Sunday, July 30, 2017

Labor of Love - Week of July 24th

When Chris suggested that he & Cam build a new picnic table for the cottage as a present for Oma & Opa (their anniversary was July 1st), Jane had no idea what it would entail.  The boys had never built a table, but that wouldn't deter Cam's dad, always ready to take on a wonder his son has the same attitude!

After taking measurements of the cottage deck and existing table, we all agreed on a new design. Chris picked up cedar wood, Cam wore his headphones and the two got to work.  Cam's job was to check to be certain his chair would fit underneath the table and supervise his dad.  Chris needed his son's expert assistance to find all of the screws so wood putty could placed over them to blend in with the wood.  After 2 weeks of evening and weekend work, the picnic table was completed.  Due to its 8 foot length, it was expertly secured in the back of the Honda Ridgeline to travel to its final destination- Oma & Opa's deck.

The existing picnic table is nearly 50 years old and a testament to good construction.

When the replacement was revealed, Cam's grandparents were very excited!  Opa was surprised to see a separate bench for him at the head of table, opposite of where Cam sits.  The custom crafting, unique design, and multiple coats of linseed oil have us all hoping this piece of furniture lasts as long as its predecessor.

The weekend calendar also included beach time and the Annual Cousin Baseball Game.
We finally enjoyed some rare, calm Lake Michigan waters as our family kayak had a good workout.
Some cool kid was hanging out in the inflatable boat solo for a bit.  And, we even convinced Oma to take a boat ride in the calm waters.

The famous Cam-mobile went touring through the lake as well, bouncing up and down splashing its occupant.  The water was incredibly clear and the sun reflected the bottom so one could easily spot large minnows, rocks and even a stray golf ball.

The Annual Cousin Baseball Game is an event we look forward to every year.  Cam's cousin, Harper, came up with the idea years ago and he is now an avid player himself.

We try to make it as official as possible with a boatload of snacks, sodas, and even the national anthem itself before the opening pitch.
The best part is watching the kids at bat and in the outfield, guarding bases and figuring out that batting is really the coolest thing ever.  There is a team roster and we do play on a real baseball field complete with bases and dugouts.  Cam and his sweet cousin, Maya, hung out at first base together waiting for the next swing.  The favorite quote of the day, "when am I up to bat again?" echoed by several cousins.

After a couple of hours and numerous innings (we may or may not have reached 9), the sun was warm and bellies were beginning to grumble.  After our group picture, most of players and spectators headed to Fricano's in Muskegon.
Fricano's pizza remains the original and most famous pizza and pizzeria in Michigan. In 1949 the late Cosimo (Gus) Fricano, founded what is believed to be the first pizzeria in Michigan, Fricano's Pizza Tavern, in Grand Haven with the original thin crust pizza pie.
The pizza is a family favorite, although Cam is still quite puzzled why they don't serve breadsticks at most of their pizza establishments.  A definite bonus regarding the Muskegon location is that a specialty ice cream shop is downstairs in the same building.  Cam believes this may outweigh the breadstick issue.

The biggest bonus, though, is hanging out with our cousins we don't see too often due to distance and knowing that the next generation will be surrounded by family, friends, baseball, and of course, Fricano's pizza!

Camology Quotes:
Cam loves school and has always enjoyed summer school too.  The summer program lasts 5 weeks and Cam rides the bus there 3 days per week in the mornings only.  Cam's class worked on an ocean theme and even cracked open coconuts one day.

As parents, we hope our children are polite when we are not there to remind them to do so.  Jane received this email from Cam's summer school teacher, Ms. Kathy, on the last day of summer school this week.  

"I also want you to know what a lovely and polite boy you have.  He thanked us all for having summer school and making it fun!"

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Gatherings with Games & Goodness - Week of July 17th

"This is the power of gathering: it inspires us, delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful: in a word, more alive." ~Alice Waters 

Cam is surrounded by many of his parents' good friends and best friends we refer to as our family...extending the terms 'auntie' and 'uncle' to our closest.  The weekend was filled with reconnecting and seeing some of our dearest.
Saturday morning, we were ready early to head north.  The weather looked questionable, but that doesn't matter when you're ready for a day of fun.  We arrived at Oma and Opa's before lunch.  We were joined by Keith and Bobbi, Lance & Beth (from N. Carolina) and Jo & Ron and dog, Max.  Everyone brought a dish to pass for lunch and we feasted on farm fresh corn on the cob, grilled meat, homemade potato salad (Cam's new favorite), tasty fresh fruit, homemade chicken salad and deviled eggs just to name a few.
The sun was in and out until late afternoon, but the beach was inviting and the water somewhat warmish enabling the sand bakery to churn out some offerings.
We enjoyed an early dinner of leftovers with most of our crew choosing a different meat from lunchtime with the same side dishes and no complaints regarding a duplicate meal twice in one day.  Cam played games indoors and showed off his Uno skills once again.  We were happy to see the bright sun later in the day and even more pleased seeing all of our peeps.

Sunday, the schedule included an extended family gathering back in Grand Rapids at Cam's house with Katherine, Ms. Ann and the entire group of siblings, spouses and kids.

With this crowd, we assemble because of the original connection between Katherine (a.k.a. Ah-Dah, her Cam-given name before he could pronounce hers) and Camster before he was 3 years of age.  Katherine provided premiere Cam-care for more than 2 years and has remained a part of our family ever since.  Now, she has her own family and her mom, siblings, spouses and kids have become an extension of our family as well.  The day was dedicated to delicious food and fun games.  We played Catch Phrase, Headbandz, and Michigan Chat Pack.  One of the more humorous parts of the day was watching everyone try out the virtual reality headset!  Cam requested an encore presentation of this event as soon as possible.

Sometimes, we discover we haven't captured moments in pictures and then we realize, the moments were being captured by us.

Camology Quotes:
Miss Amanda and Cam go on many ventures each week.  Most every day they go through the nature park near our home and trek over a mile.  They have also been to visit  Amanda's grandma (our good friend, Mickie) at her grave site.  

"Mom, I wish Ms. Mickie was still here so she could see the Boulder Ridge Zoo.  She would love it!"

"It's hard to forget someone who gave you so much to remember." ~Sujish Kandampully

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Daddio's Birthday Secret - Week of July 10th

"The man who can keep a secret may be wise, but he is not half as wise as the man with no secrets to keep." ~E. W. Howe

Monday was the official birthday for Cam's dad.  Cameron had helped Jane pick out a new hammock for Chris on Amazon.  It was delivered on Monday while Chris was at work.
Cam had known about the gift for almost a week and kept it a secret.
But when Chris arrived home from work and we announced he should open his birthday gift, Cam asked if he knew what it was. Chris indicated he didn't to which Cam gleefully told him, "It's a new hammock for you, Dad!"  Of course he had no idea what it actually looked like until he opened the box. We took Chris out for a tasty dinner at the Cascade Roadhouse and followed it up with a relaxing evening in the hammock.

Miss Amanda and Cam keep themselves busy on a daily basis with new adventures and activities.
One day, they went off-roading on some park paths and discovered that Cam's chair can definitely get stuck (but also unstuck too!) as they explored new areas. Our brave boy told Amanda, "I am a hiker!"

After completing school work and reading, there's still time for the occasional baking.  Occasional because daily would fill our home with far too many sweets.  Most of this brownie batter actually did make it into the oven, according to Miss Amanda and her partner.

Cam has been hard at work with a new physical therapist he sees weekly.  She's given homework and our studious boy is adamant about following through with his assignments.  Sitting for a period of time on a stool by himself is one such task.

When you're a part of a technology family, chances are, you will have an overload of techie toys.  Chris brought home a new virtual reality headset for us all to test out.  Cam summed up our collective thoughts perfectly with the comment, "This is pretty cool!"

Camology Quotes:
The Elusive Ice Cream Truck (on National Ice Cream Day!)

Chris and Cam ventured down the driveway to check the mail Sunday evening.
"Maybe we should go to the end of the road, Dad, in case the ice cream truck goes by."
At end of road, Dad announces... "Ok, let's wait for 5 minutes."
"Maybe we should go down Emma's street, Windcrest."
Chris and Cam talked to our Windcrest neighbors and asked each if they had seen the ice cream truck, but they hadn't.  They stopped at Papa's house and asked him as well.  Mom came by with the van (since it was getting late) and picked up the boys to head home.
After discussing the events with Mom, Cam announced to his parents, 
"I wish there was an app that would tell you when the ice cream truck is coming to your street!"

Friday, July 14, 2017

Parading Around - Week of July 3rd

“A procession is a participants' journey, while a parade is a performance with an audience.”
~Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

For the last several years, Cam has been attending the Cascade Township Fourth of July Parade right near our house.  This was the first occasion when he wore the police costume for his powerchair to be in the parade.  The bike parade began at 10am and everyone was welcome to join.  Chris walked with his proud son while Jane waited to see her boys, patiently sitting in a camp chair on the corner of 28th and Cascade.

The Raisch fam saw Cam right at the beginning of the bike procession and snapped some pics for us.
The homemade floats with local businesses are always fun to see.  Many folks throw out treats for the kids.  Buddy Megan, helping out with one of our local ice cream places, Jam N Bean, ran right over to Cam to be sure he was getting enough candy.

Cam insisted on driving his SWAT vehicle
to the end of the procession and then came back to watch the parade with his mom.  Immediately following the floats, fire trucks and police cars is an outdoor fun area set up right outside the library.  Games, a petting zoo, and rides were in full force.  We dined on hot dogs and chips for lunch, trying to stay in the shade.  It turned out to be a very warm day, so after seeing some animals and checking things out, we decided to head back home.  Some good advice: "If you're watching a parade, make sure you stand in one spot, don't follow it, it will never change.  And if the parade is boring, run in the opposite direction, you will fast-forward the parade."

On Thursday, we were invited to tour the Columbian Logistics company, right by Cam's house, with our cousins.  Aunt Betsy's (maiden name, Zevalkink) family has been a part of the business since its inception.  Her kids and grandkids were visiting from all over- Chicago, Vermont, and South Africa!  The tour was informative and interesting.  Columbian has grown from a single public warehouse, cross-dock delivery business to a multiple warehouse facility business, which provides a full array of 3rd party logistics services, including Contract Warehousing, Food Logistics, Foreign Trade Zone, Dedicated Transportation, and Transportation Management.

Each one of the bags of that Cam is looking at weighs 2000 lbs. Cam really liked the forklift machine and seeing how high it could go.

In 1924, Barend Zevalkink, coined the phrase “not service at cost, but service at any cost,” to describe his commitment to service. Over the years, that commitment evolved into their core value of legendary customer service becoming the heart of the business. Today, Columbian Logistics Network is run by 4th generation brothers, John and Jim Zevalkink and is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Many thanks to Aunt Betsy for including us!

The weekend brought our standard trip to the cottage.  Saturday was a blustery day and Cam came up with the idea of digging out the kites from the basement.  Luckily, Oma knew right where they were!
The kites flew high and the sun shone brightly.  Chris and Jane battled the waves in the kayak while Cam opted for beach playtime with Oma.  Grandma and her grandson do have the best sand bakery around and create all sorts of dessert delights.

Oma and Opa treated us to a five star dinner to celebrate Chris' birthday (a little early) with perfectly marinated steaks, fresh vegetables, corn on the cob and homemade chicken tenders (yes, Cam is spoiled!)
To top off that delicious spread, a real dessert, the famous Ryke's cake appeared, complete with favorite ice cream choices.  Oma and Opa sure do know how to make their family feel loved and special!

An extra added benefit to top off a great day was the spectacular Lake Michigan sunset bursting colors all around.  We urge you to find one and experience its beauty as soon as possible.

Imagination is the highest kite one can fly. ~Lauren Bacall 

Camology Quotes:
While in the car, we were discussing what we should do for dinner out 
to celebrate Chris' birthday next week...

"You know what would be pretty cool?"
What's that, Cam?
"If we took Dad to the restaurant where they say 'Yee-Haw' when it's your birthday!" (It's Texas Roadhouse if anyone wants to make future bday plans!)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Strawberry Jam Forever - Week of June 26th

Alice couldn't help laughing, as she said, "I don't want you to hire me - and I don't care for jam." "It's very good jam," said the Queen. "Well, I don't want any today, at any rate." "You couldn't have it if you did want it," the Queen said. "The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday - but never today." "It must come sometimes to 'jam today'," Alice objected. "No it can't," said the Queen. "It's jam every other day: today isn't any other day, you know.” ~Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Oma came to visit this week with a quest in mind- strawberry freezer jam.  After picking up our flat of the red, juicy fruit at Heidi's, Cam and his mom made a stop at the grocery store for supplies- sugar, sure-jell, and containers.  Oma, Cam and Amanda all busied themselves with berry stem plucking and smashing until a red liquid filled with strawberry bites resulted.  When Jane took a break from work to help the trio they discovered more sugar was required.  Another store trip, break for lunch, and everyone worked to finish the job.  However, later that afternoon supplies ran low again and off to the store they went.  Cam announced, "this is the 3rd time I've been here today!" upon arrival.  The end result of 30 freezer jams to store was quite a feat.  We can't thank Oma enough for all the help and perseverance.

Just a couple of days later, Chris, Jane and Cam made their way to the cottage for a day of fun and sun.  The water was warmer and the gentle waves were just right for our inflatable kayak.  Cam likes to go 'on tour' when his mom paddles.  They make up a story about all the places they see along their journey.

Playing with sand toys and multiple boat rides in the kayak filled our afternoon.  Chris and Cam also took the Cam-mobile in the water to test out the floating.  After a delicious dinner made by Oma and Opa, we settled in for the evening.  Our neighbors put on a spectacular fireworks display and although it kept Cam awake, he slept fairly well the rest of the night.

The boy who likes to keep a schedule made certain he did his required reading work on Saturday and Sunday with Oma for the library contest back home.
One thing that puzzles Cam about the cottage is the satellite internet service.  He asked why it is so slow and his dad replied, "a signal has to be sent to a satellite in outer space and back here to the satellite dish outside of the cottage" to which Cam retorted, "no Dad, you are kidding!"
Although the weather didn't cooperate early in the day on Sunday, we stayed until mid-afternoon before heading back to Grand Rapids, with much appreciation for time spent with Oma and Opa.

Back home, there is a feline who does seem to miss us.   As she continues to mature, Stella is more patient with Cam and it's fun to see the two of them react to each other.

Now, if you'll excuse us, it's time for some toast and strawberry jam...

Camology Quotes:
With the upcoming holiday, we had talked about the possibility of staying two nights at the cottage, but opted for just one.  More than halfway through out trip northward, Cam announced...

"Mom and Dad, we cannot stay at Oma's for 2 nights.  Do you know why?"
No, why?
"Because there would not be anyone at home to take out our garbage!"
"Isn't that a good point?"