceal Elmo and also Curious George.
This week, Chris truly outdid himself when he expertly perched the stuffed animals outside of Cameron's window with a spotlight on the pair.  We should have captured video of one proud boy for discovering the surprise behind his window- the laughter certainly was heard in the entire neighborhood! Sometimes a tradition never grows old.

Each year about this time we begin to gather pictures for the family Christmas card.  Oma and Opa paid a special visit over the weekend. Cam's grandparents went to the Grand Rapids Indoor Market with him and Jane to eat lunch and browse the different vendor areas.  When the family returned, it was the perfect chance to set up a mini photo shoot.  Much to everyone's surprise, Chris and Cam had fun clowning around pretending to be thinkers and saying "hmmm" while deep in thought.
Rounding out the weekend was a trip to the barbershop for Cameron.  He's come a long way since being very nervous about the clippers and haircuts in general.  Now, he looks like a pro and loves to have his stylist, Amelia, put "product" in his hair.

Traditions, like hobbies, come and go, but there are certain ones we hope stick around for quite some time to come.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Train for Two - Week of Nov. 11th

By the time the weekend rolls around, most everyone is ready for a break from the daily grind.
Most Saturday mornings, Cam asks if his buddy, Emma, can come over a visit.  On this particular day, a collapsible Thomas the Train fort was ready for occupancy!
In the past, a small Elmo tent was frequently used for play but it became apparent that it could only comfortably accommodate a single kid.  The "train" was definitely intended for two or more children.  Emma and Cam were quite pleased that they could stretch out and both have room to sit.
However, it turns out that when Cameron and his buddy were done with the locomotive fort, another passenger couldn't wait to try it out! Stella, the cat, now considers herself a part-time conductor of sorts, spending quiet time in the tent, but only when the kids are not in it.

On Sunday, a strange spring-like storm arrived in West Michigan with sheets of rain and very strong winds.  
Luckily, the weather let up by late afternoon so Cam, Chris, and Jane could travel a few minutes across town to celebrate Molly's birthday with Katherine, Ann and Gordy.
 After a delicious dinner, a chocolate cake was presented with candles.  Molly asked her buddy, Cam, to help blow them out!  He happily accepted the challenge and gladly tried the delectable dessert.
An unexpected surprise arrived in the mail this week- we were expecting the invitation to the annual Mary Free Bed holiday party, but were quite surprised by the photo that ended up being used for the invites...look closely...and you just might see one of the most photogenic boys we know!